How to be bushfire aware on the roads

Summer is here, and with it comes everything we’ve been waiting for – festivity, relaxation, escape. But as the unprecedented Black Summer bushfire events of 2019-20 reinforced, it’s also a time with some very real dangers.

Bushfires aren’t just a threat to our homes, properties and towns. They can impact our roads and highways, leading to reduced visibility and closures, and serious injury or death for those navigating them.

If you’re going to be on the road this summer, you need to think how you can minimise your chance of being involved in a bushfire scenario. Here’s how to do it.

Stay informed

Knowledge is power. Before setting off, determine the fire danger rating for the day and whether your route will be taking you near bushfire activity. The website of the fire authority in your state is the best place to get this vital data:

Northern Territory:
South Australia:
Western Australia:

Even better, download one of the fire authority’s smartphone apps or search for local fire map pages:

ACT: Fires Near Me
NSW: Fires Near Me
Northern Territory: Fire Incident Map
Queensland: RFS Current Bushfires map
South Australia: Alert SA
Tasmania: Alerts Map
Victoria: VicEmergency
Western Australia: Emergency WA map

Apps can be set up to provide warnings of crucial activity relative to your location, allowing you to plot a safer route. For on-the-go updates, tune into the local ABC radio station. If there’s a major bushfire in the area, it will broadcast regular emergency updates.

Travelling precautions

You should always travel with a bushfire emergency kit in summer, just in case. Key inclusions would be woollen blankets, protective clothing (sturdy shoes and full-coverage cotton/woollen clothing), drinking water and first-aid essentials, as well as a portable AM/FM radio with spare batteries.

Coming into the bushfire season, it’s a good time to check that all fire protection systems at home and your destination are well maintained, as is required by law in most states. Fire protection systems include, but are not limited, to: fire hydrant systems, fire hose reels, portable fire extinguishers, emergency lighting and exit signage.

Know what to do in an emergency

You’ve taken all precautions, but you can see signs of a bushfire on the road ahead. What should you do? Where safe, you should turn around and leave the area immediately. When it’s safe to do so, dial triple zero and report the fire.

What if your path is blocked by fire? Look for the clearest area to pull off the road and away from tall grass, scrub or trees. Try to park behind a concrete wall, rocky outcrop or other potential barrier that offers potential protection. Otherwise, park your vehicle facing towards the fire.

Turn on your headlights and hazard lights, then turn off the engine and make sure all windows and air vents are closed. Cover yourself with woollen blankets (wet, if possible), then lie on the floor or anywhere below the window line. Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and stay down until the fire has passed and the temperature has dropped. Then carefully exit the car – it will be hot – and wait for help.

Storing and accessing fuel this summer

Bushfire season doesn’t just bring on-road risks. It can also expose dangers in your fuel storage, or complicate refuelling arrangements.

Be aware that road closures might prevent you from gaining access to your usual refuelling sites. Have a plan B and make a fire-information scan a part of your pre-drive schedule so you can enact it at the first sign of trouble, rather than when the needle is running on empty.

If storing fuel is part of your business, review your arrangements to ensure it not only meets your state’s relevant storage and handling legislation, it’s also not creating an unnecessary fire risk. For a smaller operator, that could mean keeping only small quantities for your immediate needs that can be safely managed as part of your bushfire survival plan. For a bigger business, it could mean installing a storage tank with a higher fire rating.

Remember, too, that the heat of summer decreases the effective storage life of diesel and other fuels through a combination of increased water condensation and microbe growth.

Good housekeeping of your fuel pays dividends and ensures you won’t be caught out when it counts. Check for the presence of water in the bottom of the tank using a product such as Gasoila, which is applied to the bottom of the dipstick and changes colour in the presence of water. If detected, syphon from the bottom until the fuel comes clear and bright. Keeping water out markedly decreases the chance of microbial infestation.

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Viva Energy Australia Pty Ltd (“Viva Energy”) has compiled the above article for your general information and to use as a general reference. Whilst all reasonable care has been taken by Viva Energy in compiling this article, Viva Energy does not warrant or represent that the information in the article is free from errors or omissions or is suitable for your intended use.

Where information, recommendations, opinions or ideas have been sourced from third parties external to Viva Energy (Third Party Information), Viva Energy cannot be certain that the Third Party Information is accurate, current or complete, nor should a mention of any business, product, service or website of a third party be taken as a recommendation, approval or endorsement of, or warranty or claim regarding, that business, product, service or website.

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Content originally produced by Viva Energy, Shell's exclusive licensee in Australia.