There’s no doubt at all about the dangers of bushfires. We know that they travel fast, and it’s best to always listen to announcements and alerts as to what we should do.
But there are also plenty of myths and techniques around bushfire safety that get passed around that might not be as proven. To help keep you informed of the smartest strategies in the event of a bushfire, we’ll review some common bushfire myths and misconceptions, put them under the microscope, and offer the best advice from the experts.
Is heat the main danger in a bushfire?
Many are confused as to whether the smoke or flames are the greatest threat in a bushfire. In truth, it’s neither. The Country Fire Authority (CFA) in Victoria lists the biggest killer as radiant heat. As a fire front approaches, the heat can become life-threatening well before either the fire or smoke reach you.
It might seem counter-intuitive in warm conditions, but the smartest thing you can do is insulate yourself, to create a barrier between yourself and the heat. That means covering as much exposed skin as possible, with long-sleeved cotton shirts and pants. Just make sure you rug up in natural fibres and avoid anything synthetic.
Can bushfires spread faster than you can escape?
This is a statement that can often confuse people. The myth is that fires only move around 10km/h, so realistically, you can escape faster than the flames could ever move.
That myth is 100% false. The flames might move along the ground at around that pace, but they spread much, much faster.
The CFA show how ember attacks can send flaming leaves, branches, and pieces of bark well ahead of the actual flames. Their speed can vary based on wind conditions, weather, and the size of the fire, but the punchline is that you can’t travel faster than embers.
Can you survive a bushfire in a swimming pool?
This is a tough myth to debunk. Not many authoritative studies have been conducted on the safety benefits or risks of seeking shelter in a swimming pool. However, some experts in the industry have shared their opinions, and the news isn’t ideal for those looking to bunker down in the pool.
The Mountains Community Resource Network (MCRN) believes that a pool may protect you from flames. However, it leaves you open and exposed to smoke inhalation, and radiant heat.
Similarly, Country Fire Service Project Manager Peta O’Donohue said in an interview with Adelaide Now that swimming pools and dams aren’t recommended.
The consensus seems to be that cars, homes, and other enclosed structures will always provide a better barrier between you and the flames, heat, and smoke in a bushfire. But if you have no other options, a swimming pool is better than standing out in the open.
Does a wet towel filter smoke?
Again, there’s a bit of debate around this one, and a lack of critical testing. The MCRN believes that a moistened mask or large handkerchief makes for adequate face protection and can help filter smoke.
However, Victoria’s CFA believes that a ‘P2’ mask is the preferred way to filter smoke. Over in the US, the Colorado Government believes that wet towels don’t cut the mustard – not even dust masks filter particles as small as smoke.
The honest answer here is that wet towels aren’t ideal, and you’re still likely to end up inhaling smoke. However, the moisture will help cool the air slightly and will help keep some of the toxins. Instead of professional respirators, a wet towel is better than nothing.
Does home and contents insurance cover bushfires?
Thankfully, there is far less uncertainty around this myth. With Budget Direct, your house and possessions are covered if they’re damaged or destroyed by a bushfire – up to your chosen sums insured. Generally, insurers do not cover the first 72-hour period of Home Insurance for events such as bushfires and floods. After that, your full cover applies.
To find out how insurance can help in the event of a bushfire, check out our Bushfire Insurance page. And of course, for all the nuts and bolts of how insurance with Budget Direct works, make sure you read the Product Disclosure Statement.