If you’re in Victoria, it’s the CFA.
If you’re in NSW, you’re after the RFS.
The RFS also has a great tool called My Fire Plan, which helps you come up with a plan and lets you know what things you need to do to prepare your property. The CFA has a similar tool on its website, as well.
Both fire services also have apps, which are essential to keep on your phone.
Victoria has the Vic Emergency app (iPhone | Android) which covers all kinds of emergencies and natural disasters in one handy place, while the RFS has Fires Near Me NSW (iPhone | Android) and Fires Near Me Australia (iPhone | Android).
Apps you need for a day at the water (anticipated or not)
Beachsafe (iPhone | Android) is a great app created by Surf Life Saving Australia, and it gives you a lot of the information you need to not just find a beach, but stay safe while you’re there. It’s got a list of patrolled beaches, tide info, swell, wind and weather forecasts, lifeguard tips, first aid advice and hazard warnings.
There’s also Dorsal (iPhone | Android), which is an app that logs community reports of shark sightings.
Of course, the NSW government loves having a separate app for everything, so there’s also SharkSmart (iPhone | Android) as well as SES FloodSafe (iPhone) and SES StormSafe (iPhone).
There’s also Emergency+, which is a national app to help people determine if it’s time to call ‘000’ or one of the other emergency numbers, and work out their rough GPS coordinates (iPhone | Android).
Back up important things
It used to be that the first things people grabbed in an emergency (presumably after their children and pets) were the family photo albums. These days, though, all our photos are digital, which is a lot lighter to carry. When preparing for fire/flood season, you should back up all your photos and important documents to a cloud service, like Google Drive, and/or to an external hard drive that you keep in your emergency go bag. You’ll also want to back up your insurance documents, and have photos of all your valuables on there to make any potential insurance claims easier.
And, if you have hard copy old photo albums that aren’t backed up anywhere, it’s worth scanning them, or at least putting them in your go bag. Fires and floods move quickly, and you don’t want to waste precious time getting albums out of a cupboard when it’s time to go.
Set up your fire kit
Whether you’re going or staying, if you live in an at-risk area (which includes many new suburbs), you need to have a fire kit ready to go. It should include things like fire-resistant clothing and shoes to wear on days of extreme fire danger; such as leather shoes and wool or denim clothes, hats and gloves.
Don’t be that guy on the news standing on your roof in a singlet, shorts, and thongs holding a hose.
Also put in a couple of bottles of water that you rotate every season. And keep towels in the car so you can moisten and put them over your head to combat radiant heat
But there’s also some gadgets that could help you out.
They might be a little hard to find these days, but a portable, battery-powered AM radio is great to have in an emergency, so you can keep up to date with the news on how the fire is progressing if your phone reception dies. Don’t leave the batteries in the radio while you store it, though, because battery leakage sucks; just keep a pack of batteries in the kit and make sure they’re within their use-by date.
Keep a USB battery pack in there, too, along with the cables required to charge your family’s phones, because you will lose power during a fire, and you’ll need your phone to call 000 or keep in touch with family members on other parts of your property. It might be best to invest in one of those power packs that can also jump start a car, because that will cover all your bases. The prices for them start at $79.95 for the Laser 6000mAh battery (which also has a torch), and can head on up to $500, depending on how fancy you want to go.
Remember, though, that batteries don’t stay charged forever, and you should store batteries with only 50 per cent charge to extend their useful life. Just charge it up at the start of fire season, and discharge it at the end.
The most important thing, though, is that you have your plan and stick to it as much as possible. Being prepared only helps if you follow through.
Alice is a freelance journalist, producer and presenter.