This post is sponsored by the Department of Justice
Have you ever been in an emergency bushfire situation? I have. Twice. The first time I was in Sydney and I was just a kid. I did anything my parents told me and I don’t remember much except my mother’s face going white and the sky turning a revolting shade of orange. The second time was in Canberra in 2003. My brother and I were home alone for the weekend and left to our own devices. I remember almost every detail including the return of that horrible orange sky. Here’s a few things I learned from escaping the bushfires that day. Things I didn’t realise would happen until they did.
6 Little Known Facts About Bushfires That Could Save Your Life
It Gets Really Dark
If the bushfire gets close enough to you, your electricity will go out. Make sure you have several flashlights, one for each member of the family and spare batteries. In an emergency situation, it can get pitch black dark in the middle of the day so make sure you’re prepared. Also store them in a place where they’re easily accessible and everyone knows where to find them. It’s no good having your emergency torch full of dead batteries in the bottom junk drawer in the kitchen.
An emergency torch in my Dad’s drawer next to a portable battery operated radio Walkman.
Fires Are Really Fast
Scary fast. So check the conditions and get out early – don’t wait to get a warning. Trust me. Driving through flames in my brother’s Commodore with Enya wailing through radio and my pets panicking in the back seat is one of the least favourite experiences of my life. Everything can change in a second so just leave. Don’t even question it. When we were driving out of the fires we hit a road block, made a u-turn and where we had just been driving was engulfed in flames. Fires are really fast and you can’t out run them, so get out early.
Pre-Packing an Emergency Kit is Essential
Make sure you have any medication you need, your phone, wallet, food, water, pet food and a USB stick with important insurance documents. Once the fire gets close to you, your brain will turn into mush so plan ahead. It’s really hard to be on top of everything when you’re on an adrenaline high. When my brother and I left our home during the Canberra fires it took us about 2 hours to make a 20 minute drive. Thankfully I always have a water bottle in my bag so we were okay but fires are really dehydrating and drinking water is the last thing on your mind when you’re trying to start your car in 45 degree fire heat. Pack your essentials bag now. Today. Because you sure as hell won’t be able to do it effectively when there’s a fire outside your door.
Plan For Your Pets
My brilliant brother had trapped our pets in separate rooms at least 8 hours before the bush fires got close. We were able to safely get our dog on the lead and our cat in the carrier without too much difficulty. People become really emotional about their pets in emergency situations and will often put themselves at risk to save them in the heat of the moment. Make sure you have a pet evacuation plan so both you and your pets can get out safely.
Keep Well Informed At All Times
Follow emergency services on all social media. If you’re based in Victoria, the website is here, you can follow real time bushfire updates on Facebook here, and their twitter handle is @CFA_updates. You can also download the FireReady App to stay informed. I was at the movies on the day of the Canberra fires and the cinema didn’t deem it necessary to stop the film and say ‘Hey guys FYI, Canberra is like MAJORLY on fire. You’re totes welcome to stay but it might be a good idea to go home to your loved ones.’ This meant my poor brother had been calling my switched off mobile for hours trying to get a hold of me and wouldn’t leave the house without me. This was way before the days of mobile internet so now there’s no excuse not to leave. Download the FireReady app and stalk them on all social media. Being well informed could save your life.
People Who Plan Stay Alive
When shit got serious during the Canberra bushfires, the electricity was out, the phone lines were down and our mobile phones weren’t working because every person in Australia was using theirs. My brother and I were completely alone in the dark and couldn’t contact anyone. My dad had shown me in his garage that he had a portable radio with spare batteries and he told me to use it to listen for instructions if there was ever a fire and the power was out. He also kept (and still does keep) a flash light under his bed so I was able to stumble my way through the house and find it in it’s place, where it had been for my whole life. It really pays to have a few permanent emergency measures in place for situations like that.
This is my Dad’s torch, still under his bed where it’s always been.
Here’s all the info again for the CFA in Victoria.
And here’s an article I wrote last year on How to Keep Your Pets Safe During The Bushfire Season.