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Six bushfire facts that could save your life this summer

Mark Bristow avatar
Mark Bristow
- 4 min read
Six bushfire facts that could save your life this summer

Bushfire season is a regular occurrence in Australia, to the point where many of us can start feeling overconfident that we already know everything there is to know about the danger bushfires pose and how to keep our homes and loved ones safe. 

But according to one Australian insurer, more than half of us may have crucial gaps in our bushfire knowledge that need filling. 

What don’t you know about bushfires?

According to research from insurer Suncorp, over half of Australia’s population lack vital knowledge about bushfire dangers and behaviours, potentially putting lives and property at increased risk.

The six key findings of Suncorp’s research are: 

  1. More than half (55%) of Australians (46% in regional locations) don’t know that rivers, creeks or roads cannot stop the path of a very intense bushfire.
  2. Over half (55%) of Australians don’t know that the front of the fire is the most dangerous part.
  3. Just over one in four (26%) Australians don’t know that embers can travel up to 40km during a very intense bushfire.
  4. 16% of Australians don’t know that a house can catch fire from embers well ahead of the fire front.
  5. Almost one third (31%) of Australians don’t know that lightning is one of the most common causes of bushfires in Australia.
  6. In the event of a bushfire, 42% of Australians incorrectly assume it is safe to remain at their property unless advised otherwise by emergency services.

Here’s how Australia’s bushfire knowledge compared state by state:

Question

National

NSW

VIC

TAS

QLD

SA

WA

ACT

Didn’t know houses can catch fire from embers well ahead of the fire front.

16%

14%

21%

9%

14%

12%

11%

19%

Didn’t know bushfire embers can travel up to 40 km during a very intense bushfire.

26%

23%

24%

32%

28%

25%

30%

38%

Unless advised by Emergency Services, I should assume it is safe to remain at my property.

42%

47%

35%

50%

42%

42%

43%

38%

Didn’t know the front of the fire is the most dangerous part.

55%

50%

56%

59%

62%

51%

49%

53%

Didn’t know that lightning is one of the most common causes of bushfires in Australia.

31%

31%

39%

41%

27%

20%

29%

38%

Didn’t know that rivers, creeks or roads cannot stop the path of a very intense bushfire.

55%

57%

61%

59%

49%

45%

44%

66%

Source: Suncorp. The research findings were compiled through a national survey with a representative sample of 1,000 Australians aged 18+ and was conducted by Kantar in September 2022 on behalf of Suncorp Insurance.

Which regions are at the highest bushfire risk?

Suncorp Insurance climatologist, Rhys Whitley, said that Suncorp used information from its claims experience, combined with climate data and the historical climate record, to identify regions that are currently susceptible to bushfire risk, which include:

  • Western Southern Queensland – west of the Great Dividing Range, near the NSW border
  • The Mid-and-Far North Coast NSW
  • Central Coast NSW
  • South Coast NSW
  • The Blue Mountains region
  • Regional ACT
  • Central parts of regional VIC – i.e., Dandenong Ranges and Gippsland
  • South-west WA - i.e., Bunbury, Perth outer regions
  • Parts of Southern and Western Tasmania
  • Adelaide Hills, South Australia
“As we look into the future, catastrophic bushfires will be an ever-present danger, and so monitoring of conditions (including fire weather, fuel loads) and extensive planning (i.e. property development, evacuation of communities and fire-fighting resources) is something we consider as a high priority. We also encourage homeowners to use the information available to them to be prepared for not only the upcoming bushfire season, but all future ones.”

What can you do to prepare for bushfires?

Suncorp head of home claims, Alli Smith, said that many of their customers that have been affected by bushfires tell them that “they thought they wouldn’t experience a bushfire in their lifetime.”

“Wherever you live, it’s good to understand your bushfire risk so you and your loved ones can stay safe and protect your home, contents, car, livestock and land. It not only has a financial impact, but also a psychological impact long after the last fire has been extinguished, with some families being displaced from their homes and communities for some time while their home is being rebuilt.”

Some of the steps you can take to help manage your home’s bushfire risk are to:

  • Prepare your home e.g. clean and repair the property with fire safety in mind
  • Make an emergency evacuation strategy
  • Engage with your local community e.g. establish shared resources and warning systems
  • Review your home insurance

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Product database updated 22 Jun, 2024

This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Alex Ritchie before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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