Settlement Guide

How to prepare for bushfires

NSW Rural Fire Service firefighters fight a fire on Medowie Rd, at Medowie near Port Stephens, Monday, Nov. 7, 2016. Source: AAP

With the temperature getting warmer as we're settling into summer, the risk of bushfires is getting higher. Here’s how to prepare.

Australia is one of the most bushfire-prone lands in the world, which means that we should all know how to stay safe.

Know about fire danger ratings

A fire danger rating sign set to catastrophic

It’s important to know about fire danger ratings, especially if you live or are travelling through a bushfire-prone area.

The scale goes from low-moderate to high, very high, severe, extreme and catastrophic. While “catastrophic” are the worst kind of days, it’s not rare to see bushfires happen when the danger rating is as low as high.

To find out about the fire danger rating where you are or where you’re heading, check out the website of your state fire authority. You can usually also download their apps to receive alerts.

Nationally, one example is the National Bushfires app, but most state authorities have similar apps available with more specific information for your local area. 

You should also be aware of "total fire bans." When it’s in place, you can’t light a fire in the open or carry an activity that could light up a fire.

Have a bushfire plan

If you live near an area with bush, forest, long grass or coastal scrub, even if you’re near a city, you need a bushfire plan.

"Have a discussion with each other about what you will do in the event a fire threatens," explains Ben Shephard, an inspector at the NSW Rural Fire Service.

"What we see quite often is people not having had that discussion and trying to make a decision at the last minute and that's when accidents occur because we need you to make a decision in the calm light of day."

“If your plan is to leave, what road are you going to use? Where are you going to drive down? Where are you going to go to? But importantly, if that road is blocked, what is your plan B? Where else can you go? What other streets are you going to go down?"

Download your bushfire plan template on your state's fire authority website. Some of them offer the template in different languages. If it’s not available in your language, you can request it through the Translating and Interpreting Service at 131 450.

Once you have made your plan, go over it with your family and review it every year.

The aftermath of a bushfire in NSW
The aftermath of a bushfire in NSW

Leave if you can

If a bushfire is heading your way, the best thing to do is to leave right away, as long as it’s safe.

"If the path is clear, the safest course of action has always been to go away from the fire and into a built-up area outside the bush-fire prone area. That is your safest course of action," says NSW Rural Fire Service's Ben Shephard.

If you stay

Some people decide to stay to defend their home or don’t have the time to leave.

If this happens, you should move inside the house before the fire front passes through so you’re protected from the radiant heat. You can get out of the house once the fire front has passed through.

To find out more about bushfire safety, download a bushfire plan and access resources in your language, visit your state fire authority’s website:

NSW Fire Rural Service 
Fact sheets in 12 languages 

Victoria Country Fire Authority
Publications in 34 languages 

South Australia Country Fire Service
Resources in 17 languages 

Western Australia Department of Fire and Emergency Services
Translated bushfire publications in 18 languages 

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services 

Northern Territory Fire and Rescue Service

Tasmania fire Service 

ACT Rural Fire Service 

If you can't find the information you need in your language, you can contact the Translating and Interpreting Service at 131 450.