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Bushfire Safety: an explainer

First published 19th December 2019
by Tom Warneke
Australia| Understanding Your World | Resolving Incidents & Crisis

A Bushfire is considered any unwanted or unplanned fire burning in forest, shrub, or grass. Bushfires are a really destructive natural disaster that affect most climates and continents — typically at the following times of year:

  • United States: August — December
  • Canada: April — September
  • Eastern Australia: December — March
  • Northern Australia: April — September
  • Russia: May — October
  • South America (Amazon rainforest): May — September

Usually the fires are caused by dry heat and high temperatures or lightning strikes, the majority (upwards of 90%) are actually due to human factors such as unattended fire, sparks from vehicles, electricity and equipment or sadly, arson.

Factors affecting severity

Climate change will alter bushfire frequency and severity in the future. Climate models predict longer periods of drought and higher temperatures, which would increase bushfire frequency across the globe.

The three main factors that affect the severity of a bushfire are:
1. Weather
2. Topography & land formation
3. Available fuel

Bushfire Hazards

Bushfires have consequences beyond the extinguishing of the fire.

Major health concerns exist due to smoke inhalation as well as embers and particles from burning vegetation that can irritate respiratory systems.

Smoke not only effects those in the vicinity of the fire but often those far away due to wind factors.

Mitigating Bushfire Risk

If you’re planning a trip in bushfire area — be sure to be safe and prepared by following the following steps:

  • Ensure you’re carrying the right equipment to keep the area free of accidental bushfire including water, sand, a shovel etc
  • Have a plan including emergency supplies incase you’re caught up in a bushfire
  • Know the area you are staying in and be familiar with ways to evacuate.
  • Clear the area of nearby brush before lighting your fire
  • Pay attention if there are any fire bans restrictions in effect in the area. These are often announced via Radio or TV. Call local fire departments, or the national parks service to get advice if you’re unsure
  • Know the weather. If you are traveling during fire season, avoid areas that could experience potentially dangerous weather patterns, including excessive heat, low humidity, and strong winds.

What to do if you’re caught in a bushfire

If you’re caught in a bushfire — there are some simple things you can do to protect yourself:

  • At the first sign of bushfire or if you’re notified of an evacuation, Leave.
  • If an escape route is blocked, go to the nearest beach, lake or stream and stay in the water while the fire passes overhead or is stopped due to the water barrier.
  • Notify authorities and ask for help as soon as you can

We’re watching the bushfire events in Australia closely to keep abreast of regional activity and what this means for our clients in Australia. For more insight and analysis on this event as well as a global understanding of the issues that affect you, explore our wide range of analysis, intelligence and commentary at



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Tom Warneke

Tom Warneke

Risk. Security. Travel. Geopolitics. Foreign Affairs. International Aid. The Arts. What makes the world tick and what’s the story behind what’s going on.