Be prepared: Everyone needs a bushfire plan

STILL UNDER THREAT: Meryl Swanson says "we're not out of the woods yet as dangerous conditions continue during this bushfire season. If you haven't already, please make a fire plan". Photo: Shutterstock
STILL UNDER THREAT: Meryl Swanson says "we're not out of the woods yet as dangerous conditions continue during this bushfire season. If you haven't already, please make a fire plan". Photo: Shutterstock

Late last year while I was in Canberra I received a phone call from my husband who was at home on our rural property.

There was a fire nearby and although we hadn't been notified to evacuate, we were in the "Watch and Act" zone.

In that moment, I thought of all the things we'd done to prepare for this.

We'd cleared the gutters around the house and sheds of dry leaves, and removed dead logs and other fire fuel from around our property.

Our most valuable possessions were in boxes ready to be loaded into the cars at the drop of a hat. The horse floats were accessible and ready.

A small bag of toiletries and clothes are in the car. We sat down as a family to decide what we'd do if a fire threatened our homes or our lives, and everyone knows the plan.

Just in case.

Meryl Swanson says she'll admit she hasn't always been well-prepared for the bushfire season in the past, but has since made it a matter of priority and urges everyone else to do the same.

Meryl Swanson says she'll admit she hasn't always been well-prepared for the bushfire season in the past, but has since made it a matter of priority and urges everyone else to do the same.

Reluctantly I'll admit we weren't always this prepared. There were countless times I told myself "Oh, we'll be fine" but after the catastrophic fire danger rating in November last year, I realised my family is not immune.

Everyone needs a bushfire plan.

The bushfire conditions over Christmas and New Year were horrendous and heartbreaking.

Dozens of communities across the nation have been ravaged by bushfires with up to 26 deaths, hundreds of injuries and many thousands of people traumatised.

Like many Australians, my heartfelt sympathies go out to the communities and families who have lost their homes, their possessions, their businesses and to those who have tragically lost their loved ones.

We're not out of the woods yet as dangerous conditions continue during this bushfire season, and the ongoing drought has left our community vulnerable.

If you haven't already, please make a fire plan. Download the "Fires Near Me" app, know the alert levels, and be proactively safe. If you are ever in immediate danger, contact 000. If you are in doubt, tune in to ABC radio.

On behalf of our community, thank you to the dedicated men and women who have made a difference during the recent bushfires. The fire fighters and their families, those who keep us up to date online, the volunteers at evacuation centres and the locals who have been there the help, thank you.

Meryl Swanson is the Federal MP for Paterson. Contact her office on 02 4983 2401 or via merylswanson.com.au.