Water, electricity and gas

Water is crucial to the survival of people and buildings during a bushfire

Bushfire is likely to disrupt the mains water and electricity supply. Consider using alternative systems or ensure that you have a back up. Gas is less critical to survival but it can present additional hazards that need to be managed.

  • Water is crucial to the survival of people and buildings during a bushfire, so your main goal should be to ensure that you have access to an adequate and reliable water supply. Remember that the mains water supply will likely be disrupted during a bushfire, so ensure that you have access to at least one alternative source. Aim for multiple redundancies. When it comes to water, the more options the better.

    Do’s

    • Ponds, dams, swimming pools, water tanks, and other water features can provide an alternative water supply during an emergency – consider preparing these as a back up water source by installing the necessary pumps, hoses, and piping. These features can also form an effective fire break. If possible, site these features between the house and the most likely direction of the bushfire hazard.
    • If you have a swimming pool, make sure to store pool chemicals away from the house and other vulnerable or highly combustible features.
    • Use non-combustible water tanks (concrete and corrugated iron are best ) to provide an additional water source during a bushfire.
    • Shield water pumps from radiant heat and flame attack. Non-combustible enclosures, such as low brick walls or metal screens can be used to protect pumps from heat and flame.
    • Diesel powered water pumps are the best option – diesel is less prone to stoppages caused by vaporisation than petrol water pumps, is less flammable, and diesel engines are generally more fuel efficient.
    • Keep hoses relatively short by installing multiple taps around the home – plastic hoses are easily damaged by flame and radiant heat.
    • Ensure there are multiple taps and hoses that reach all parts of the house and garden.
    • Use metal piping and fittings to supply water above ground – plastic piping can be used below ground.
    • Ensure that water sources (including taps, houses, water tanks, and back up water supply’s) are accessible and clear of hazards.
    • When under threat of bushfire, do not wet masonry or concrete walls. These surfaces perform better when dry.

    Don’ts

    • Avoid plastic fittings. Use aluminium, brass or steel fittings for all above ground systems.
    • Do not rely on plastic pipes to supply water during a bushfire – plastic pipes are easily damaged by radiant heat and flame. Damaged pipes can allow your water supply to drain and you do not have water when it’s most needed.
    •  Do not rely on an electric pump connected to mains power to provide water. Electric pumps can be cut off from power during a bushfire.
    • Avoid plastic water tanks as these are easily damaged by radiant heat and flame attack. Concrete and corrugated iron water tanks are best.

    Note. Planning permits within a Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) are subject to specific bushfire provisions for a dedicated water supply, accessible for fire fighting. For more information, check the resources on the Planning Victoria and CFA websites.

    plastic-fitting-on-water-tank

    Plastic fittings will melt when exposed to flames or radiant heat

  • Electrical infrastructure, including sub-stations, poles, and overhead wires are vulnerable to bushfire. It is not uncommon for wind and overhanging vegetation to damage or disrupt electricity supply at any time of the year, however the strong winds, flame, and wind-driven debris that accompany a bushfire increase this risk. When preparing for bushfire, it is important to manage vegetation to keep it clear of overhead wires and poles.

    Do’s

    • Keep vegetation clear of power poles, overhead wires and other electrical infrastructure.
    • Create open spaces under and around overhead wires and poles.
    • If possible, put supply wires underground – this will reduce the chances of your power supply being disrupted and will remove the risks associated with fallen or damaged wires.
    • Install an appropriately selected and managed electricity generator as a back up power supply. An appropriately shielded diesel generator is best.
    • Consider a solar system with the capability to operate without the grid.
    • Use non-combustible power poles (if applicable). Existing timber poles can be protected with a metal sheet collar up to at least 3 metres above ground level.
    • Be aware that it is common for authorities to disconnect the mains power during a bushfire. If you plan to stay and defend your property, consider installing a generator or appropriate solar system. A reliable and appropriately managed generator connected to a water pump is crucial for firefighting.

    Don’ts

    • Do not rely on mains power when defending against bushfire.
    • Do not allow trees to grow around or near to wires and poles – manage vegetation to keep it clear of overhead wires and poles.

    Suburban-powerlines-with-bushfire-smoke

    Bushfire smoke in the NSW Blue Mountains (source: Shutterstock)

  • A reliable gas supply is important to the regular running of the household – providing gas powered heating and cooking. However, compared to water and electricity, gas is less critical during a bushfire. More important to consider is the additional hazards that gas can represent. Ruptured pipes and cylinders can ignite and spread fire to buildings and vegetation. Therefore, it is very important to manage your gas supply appropriately.

    Do’s

    • Ensure that gas cylinders, pipes and fittings are selected and managed appropriately.
    • Gas systems should be located away from vulnerable building elements and shielded to protect against radiant heat and flame contact.
    • Use metal connections, pipes and fittings.
    • Install piping below ground (where possible).
    • Store gas cylinders away from buildings and other vulnerable or combustible elements. Cylinders should be installed according to the applicable regulatory guidelines.
    • Shield gas cylinders from radiant heat and flame attack. Non-combustible enclosures, such as low brick walls or metal screens can be used to protect pumps from heat and flame.
    • Securely attach gas cylinders to a solid structure with a metal chain or cable.
    • Direct the vent on the gas cylinder away from other structures and exit pathways.

    Don’ts

    • Avoid using plastic pipes and fittings.
    • Do not store gas cylinders next to vulnerable building elements, such as windows, vents and doors.
    • Do not store gas cylinders next to combustible cladding, vegetation or other combustible or vulnerable elements.