How to prepare for a bushfire

The fire season poses a significant threat to all those living, working or travelling in Victoria. Managing the risk of fire on all fronts is vitally important.

All farmers and landholders need to have a written emergency plan that takes into account:

  • family members
  • employees
  • livestock
  • pets
  • equipment.

20 essential steps for landholders before the fire season

This checklist is relevant to all landholders - whether you’ve got a dairy, broad acre, stud farm, a plantation or an orchard.

See the Country Fire Authority’s On the Land: Agricultural Management Guidelines for further practical advice on bushfire preparedness and management.

Evacuation

Evacuation is the relocation of people from dangerous areas to safer areas, as well as their return to the area once the situation is safe.

An evacuation may apply to a specific locality, an institution (i.e. a school or hospital), a town or a large area of the state.

In Victoria, evacuation is largely voluntary and it is the choice of the individual as to how they respond to this recommendation.

In some circumstances, legislation provides emergency services with the authority to remove people from an area, or prohibit entry. Information on these circumstances can be found in the EMMV, Part 3 – State Emergency Response Plan.

Bushfire survival plans

The most important aspect of fire management is the safety of people. The Country Fire Authority (CFA) recommends you develop a bushfire survival plan to help protect your family, workers and visitors. Do you have contingency plan if fire affects your land?

The CFA can provide you with further details, a template and help with developing Your Bushfire Plan.

The CFA encourages all those involved in planning or promoting fire management on agricultural land in Victoria to use On the Land: Agricultural Fire Management Guidelines as a day-to-day and year-round resource.

Planning for Animals (Livestock and Pets)

All livestock and pets should be included when developing and activating fire plans. Planning helps to minimise the risk to livestock and pets and helps your financial and emotional wellbeing.

Deciding when to enact your fire plan will be based on the weather or the immediate threat of fire in your area. Stay informed (for example, listen to the radio) and observe your own environment to decide when to put your plan into action.

For information, visit

Emergency stock containment area

To reduce potential injury and death to livestock you should consider relocating stock to designated low risk areas during days of high fire danger and Total Fire Bans. Low risk areas include:

  • ploughed paddocks, areas cultivated and kept free of combustible vegetation
  • bared-out paddocks, provided they are well defended by fire breaks
  • irrigated paddocks or paddocks containing green summer crops (green feed does not burn easily)
  • stockyards that can be wet in advance. However, the yards must be well defended as the fire front passes.

You should relocate stock to low risk areas once you are aware a fire is in your area, well before it poses an imminent threat.

Often there is not enough time to move stock at the last minute. Radiant heat from fire has resulted in the injury and death of people and livestock caught out in the open, so ensure you have a plan and put it into action as soon as warranted.

If you do not have an appropriate low risk area it may be an option to truck them to another property or open internal gates to give stock the ability to move away from the path of the fire. Do not open gates onto roadways as livestock on the roads creates hazards for vehicles.

The CFA recommends that you do not lock gates and that you switch off electric fencing.

See Stock containment areas.

Insurance cover

The need for insurance differs from farm to farm according to financial circumstances and an individual’s preparedness to take or share risk. However, one constant is that all who are affected in an intense fire suffer some degree of trauma.

There is also no doubt this trauma can be significantly alleviated if insurances are in order and provide adequate cover for losses.

Those who insure wisely are the quickest to recover and to begin restoring boundary fencing and planning for their future. With rapidly rising operational costs, farmers are often tempted to cut back on insurance and accept more risk.

The temptation to do this should be resisted and instead alternatives explored before a decision to accept more risk is taken. Careful financial planning before a crisis is key to ensuring your farming future.

Firstly, choose your insurance company carefully. Shop around to get the best deal but always make sure the company you select has a good rural policy and fully understands the needs of a commercial farming or grazing property and of your own personal needs.

Go through your policies with the company representative on an annual basis and adjust where necessary. The increasing complexity and cost of plant and equipment should be taken into account each year when determining what to insure and to what level.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) offers a free Find an Insurer service.

The service enables consumers and businesses to search a comprehensive database of general insurers and their products. Insurance on homestead and major buildings is recommended even if you have carried out fire prevention works recommended by the CFA because fire is highly unpredictable as to where and when it strikes.

Having assets and stock lost in a fire but covered by insurance is likely to result in a loss of income by the time they are replaced and reproduce. Business interruption insurance will return to the insured the amount of profit that would have been earned had there been no fire. The cost of this insurance is similar to asset insurance rates.

Finally, insurance is designed to provide a safe guard against adversity and give peace of mind to those whose assets are vulnerable to the ravages of fire and other disasters.

Your insurer or assessor should always be the primary contact regarding your claim. However, the Insurance Council of Australia can provide general insurance information about managing your claim or how to lodge a complaint. Please call 1800 734 621 for further information. You can find information on lodging a claim following a disaster at Insurance based disaster recovery.

Insurance checklist

A check list of items to remember includes:

  • home buildings
  • farm buildings
  • machinery (mobile and fixed, including breakdown)
  • fencing
  • all major crops including re-sowing subsidy
  • livestock
  • electronic equipment
  • working dogs.

Questions to ask when considering insurance

  • What is the history of destructive wind, hail, flooding and fire in my area?
  • Are there ways I can mitigate or reduce those risks before taking out insurance cover? Does my operation require straying stock cover?
  • Does my farm have unique or uncommon operations, such as GM crops, hydroponics etc. Are these operations covered?
  • Does my operation require public liability insurance?
  • If my farm ceases to provide an income or ceases production, should I consider business interruption insurance?
Page last updated: 12 May 2021