Get Ready Challenge: Week 1 - Know Your Area
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Hi <<First Name>>

Hello and welcome!

This is the first in our series of six emails we have written to inspire and motivate you to Get Ready for the 2016 fire season. In 2015 we reached more than 130 households and had overwhelmingly positive feedback. The new and improved 2016 Challenge is here, brought to you by Katoomba/Leura Rural Fire Brigade.

But is it too challenging?!

Go on, you're up for it! And there are people who are relying on you - be it your kids, an elderly neighbour or even your pet - so the stakes are high. But we've broken it down into six bite-sized tasty morsels so you can get the most out of your preparations, and earn bragging rights as you go. 

By the way, don't forget to rope in your friends, family and neighbours. A safer street is a safer you! Just forward this email, or send them to our website where they can register and catch up:

How it works

We're not going to make it easy for you. We've got simple tasks, quick tips and links for further reading - OK, we've made it easy for you!

Six emails over six weeks:

- Week 1: Know your area (starts below)
- Week 2: Will I stay or will I go?
- Week 3: Yard Blitz
- Week 4: Home Evaluation
- Week 5: My family’s Emergency Kit
- Week 6: Always have a plan B




Know Your Area

The best thing you can do to get ready for the fire season is to become familiar with your surroundings and your local area. It's also fairly easy and involves getting some fresh air! No matter how long we have lived in a place, there is always something new to discover. 

This week we will be looking for potential hazards and becoming familiar with local routes and safer places.

TASK: Get familiar with your surroundings

We want you to get out and about. Wearing your honorary fire helmet, take a walk and look upon your local area as a bush firefighter does: become one with your surroundings. 

Make a list or even better mark what you find on a paper map for future reference.

What to look for in your street:

Part of understanding possible risks from wildfire is looking at what fuel is available to it. Spotting potential hazards around you help make the difficult decision of when to leave your home and what is the safest route to take.

  • Are there vacant blocks?
  • Do any houses in your street have bush land behind them? 
  • What direction is that bushland from your home? 
  • Take note of the types of trees around your place - is the undergrowth dense or open? 
  • Does your neighbour have a priceless collection of old mattresses or other useful junk piled in the yard? 
  • Look for burn or scorch marks on trees - they could be from a hazard reduction burn or from a wildfire. It is hard to tell which just by looking at them but it is information you can use when researching your area.
  • Can you see any hydrants? Are they clear and easy to access? Check out Hydrant hero!

Now look further afield

Where your home is located will affect the speed at which a wildfire can arrive, and will inform your decision of whether to stay or how early you need to leave in a fire emergency.

  • Are you on top of a ridge or in a valley? 
  • What direction do most winds come from in your area? 

Bonus points! 

Take a photo of a hazard in your area and share it with us via social media.

We are following the hashtags #GetFireReady and #6WeekChallenge on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Alternatively, you can email us a photo and we will post it on our Facebook page (tell us if you want your name included).

Direction, Roads and Transport

Knowing the location of a wildfire threat is critical when deciding whether to evacuate, stay where you are or move to a safer place. Listen or look for major fire updates on TV, radio, or on social media.

Look up these web sites and save them to your bookmarks or favourites. If you can, get the apps for your phone or tablet too. 

TASK 1: Where is north?

Get to know what direction is North from your home, and familiarise yourself with the four points of a compass.

News reports about fires will often refer to wind directions and fire locations relative to a town or other landmark using the points of the compass. By finding north you will feel better informed during a fire event and will be able to make better decisions.  

In the Blue Mountains fires often occur during hot dry winds from the North West. 

TASK 2: Find your house on a map

Most maps are oriented with north at the top so if you weren’t sure where north is in the previous task you can now look for landmarks towards the top of your map and you will have an idea of where north is in relation to your home.

TASK 3: Where will you go if I need to evacuate?

Experience has shown that the greatest risk to life in a bush fire is to those trapped in their cars while a fire front passes through. 

It is always safest to leave early and you will need to consider where you will stay for an overnight or for a few days and if it will be safe to travel there.

  1. Where is a local safer place near your home? How far is it and could you walk it? 
  2. What is the most direct route to the highway or main exit from your town?
  3. Find at least one alternate route.

If you aren't already familiar with your area - have a look at how many ways you can go to get to the next village. When planning where you will go if you evacuate, look at as many options as you can. Be as familiar with the back roads as you are with the highway. Contingency is the key!


Get to know your local Fire History and fire behaviour in your area

The best place to find out about these topics is your local Rural Fire Service brigade. On this website you can find the contact details of every brigade in NSW. When you meet them look for the oldest and grubbiest uniform you can find - you will be sure to get some valuable local knowledge and interesting stories! (And possibly a few bad jokes). Our doors are open.

If you are in the Katoomba or Leura area come and meet us at Leura Public School Markets on the first Sunday of every month or RSVP for our upcoming workshop- Stay or Go! Fire History Talk on the 30th of July.

Further reading...

Planning For Bush Fire Protection. We recommend this PDF document available on the NSW RFS web site. It contains technical explanations and data (you were warned!). But please take a quick read of it as it contains a lot of useful information as well. We are happy to have a chat about it if you have questions of course.

Blue Mountains Council Interactive Maps This link takes you to the Blue Mountains council maps (if you live outside the Blue Mountains area, search for a similar resource through your local council). This resource gives you a lot more information than you may ever need but it's a great resource to check for information about zoning and vegetation mapping which will compliment the walk you took earlier. 

You've made it to the bottom!
Next week:
Will I stay or will I go?

It's a tough question and well help you navigate it. 
Keep an eye out for our email next Friday

Questions? Feedback?
We'd love to hear from you!

Send us an email or a 
Facebook message.

We are also following the hashtags #GetFireReady and #6WeekChallenge on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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