Protecting your home and family: our guide to essential bushfire preparation

This article is intended as a general guide only.
You should consult your state fire and emergency services for further information. 

When it comes to protecting your home and family from bushfire, preparation is absolutely essential. And preparation starts outside your home with your garden layout. Avoid having plants close to your house and instead, reduce vegetation so there is a gap between your home, sheds or garages and shrubs or trees. Keep trees well-spaced, pruned, and your property clear of organic litter like loose leaves and grass cuttings during fire season. Consider constructing a stone wall, earth barrier or fence around the house as a heat shield if you live in a particularly bushfire prone area.

Bushfire preparation maintenance checklist

  • The best wall surfaces are non-flammable, but if you have a timber house you can use a fire retardant sealant on the external cladding or paintwork.
  • Metal fly screens on windows protect against flying embers and you can also use metal mesh to block external vents and openings. Door and window seals help fireproof your home, too.
  • Enclose areas under floors and decks, and gaps under verandas or balconies.
  • Check and replace damaged or missing roof tiles, clear gutters of leaves and twigs, and install metal gutter guards.
  • Take special care with any flammable fuel on your property. The vent pipes for LPG cylinders should be directed away from the house; fuel supplies and chemicals should be stored away from houses, in a clearly marked shed.

Pre-pack for an emergency

All state based emergency services advise having an emergency survival kit packed before bushfire season begins. Essentials include:

  • Portable battery-operated radio and waterproof torch with spare batteries
  • Candles and waterproof matches
  • First aid kit and manual
  • Pocket knife and woolen blankets
  • At least 3 litres of water per person
  • A list of emergency contact numbers
  • Waterproof bags ready for valuables, cash and ATM or credit cards, medications, and toiletries
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Change of clothes for everyone

This is also the time to pack any sentimental items so that they can be easily found and taken with you if you have to leave quickly. Put the kit in an accessible location the whole family knows about.

Have an evacuation plan in place

Draw up an evacuation plan for family and pets that designates an assembly point, responsibilities, and transport. Not everyone responds calmly in a crisis, so regular practice of the evacuation drill with the whole family is important preparation.

If you need assistance devising an evacuation plan, Country Fire Authorities has this helpful bushfire action plan template.

Invest in your safety

If you live in a bushfire-prone area, the Country Fire Service guidelines recommend these additions to your home:

  • The entry to your property is at least three metres wide with clear access and turnaround space for a firefighting vehicle.
  • Independent access to a 5000 litres-plus water supply such as a tank, dam or swimming pool. You can’t rely on mains water being available in the event of a fire.
  • Installation of a sprinkler system to keep your house and property wetted down at times of danger. Seek professional advice for the best configuration.
  • Garden hoses should have metal fittings and be long enough to reach all parts of your house.
  • Well-secured metal roofing is the best choice for your buildings; a tiled roof should be lined with fire-resistant insulation, while skylight covers should be wire-reinforced glass or thermo-plastic.

Remember, preparing for a bushfire can save you, your family, your property and your livelihood. Check your insurance covers you for all bushfire eventualities including rebuilding, smoke and water damage, and vehicle loss or damage.