Are you Covered and Prepared for Bushfire Risks?

Many areas of Australia have increased vegetative growth at the tail end of the third La Niña wet-weather pattern in a row. This has raised the risk of bushfires. 

You’ll need a plan of action and a home preparation strategy should a bushfire happen nearby.

Preparing your house before a fire happens

If you don’t have a fire plan, use this guide from the NSW Government. It takes just five minutes for you and your household members to answer a series of online questions to access the customised checklists you use to prepare.

You can also read the Fire Ready Kit from the Victorian Country Fire Authority. Its 80 pages have useful information about writing your plan, what to pack in your emergency kit and more. Be sure to include paper and cyber copies of your insurance policy as well as photographs and videos of your property and contents.

As for preparing your home, consider these good practices:

  • Clear leaves and twigs from your gutters, then install metal gutter guards and a fire sprinkler system
  • Replace missing and repair damaged roof tiles
  • Enclose under-house areas and cover/repair gaps in external walls
  • Attach fine metal mesh screens on doors and windows
  • Trim trees and shrubs near buildings, and
  • Check your hoses are long enough to reach all areas of your house.

Understand your insurance

Take time to peruse your policy’s product disclosure statement. Zero in on the term ‘fire cover’, a standard inclusion in home and contents insurance.

Insurers can also define ‘fire cover’ differently, so it’s open to interpretation. Consider the most likely fire-related circumstances you might find yourself in. Then, see if your policy fine print matches your needs.

Your policy should cover you for:

  • Bushfire
  • Grassfire
  • Heat, ash, smoke or soot damage to your home from a bushfire, even if it’s not burnt.

We can help clarify your policy’s finer details, too.

When you may not be covered

Your policy may not cover you for bushfire if:

  • No flames touched your property, so you’re not protected against smoke or soot causing scorching or damage
  • Your home isn’t maintained
  • You operate your business from your and haven’t checked with your insurer if that affects your coverage
  • The insurer cancels your policy if you’ve missed paying your premium, and you haven’t responded to their notices. Check that your insurer has your most current contact details on file.
  • It’s a new policy, or you’ve increased your cover or the sum insured amount. Many insurers will make you wait for 48 to 72 hours for the bushfire coverage to kick in. 

How to submit a claim

To claim, once you and your loved ones are safe, contact us to organise emergency make-safe repairs. Photograph the damage, collect your documents and expect to hear from the insurer through us within 10 business days. 

More information may be needed, and the insurer may schedule an assessor to inspect the damage. Before you repair or move damaged items, be aware that your insurer has a right to inspect the site and determine whether buildings or contents need repairing, rebuilding and replacement and who should do these works. You can find out more from the Financial Rights Legal Centre.

The insurer should update you about your claim every 20 business days.

And, if your claim is finalised within a month after the disaster, the insurer must ask you to review your claim six months after they’ve finalised it. This is helpful if you think the insurer missed the mark in assessing your loss, says the Insurance Council of Australia.

It’s a two-way street, so give yourself the best chance of coverage by following our tips.