Understanding your role during a bush fire

Communication cell: Stephen Logan Robyn O'Meara, Ian Bartholomew, Jacqui Keats and Colin McCarthy at the NSW RFS Mid Coast Incident Management Centre in Tuncurry. Photo: Anne Keen
Communication cell: Stephen Logan Robyn O'Meara, Ian Bartholomew, Jacqui Keats and Colin McCarthy at the NSW RFS Mid Coast Incident Management Centre in Tuncurry. Photo: Anne Keen

The average member of the community doesn’t need to fully understand everything there is to know about a bushfire but they do need to know what to do to be prepared.

In the wake of the recent Mid Coast region bushfire emergency and the prospect of a severe season ahead, the NSW RFS can help you and your loved ones get ready.

The first step is to make a plan. Sit down and discuss with your family what you will do in a bush fire emergency, what you will need to take with you and where you will go if you leave.

Residents can take steps to protect their properties by ensuring the area around buildings is maintained by keeping grass cut, clearing gutters clean of debris and removing any flammable items, like firewood, from structures.

NSW RFS provides information for residents to assist with these preparations at www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/plan-and-prepare/bush-fire-survival-plan.

Another option is to get neighbours together to work towards understanding how fire affects the area and make preparations. During the off season, NSW RFS can provide a community engagement officer to come and speak with a group to assist with ensuring the neighbourhood is ready.

The next step is to understand the way bushfire information is communicated by the NSW RFS.

There are different levels of alerts the NWS RFS use during a bush fire which are colour coded on the Fires Near Me website, www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fires-near-me, there is also an app for this site that makes keeping up to date easier.

The first alert is Advice which is blue and lets you know that there is a fire.

Watch and Act is yellow, indicating that its time to put your bushfire survival plan into action. 

The final stage is coded red meaning Emergency that alerts residents of immanent danger to properties. At this stage the NSW RFS will be using other methods to communicate with residents including broadcasting on ABC radio and sending SMS alerts to mobile phones that are in the area.

The NSW RFS also provide information about the condition of a fire through Fires Near Me. You can zoom into your area and click on the coloured icon for more information.

Out of Control means the bushfire has been called in but hasn’t yet been fully assessed by the RFS.

Being Controlled means the RFS are working on it.

Under Control means the fire has a containment box around it.

Patrol means the live fire is out but it’s still be watched.

Understanding what to do, when to act and what you plan is are key to keeping safe this bush fire season.