At the risk of appearing to jump on the bushfire bandwagon – it’s pretty hard to ignore. Homes and even lives are being lost. Whole towns are under threat but, it has to be said, most strata buildings are safe from the flames, if not because of their location, then because of their design.
But we are not entirely immune from danger or disruption. Consider this, the two major cladding fires in Australia claimed zero lives partly because the buildings had sprinkler systems inside the flats.
But most apartment blocks in rural towns don’t meet the height requirement for sprinkler systems, so they could be at risk from flying embers if the blocks are not properly prepared.
We had a look for specific advice for apartment residents in country towns and outer suburbs but found nothing. So here is our guide to protecting your strata block in bushfire-threatened areas.
Get the crap off the balcony
The aforementioned cladding fires started with carelessly discarded cigarettes setting light to stuff that had been left on the balcony. Imagine if you have burning embers from a bushfire landing on yours. Embers from fires can travel a kilometre or more in a strong wind. Don’t leave anything out there that they could set alight.
Put the barbie’s gas cylinder somewhere safe
OK, you’ve cleared your balcony but the people next door or below you haven’t done theirs. If their patio furniture goes up, you don’t want to tempt fate with flames licking around your gas bottle.
Think about your lifts
There’s a chance that even if the flames don’t get anywhere near your home, they could knock out power in your town. That means your lifts are going nowhere (unless you have back-up generators). So stock up on essentials or get ready for a few painful climbs and descents as you have to take the stairs every time you want supplies.
What about your mobile?
If there’s no power, then your phone’s battery is going to die on you eventually. Invest in one of those pocket charger packs and maybe a plug-in adapter for the car, so you can nip down to the garage, start up and charge up.
What’s in your freezer?
Get the eskies out and pack them with as much as you can from your freezer as soon as the power dies. The tighter you pack the longer they’ll stay frozen. Plan for Armageddon and you’ll survive a few days, for sure.
Get a back-up supply of batteries
Double-A, triple-A and every other size you might need for radios, flashlights and camping lanterns (did we mention buying camping lanterns?). Get a few candles in too.
Buy a battery-powered radio
The ABC provides an amazing local radio lifeline that works when all other forms of communication are knocked out. But you need a radio that works when the power is out. Get a battery-powered radio and tune in to your local ABC radio station. (See previous paragraph).
Charge up everything
We have so many devices around the home that run off their self-contained rechargeable batteries. Keep them charged up ready for the moment that there’s no power available to charge them.
Switch appliances off at the socket during a power outage
When the power comes back on, it may occur in a huge surge and some of your appliances may have their fuses blown. Switch everything back on one by one when the power comes back on.
Store up water – lots of water.
If your power goes, then the pumps that fill your water tanks in high buildings will too. If it stays off for too long, you could be looking at a lot of trips to the standpipe in the street. Store some, save it but please don’t waste it.
Some residents are being warned not to trust their tap water for drinking as the supply may have been compromised. And keep a couple of buckets handy for flying embers too.
Check on your neighbours
There may be people in your block less well prepared than you – especially older people on higher floors who can’t manage the stairs easily. Knock on the door and make sure they have everything they need and that they can get help if required.
And don’t forget there are a lot of holiday lets at this time of year. Visitors in your block may have no idea where essential services or the emergency evacuation centre is.
If anyone else has ideas for getting apartment blocks ready for bushfires, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll publish them on Flat Chat website.
[See comments below for more good ideas]