Nuff Nuff

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Are YOU prepared for a bushfire?

Things that YOU need to do IF you are planning on staying and fighting.

Fill EVERY receptacle you can find with water – I mean EVERY single one. This is first and foremost BEFORE you do anything else. Reason for this is if you are on town water – it is likely the water supply will fail. If you are relying on tank water – it is possible that the electricity will fail due to a power failure and you will not have access to your stored water OR a fitting MAY fail.

I don’t say this lightly – FILL EVERY receptacle, even your plastic wheelie bins.

Not everyone will have a generator, or a fire pump, but IF you do, put it in a protected place, somewhere away from direct heat IF possible. For example mine will be against the house, in a service area, that is dug down. This will not stop the generator or pump being heat affected, but it just maybe what saves our lives. Our water tanks have been set up with outlets in this service area – purely for this purpose.

Secondly, string mops and buckets, these are excellent in helping reducing spot fires. Also if you have a backpack that you might use for spraying weedicide etc,, flush it out and fill with water. This is something that uses very little water and has great effect.

Drinking water – make sure you have as much water available as possible. If this means filling every pot and pan so you have water to drink then do it.

Goggles, woollen beanies, thick woollen socks, boots and woollen clothing, leather gloves – MUST all be donned BEFORE the fire approaches. It may be hot – but it might just save your life.

Remove all door mats from around the door steps, remove all clothing off clothes lines. Put your deck furniture inside, away from direct heat. Dampen everything down that you can. If you can stuff the gutter downpipes with tennis balls (padded with fabric) and fill the spouting with water. This will stop burning debris from entering the pipes and causing the property from burning inside out. Turn sprinklers on around the property, this water may prevent bushes from catching fire and causing more of a threat.

If you have gas bottles, turn the bottles off, leave mounted AND connected, ensuring that the escape (vent) holes are pointing away from the building. Several houses were lost due to gas bottles venting into the property. If you have gas stoves, turn the valve off inside also. This may prevent the gas line from venting the gas internally. By removing the bottles, you may actually cause those bottles to turn into gas propelled rockets, so leave them attached. They are designed to vent.

If you have access to the inside of the roof, make sure it is accessible and you have a supply of water up there – I saw many houses burnt because the dust accumulated in the rafters caught fire after the initial front had passed.

I have already covered animal protection here -

Remember you can't/won't always be home – discuss every option available with your children BEFORE a fire threatens

Make sure your neighbours know what you are doing and make sure you know what your neighbours are doing. The number of people that were reported ‘missing’ because they failed to follow this through was horrendous.

And don’t procrastinate – it might kill you

This is not a complete list – refer you local fire fighting agency, but these are some things that many people overlook.
A list of things that should be in your cupboard and checked every year. Battery powered radio. Canned food, fuel, goggles, sturdy boots, candles,

I have experienced all of this first hand, houses lost and saved, simply because of the actions of one person, people saved, simply because of the actions of one person, towns not evacuated due to the actions of one person. People reported missing presumed dead because they didn’t inform their neighbours what they were going to do. Houses burned hours after the initial fire front passed because of door mats or dust in the rafters. People died because they evacuated the family and then tried to save the family pet.

This advice is not finite, by no means is it complete, by no means do I recommend you stay, by no means do I recommend you go – it is a PERSONAL decision, that ONLY you can make.
If after the initial fire front has passed and you have to drive, drive with the windows down and drive slowly, there will be panicked people on the road AND people may be calling for help. Windows down and listen. Do not stop unless safe to do so. Trees that are damaged by fire will be collapsing. You will probably hear noises like gunshots – these are trees collapsing.

Take care – we are now in the official fire season for 2009/2010

Monday, October 26, 2009

Be Prepared or Prepare to Die

The above words are harsh, they are cutting, they are mean, they sound ugly. They are all of those things and more, yet I DO NOT apologise. The post below is confronting, it is meant to be and I still make no apologies for it. You want to know why? Read on.

If you have been following this blog, you know that I was involved in some form fashion with the fires of the 7th February 2009, now known as the Black Saturday Fires, but what you don’t know is that I was also affected by the Ash Wednesday. Roads closed unable to get home, unable to contact my parents, didn’t know if they were alive or dead.

The fires of Black Saturday of which many (not all) where lit by criminals, sane or otherwise, caused the deaths of 173 people. This is a sad truth – that must never be forgotten. In saying that, many people were unaware that a fire was bearing down on them. They were unaware that they were in imminent danger.

Modern living has caused most of these problems, you cocoon yourself inside with the air conditioner, the computer or the TV in the vain hope of avoiding heat. In days gone past – you would often be out at the pool, out on the verandah, just out in the shade. The open skyline visible, the sense of smell working overtime. This is no longer the case.

Many people were not aware until the power went out that there was a problem. Many neighbours do not talk to each other. The extent of contact is waving as someone drives past in the mad rush of a morning.

This post here explains some of what happened and that we looked after everyone on our street that we could – everyone on the street made sure everyone knew who was doing what, those of us that cared and had a neighbourly spirit. “The threat of bushfires, your family and particularly home alone children”

The government is trying to make up for and prevent any further events like Black Saturday by instigating an SMS based warning system. This is a good thing, but it is not the be all and end all. There is something called personal responsibility – which again I have referred to in other posts. I won’t link here – but I am sure you will find it.

If YOU aren’t responsible for your OWN actions, who is? The government? Your parents? Your teachers? Your School? – Why? – ONLY YOU are responsible for YOUR actions, ONLY YOU can know the circumstances surrounding that decision. ONLY YOU can make the decision to go or stay when confronted by fire. ONLY YOU can decide if you are fit enough, both mentally and physically to withstand the onslaught of a bushfire. ONLY YOU.

What stands between you and death most of the time? ONLY YOU.

Please if you don’t feel comfortable staying and defending your property, take what you want to save and go visit someone in the suburbs. Go to the beach. It may never happen, but it could – Please be prepared to stay and fight OR be prepared to leave and live.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Animals and Bushfires

I have spoken often of what needs to be done for humans both, before, during and after a bushfire, today I am concentrating on the animals.

Animals come in all shapes and sizes so let’s start with the small animals first.

Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Mice, Birds etc – all these animals are caged. Move these cages into the house, into a room that can be closed off and not be entered and exited during the mayhem of actively defending the property. Make sure they have food and water and there is enough space between the cages to prevent fighting.

Cats and Dogs – Get these animals inside, again in a room that is not going to be used during the fires. Make sure you have food and water available for them. If they are going to fight, separate them in different rooms. If you plan on leaving, make sure you have carry cages, leashes available and a grab bag of food etc. Just in case you have to leave.

Sheep – Corral them – in an area that is as bare as possible. Make sure they have access to water – that will continue to flow even after the fire has passed.

Horses – Remove all halters, bridles, rugs, EVERYTHING that is flammable. Anything that is metal will get EXTREMELY HOT. With our horse – we used a stirrup leather, with the excess length cut off – placed a mobile number on it in permanent marker and placed it around her neck, making sure that it was loose enough to allow the buckle to dangle below her neck, but tight enough not to slip over her head. We then put her in the paddock with the dam. DO NOT enclose horses, if something goes wrong – they have no chance of saving themselves. There was nothing else we could do.

Cattle – will stampede – All you can do – is put them in an internal paddock on the property with a water supply that won’t fail and hope they don’t push through an external fence before you can retrieve them.

Once the fire has passed and you find yourself with animals that have been burnt – you need to make fairly quick decisions regarding their welfare.

If an animal is down on the ground – it is a fair assumption there is little that can be done. IF an animal is severely burned – you will need to make a judgment call regarding their welfare. Refer to your local vet (Who will be under stress also)

Native animals are not as silly as they seem sometimes – During the recent fires – kangaroos and wallabies hopped into dams and submerged most of their bodies. Some cows also did the same thing.

There is hope – but you need to ensure their safety during the initial passing of the fire front, remembering that the noise associated with the fire will scare the animals more than the flames. After the passing of the fire watch all animals closely for signs of dehydration and breathing problems, which may not be apparent until several days after the fire.

It is critical that during fire season, you cut fire breaks, make sure that there is as little leaf litter as possible on the ground. That you have thought through all the options and are not left running down the road trying to save animals at the height of the fire. That is a certain death sentence.

Please take care and remember look, listen, prepare and survive.

Take care out there.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Fire Season and the Procrastinator

We all know the procrastinator – the person who waits until the last minute, who won’t make a commitment because they just can’t; a person who sits on their hands rather than using them, because it is easier.

We have come to the time in the fire season where there is no longer time for procrastinators, there is no longer time for ‘roundtoit’ – there is no longer time for tomorrow.

Today is the day that if you live in a rural area – that you MUST clean up.

As the CFA advertise on roadside signs – “Clean Up Before Fire Does it for YOU”

We are entering a new fire season, we are entering a new summer, last summer was one that no-one wishes to be re-visited. No-one wishes for the loss of life, no-one wishes for the loss of property. No-one wishes for the heart-ache. But honestly NO-ONE is doing anything about it.

I live in an area that was a 15 degree wind change from being burnt out and then the fire proceeding right into other built-up areas with high populations. I drive past houses everyday – that with a little effort could be made safer for both the resident and certainly the neighbour.

YET nothing has been done and it is unlikely anything will be done.

This upsets me greatly – because it will be these people that cry and say I have lost everything and yet they did nothing to help themselves or their neighbours.

Black Saturday saw many houses saved only because of due diligence of the neighbours. I personally know 3 such events. I am sure there are many many more stories.

It is no good at the approach of a fire – to try and clean up then – to get on the mower, to cut the trees etc. It is too late then.

DO NOT BE A PROCRASTINATOR, get off your hands and do something about that mess, about that long grass, about the overhanging trees.

DO NOT LET 2009/10 Fire season be another killer.

Friday, October 16, 2009

How safe is the data in your safe?

Not very. Yup sounds like a contradiction – it is a contradiction. Safes are only for honest people, safes are only a place to store stuff that you don’t want anyone else to see. The sort of stuff I am talking about are the XXX rated videos of you with someone other than the person you are married to.

All safes have a fire rating, the best you can get without paying an arm and a leg (and I mean that literally) is four (4) hours, some cheaper safes are rated under that.

I’ve seen safes drilled, I’ve seen safes blown apart, I’ve seen safes burnt, I’ve seen safes look fine from the outside but when opened everything is either reduced to ashes or melted.

The polymer notes that are Australian Currency these days just melt when exposed to heat. The old paper money used to turn to char.

Don’t rely on a safe to protect your data, don’t rely on a safe to protect your wills, don’t rely on a safe to protect anything of value. Because it can’t when exposed to anything other than ‘normal’ trauma.

You’ll notice that since I started blogging, many of my blogs have been about the Black Saturday’s fires, that is because they are a big part of my life at the moment and will probably remain so for the rest of my life.

Someone was talking about data protection – computer hard drives and the like. They were saying move HD onto portable drive and just pull the drive and leave. Life is never that simple, life is never that easy. Trust me you don’t have time. Don’t rely on remembering – don’t rely on it won’t happen to you – don’t rely on off-site servers (Although better than nothing) Rely on friends and family outside the area and rely on duplicity.

I can’t be any straighter to the point – remember it may not be tomorrow, it may not be the day after, It may not be next year.

Don’t lose those precious family photos because you think you have plenty of time.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Small business and your duty of care

Small business is about to be hit with another hurdle with parenting rights and responsibilities, as parents we do everything we can to protect our children, as business owners we do everything to protect our (and our employees) interest in the business.

With the awful events of Black Saturday, the government is doing everything possible to prevent massive public liability claims should anything happen. And who can blame them? These decisions will affect both large and small businesses. It will impact businesses at all levels.

An extract from the interim findings from the Royal Commission into the Bushfires that occurred on February 7th 2009, states:- 8.143 a new procedure for school closures on TFB days and days of extreme fire risk

The implications of this are enormous, using the 2009 Central Victorian Fire District as the template. There were 16 days declared days of total fire ban, of which 13 days occurred on a weekday.

The fire season runs from November to March - a break down on that is 151 days, 43 of those days are weekends, 5 public holidays, 10 days Annual leave - so from 151 days you have already lost 58 days (or 38%), now add to the mix a further 13 days for total fire ban days (8.5%), worst case scenario of an employee taking every sick day when due - that is another 3 days (2%) lost production - as an employer you have lost a further 8.5% more than budgeted of possible productivity that you, the employer has to pay for. When employees are forced to take time off work to care for children when the schools are closed, who will fill their position? Will the remaining staff become stressed at the unfairness?

The Royal commission interim report stated that parents didn’t seem to mind the schools closing due to fire risks this year. But I think the shock of the whole event, forced people to re-think priorities for a short period of time. Eventually people will have to put finances before safety.

As an employer, does this leave you open to litigation if something happens and it is claimed that you forced the employee to attend work that day?

Will you be forced to look at the address of a prospective employee to avoid issues with absenteeism? What happens if the employee moves into a high risk area and have a young family?

So many questions and so little time – in fact only 14 days to the next fire season.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The threat of bushfires, your family and particularly home alone children

From the time my children could understand I have drummed into them need for them to be aware of their surroundings, to be able to think outside the square, to be able to survive in this dog eat dog world.

I grew up in an area that one day would burn due to a bushfire – it was only a matter of time before fiction became truth. That time was Feb 7th 2009.

I was in the middle of the fires, one way or another, I don't wish it upon anyone, but that is not why I am writing this post – My darling daughter on the day was home with us on that day and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. We had the cars packed and ready to go – we had organised the elderly neighbours to leave with us in our cars. My intentions were to allow my 17yo to drive her car with one neighbour and I would take my son and another couple with me and then I would return once everyone was safe.

Thankfully it didn’t get to that – touch wood – we were very lucky.

What makes me write this is that my children are older 17yo and 12yo and sometimes we will leave them at home together. I have drummed into them from the time they could understand that if a fire threatens. Go to the dam, someone will come and get you.

My daughter said “when do we go?” – My response - When you can see or smell smoke. I said take a picnic and go down – take the woollen blanket and sit under the trees. Eat, go swimming, someone will come and get you.

“What happens if the fire comes?” – My response, Get in the water and wait for someone to come.

“What about the house?” Response, don’t worry about the house, we can build a bigger and better one when we get the insurance money.

“Who will come and get us?” Response - mum or dad.

It was some weeks after the fires and my daughter and I were driving through a fire affected area and randomly she said “Thanks mum for telling me about the dam, I wouldn’t have thought to do that. I felt safe knowing that someone would come and get us and that I knew what to do.”

My daughter lost many friends from her school in the fires of Black Saturday, I lost many people that I know also, but it is harder for children, even older ones.

Just writing this has bought tears to my eyes. Thinking of what has been,. What might have been, what was.

Please have a fire plan ready, to cover all eventualities. Make sure your children and family know how to contact you if the mobile towers no longer work. Organise a meeting place, somewhere where EVERYONE knows to call/go to in an emergency.

Discuss it openly. Don’t think ‘Oh, its okay we talked about it last year.’

Talk about it NOW. Talk about it often. Sometimes in times of stress you forget long ago conversations. Keep it fresh in everyones’ minds

Thursday, October 1, 2009

If you were hit by a bus tomorrow…………

And you were to depart this mortal earth. What would happen to your emails, your facebook account, you twitter account?

Does your online presence suddenly become inactive and your inbox full?

Have you left instructions for your partner, children or parents to act upon if something was to happen?

Are your passwords written down somewhere that is easily located?

Have you even thought about this?

I had an online friend, who had been sick for sometime, I knew that things weren’t brilliant, but I didn’t expect “D” not to be around.

I had replied to an email that had been sitting in my inbox for maybe 2 weeks, I did not receive an immediate reply, which is not unusual with online friends.

After about 3 weeks, I started trying locate “D” using the information that I had. I found out that she had belonged to various groups and subsequently I emailed said groups. I did not receive a reply.

It must have been about 2 weeks later that I received a reply from “D’s” daughter saying that “D” was no longer with us and that the email account would be shut down within a 1-2 week time-frame. I am assuming this was to allow people like myself to get answers as to why “D” was not responding emails.

The reply I received was fairly bland, just stating the facts. I suppose having known “D” online for 2-3 years, I expected something more personal. I’m not sure, but even now it leaves me sad that I didn’t have a proper chance to say goodbye – even if it was sending flowers or a card to the funeral.

I wonder what happened to “D’s” memberships to forums and the like where she had groups of friends that she knew. I wonder what happened to people like me – who knew her and we shared to jokes, the good times and the bad. Was everyone advised of “D’s” demise, or were emails just bounced back when the email address became inactive?

Have you taken precautions to ensure that your online friends are advised when there is a problem or when you may not be able to respond any longer?
Have you shown those that will be responsible for your affairs after your demise, how to access all your groups and facebook accounts and say goodbye?

Have you formatted a goodbye?

I have all the URL’s and passwords written down in a notebook, but I haven’t shown, nor told anyone.

My darling husband has no idea how to switch the computer on let alone log in and send a message.

I think my will is going to have an added extra piece of paper stuck inside the front cover tonight – stating my ‘other’ wishes, not abidable by law, but certainly something that has to be done upon my death.

And what happens to my domain names? – are they allowed to expire and there be no more me on the net – or will in 20-30 years time, people pursuing the family history only to find references to me that look and perhaps feel current?

The weirdness of it all – oh what to do?