Storm Season

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October marks the commencement of the Storm and Bushfire Season, and it is wise to spend a weekend or two to make a significant contribution in protecting your property.

Many people love the cooler months. I am not a fan of winter … give me the warmer weather all year round.

The joys of this time of the year can be endless, where we rise from hibernation, lock away the heavy clothing and head out and venture to enjoy the fruits of life.

The smell of new flowers, balmy nights, beaches, picnics and many other various activities give us all a lift and zest for life.

While we plan our next few months of lifestyle enjoyment, this time of the year is not all about having a good time; in fact, it is important to do some serious housekeeping outdoors.

While the warmer months are fun, it is also the period where we need to take precautions to protect our properties and families.

How many times have you heard; “It will never happen in this area” or, “I am OK – everything looks fine.”

You never can be too careful, because unfortunately with our fickle climate, disaster can occur within days, hours or minutes.

We can never forget the horrific Victorian bushfires or the recent disaster in the Illawarra region, where thousands of homes were damaged.

Last month volunteers from the Manning Valley SES headed to Illawarra to assist with cleaning up after a storm ravaged most of the south coast.

It took several weeks to clean up the damage to homes, roads and massive fallen trees, which damaged much infrastructure.

The Manning Valley and Great Lakes region have had their fair share of problems. Apart from floods, we have had many instances in the last few years of severe bushfires and storm damage.

It is a good idea to assess whether you, your family and your property are at risk from bushfires and storms, and to take time to prepare for that risk.

Our region is well served by a hearty and dedicated band of volunteers, who as members of the State Emergency Services (SES) and the Rural Fire Service, are there to protect and repair your property.

These volunteers are highly skilled and trained in protecting your property, and as we approach summer, both services are warning everyone about the dangers of the two perils we face this summer: fire and storms.

As the SES and Rural Fire Service prepare for this time of the year, they are asking the community to have a checklist that will assist in reducing the risk of damage to property, and in some cases – you.

Storms and bushfires can happen anywhere and at any time of the year, but are common in most areas of New South Wales from October to the end of March. However, it is important to stay ready all year round.

Both organisations recommended similar checklists, which are essential to maintain a safety zone around your property.

These are: clean all gutters and downpipes of any debris, and trim any overhanging or dangerous limbs from trees that are growing around your property. Trees are highly flammable and cause major damage to buildings if they fall and can also block access to your property, close roads and damage power lines.

Also, LPG cylinders around your home should have pressure relief valves facing outwards, so that flames are not directed towards the house.

Woodpiles should be away from the house and covered.

Cut back overhanging trees, keep grass short, and rake up flammable leaves, twigs and cuttings, but importantly, dispose of the rubbish – do not leave them on your property.

Dispose of this rubbish in your green bin, or head to the tip.In fires, embers can travel vast distances and ignite your rubbish.

Ensure your garden hoses are long enough to reach the perimeter boundary and make sure fire pumps, hoses and accessories are in working order.

Another essential item is to have the emergency numbers close to hand for the SES: 132 500 and the Rural Fire Service on: 000.

Remember, severe storms and fire may cause major damage, and strong winds create devastating consequences.

If access roads are cut or you have no power or telephone, you need to know what to do and where to turn for help.

The SES is responsible for dealing with storms in New South Wales. During a storm, SES volunteers are responsible for managing storm debris, providing access to homes and businesses, making temporary repairs to storm-damaged structures, giving storm-safety advice and rescuing people trapped or injured by storms.

Both organisations have great advice and Family Emergency Kits to handle all situations, which can be viewed online at their respective websites, where there is a well of information.

Remember, it is the little things that count. Once you have carried out the above procedures, if storms or bushfires strike, both services recommend commonsense: listen to your local radio stations; children and pets should be indoors; stay away from windows and stay away from fallen trees and power lines.

Better still, learn about your local SES and Rural Fire Service volunteers and call in and see what they do – and maybe you could even join this dedicated band of people.

It’s worth remembering that a little time spent can avoid disaster and reduce the trauma of suffering losses.

So this weekend and the next, defer your outdoor leisure activities and implement the advice from the SES and the Rural Fire Service. If you do, it will assist them and protect your property.

Written by Peter Lyne.

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