Are you prepared for a bushfire emergency?

Published:13/01/2020

Are you prepared for a bushfire emergency?

Australia experiences just about every severe weather event there is, but bushfires and drought are arguably our most iconic natural disasters.

Waiting to act once a fire breaks out can be too late. If your business or personal property is prepared for a bushfire, it can help minimise losses, maintain continuity and facilitate a faster recovery.

Australian's are witnessing a country-wide emergency as record low rainfall and intense drought conditions fuelled an early start to the 2019/20 fire season. Whilst Australia has always experienced bushfires, these fires are burning at a scale and intensity that is unprecedented this early in the season.

Since September 2019, a staggering 12.35 million hectares have been burned country-wide so far (half of that being in NSW alone), with the fires claiming 28 lives, destroying more than 1500 properties and producing smoke that caused air pollution 11 times greater than the hazardous level for human health.

High intensity bushfires like these carry devastating consequences, impacting property, infrastructure, communities, wildlife, water resources, government budgets and insurance costs. Insurance losses from these fires have surpassed $1 billion, with 13,750 bushfire related-claims being received by insurers to date.


How can I protect my business?

Consider the below steps to help prepare your business for a bushfire:

  • Prepare a bushfire plan - assess your bushfire risk and review any emergency procedures. This can include who is in charge, when to evacuate, emergency assembly point details and who has first aid training and other useful skills.
  • Fireproof your building - remove all flammable materials, rubbish and leaf litter, keep ladders handy for roof access, divert landlines etc.
  • Pre-pack an emergency kit - include first aid, torches, protective gloves and masks etc.
  • Back up documents to a portable storage device - this will mean you have access to any critical documents should you not be able to access your building for an extended period of time.
  • Follow official alerts from your local fire service and authorities - this will ensure the safety of you and your employees
  • Protect your assets - review your insurance and ensure it protects the true value of your assets to help avoid severe financial loss.

You should also share your bushfire plan with any employees, partners, contractors, clients and neighbours from other businesses. If the bushfire is going to impact you, it's likely to impact them too.

To access the Australian Government's natural disaster checklist, click here.


How can I protect my home/property?

If you own a property or are living in a bushfire-prone area, there are several things you can do to help prepare your home and property for a bushfire. These include:

  • Cleaning out your gutters of leaves and twigs
  • Repairing damaged or missing roof tiles
  • Fitting seals around doors and windows to eliminate gaps
  • Attaching a fire sprinkler system to your gutters
  • Ensuring your lawn is short and garden well maintained
  • Ensuring you have hoses long enough to reach around your property
  • Maintaining adequate levels of insurance to protect the true value of your home and contents

Insurance Considerations

It is important to check you have adequate coverage in place. While most policies will cover for damage caused by a bushfire, it is important to understand what is not covered and any exclusions or limits that may apply. These can include¹:

  • Embargoes or no coverage for a set time at the commencement of a policy
  • No cover for loss or damage where no flame damage has occurred
  • Coverage for a burning building within a specified distance of your property eg sheds, granny flats, animal enclosures etc.

Your policy may also have loss mitigation clauses; these may require you to take specified precautions for the safety and protection of your building and the site, to prevent injury or damage to property and to ensure compliance with all legal obligations relating to the safety of people or property ¹.

The simplest way to find out about these aspects of your coverage is to speak to your insurance broker.


How Coverforce can help

The effects of a bushfire are felt by all - however those who are uninsured or underinsured risk life-changing financial consequences. Don't wait until a catastrophe happens to check you have the right insurance in place or decide you need cover.

The expert insurance brokers at Coverforce service businesses and families throughout Australia and can assess your risks and provide personalised advice on the right insurance program to protect your business and assets.


Lodging a Claim

Our dedicated in-house claims team is here for our bushfire affected customers, partners and communities. If you have been affected by the bushfires and need to lodge a claim, we are on hand to provide advice and minimise disruption to your business. Our team will work with the insurer on your behalf to ensure you receive your full entitlement without undue delay.

To lodge a claim, please contact us on 1-3000-COVER or email brokingclaims@coverforce.com.au


The information provided in this article is of a general nature only and has been prepared without taking into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. If you require advice that is tailored to your specific business or individual circumstances, please contact Coverforce directly.



References

  1. http://understandinsurance.com.au/types-of-disasters/bushfires
  • https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/dec/25/factcheck-why-australias-monster-2019-bushfires-are-unprecedented
  • https://hub.business.vic.gov.au/other/risk-management/6-steps-to-prepare-your-business-for-a-bushfire/
  • https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/plan-and-prepare/prepare-your-property
  • https://www.cfs.sa.gov.au/site/prepare_for_a_fire/prepare_your_home_and_property/business_and_organisation_fire_safety.jsp

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