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The current swathe of bushfires we all know about. But the intensity of the blazes and their aggressive incursions into suburban neighbourhoods should make us consider the safety of our own homes and land.

If you check the information being offered by the QFES there are many tweaks you can introduce that not only add to your resilience to bushfire, but will double up for strong wind and cyclonic conditions.

Where I live we have had 3 fires kiss the community during the last decade. When Bribie  or Moreton Island burns we sure know about it either visually or through inhalation.

Herein rests the first variable:

Our location is due south of pine plantations and most of the fires that develop there are due to pure arson or the dumping and burning of stolen cars. Our vulnerability rises sharply when the wind shifts from the north east to the north and north west.

[In fact there is a network of security cameras in the plantations designed to combat these events.]

That sort of scenario -- or a variation thereof -- should apply to your location if you think it through.

The next question is acknowledging if there is a load of fuel in the path of a threatening wind.

Since I come from Victoria I have found that local councils here in Queensland are slack when it comes to fire hazard reduction on private property. In Victoria the municipality are obsessive about bushfire risk and land owners have to address the issue even in urban areas.

Just look at the recent fires at Peregian Beach...

Here, we have finally got the local sand mine to enlarge its fire break  but that took a few years before the action was undertaken.

Since these fires are driven forward by wind and embers the fact that you may sit snugly in a suburban cul de sac  is hardly a defence. If there is a fire nearby you could be at risk. And if you live among the ups and downs of wooded Brisbane contours you are surely more prone to unpredictable fire events.

Again Peregian Beach is notable because it was an arson caused event. All your own neighbourhood needs is naughty kids with a lighter...or a flicked cigarette from a passing motorist...or an ignite from sparks off a masonry drill.

[I can say that because I burnt down my uncle's barn when I was 4 or 5 years old.I was showing my sister how to use matches inside the hay stack. But that was the first and last time I was possessed by pyromania.The singed eyebrows were not a good look.]

So you clean out your gutters and make sure the garden is hydrated. Move dry mulch out of incendiary paths....

I like to keep  the height of my trees below the lowest roof line.

Locals here have had to hose their houses when the fires came close to residences. But a better approach is to be ready to locate a couple of sprinklers on your roof. Some garden sprinklers -- like my favourite , the Wobble Tee -- are designed to sit on roofs. You can also run several off the one hose. I run 4 in my garden off the one tap.

Be ready to grab the essentials (documents, mementos, passports, insurance, doc albums and dog) and  have an exit strategy ...like make sure the car is facing out of the driveway and it is packed sooner rather than later.

If we don't get good rain, the risk will prevail here in SEQ.

One further point: if you have to evacuate (because of fire, flood or storm) do your homework as you really don't want to live in an evacuation centre.  We've ready set with one here and unless you are happy sleeping with dozens of others on stretches in a big hall I reckon it is preferable to call in favours from relatives and friends or live in your own car. Generally, no pets! No showers. Just bed and food...sort of.

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Another point worth mentioning: if you commute to and from work there is always the possibility that a fire, flood or storm event could prevent you from returning home. This happened here in the flash floods of 2015.

The trauma that folk experienced in traffic jams was immense...and many were forced to sleep in evac centres over night.

Has anyone looked at using a giant fire blankets to cover houses a lot of the fires get into the houses through broken windows .

Most evac centres these days take pets - provided you keep them restrained.  It got too risky not to take them because in past times people refused to evacuate without their pets.  One of the major lessons we learned from Hurricane Katrina in the States.  The roof sprinklers are probably one of the best ways to stop your house burning down provided you have town water or power (for the pump) where you don't have town water.  Fire proof pump housing is also a good idea.   

No they don't. The manual states that pets must be secured in an appropriate environment external to the centre. Thats' per The Queensland Evacuation Centre Management Handbook.

The complication is that any evac centre would not have enough cages for the likely numbers of the pets evacuated. Ours has only 5 (singles) in store for cats and dogs or whatever -- and this is a dog town big time.. there is no way you can ask folk to sleep and live next to someone else's pets.

Of course folk want to be with their pets, but there is a practical reality and a duty of care for everyone -- humans primarily. Eg: a stressed out dog in a new environment away from home  is not gonna behave itself...and a  cat will bolt.

Images of pets with evacuees were carried by the press during a disaster up north a couple of years back (Bundaberg floods?) but those desperate people were living in the local shopping centre mall not an official evac centre. I drew our groups attention to the reports.

Not that we have tested it but I can imagine the chaos bedding x number of evacuees down while their pets howl through the night as the storms/fires/floods rage outside. And if you put, say, all the dogs together in the one enclosure (where is that to be?)...what happens then?

Just saying: if you have pets and need to evacuate, consider their re-location very carefully. Around here come floods, livestock have to be moved to higher ground and there are never enough horse floats in an emergency.

But if you keep your cool you can still use the evac centre as your drop in, food, information and toileting facility.

Like the homeless, couch surfing and living in your car is better than other options.

I would not be relying on the Queensland government for a safe Evacuation Centre  they have problems getting simple things right  best for locals  to  organize in there  area worst think in emergency  is late  travel .

Thats' not true as emergency responses are run at the local municipal level in partnership with protective services. Evac centres are set up by councils under the mentoring of the Red Cross.

In our case emergency response focus was a local initiative. And while we had to find our niche, a major focus was to support recruitment to the SES and firies so that we had more specialists trained in emergency response in town. 

If we have to set up our Evac Centre the experience will be essential. We may be primed, trained and have the equipment but the real thing is something else.

What I'm saying is don't expect a panacea. Make your own evac plan.

I meant in like a pet carrier with a lead so you can let them out during the day (outside in the shade).  A lot of people have those just to get their pets to the vet.  Under those circumstances, no evac centre in their right mind would knock the pets back.  I can't see very many people hanging around an evac centre in the days (unless they a waiting to get money or services).  Necessity drives them out to buy things they forgot to bring.  Which also makes me mention, have a stash of cash you can grab.  When there is no power, the autotellers etc don't work. 

True. It is all in the preparation.

The advantage of the Evac centre is that they can run up accounts at suppliers that the council or other entities will cover. If you go through the images of those folk trapped on beaches in NSW and Victoria you'll see lots of animals -- including horses -- among the people.

They were huddled on the beach and all I could think about was toilet facilities for that many.

Also, of course, many folk -- tourists and locals -- were asked to evacuate and left it too late.

Our emergency 'response' started with a two way radio and a couple of seminars.this was in the aftermath of the horrendous flash flood in May (!) 2015 which killed 7.

The bureaucracy does indeed move slowly. Then,  after establishing agreement with the school, we got potential use of its hall  so a container full of evac gear was parked next door.

We also itemised our local resources in way of doctors, food, accomodation and her already had emergency response plans (eg: retirement village, school, etc).  Worked on a distaer management plan. Got storage for CES reserve equipment. Established a likely helicopter pad.

But the best element of all is what is called MoretonAlert which has been in place for around 3-4 years.

MoretonAlert is a free SMS, email and voice alerting system. It provides severe weather warnings, bushfire warning messages, council prescribed burn notifications, potential flash flooding incidents and planned dam releases within our region. Messages include basic information about the type of emergency, the level of threat and recommended action to take.

I understand BCC has a similar service and I'd guess as would most SEQ councils. Signing up to that service is a MUST DO for everyone.

For instance:

Just visit your local council's web pages and sign up.

I should add that I am in awe of the skill and professionalism of the emergency services we have worked with as well as the emergency management section of council. All councils have such a department.

There is some resistance to being inclusive of community amateurs but it seems to be a ready option, especially when a community is cut off by fire or flood.

For toilets and things, the locals just need to ask "upwards" if they can't get them.  You contact the council that "owns" your evac centre via your council contact or a thing called the LDMG (Local Disaster Management Group).  The LDMGs have a LOT of networks with local companies, other councils, state departments etc.  If they can't arrange dunnies (or anything else), they contact the SDMG (State Disaster Management Group).  That group can arrange pretty much anything, including help from the defense forces etc through their federal contacts. 

Maybe nor so useful in detail here in SEQ but the perspective may be worth mulling over. Obviously, planting native plants presents issues.

I'm also much taken with the Ernst Götsch principle that you trim your trees to chest height...

Deciduous trees can provide crucial bushfire protection in rural Au...

Deciduous plants are fire retarding because they have high moisture content in their leaves without the flammable oils. They can provide excellent fire protection in four ways.

Read more...

I'm no arborist but my favorite deciduous tree is the Mulberry. Pity about the root habits.

I also use Frangipani for shade but the shade is not dense.

Currently, I'm exploring the utility of Vetiver as a ground cover against fire. No surprise there as that is my obsession. It will recover quickly from being burnt but there is a debate about how it burns and how easily lit. Certainly not like the horrific Gamba Grass.

Here's another useful discussion: (LINK)

In America, eucalypts are sometimes referred to as 'gasoline trees' such is their propensity to burn. Unfortunately, Australia is covered in them, which has not only resulted in the destruction of the rainforests and the failure of a once annual monsoon over central Australia, but it has also made Australia the most fire prone continent on earth. As stated in the Future Eaters: (1)

"Rainforests are killed by fire, but the Eucalypts had evolved in the fire prone areas, and they thrived on it. In an unholy alliance with fire, the eucalypts spread across the continent - destroying the original forests, creating the Australian landscape we know today.
I think the triumph of the eucalypts was to change, even the climate of the continent. The original forests had acted like a sponge - storing huge quantities of moisture, and transpiring it back into the atmosphere. This allowed the monsoon rains to penetrate hundreds of kilometres south. The rains fed a permanent river system, that flowed inland - filling the lakes at the heart of the continent."

Despite recognising that eucalypts are a fire hazard, they have continued to be planted around Australian settlements as a expression of Australian patriotism. Realising the danger of the ideology, some critics have started pointed out that while the native Australian bush is very beautiful and celebratory of Australia, it is still a fire hazard. One of these was Joan Webster, author of Essential Bushfire Safety Tips, who asked:

"Tigers are native to India. Do Indians keep tigers in their gardens? Or allow them to roam their streets? No. They could kill someone. So why do we Australians feel a compulsion to surround our houses with native plants; grow them in suburban streets? They can kill people… With the fashion for indigenous trees in our gardens, we in effect stack kindling around our houses. Build them within a pyre. Ready for a sacrificial burn."(2)

Read more...

.I guess the point is that once we survive this Summer, this is the sort of discussion Australia must have.

Resilience?
This is the sort of response we will need if our time ever comes: SHAREABED

That's a fantastic app.  

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