WILDFIRE PROTECTION TIPS FOR SURVIVAL AND PROPERTY
There are many factors which affect the risk to life and property. These include property location and access, the amount and type of nearby vegetation, building position and condition, availability of water and the physical capabilities of those involved. In wildfires, radiant heat, dehydration and asphyxiation (choking) are the major killers. Well-prepared houses can resist exposure to wildfires, protecting those inside who may then be able to save their homes.
Protecting your family and property from fire requires a balanced effort of awareness, education, and preparedness. Using Firezat Fire Shields to protect your home can improve the chances your property will survive a threatening wildfire. It can also provide extra time to allow the fire department and fire fighters time to save your home. Your chances can be greatly increased if you follow these tips. Also check with your local fire department for area specific tips that they will be happy to share with you.
Important Fire Facts
Embers or firebrands threaten your property over a longer period of time than Radiant Heat or Direct Flame Contact. Direct Flame Contact and Radiant Heat arrive with the fire front and will last from 3 to 5 minutes to 10 - 15 minutes depending on wind speeds and terrain. Ember attack usually occurs up to 30 minutes prior to the arrival of fire front and for several hours afterwards. Embers can travel over a mile in advance of the winds and be as large as fiery golf balls when they land on your roof or property and start new fires. Below are some tips to survive a wildfire or bushfire if you stay and defend or get caught behind the fire lines.
PREPARATION BEFORE THE WILDFIRE & BUSHFIRE SEASON
- Create a defensible area around your home for a minimum of 100 feet or if your home is located on a slope or in high wind area increase that area to 150 feet. Use a mower, spade, rake, and trim branches well clear of the house.
- Clear roof gutters of leaves, twigs etc.
- Store wood, fuel, paints etc well clear of the house.
- Remove rubbish, leaf litter and native shrubs close to house. Keep grass short/green.
- Store firewood away from your house.
- Prevent sparks from entering your house by covering vents with wire mesh no larger than 1/8". Fit wire screens to doors, windows, vents. Enclose gaps, roof eaves and under house.
- Keep a ladder handy for roof access (inside and outside) and hoses to reach all parts of house and garden. If water is not connected, obtain a high pressure pump.
- Decide on a household plan to either leave early or stay and defend your properly-prepared home during a Wildfire.
- Check to see if you have Wildfire insurance and it covers replacement cost should you lose your home to a wildfire or bushfire.
- Have a plan to deploy your Firezat Fire Shields and confirm you have your installation kits, chicken wire, staples and sand bag material handy.
IF A BRUSHFIRE or WILDFIRE APPROACHES - Leave or Stay and Defend
If you are told by authorities to evacuate your home, go and leave as soon as possible. Traffic and mass evacuations combined with fast moving fires have trapped many people who waited too long. If you have prepared your home to stay and defend and you decide to do so, have a plan B if things get out of control. A cellar, lake, or basement that is safe, but know your plan and let others know you are staying and your plans.
- Phone 911 or 000 in Australia- do not assume they know about the fire.
- You cannot stay and defend without 3 critical things. Respirator or filter masks. Goggles for eye protection. Proper clothing to protect from firebrands and embers raining down. You will be walking on fire, make sure you have heavy boots with thick soles. See below. Best to have several sets if others try to help you.
- Deploy your Firezat House Covers long before the fire arrives. Secure them firmly to the structure with staples, chicken wire, and sandbags as needed. Secure all seams and prepare for high winds.
- Fill baths, sinks, buckets etc. with reserve water and turn off gas and power.
- If you stay and defend, position large water buckets or barrels on corners of your home for quick access. Get a large woolen janitors mop with a long handle. You can submerge the mop in the water and hit parts of the house covered in firebrands to extinguish them. Do not expect water pressure or supply.
- Remove curtains and move furniture away from windows. Hopefully you have used Fire Shields to cover windows.
- Wear long sleeve woolen or heavy cotton clothes and solid boots or shoes, a hat or woolen balaclava and gloves. Make sure you have goggles for eye protection, gloves, and wraps for around your neck to stop embers from going down your shirt. Stay hydrated with lots of water.
- Plug down pipes with rags and fill all roof gutters with water. Hose down walls, garden, etc on the sides of the house facing the ‘fire-front’ and watch for spot-fires. If you used Fire Shields they do not need water.
- Inside, close all windows, doors and block crevices and gaps. When the fire-front arrives, stay inside, away from windows near the floor, while it passes (usually 5 to 15 minutes).
- Quickly extinguish any fires which may have started in, on, or under the house and check inside the roof cavity as well.
- If the house is on fire and can’t be extinguished, move away to safe burnt ground. Don’t leave the area, wait for help. Listen to the battery radio for official information.
IF CAUGHT IN A FIRE, DRIVING - Shelter in Car
- Don’t drive into or near bushfires. If caught in one don’t drive through flames or smoke.
- Stop in an area of low vegetation. Leave motor running and air conditioner (recycle), hazard lights and headlights on.
- Stay inside unless near safe shelter. Keep vents, windows and doors closed. Lie inside, below window level, under a woolen blanket for skin protection until the fire-front passes.
- Research shows that in a bushfire, a car fuel tank is unlikely to explode in the period needed to stay inside the vehicle using it as a shield against deadly radiant heat of the fire-front.
- After the main fire-front passes, if car is on fire or heat and fumes inside are severe, get out and move to already burnt ground, keeping your whole body covered with the blanket.
IF CAUGHT IN FIRE, ON FOOT - Seek Shelter
- Don’t Panic - cover all exposed skin.
- Move across-slope, away from the fire-front, then down-slope towards the rear of the main fire
- Find open, or already burnt ground. Don't try to out-run the fire or run uphill or go through even low flames unless you can clearly-see a safe area close-by.
- If you can’t avoid the fire, protect yourself from heat radiation by lying face down under an embankment, rock, loose earth, or in a hollow, or if possible get into a pond, dam or stream - but not into a water tank.
VITAL POINTS TO REMEMBER
If you are in a house or car you will be safer than in the open while the fire-front passes. Stay there, unless advised to leave by emergency authorities. If caught in the open you must protect yourself from the radiant heat of flames by every possible means.
Note: A heavy, pure wool blanket (to wrap around you) and a flask of water (to drink and to moisten a corner of the blanket as a smoke mask) are basic requirements for bushfire survival and will give protection against radiant heat, dehydration and asphyxiation even in intense fires.