Fire, wind and rain – keeping safe these summer holidays

As I sit here, curtains drawn to keep the house cool as Melbourne heads for a hot top of 37 degrees, I thought it was time to update one of my first blogs about what to do if you are holidaying during severe weather conditions.

With authorities in many Australian states warning of a pending high risk bushfire season, it is not just people living in these areas who need to be aware of what to do, but also those planning to holiday there.

ash wednesday
The cross at Mount Macedon – a powerful symbol of survival after the devastating 1983 Ash Wednesday fires.

Having been a child living on the fringe of an area decimated in Victoria’s 1983 Ash Wednesday fires, then losing a family friend in the 2009 Black Saturday fires, it is an      issue I am extremely conscious – even paranoid about.

The day of the 2009 fires, we were going to visit my parents but changed our mind because of the horrendous weather conditions. If we had gone, we would have been driving along the very same highway that the fires engulfed. Too close for comfort.

So, if you are holidaying in a high risk area – or plan to travel into a high risk area on a declared extreme fire danger rating or higher, what should you do?

Preparing for bushfires

Luckily, there are resources out there that you can look up before you go. A great place to start is to familiarise yourself with the websites of the various state-based fire authoritie, including Victoria, New South Wales, South AustraliaQueenslandTasmania.

Victoria’s Country Fire Authority website has a travellers’ checklist you can print out. Importantly, their advice is to never travel into a high risk bushfire area declared Code Red – and if you are staying in such an area, leave the day before.

Know the danger rating of the area you are travelling through.
Know the danger rating of the area you are travelling through.

Other things to consider:
• Do you know the names of the fire weather districts you are travelling through? This will important to know if any warnings are issued.
• Check the latest fire danger ratings for the areas you are travelling to and through.
• Find out about bushfire safety plans for the area you are staying in.

The CFA also has a FireReady smart phone app which will provide you with the latest fire safety information.

You can also download a Tourism Victoria brochure – Staying in high risk bushfire areas. Safety tips for visitors.

South Australia has seen many devastating bushfires, and already just last month, a major bushfire threatened Tulka, a township just 12km from Port Lincoln on the Eyre Peninsula.

The November 2012 Tulka bushfire
The November 2012 Tulka bushfire

The Country Fire Service has information for travellers which includes the names of fire districts, as well as radio frequencies to tune into for up-to-date advice.

Staying safe during floods and cyclones

As any Australian will know, bushfires are not the only natural disaster that we face. The summer-autumn period can also produce cyclones and flooding.

The power of Cyclone Yasi is evident on the satellite imagery
The power of February 2011’s Cyclone Yasi is evident on the satellite imagery

Queensland experienced devastating floods in January 2011. If travelling in Queensland during the wet season, you should learn about how to avoid floodwaters and what to do if caught.

As Australia’s largest state, Western Australia has a range of weather conditions and can experience the threat of bushfires, floods and cyclones.

You can find safety information on the Fire and Emergency Services Authority website
The Bureau of Meteorology also has some goods tips on surviving a cyclone, with links to other state-based websites.

I know there is a lot of information here, but pick what is relevant to you based on where you are travelling to. Print it out and keep it with your other travel documents.

And most importantly, have a safe holiday with your family this summer.

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