Sep 25, 2023

More Aussies worried about bushfires, only 10% have planned for one

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Climate scientists have warned Australia could be in for a summer of severe heat which puts vulnerable older people at risk of being impacted by a bushfire. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • 58% of Australians expect to be impacted by heatwaves in the coming 12 months, this number has more than doubled from five years ago (25%)
  • 34% of Australians are worried about being impacted by bushfires compared to 26% five years ago
  • Preparing for a bushfire is crucial to ensure vulnerable older people are safe in the event of a fire and evacuation. Home Care workers may be asked to help a client prepare and residential aged care or retirement facilities must have protocols in place for the event

Last week, The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) declared two major climate events are underway in Australia, meaning the country is bracing for extreme heat over the coming months – particularly in the eastern States.

Just this week, a care facility in Victoria caught alight and residents had to be evacuated with the help of emergency crews.

BOM has confirmed the El Niño weather pattern is active over the Pacific for the first time in eight years and a “positive” Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) has also developed. 

Combined with the background warming of climate change, climate scientists have warned Australia could be in for a summer of severe heat which puts vulnerable older people at risk of being impacted by a bushfire.

Bushfire planning is crucial, particularly for older people living in rural and remote areas who may have limited mobility and limited access to resources. 

New Australian Red Cross data shows despite growing concern for natural disasters and emergencies such as bushfires, only 10% of people are taking steps to actively get ready.

“The impacts of emergencies extend beyond the physical, to people’s psychological and emotional wellbeing, with the survey revealing 81% of respondents agree that being psychologically prepared is just as vital as practical readiness when facing an emergency.”

Preparing for a bushfire

Everyone should know the bushfire alert levels prior to the event of a fire but if there is one, stay up to date on your area’s levels either online or on local ABC Radio.

When in an emergency situation, the stress of a situation can impact decision-making and reasoning so it’s important to have thought through a response – how you, your family and community may think, feel and act if an event occurs. 

This is why it is important to discuss what to do if a fire occurs and iron out actions and decisions prior to experiencing the stress of an imminent fire. Consider discussing topics like how to vacate the area, what to take – such as medication – and where important documents are to take during an evacuation. 

Home care workers may be asked to assist with getting an older person’s house ready for bushfire season.

For older people living in residential aged care or retirement facilities, providers should have a number of protocols in place to ensure their clients are safe. Concerned caregivers should enquire with their facility.

For older loved ones living independently, you can help them stay safe by assisting in their preparations – either amongst family and friends or with the help of contractors and handymen. 

Assist them to:

  • Keep lawns short and gardens well-maintained and take away all cuttings
  • Trim overhanging trees and shrubs 
  • Remove flammable materials from around the home such as door mats, wood piles, mulch, outdoor furniture and gas bottles
  • Clear debris and leaves from the gutters 
  • Prepare an adequate hose, or hoses, from a reliable water system that will reach all around the house
  • Attach a fire sprinkler system to gutters
  • Check and maintain home and contents insurance

Have you helped an older loved one plan for a fire? What was included in your plan? Let us know in the comments below

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