Fire safety and readiness is so important. Living and running a business in rural Australia, making it through our worst bushfire season on record and recently some of the worst storms in decades, was mostly due to the hard work and dedication of our fire and emergency services.
During emergencies like power outages, heavy smoke & evacuations, the difference between the people ‘just surviving’ and those who had taken some basic fire safety and readiness steps was clear. The latter not only improves their families chances of survival, ability to contact emergency services and loved ones, but also extra comfort in days ahead.
We all have a spare tyre in the car for ‘just in case’ and smoke alarms for fire safety and ‘just in case’, a basic Emergency Kit is the same necessity, that each home should have too.
Emergency Services in Australia (i.e. RFS, CFA, SAS etc), don’t just provide operational/response services, but also advise and educate their communities on; planning, preparation, inclusive of home & yards readiness, evacuation plans and putting together an Fire Safety and Emergency Kit.
Depending on where you live or travel to, your needs may vary for encounters with bushfires, storms, floods, remote areas, vehicle breakdown etc. Being ready to evacuate during an emergency, not only improves your safety but it also reduces the workload and risks for fire fighters & emergency services too i.e. they can focus on fighting fires rather alerting, waiting and helping people to safety.
Specific advice on what to have in a Fire Safety & Emergency Kit, is usually provided in the form of a list of items by State fire & emergency services, so residents just need to gather &/or buy the items – easy right?
Previous studies have come up with a multitude of reasons, often focused on varying human attributes and psychological blind spots, mainly focusing on the residents failings, i.e. ‘twon’t happen to me’, ‘I’ll do it later….’, or ‘I’ll get out/leave, well before the fire/flood/storm is close’ etc.
These above are reasons some don’t prepare, but there’s another overlooked and big reason that’s often overlooked…
If the average (non-safety expert) resident is given a list of items to acquire (i.e wool blanket, safety goggles, face mask, radio & gloves), the average Joe or Josephine, would likely ask;
If Josephine, moved 6 months ago to a rural, high bushfire risk area, she just attended a Community Engagement session from the local Emergency Services on Fire Safety and Readiness, thought it was informative and helpful.
She gets home, motivated to put an Emergency Kit together for her home, pulls out the list of items for her kit and looks at the first 3 items.
Note: Items below, are written with the same amount of information provided by an Australian State Emergency Guide:
She starts searching the internet, first ‘Goggles’; her screen fills with swimming goggles $8, so she tries ‘safety goggles, ‘fire goggles’ & ‘smoke goggles’; now her screen fills with goggles for fighting fires (starting at $80), goggles for chemical laboratories, motorbike goggle and more– ranging from $5 – $500.
Josephine’s spent about 20 mins so far on one item and is more confused than before on what to buy. She decides to set that item aside and move on to ‘Smoke Mask’ and ‘gloves’ –should she get the $200 full face respirator, that pack of 10 x Masks from China (no Australian Standards, but Josephine doesn’t know of any minimum standards) or with the ‘Gloves’ now thinking if her gardening gloves are OK – advice just says ‘gloves’ and these protect her hands?
Josephine is still on Question 1. ‘What exactly should I buy?’ and has hit a wall, but she’s still keen so thinks about Question 2.
Maybe if she finds the right place, they can further advise her on specifics on; wool blanket, face mask, radio and first aid kit and thinks a big national, hardware store about a 1 hour drive away, might be a good place to start.
She puts aside 3 hours that weekend, heads in and discovers they have face masks (still not sure exactly which she needs), but they have no wool blankets and don’t stock AM/fFM radios. They do have two first aid kits, both contain 90% band-aids/wipes and she doesn’t think they’re great quality.
She’s now spent around 8+ hours on; attending the Community Engagement session, researching on the internet, driving to a store and so far has 1 item.
How long till you’d put this task aside for another day and maybe it doesn’t ever get done?
Many bushfire prone, rural areas don’t have stores in town, or even the nearest two after that, have more than 1 of the products on the list.
Josephine doesn’t have more specific information than ‘Gloves’, what hope does she have of locating any standards?
In all Josephine’s online searching, she finds advice from another State Government, thinks ‘great, maybe they’ll have some more detailed info. Her glee soon turns to further frustration, as she discovers their list for fire safety and readiness, doesn’t provide more information she’s after and the list of items varies.
Josephine’s experience is common for many Australians; want to get ready, but not sure exactly what to buy, where to buy or to what standards.
We think the previous studies, on why people don’t get prepared with an emergency and bushfire kit needs to look at experiences like Josephine’s.
Radio – AM/FM Portable radio, with batteries & spare batteries (or solar/crank powered)
Torch – waterproof and recommend headlamps (hands free while loading car etc.) with batteries & spare batteries (or solar/crank powered)
First Aid Kit – good quality, to Australian Standards & known brands. Check contents, if 80%+ is band-aids/wipes, keep looking
Woollen blankets – minimum 70% wool, remaining material non-flammable. NO tassels, satin ribbon around edge etc. – highly flammable &/or may catch and trap you. Check GSM (Grams per Square Meter) minimum 400 GSM for enough thickness/weight
Gloves – leather, heat resistant gloves (Rigger type are good)
Face Mask P2V – P2 (Australian Standard AS/NZS 1716:2012) with valve – this extends the life of the mask by clearing moisture out of the one way valve
REMEMBER: Your Emergency Kit is NOT for fighting fires, it’s to help you safely evacuate, navigate to safety and at last resort shelter in place, if too late to leave.
It’s important to have checklists and notices ready to go. With adrenaline pumping, it is easy to forget key items. Also remember in most emergencies, you’ll likely lose power &/or phone signal and a good chance it will be at night. Check with your State or Territories Emergency Services for checklist.
Emergency & Bushfire Kits ensures every Emergency & Fire Safety Kit includes 4 laminated, re-usable checklists and notices, with a clipboard and marker pen.
All of these not only further expedite your households evacuation & improves your safety, as well as freeing up emergency services time, to focus on fighting fires and dealing with the emergency.
Get your home ready today, help yourself, your Community and emergency services
Emergency & Bushfire Kits
25 years’ experience in Safety, Emergencies & Aerial Firefighting Management
We love what we do, helping others get prepared, living and running the business from the middle of the Wombat State Forest in rural, Western Victoria. We understand many of the challenges you face, because we face them too; bushfires, storms, blackouts and more…
We‘ve done the hard work for you and all the products are in one place
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