Dr Douglas Brown shares advice on where to shelter in your home during a bushfire emergency.

With ABC radio host Simon Marnie one of the many attractions, scores of residents attended The Bushfire Building Community Day and conference over the weekend. The presentation by Dr Douglas Brown from Bushfire Architecture: Where to shelter in your home during a bushfire emergency, attracted plenty of interest. The Gazette is reprinting that presentation here.

Staying alive: Dr Douglas Brown from Bushfire Architecture advised residents where to shelter in your home during a bushfire emergency.

Staying alive: Dr Douglas Brown from Bushfire Architecture advised residents where to shelter in your home during a bushfire emergency.

For saving lives, leaving early is the safest action. Sometimes however this doesn’t happen.

The difficulty is all houses and properties are not the same. Even two houses with the same design and construction materials can have different bushfire risks depending on the slope of the land, proximity to vegetation and maintenance of the surrounding area.

Bushfires occur on hot, dry, windy days when there is material to burn and ignition. Bushfires have three main parts: ember attack, radiant heat and firefront.

Conditions inside your home as the bushfire approaches will be darker and smoky. Fire alarms will be beeping and your ability to see and hear will be reduced and communicating may be difficult.

Taking shelter has two parts – sheltering in the house and sheltering in a cleared area after the firefront has passed and if the house is burning.

If you are sheltering in the house

• Shelter on the ground floor

• Shelter close to an exit point (door)

• Put out spot fires

• Watch and be aware of the progress of the fire

• Leave if the house catches fire and go to your cleared area

When selecting the best space to shelter inside your house, go to each door on the ground floor, open the door and ask yourself can you quickly escape from there to the cleared area outside if your house catches fire? Will you be able to see the progress of the fire from this space? Is there a water source nearby such as a sink? (If not have stackable water buckets).

When sheltering in a cleared area (when the house is on fire) the cleared area should:

• Be made of non-burnable materials such as paving, concrete, pebbles, tiles

• Not have overhanging trees or thick vegetation

• Ideally have on-site water (watertank).

To improve your shelter place inside, consider replacing the door with more durable wood and thicker glass (see AS 3959). Also install a cupboard for woollen blankets, firehose, buckets, (see NSW RFS website) near the door where you will take shelter.

Outside the house prune nearby vegetation, including removing overhanging trees, and install a watertank.