Fires are unpredictable and plans can fail. Having a back-up plan that identifies your shelter or last resort options may save your life if you are caught in a fire.
The following information is provided to assist you in understanding the different shelter options available. Your choice of backup shelter options should be made with your personal circumstances in mind and to suit the situation at the time.
Not all options will offer the same degree of protection from a bushfire and not all options will be available in all circumstances.
You may have to move from one place of shelter to another.
Shelter and last resort options
If leaving a high-risk area is no longer an option, your planned options are not possible or you have no plan and there is threat of bushfire you should be aware of what alternative shelter options are close by.
Shelter options (not in any particular order) close by you may include a:
- Private bunker (that meets current regulations)
- Community Fire Refuge
- Neighbourhood Safer Places- place of last resort
- Privately arranged place of shelter: these are private places of shelter arranged by individuals. They may include: a well prepared house (yours or your neighbour’s) or another building that is in an area of lower risk. Private places of shelter may not be safe in all circumstances. If you decide to use private places of shelter, you are responsible for assessing its suitability, including whether the property can and will be defended if required.
It is important to understand that traveling to or sheltering in some of these locations does not guarantee your safety.
If sheltering in a house or another building during a bushfire, you must:
- Actively monitor and defend the house while inside during this time. Check for embers in the roof space and elsewhere in the house
- Make sure you have a point of exit to the outside in every room used as a shelter. Do not shelter in the bathroom as it typically has only one door and a small window that is often frosted
- Remain alert and maintain visibility with the outside to know what is happening with the fire
- Keep hydrated, drink water even if you don’t feel thirsty
- If the house catches fire, move through the house away from the rooms on fire, closing doors behind you
- Plan an exit strategy for when the fire front has passed or it is no longer safe to shelter in the house
- Move outside to burnt ground as soon as you can
- If it is no longer safe to shelter in the house but still too hot outside in the open, seek another shelter option
Other last resort options
If you are unable to find shelter in the above locations you may have to seek shelter in any available place such as:
- Ploughed paddock or reserve
- Body of water (beach, pool, dam or river). This does not include a water tank. Dams may not be reliable as their water levels fluctuate and they may be empty in summer.
- Stationary car in a cleared area. Learn how to protect yourself if caught in the car.
While such places may provide a degree of safety, they do not offer good protection from radiant heat or other dangers. They are likely to involve high-risk of physical and mental trauma, injury or death.
Protect yourself from radiant heat
- Cover up exposed skin - Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes such as boots (not sandals or runners). Cover yourself with a dry woollen blanket.
- Distance is the best protection. Move as far away as you can from the fire.
- Get behind a solid object or barrier such as a brick wall.
Given the high likelihood of death or serious injury in such situations, it is critical that you understand the need to do everything possible to avoid having to use these last resort options