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National approach to 'Prepare, stay and defend or go early'

Fire agencies in Australia have advised citizens to remain fire ready in light of the recent devastating bushfires in the country
Fire agencies in Australia are advising citizens to be fire ready
Australian fire agencies today urged Australians to remain vigilant in light of the recent tragedy and urged all Australians to make sure they are fire ready. Research has shown that the "Prepare, stay and defend or go early policy" is the most effective way to protect life during a bushfire.

"The tragic events of this weekend have been something that this country has never seen before, and while lessons will be learnt from this event it is vital that important fire safety decisions are not made on the run." said AFAC CEO Naomi Brown.

The "Prepare stay and defend or go early" position was developed over many years, based on research, experience and history. It has been introduced nationally through a consultative process involving all Australian fire agencies.

Research and experience conducted from past fires, and in particular Ash Wednesday, through the Bushfire CRC has shown that leaving well before the fire front approaches or preparing appropriately and staying with your house and actively defending your property is a safer strategy for survival than fleeing at the last minute.

Research on past fire events has shown that:

  • Houses have survived the passage of a fire front and have protected the occupants from the fire
  • Occupants have successfully defended their house before, during and after the fire front
  • Last minute evacuation is the most dangerous option of all
  • Cars provide extremely poor protection from fire (this weekend saw a large number of people killed in cars in Victoria) - see AFAC Guidelines for people in cars

Mike Brown, Acting Chief Officer of the Tasmania Fire Service reminded people that it is important to realize that leaving early means leaving well before the fire front arrives at the property. "The Prepare, stay and defend or go early policy is a national policy utilized by all Australian fire agencies."

Shane Fitzsimmons Commissioner NSWRFS reiterated that the policy is sound. "The research of past events and our own experience on the fire ground shows us that this policy has worked. We will learn from these fires and make any changes that are necessary but as we continue to move through the fire season it is important that the public adhere to this policy."

The fire agencies, with the Bushfire CRC, have begun the task of examining the fires in order to determine what lessons will need to be learnt. The "prepare stay and defend or go early" position will be part of that analysis. This type of analysis is standard with every major fire event and agencies will be involved in their own inquiries as well participating fully in government and coronial inquiries.

The research reports are sourced from the Bushfire CRC. They are available on the BCRC site at this URL: Research papers can be found under the public documents tab.

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