The bushfire season is a stressful time for a lot of people. Those in high-risk areas will need to keep alert throughout the summer and monitor conditions in their surrounding area. It is normal to feel anxious during this time of year and this anxiety may be worse for people who have been affected by bushfires in the past.
This fact sheet provides tips to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the bushfire season.
How your mind deals with a threat
During a threat or emergency, our bodies are placed in a heightened state of alert. This is a natural response to danger that helps us deal with immediate circumstances.
The heightened state helps us:
- Think clearly
- Plan and make decisions
- Set priorities based on the immediate situation.
While this is a natural response, maintaining this state through a long period, such as the bushfire season, can make our mind and body fatigued and lose efficiency.
Preparing your mind
It is vitally important to prepare yourself before the bushfire season starts and plan your actions to deal with a threat or emergency should one arise. The best way to do this is to prepare a Bushfire Survival Plan. More information on this can be found on the Victorian CFA website
Preparing a Bushfire Survival Plan will help you mentally cope throughout the bushfire season as it will help reduce the uncertainty and anxiety around what you and your family will do should a threat arise.
The following tips will help your mind prepare for the bushfire season:
PRACTISE THE PLAN
- Develop a plan that suits your household.
- Discuss the plan with all members of the household and make sure they know that staying to defend involves the risk of physical injury and even death.
- Ensure the plan assesses the ability of members of the family to deal with the stress of a fire.
Plan to stay informed during a threat or emergency
In the preparation of your Bushfire Survival Plan, it is important to consider how you will receive up-to-date information during a threat or an emergency. Reducing the uncertainty of your situation will help reduce any unnecessary stress.
Consider the following:
- Attend community meetings such as CFA FireReady meetings or Community Fireguard groups so that you are aware of the risk in your area.
- Maintain contact with neighbours and local sources of fire information in the area, especially during high fire-risk days.
- Work out how you’re going to receive information during a threat or emergency.
- Keep up-to-date with fire and smoke conditions in your local area. For alerts and warnings visit the CFA website, call the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226, or listen to emergency broadcasters – ABC Local Radio, commercial radio and designated community radio stations or SKY News Television.
Remember, fire conditions can change quickly, so your plan should not assume that a warning will be received.
A special note about children
It is understandable that you want to keep your family close in a stressful situation, but if you are planning to stay and defend your home during a bushfire, it is strongly advised that children and vulnerable people are well away from any danger area.
There are several reasons for this:
- Children are more vulnerable to stress than adults.
- Although children may appear to cope in a crisis, their reaction to the event may not be evident until a much later time.
- Reactions to crisis can lead to children becoming unable to cope with ordinary problems, suffering sleep problems and nightmares, and having relationship issues with parents, siblings and friends.
When developing your Bushfire Survival Plan, be clear when and how vulnerable people in your household will leave your area.
If your plan is to stay and defend, make sure that your children are being looked after by someone who is well known to them and who they feel safe around. Remain positive and reassuring, and ensure that you plan regular communication with your children to let them know that you are safe.
If at any time you are worried about your mental health or the mental health of a loved one, call Lifeline 13 11 14.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Your local community health centre
- Lifeline Tel. 13 11 14
- Parentline Tel. 13 22 89
- Kids Helpline Tel. 1800 55 1800
- Nurse-on-Call Tel. 1300 60 60 24 – for expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days)
- Australian Psychological Society Referral Service Tel. 1800 333 497
- VicEmergency Hotline Tel: 1800 226 226
- Country Fire Authority – for current fire information. (Twitter – @CFA_Updates and Facebook – CFA )
- VicEmergency app – for alerts and info on fires, floods, storms, earthquakes, beach closures and water safety.
- Your Guide to Power Outages - brochure has some simple things you can do at home to prepare for and be safe in an event of a power outage.
Things to remember
- The bushfire season may bring back feelings of anxiety.
- Professional help is available if you are unable to cope.
- Stay informed – access to information will help you cope better.
- Preparing a bushfire survival plan will also help you cope better.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Department of Health and Human Services - Emergency Management
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.