Farmers urged to plan ahead now for the risk of bushfire

After three years of wet weather, an El Niño has been declared as Australians brace for an extreme hot, dry summer and heightened risk of bushfire. Specialist agricultural insurer Achmea Australia is urging farmers to take action now to reduce bushfire hazards on-farm to help protect their families, properties and communities.   

Mark Vayro – Business Development Manager – Achmea Australia

Achmea Australia Business Development Manager and volunteer fire fighter Mark Vayro said now is the time to implement on-farm risk mitigation measures and plan what to do in the event of a bushfire.  

“We have been so focused on floods, what should now be at the forefront of farmers’ minds is adequate bushfire preparedness,” said Mark.  

“The landscape has changed so much since the floods; record-breaking rainfall and flooding in recent years has accelerated plant growth across large parts of the country,” said Mark. “With the arrival of hot, dry conditions, this vegetation is now primed for bushfire.”  

“Bushfires can strike within hours or minutes; we remember that from the catastrophic bushfire season three years ago,” said Mark. “Fires can escalate rapidly, often in unpredictable ways, leaving little to no time to plan during an emergency. Prepare your farm now and have a bushfire plan ready well in advance, for the safety of your people, and the protection of your property and community.”  

Mark said it is important to know and understand the updated Australian Fire Danger Rating System, which now uses consistent rating levels across Australia. The Fire Danger Ratings can be found on the website of your state or territory fire agency.  

“Check the Fire Danger Rating for your area daily as it will help you understand your local weather conditions and the threat of bushfire,” said Mark. “Each of the four fire danger ratings – moderate, high, extreme and catastrophic – come with clear messages to help keep you safe.”  

“It is also important to stay alert for emergency warnings. Know your local ABC radio station frequency, bookmark your state or territory emergency services website, and consider downloading their app.”  

With extensive experience in risk mitigation and bushfire planning, Mark shares ten important risk mitigation strategies to help farmers prepare for the challenging bushfire season ahead:  

  1. Create or review a bushfire plan now. Visit your local state or territory emergency services website for more information. 
  2. Share your bushfire plan with everyone involved on the farm, ensuring they are trained and understand their roles and responsibilities during a fire emergency. 
  3. Maintain and/or remove long grass and debris around your house and farm buildings. Firebreaks are critical to help slow down a fire and reduce its intensity. Clear access roads and create turning circles, ensuring they are wide and high enough for firefighting vehicles. In some cases, you may need to seek approval from the relevant authority to remove native vegetation. 
  4. Prepare a safe zone where you can keep livestock during a bushfire event, where vegetation is minimal and there is adequate access to water. Check that all livestock have National Livestock Identification System ear tags and that all horses and pets are microchipped. 
  5. During hot, dry and windy weather, postpone work such as harvesting or slashing. Additionally, avoid driving through crops during such conditions, as hot exhausts and sparks can ignite fires. 
  6. Service your pumps, firefighting equipment and vehicles so that they are in optimal working order.  
  7. Ensure there is adequate water supply on your property to support firefighting efforts. 
  8. Equip yourself, and where necessary your family and staff, with essential protective clothing, including long sleeve shirts and pants, boots, gloves, safety goggles or glasses and masks. 
  9. Review your insurance policy now to ensure it provides adequate coverage for your assets, and that it covers fire-related damage and loss. During bushfires, the loss of critical farming assets such as buildings, machinery, fencing and cattle, is a real risk. Your ability to recover after the bushfire could be further impacted if these assets are not adequately insured. 
  10. Safeguard important documents, including property records, insurance policies and emergency plans, by storing them in a fireproof safe or electronically. 

About Achmea Australia

Achmea Australia is part of the Achmea Group, which is one of the largest insurance companies in the Netherlands. The Achmea Group has over 10 million clients worldwide and is fully dedicated to farm insurance in Australia.