How to Prepare Your Home For Bushfires

With summer comes longer, warmer days, but the season also brings its share of new threats for your home such as bushfires. Without a shadow of a doubt, they make the top of the list when it comes to the most feared natural hazards. However, there are ways to minimise the risk of losing your property to the flames.

The key is to anticipate and prevent, rather than cure later on. In other words, the better (and earlier in the season) you can prepare a property for bushfires, the better chance it stands of resisting and surviving. Whether you are a homeowner or tenant, this “How To” guide will help you know how to protect your home best.

A tidy, clean garden is a safer garden. During bushfire season more than at any other time, you should make sure always to keep it in check.

Mow the grass regularly and don’t forget to remove the cuttings. You should also clean fallen leaves and branches, and trim overhanging trees and shrubs. Finally, clear the area around your home and make sure to remove any material that can burn, such as mulch, woodpile or rubbish.

Clear your gutters of leaves and branches

Leaves and branches are highly flammable. If your gutters are clean, then the risk of ignition during a bushfire will be considerably diminished.

Burning embers can easily set your house on fire. Indeed, research has shown that ember attacks are responsible for no less than 80 per cent of home losses in the event of a bushfire. Knowing this, make sure to check and remove all debris from your gutters regularly. If you can, also install fire-resistant gutter guards.

If a bushfire is close and your home is at higher risk, and if you can manage, block the downpipes and fill the gutters with water.

Seal your house against embers

Anywhere embers can lodge or enter puts your home at risk, starting with the roof. Most homes ignite when sparks or burning embers blow under tiles and start burning roofing timbers or accumulated litter.

Look for and fix or replace any missing or faulty tiles. Make sure to seal all gaps, cracks and holes in your roof and walls. A cheap and effective way to do that is to use compressed mineral wool insulation. Home buyers in Tampa

Finally, install fine steel wire mesh screens on all windows, doors and vents as these crevices also are potential entry points for embers.

Check and update your smoke alarms

The legislation on smoke alarms vary from one state to another, so check what applies to your home. In New South Wales, smoke alarms must be installed on every level of the house. In Queensland, the safest state when it comes to fire prevention, the new legislation is even stricter. It stipulates that interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms are required in all bedrooms, in hallways that connect bedrooms with the rest of the house, and on every level.

No matter the legislation (Google “fire safety legislation + your state” to know what applies to your home), play it safe and equip your home with enough smoke alarms qs they could save your and your family’s lives. Make sure to check them once a month and replace the battery at least every year.

Prepare yourself with a bushfire plan

Before it comes to the worst, you need to make sure that you will know how to act in case of an emergency. That’s when a survival bushfire plan becomes key, as it will detail every step to take.

Try to think about all the choices you would need to make in the event of a bushfire, and decide what the plan is for each situation you would face. These choices are much easier to do with a cool head and without feeling the pressure of a real bushfire.

Keep all important numbers on hand, as well as a survival kit that should include medicine and a first aid kit, a waterproof torch, a waterproof bag for valuables, etc.. Don’t forget your ID documents and keep everything somewhere easy and quick to access.

Not sure where to start? To improve or make a plan that you know will withstand the test of a bushfire, spare 5 minutes of your time and take the “How fireproof is your plan?” test.

Understand bushfire danger ratings and stay alert

It is essential that you know and that you understand bushfire danger ratings. They range between “Low-Moderate” and “Catastrophic” or “Code Red”, and give you an indication of the risk and what you should do.

At all times, before, during and after a bushfire, monitor the conditions in your area. Stay alert and be ready to leave if required. To keep yourself informed on the situation, check the official websites. You can also download apps such as “Fires Near Me” and set up watch zones, listen to the radio, or simply watch the news.

Check your home and contents insurance

Home and contents insurance should be one of the first things to look at. Before it’s too late, and even if it’s not mandatory, make sure to take out a policy that will protect you in case of bushfires. Of course, this is even more crucial if you live in a bushfire-prone area.

If the worst comes to worst, you might need to provide supporting documents when submitting a claim. Take photos of your house and belongings, and scan all your house-related invoices or paperwork. Save everything on a cloud and keep the originals in a safe place, easy to access in case of fire.

Also, be aware of waiting periods. If you take out a new policy for your home and contents, bushfires damages happening in the first 48 to 72 hours won’t usually be covered by your insurer.

7 Tips for Keeping Cool This Summer

There’s nowhere quite like Australia in summer — we’re famous for our beaches, cricket and backyard barbies. But to enjoy this season, we have to combat the high temperatures and the sun that’s heating our homes. Here are 7 easy tips from our Summer Checklist. You’ll be surprised at what you can do without breaking a sweat.

Turn off the lights and TV

You’d be surprised how much household lights can affect the temperature of a room on hot summer days. Turn off all heat sources such as lamps, plug-in power adapters, your computer and the TV when you’re not using them. Anything electrical in your home ultimately turns into heat, so anything not being used should be turned off at the wall.

Keep the heat out

Keep the heat out of your house by closing the windows and blinds before the sun hits your property in the morning. This is particularly important for windows along the northern and western side of your property. Awnings, deciduous trees and pergolas with deciduous vines are great options because they give you shade in summer and sun in the winter.

When the cool of the night comes, open the house back up again and let the cool breeze circulate. Many areas in Australia have hot days and cool nights so you can use this to your advantage.

Get the air moving

Moving air, even a little, makes a big difference, plus it has the added benefit of saving on energy costs and consumption. Having doors and windows aligned will help here – so when you open the house up cross ventilation can easily flow each room, but best to do this in the evening when the temperature is cooler.

Another way to increase air circulation and cool your room down in a low energy way is to install ceiling fans or use a portable fan. Consider turning the fan on in the first instance instead of the air conditioner as they cost almost nothing to run.

Air conditioning thermostat

Hot weather can make you feel like you want to turn your air conditioning right down, but cooling to 26 degrees will still keep you comfortable and save you money. Setting your thermostat to just one degree cooler can increase your cooling bill by 15% according to Environment Victoria.

Strategically placed trees

Nature can help you keep your home cool and help reduce your energy bills. Whilst this is not an instant fix, consider planting a deciduous tree on the east and west sides of your home to help keep solar heat from direct contact with windows and roofs.

It is also recommended to plant shrubs around air conditioning units to protect them from the beating sun. If you are able to plant or place pots under north facing windows, they will help absorb some of the heat and help keep your home cooler.

Insulate and seal the house

Insulation doesn’t just keep your home warm in winter, it also has the added benefit of keeping it cool in summer, particularly if you use both bulk insulation (big batts) and foil insulation (thin sheets). According to Environment Victoria, insulation can cut your energy use by 45%!

It is also worth improving the sealing around all windows and doors and perhaps consider adding glazing to your windows.

Reduce your AC load

If you own an air conditioner there are ways you can help reduce the load and its energy consumption. Close your windows and blinds so the AC can function as effectively as possible. Use the AC only on the hottest days and remember to turn the system off when you are out.

Any external AC units should be installed on the southern or shaded side of the property and make sure when you are choosing one that it is the right size for your space.