How to prepare your home for bushfires on Sydney’s Upper North Shore

Preparing your home for bushfires is essential at this time of year because—as the hazy air and the news headlines keep reminding us—bushfire season on the Upper North Shore is well and truly here.

If you’re not sure where to start, or you just want to make sure you’re doing everything you can, follow these three tips to ensure your home is as protected as possible.

1. Assess your risk

Start by checking whether you’re on bushfire prone land. Both the Rural Fire Service and Ku-ring-gai council have online maps where you can type in your address to ascertain your level of vulnerability. Bear in mind that risk levels can change, so it’s important to take some precautions even if you’re not in a high-risk area.

Next, use an online assessment tool such as the RFS’s Assess My Risk or Ku-ring-gai council’s Ready Check to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of your property. It will assess features such as the age of your house, roof design and material, type of landscaping, and whether you have a pool, and highlight any hazards for you to deal with.

2. Prepare your home

The RFS recommends these maintenance measures to keep your home as resilient as possible:

  • Remove plant debris
    Keep your gutters and yard clear of debris, mow the lawn, and prune back any plants around or over the building. This reduces the combustible material around your house.
  • Eliminate gaps
    Repair holes in the roof and outer walls, enclose the area underneath the house, and make sure you have good seals around doors, windows and vents. This will minimise the possibility of embers finding a foothold.
  • Ensure water access
    Make sure you have hoses that can reach around your house and consider attaching a sprinkler system to your gutters. Locate your nearest fire hydrant using these tips from NSW Fire and Rescue, and establish an alternate water source such as a swimming pool or water tank in case your home loses power.
  • Ember-proof your house
    According to the RFS, 85% of homes that burn down during a bushfire fall victim to airborne embers. Consider installing metal gutter guards and metal mesh screens on doors and windows for added protection from ember attack.

Want to know what else you can do, or have specific questions about your property? The RFS has teamed up with Ku-ring-gai council to offer free fire-proofing workshops; visit the council’s Climate Wise Communities website to register for a workshop or request one in your area.

3. Stay informed

Keep abreast of current bushfire incidents by checking the RFS’s Fires Near Me map, following the RFS’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and checking local radio and TV. You can also follow the RFS’s local brigade, the Ku-ring-gai Bush Fire Brigade in Wahroonga, on Facebook. Remember that resources are often stretched thin during a bushfire, so only call 000 in an emergency or when there is an unattended fire. For anything else, call the Bushfire Information Line on 1800 679 737.

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