NSW RFS urges landholders to use Get Ready Weekend to prepare for bushfire season

Michelle De Friskbom has taught her daughter Amy how to work the fire pump. (ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)

People who have had to defend their homes from bushfires know preparation is vital — and sometimes underestimated.

So make a plan, now.

That's the message the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) is reinforcing as part of Get Ready Weekend over the next two days. 

Michelle De Friskbom is continuing to improve her bushfire survival plan after her Numbugga property on the Far South Coast was impacted by bushfires twice in less than two years.

The first time was during the Yankees Gap bushfire in September 2018.

The De Friskboms's property was impacted by the Yankees Gap Bushfire in September 2018. (Supplied: Michelle De Friskbom)

"We thought we were prepared. We thought we had a plan," Ms De Friskbom said.

"My husband and I had discussed what we wanted to do ... but when it came to the heat of the moment, our plan wasn't great." 

The two-day awareness campaign is held on September 11 and 12 is encouraging residents across the state to form a plan this weekend.

It aims to give people's properties the best chance of survival should they be threatened by a bushfire. 

Michelle De Friskbom's property was impacted by bushfire twice in two years. (ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)

Ms De Friskbom, the Sapphire Coast SES Commander, said the 2018 bushfire prompted her family to be better prepared.

This included improving access to trailers and water tanks on-site, installing sprinklers on the house and training her two teenage daughters to help defend the property if they were unable to leave in time.

Their plan was put to the test during the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires when they managed to save their home for a second time, but lost fences and farming equipment. 

"You can't make a plan on the run," Ms De Friskbom said.

"When it's calm ... you sit down with your family and discuss it." 

A wet spring

There are over 400 NSW RFS brigades across the state participating in Get Ready Weekend. 

The event usually encourages people to visit their local RFS brigade and engage with volunteers for advice, but COVID restrictions mean the organisation is embracing an online format including conducting virtual meetings and letterbox drops. 

Lewis Drayton is a NSW RFS community engagement officer and deputy captain at the Pokolbin Brigade in the Hunter region.

He says now is the time to prepare, especially because there's a heightened danger of grassfires this season.

"We're looking at a relatively wet spring ... but we will see an increase in grass growth," Mr Drayton said.

Lewis Drayton is a NSW RFS Community Engagement Officer and Deputy Captain. (Supplied: Lewis Drayton)

The Bureau of Meteorology said a wetter-than-average spring was likely for most of the eastern two-thirds of Australia, except western Tasmania.

There are also 27 areas across NSW currently in the Bushfire Danger Period, which requires residents to apply for a fire permit if they plan to light a fire in the open.

"Although we do have this moisture, grassfires are spreading relatively quickly in these paddocks."

Get ready, get prepared

Families are being encouraged to sit down together and form their bushfire survival plan this weekend before the hot weather ramps up.

Residents can utilise the NSW RFS website for advice and contact their local brigade for practical tips to prepare, which include trimming overhanging trees and shrubs, mowing grass around the house, removing debris from gutters and having a reliable water source and hose on standby.

"It is about everyone doing their bit," said NSW RFS Deputy Commissioner Peter McKechnie.

Deputy Commissioner McKechnie says the RFS website has information about where people can access online events.

He also said those unable to access online resources could call their local brigade and be mailed information. 

"Local brigades are hosting online events ... some of them are about tips and tricks and some of them about specific activities to undertake," he said.

"You don't have to be online to do it, but certainly it is a really big focus this year."


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