Bushfires are the number one environmental threat to Australian businesses, and they are getting worse every year. For example, in Victoria there used to be an "extreme" bushfire every 15 years. Now, fires that consume 100,000 hectares or more come along every 5 years or less. Economic losses are huge. In 2009, Victorian fires cost insurers around AU$400 million.
The reasons include urban expansion that puts more properties in the path of major fires, increasing fuel loads as forests become dominated by flammable eucalyptus trees and the effects of climate change, which raises temperatures and dries out affected areas.
This means that Australian businesses and homes need to be protected against bushfires as much as reasonably possible. Here are some practical ways to safeguard your property against sudden and potentially catastrophic conflagrations.
Keep Any Fire Sources Isolated From Major Structures
If your business or home requires the storage of flammable materials like chemicals, waste products or fuel, it's a good idea to isolate these storage facilities in their own brick structures with appropriate firebrakes in place around them. If not, they will significantly increase the chances of a blaze developing in your core buildings.
Ensure That Your Power Lines Are Secured
Power lines and bushfires don't mix. When fires sweep through populated areas, power cables come into contact with the ground, sparking further fires and posing a huge safety risk. That's why Victoria's state government is rolling out the installation of Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter cables. These power lines cut out automatically when they touch the ground and are supposed to be mandatory across Victoria. If your electricity company hasn't installed them, contact them to ask them to do so. Elsewhere in Australia, you should be able to ask your suppliers to install them as well at no extra cost.
Add Extra Firebrakes by Creating Protection Zones
Environmental planners also recommend designing buffer zones within your property that can act as firebreaks. Known as bushfire asset protection zones (BASPZs), these barriers are simple and easy to implement if the right expertise is sought.
They are pretty low-tech. Typically, asset protection zones will focus on pruning excess vegetation, clearing weeds, replacing any flammable species. Skilled horticulturalists can create these buffers without sacrificing the look of your gardens, and they can also ensure that biodiversity is maximised. The idea is to work with nature by reducing fuel load and slowing any fires as they encroach on your property. As investments go, BASPZs are one of the cheapest risk mitigation options around.
Along with asset protection zones, isolated storage facilities and current limiter cables, you also need emergency plans in place that evacuate staff, residents or customers safely. Always stay informed about any Code Red situations, plan routes to safe locations and train staff to follow evacuation procedures calmly. If you put all of these measures into place, bushfires should be a lot less dangerous.