Every person located in the Adelaide Hills should have a well prepared Bushfire Action Plan in place to ensure that lives are protected in the event of a major Bushfire.  The Adelaide Hills region is a Bushfire Prone Area with large extensive areas of the region rated as High Fire Risk.  The following has been extracted from recent articles to provide relevant information.

The Bushfire Season is with us again— time to Prepare—Act— Survive

Extract from Hahndorf Village Voice - Summer Edition December 2009 Issue No.20

The New Bushfire Warnings

As a result of the recent horrific bushfires in Victoria, and other severe bushfires in recent times in the ACT, New South Wales and those we have encountered here in South Australia, the Country’s Emergency Services have formulated a nationwide strategy of warnings.  This means that wherever you go in Australia, if there is a bushfire emergency, you will receive the same messages.  The most important changes you will need to know for this season and from now on are to do with Fire Danger Ratings, Emergency Warnings, and Watch and Act Messages.

Fire Danger Ratings

In the past, there were five levels of danger safety ratings from Low to Severe.  There are now six (6) which are based on the predicted Fire Danger Index (FDI) for the following day. The Bureau of Meteorology and the CFS assess the predicted temperature, humidity level, wind strength and direction, size of fuel  loads and the dryness of the fuel when deciding on the FDI.

The Fire Danger Ratings are now as follows:

Category Fire Danger Index
CATASTROPHIC  (CODE RED) 100 and over
EXTREME 75 – 99
SEVERE 50 – 74
VERY HIGH 25 – 49
HIGH 12 – 24
LOW-MODERATE 0 - 11

Emergency Warnings and Watch and Act Messages

You will be alerted to bushfires in three ways

  1. ADVICE:  A fire has started - there is no immediate danger;  general information to keep you up to date with developments.
  2. WATCH AND ACT:  A fire is approaching you, conditions are changing; you need to take action now to protect your life and family. 
  3. EMERGENCY WARNING:  You are in danger and you need to take action immediately.  You will be impacted by fire.  This message will be preceded by the Standard Emergency Warning Signal (SEWS)

What You Should Do!

Listen to the radio, ABC or 5AA each afternoon when the next day’s rating is announced.

If the rating is going to be EXTREME, you should seriously consider whether you need to be at home the following day.  Make sure your Bushfire Action Plan is in place.  Decide, considering all the circumstances, if you are able to defend your home.  If not, leave that night or the following morning and go to a place of safety.

If the rating is announced as CATASTROPHIC or CODE RED, the conditions are going to be such that you will not be able to defend your home should a fire occur.  Leave that night or EARLY in the morning to a place of safety.  The catastrophic rating will not be made lightly.  It means that in a fire, it is likely that you may lose your home, and worse, your life.

Once a fire has started you need to be alert and listening to either the ABC or 5AA on a battery powered radio. If you can’t adequately protect your home and a Watch and Act Message is announced, seriously consider leaving.  If an Emergency Warning is made, it will probably be too late to leave and you should shelter in your home, following your Bushfire Action Plan.

The CFS has much more information than I can tell you here.  Visit their website (www.CFS.sa.gov.au) or ring their advice line on 1300 362 361.

It is vital that you do your best to prepare your property for the fire season, and that you are prepared.

(Simon Westwood, Hahndorf CFS)

Hahndorf Community Bushfire Information Night

Extract from Hahndorf Village Voice - Autumn edition 2010 Issue No.21

Some Important Advice from the CFS - January 2010

The Hahndorf community flocked en masse to an information evening held by the Country Fire Service (CFS) early last month.  The meeting, held at the local CFS station, was attended by over 100 people and included a number of residents who had been through the ordeal of Ash Wednesday.

Hahndorf Brigade Captain Jason Sanders coordinated the evening, which included a brief presentation by CFS Community Education Officer Nick Patrick on the need for residents to prepare and maintain their property and a more detailed talk by CFS Regional Commander Chris Martin about the dangers of bushfires.  “The Mt Lofty Ranges region is one of the most bushfire-prone areas in the world,” Mr Patrick said. “Meetings such as this are extremely important to make sure residents are getting first-hand, accurate information.”

Mr Patrick’s presentation highlighted the need for residents to focus on the area immediately around their own homes to protect them in particular from ember attack.  “Studies show that around 95 per cent of homes are lost through spark and ember attack,” he said. “Creating a defendable space around your property is essential if you live in a high-risk area.”
We hope those people who attended now have a clearer understanding of messages they have been hearing through the media and know where to seek further information,” Mr Patrick said.

“The CFS is proud to be able to provide these sessions but understand the community demands and deserves more.  Our Fire Safe program is one of the best ways for residents to prepare themselves for bushfires.  We can help you get a group together so you can discuss these issues with your neighbours in an informal setting.”
Chris Martin, CFS Regional Commander, stressed the fact that the safest place to be is nowhere near a fire and the only way to guarantee your safety is to leave early – well before a fire threatens the area.
An impromptu showing of hands indicated that residents would like this to become an annual fixture.

For more information, check out the CFS website (www.cfs.sa.gov.au) or contact Nick Patrick on 0428 817 186 or [email protected]

Prepare – Act - Survive

Have you got a written plan — will you leave early?

There are Two Options:

  1. Leave Early; don’t leave at the last minute; decide where to go and when.
  2. Stay and defend your property!  Remember, you could die if you decide to stay to defend your home — from radiant heat scorching the airways!

Local Council Fire Prevention Officer:  ** 1300 362 361 **

Be Ready:

  •  Have a Plan;
  • Create a defendable space
  • Have a fire resistant home
  • Prepare and be able;
  • Have proper equipment and clothing
  • If too late to leave, stay in the house or with a close neighbour;
  • Listen to ABC AM 891 or 5AA

Plan and Prepare

Extract from Hahndorf Village Voice - Summer Edition December 2011 Issue No.28

Before the beginning of each bushfire danger season, firefighters are required by CFS to take part in and demonstrate their competency in a Burn Over Drill.  A Burn Over occurs when the front or flanks of a fire change direction quickly resulting in the fire burning over the firefighting appliance.  The drill involves a number of procedures, amongst them crew taking cover under fire blankets in the cabin of the appliance with crew protection curtains down and the appliance being covered with a fog of water from the minimum 20% of firefighting water which is kept in reserve for situations such as this.

The drill is precise in requirement and execution and needs to be as in a real burn over event - firefighters need to act instinctively and quickly because the extremes of wildfire can be quite terrifying; people have been known to act irrationally through fear.  The radiant heat from the fire is deadly, the noise fearful and the smoke so thick that it is impossible to see your hand in front of your face.

In a major bushfire event, it is possible that you may be faced by the same conditions and the reality is that a fire appliance will most likely not be available to protect you or your home.  Thus it is important that you plan and prepare in just the same way that firefighters undertake an annual Burn Over drill.

Reasons for having a Bushfire Survival Plan

The majority of people who die during bushfires in South Australia are caught fleeing their homes at the last minute.  
Preparing your Plan allows you to
identify the triggers to leave early or prepare to actively defend your property

Bushfires can be scary and overwhelming.  This is not the time to be making major decisions.  
Preparing your plan allows you to make major decisions in advance and will help keep you focused to make better decisions in the event of a bushfire threat.

During a bushfire, you will most likely be worried about your loved ones.  
A prepared and practised Bushfire Survival Plan will help family members know where others are and what they'll be doing.

You might find at the last minute that you don’t have the clothing, equipment or resources to enact your plan to leave early or stay and defend.
  A prepared and practised Bushfire Survival Plan will help you to identify the resources you need.

Bushfires can be unpredictable and the best laid plans can go wrong. 
 A well prepared Plan will include contingencies and back-ups if your primary plan fails.

What does this tell us? Do the sensible thing and have a practice — especially so that the children, elderly (and even the pets) understand what has to be done!  Don’t leave it to chance!

There is a wealth of information and people able to help in this planning process.  As a Hills resident you know that at some time in the future your plan, or lack of it, will be tested.  Make sure that you have done all that you possibly can to protect your family and property and don’t forget, if you work away from
home or travel through a bushfire prone area, that must be taken into consideration in your planning.

Useful Sources of Help

If you have a computer, have a look at these websites — every little bit of learning helps in extreme conditions:

Planning - http://www.cfs.sa.gov.au/site/bushfire/home.jsp

Incident information - http://www.cfs.sa.gov.au/site/home.jsp

Bushfire Information Hotline – 1300 362 361

Preparing your property – District Council of Mt Barker Fire Prevention Officer – 8391 7200 - Douglas Allen