Friday, February 7, 2014

What is 'protective clothing' for the householder?

I have been asked what is meant by ‘protective clothing’ 
for bushfire home defenders, evacuees and shelters. 
It is clothing able to shield your skin from embers and radiant heat

First, it is not necessary to wear wool. In wool, your body can overheat and cause heat stroke. The main needs are: strong cotton drill coverall; strong cotton broad-brimmed hat that can be tied on; strong shoes with thick soles; a nose cover to filter smoke; and a flask of drinking water. These can be your personal survival kit.

Suitable coveralls can be found at disposal stores e.g. ex-army overalls. Whatever you use, it needs a high neckline, no waistband, long sleeves, firm cuffs, long straight-legged trousers neither skin-tight nor flared. Shirts or pullovers need to be tucked into trousers, and socks pulled up and tucked up over trouser legs so these are not loose and open. If gumboots are worn, tie trouser legs over them, so embers can’t drop in. Do not wear thongs or plastic shoes, flowing clothes, loose or cowl necks, or nylon or polyester - even for underwear. For a nose cover, a non-synthetic scarf or tea-towel can be effective, especially if dampened.

Absolutely basic is a strong, tightly woven pure wool blanket
(it must be pure wool – no synthetic in it)
large enough to cover you completely when crouched or lying down. 

If possible, wet the part covering your nose to filter smoke. It is not necessary to wet the whole blanket. The only use of this is that it would cool you until it dries out. It is a myth that you can be scalded by the steam from a wet blanket.
Keep these items in a satchel or bag and keep it in an easily accessible place, 
e.g. hall, laundry, or verandah cupboard. 

               Take it with you whenever you travel into bushfire territory.

The Personal Survival Kit is an aspect of bushfire safety I devised in 1964. I had been dashing from my home to stop a fire in our outer suburban bushland from reaching neighbours’ houses. (It had been lit by children playing with matches). As I ran across to it, I realised I was totally inappropriately dressed, so as soon I I returned I gathered up these things, put them in a bag in the shed beside the rake - and thought ‘I’ll never be caught again. My Survival Kit idea was one of many first published in The Complete Australian Bushfire Book (1986), which fire authorities have used ever since.