The Dandenong Ranges is one of the most beautiful places in the world. And for a few days each year, our decision to live in this hilly, eucalypt forest environment, in summer, brings with it an obvious risk. A sensible, achievable Personal Bushfire Safety Plan is an important tool in a bushfire emergency.
The CFA’s community education facilitators encourage residents to write out their Personal Bushfire Safety Plans; as your doctors, we agree.
The CFA offers a wealth of information and your local brigade or the CFA website should be your starting point. From a medical perspective, we recommend that on every day of Total Fire Ban, patients should plan to have:
- medical equipment such asthma pumps, special dressings etc with them or readily available
- all medications and prescriptions with them. Some pharmacies will keep your prescription repeats on file if requested.
Patients should not underestimate the toll that bushfire conditions can take on the body, both physically and emotionally – prior, during and after the emergency. People will understandably be frightened and angry, and their emotional response can overwhelm
the sensible responses that they otherwise have.
So we encourage our patients to consider their medical needs and physical limitations and incorporate them into their Personal Bushfire Safety Plan. To paraphrase a local brigade captain at a recent community bushfire awareness meeting, ‘the best way to avoid being injured in a bushfire is not to be anywhere near a bushfire: Leave in the morning on any high risk day’.
The Hills Medical has a policy that on Code Red days, our premises will be closed and appointments rescheduled.
A few important points to remember when in any stressful situation on a very hot day:
- Drink plenty of water — a basic guide of your hydration levels is the colour of your urine.The more coloured it is, the more water you need to drink
- If you are sweating excessively, drink a sports drink to replace some electrolytes
- Avoid breathing smoke
- Do not wear dampened clothes if there is radiant heat from fire or embers; it can cause scalding
- Wear sensible, non-synthetic clothing that covers arms and legs; sturdy shoes; gloves; eye protection — never fight a fire wearing shorts and thongs
- Make all the preparations necessary beforehand to enact your personal Bushfire Safety Plan so that you aren’t making last minute, possibly dangerous decisions.