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Australian farmers are well acquainted with the dangers that come with dry weather, and with the onset of El Nino, these risks have significantly escalated. Regrettably, the arid and scorching conditions linked to El Nino weather patterns intensify the severity of bushfires. The devastating impact of the Black Summer bushfires in 2019/20 served as a stark reminder of the immense toll such fires can exact on farmers.

In light of this, what measures can farmers and primary producers take to alleviate the risks of bushfires during the summer? Peter Morsley, the Farm Underwriting Manager at ARGIS, highlights some straightforward yet crucial steps that farmers and primary producers can implement to prepare.

Once fires gain momentum, the window to act diminishes rapidly,” remarks Mr Morsley. “Prevention always outmatches remedy, so the optimal chance to safeguard your property begins now.

Craft an emergency plan Mr Morsley emphasises that while farm insurance can aid in asset replacement, it cannot replace lives. “The foremost action farmers can take is to establish a comprehensive bushfire plan that ensures the safety of themselves and their families,” he advises. Collaborating with family members and employees on an action plan is essential. It’s also wise to agree on a communication or rendezvous strategy in case Wi-Fi and phone services become limited.

Maintain short grass and clear surroundings

To uphold an uncluttered space, Mr Morsley recommends regularly trimming grass and keeping areas around residences and farm structures clear. “Pruning trees and branches near power lines is vital, and flammable materials should be stored away from high-value assets,” he stresses.

Ensure equipment readiness and upkeep

Farmers should regularly inspect and maintain fire suppression equipment, such as fire extinguishers. Additionally, maintaining farm machinery in top condition is crucial to reduce the risk of sparking. Exercising caution when operating machinery on hot or windy days is equally important, even if they haven’t been designated as total fire ban days.

Devise a strategy for livestock

For those with livestock, Mr Morsley advises devising a plan in case bushfires encroach upon the area. This might involve relocating animals to safer locations, especially if multiple properties or ample space are available.

Access credible advice

It’s essential to have contact details for local fire brigades and government authorities readily available. “Farmers should consult information provided by their local rural fire authority online for area-specific guidance,” recommends Mr Morsley.

Consult with a broker prior to El Nino

Though reducing insurance costs amidst escalating expenses might seem appealing, it’s a pitfall to sidestep. Now, more than ever, prioritising adequate protection is crucial. Seeking advice from a broker regarding your insurance requirements and whether you have adequate coverage is highly recommended.

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