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Weather Hazards

Lightning thunderstorm storm weather hazard
The weather is one of the major risks to bushwalkers. Its effects can be widespread and catastrophic. Bushwalkers should always check weather forecasts before any trip to avoid becoming involved in an incident.National parks close for a variety of reasons including bushfire, hazard reduction burns, flooding, storm damage, pest control, infrastructure damage and bush regeneration. Check with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) for park alerts or closures before you set out.It’s also a good idea to talk to local rangers to gain a clear picture of any safety issues in their local park. Find NPWS Visitor Centre phone numbers using the interactive map on the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage website.

Where can I find weather warnings?

The Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology posts nationwide rain radar, satellite images, weather  maps, tide predictions, sea temperature, tsunami  warnings and cyclone maps.

The new Bureau of Meteorology mobile weather website makes it easier and quicker to check Australia’s official weather forecasts. Access it from your mobile device on http://m.bom.gov.au/

What to do in a flood

  • Change your route before departure if there has been heavy rain in catchment areas
  • Do not enter canyons if rain is predicted or it has been raining
  • Be aware that rain in upstream areas may flood a canyon unexpectedly, even though it is not raining in the area you are exploring
  • Check with local authorities if there is a possibility that bridges may have been damaged by flood waters
  • Wait for a swollen river to subside, or use an alternative route
  • Do not cross a flooded river
  • Don’t camp in dry creek beds as they can unexpectedly flood

What to do in an electrical storm

  • Avoid high ground, isolated objects such as a tree in a clearing, overhanging cliffs or caves
  • Insulate yourself from the ground by sitting on your pack
  • Don’t sit in contact with group members

Hypothermia

  • Hypothermia is when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing a dangerously low body temperature.
  • In mild hypothermia there is shivering and mental confusion. For severe hypothermia, shivering may stop, and there may be difficulty speaking, clumsiness, drowsiness and eventually loss of consciousness.
  • Contributors to hypothermia include inadequate clothing, water immersion, wind chill, alcohol use and more.
  • Hypothermia is a life threatening condition and should be treated as a medical emergency.
  • Treatment is to warm the person up slowly by methods such as moving them out of the cold, removing wet clothing, covering them with blankets, share body heat by keeping close, and providing warm beverages if the person is awake and alert. Do not apply direct heat like hot water or radiant heaters as this can damage the skin.

Hyperthermia

  • Hyperthermia is when your body produces or absorbs heat faster than it can dissipate it, causing a dangerously high body temperature.
  • In mild hyperthermia the symptoms are mainly a dry, hot skin, with no sweat. This may progress to confusion, slurred speech, nausea, flushed skin, rapid breathing, and racing heart rate.
  • Contributors to hyperthermia include exposure to a hot environment, strenuous activity, wearing excess clothing, drinking alcohol, becoming dehydrated, high humidity or a combination of these.
  • Hyperthermia requires emergency treatment to avoid damage to the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles.
  • Treatment is to cool the person down quickly by methods such as immersion in cold water, evaporation cooling, and applying ice packs to the groin, neck, back and armpits.

What to do in a bushfire

  • Check with the local fire authority that there are no bush fires or hazard reduction burns in the area you are planning to walk in.
  • Cancel the activity if there is hazard reduction burn in the area, as a controlled burn can quickly get out of control. Note that embers can be blown around up to 4km ahead of the main fire, causing further outbreaks.
  • Check the Bureau of Meteorology weather forecast prior to commencing any activity, particularly a multi-day activity. Cancel the activity if wind conditions and temperatures of over 30ºC are predicted.
  • Do not go bushwalking on hot windy days that are rated very high, severe, extreme or catastrophic on the Fire Danger Index.
  • NSW National Parks are closed on Total Fire Ban Days. A Total Fire Ban will generally not be declared until 5pm the day before it takes effect.
  • Even well prepared bushwalkers are unlikely to survive a bushfire under hot and windy conditions. The risk is high, the potential consequence is unacceptable and there are no reasonable strategies to reduce the risk. Follow the advice of the Rural Fire Service and avoid all bushfire prone land under these significant Fire Danger ratings.
  • An activity must be cancelled if the park manager declares the park or any of the tracks or trails closed
  • On multi day activities if a Total Fire Ban is unexpectedly declared (or suspected) leave the park early. If this is impossible, find the safest place possible to spend the day.
  • On a multi-day activity use a mobile phone and/or a portable AM/FM radio to monitor news bulletins for information on fire activity, fire danger ratings, total fire bans and park closures. It is illegal to use a stove on a total fire ban day.
  • From November to April, bring some no-cook meals and water purification solutions that will work without a stove.

Where can I find bushfire warnings?

NSW & ACT NSW Rural Fire Service publish details of bushfires and hazard reduction burns online. Download the NSW Rural Fire Service Fires near Me app on iTunes or Android for information on the go in New South Wales and the ACT.
VIC Vic Emergency lists all Victorian emergency warnings. You can also download the FireReady app from this site. FireReady is the official Victorian Government app for access to timely, relevant and tailored bushfire warnings and information in Victoria.
QLD Rural Fire Service Queensland lists bushfire warnings with an interactive map.
SA The South Australian Country Fire Service lists incidents and warnings on its website. CFS FireApp is the official South Australian Country Fire Service iPhone and Android application.
TAS Tasmania Fire Service lists bushfire warnings with an interactive map.
WA Western Australia Emergency WA features an interactive map with cyclone, flood and bush fire warnings.
NT ABC Emergency is the official broadcaster for fire and emergency warnings.
NZ New Zealand National Rural Fire Authority displays a daily fire danger map. Met Service lists New Zealand official weather forecasts and weather warnings.

Bushfire Myths

“If a fire comes I can head downhill into the gully. I have been told fires burn uphill.” On days of Severe or higher fire danger rating, fires behave aggressively. Propelled by strong winds and hot embers, new fires will start many kilometres ahead of the main fire front. There is no reliable safe place to hide.
“The walk follows a river. We can jump in if there is a fire.” The radiant heat from a bushfire can kill people over 100 metres away. A river does not provide safety from radiant heat. A fire consumes the oxygen required for survival.
“The forest we are visiting is very lush and green – surely it won’t burn?” Even moist rainforest will burn on hot days.
“There are no trees where we are walking, mostly alpine grass land. We can just jump over any fire.” On windy hot days grass fires are deadly and fast moving.  The fire front will be too wide and deep to avoid the flames and radiant heat.
“If I trigger my Personal Locator Beacon the helicopter will pull us out before the fire comes.” Rescues take time to organise. On days of severe or higher fire danger rating there are strong winds which make helicopter rescues slow or impossible. There may not be a helicopter available.
“There is no danger because the walk is in a small suburban bush reserve.” Fires spread quickly through small bush reserves. A fire fanned by 30km per hour winds will overtake you even in a small local park.