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Staying safe this bushfire season: How to prepare your home and family for summer

Just like that, it’s summer again. Before your days are occupied by school holidays, New Year’s Eve plans and days at the beach, it’s important to conduct some general home and garage maintenance to help ensure the safety of you and your family this bushfire season.

The western and southern areas of New Zealand’s North and South Islands are expected to experience a higher than average fire danger over the summer season.

So, now is the right time for you to fire-proof your home, prepare an evacuation plan, and practise it. Read on to follow Chamberlain’s guide on how to secure your home and prepare your family for summer.

Get out in the garden

Preparing your home against fires begins with the upkeep and maintenance of your garden and exteriors.

By following these top tips from the Fire and Emergency New Zealand, you can best protect your family, home and belongings.

  1. Create a defensible area for at least 10 metres. This includes:
  • Remove all trees, long grass, shrubs and logs branches, twigs and needles.
  • Keep lawns watered and green during the summer months.
  • Use stone, cement, tiles and green grass so surface fires can’t reach your home
  1. Prune tree branches to a height of 2 meters or more so ground fire can’t ignite them
  2. Remove all flammable materials close to your home and sheds including bark, heavy mulch, and furniture.

Start securing your home

When conducting maintenance on your home, the main goal is to ensure no embers, sparks or burning materials can enter through any openings such as windows, doors, floorboards and roofing.

So, how can you stop burning materials from entering your home?

The key recommendations from Fire and Emergency New Zealand are:

  • Clear out and keep your gutters clean.
  • Enclose decks so vegetation and debris can’t collect, and embers can’t enter.
  • Screen vents and close in decks to ensure embers can’t be blown into these areas.

If you are in a high-risk area you might also fit tiled roofs with fire-rated insulation or attach a fire sprinkler system to your gutters.

Have a chat, and make a plan

The safety of yourself and family should always be the number one priority. Being prepared with a family emergency survival plan that is practised and understood throughout the household will allow you to stay calm if you need to leave quickly.

Any fire evacuation plan starts with a discussion around what the family will do if a fire is threatening your home. This discussion should be conducted before the fire season so that your home and family are prepared to safely evacuate.

To help instigate these discussions and start your plan, visit the New Zealand Fire and Emergency website.

Check your garage door opener

It is important that your household knows how to evacuate through the garage in the event of blackout, which may occur during bushfire season.

This requires you and your family to familiarise themselves with the garage door opener’s manual release cord, which will allow the door to be opened manually should the power go out.

To operate Chamberlain’s manual release cord, follow and practise these steps:

  1. Pull the red cord down firmly once to manually release the door’s locking mechanism. The opener will make a clicking noise.
  2. Walk over to the door to push it up manually. Do not try to pull the door using the manual release cord; it will snap under the load.
  3. Take care when operating the manual release when the door is open, as it may fall rapidly due to weak or broken springs.
  4. When power returns or it is safe to do so, re-engage the opener by pulling the red release cord down firmly.

While practising ensure that the cord is in good working order. The cord should not be frayed and must still have the plastic handle at the end of the cord.

During these checks, if you find that your manual release cord is not in this condition, we recommend replacing it immediately.

Make a plan, practise it, and be prepared, so if an emergency arises you and your family can evacuate safely.

This is your reminder to get your home and garage ready so you can enjoy this summer with peace of mind.

For more information about Chamberlain’s range of garage door openers and accessories, visit our website or call 0800 653 667.

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