As the mountain bushfire in New South Wales continues to rage and threaten to emerge any time soon, authorities prepare for the worst "mega-fire" Australia has yet to see. But the people in the local communities will have to undergo the worst post-trauma psychological and physical pain. Experts warn the resident abouts the hazardous consequences that any unprecedented fire will have on people living in the communities. Here are a few tips on how people can cope in times of fire.
The key is to get informed about the fire danger rating in your area. The higher the rating, the more severe the fire consequences will be. As the ratings increase, the lower the chances you will be able to safeguard your home. The first and foremost strategy is to cope with the fire. As experts say, leave the vicinity as early as possible.
Many people continue hoping they will be able to defend their homes. To experts, this behavior is a risky strategy. From a moderate to a very high level of rating, well-prepared houses can be defended, but it is important to monitor the situation. As the rating goes up, the danger escalates.
"Severe, extreme and catastrophic fire danger ratings mean a fire will be unpredictable, uncontrollable and will move very fast. This means that you may have little or no warning about the threat of a bushfire. You need yourself to get informed and always alert to put your plan into action," the NSW Rural Fire Service department bushfire safety manual stated.
"Catastrophic days, no properties in areas where a bushfire can start will be defendable. Some fires burn so intensely that not even specially designed and constructed homes will be safe," the manual added.
The unpredictability of the fire makes it even worse. At times, fires can develop quickly and shift direction with the wind, impacting communities even before authorities can issue official warnings.
Very often, families believe they can stay and defend their houses. But experts warn, preparedness does not mean only the house. This includes physical, mental and emotional readiness of the families. It is an extremely physical and mentally demanding task and can be quickly tiring.
Bushfires combined by strong and gusty winds, intense heat and flames, the heavy smoke can make you tired, chocking and your eyes stinging in pain, soon making it difficult to see and breathe. Its roaring sound is deafening and embers raining down causing spot fires, powers and water may be cut and you may suddenly find yourself isolated for your family and neighborhood.
Post-trauma Psychology Management
The worst post-trauma crisis that families face is psychological. Research by the Australian Psychological Society, earlier this year, highlighted the need for psychological preparedness which enables families to cope with bushfire disasters during and after the crisis.
The thought of being well-resourced and well-nourished helps soothe the post-trauma anxiety of victims. The key is spending quality time with supportive friends and family. Eating well and resting right are the best ways to deal with a prolonged bushfire season.
Rebuilding Lives After the Disaster
Following any major disaster, the main focus of authorities and communities is to rebuild lives and houses. In a notably compilation, The Daily Telegraph drew a list of "tips" and "to-dos" for families facing the daunting task of rebuilding their houses and lives after the disaster.
The first thought, when it comes to rebuilding houses, is about insurance. "Most insurers have 24-hour call centers and records are kept electronically so don't worry if your policy has gone up in smoke. Most insurers will pay for emergency accommodation and will hand out cash promptly," The Daily Telegraph said.
If your house is without electricity, you got to get in touch with the electricity retailer. First to do is to cancel your bill. Similarly for the gas supply; make sure you turn it off when you evacuate and also ensure that you have it checked by the company before turning the connection on.
Even as ATMs and banking options are open, banks have a range of relief options and solutions to help homeowners and businesses to wade through the disaster. Instead of panicking, get in touch with your banks to renegotiate and restructure your loans and mortgages. They could also offer one-off grants to help you manage your immediate accommodation, clothing and ration needs.
After a few days with friends and relatives, families will be faced with the challenge of finding temporary accommodations. The Daily Telegraph report said, those, "with nowhere to go, can call the Salvation Army's Care Line on 1300 36 36 22. The agency will place you with one of its partners which is assisting with housing."
"Evacuation centers are also available at the Springwood Sports Centre, Lithgow Workers Club, Swansea RSL and The Doylo at Doyalson," the report added.
"Department of Human Service staffs are on the ground in key bushfire zones to help residents, and financial assistance will also be available."
"One-off payment of $1000 for adults and $400 for children is available for people in the Blue Mountains, Lithgow, Muswellbrook, Port Macquarie-Hastings, Port Stephens, Wyong and Wingecarribee," the report points out. The compensation is available for the injured, with family members killed in the fires or those whose homes have been destroyed or damaged.
"People can claim the payments by calling 180 22 66 or by lodging a claim on the website at humanservices.gov.au/disaster," the report noted.
The Daily Telegraph pointed out that free mail redirection is being offered by Australia Post for up to a year with no requirement for identification. Students unable to attend school due to the disaster will be "eligible to lodge an illness/misadventure appeal to ensure they are not disadvantaged."
Buses, meanwhile, continue to replace trains on the Blue Mountains Line between Lithgow and Mt. Victoria, The Daily Telegraph said. Passengers, however, need to allow for additional travel time, the report advised.
To contact the editor, e-mail: