Concerns as we get closer to summer

The threat of bushfires in certain areas of Australia will come early this year as the country faces an “above normal” threat from the natural disaster.

The Bushfire & Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) has released its national hazard note for the coming bushfire season and the results show a higher than usual chance of damage.

“Large areas of southern Australia, especially along the east and west coasts extending inland, face above normal fire potential for the 2015-2016 fire season, despite many fires in some parts of the country over the last 12 months,” the hazard note says.

“The above normal forecast is mostly due to a strengthening El Nino over the Pacific Ocean, currently tracking as one of the strongest on record, but is made more complex this year by the influence of warmer sea temperatures in the Indian Ocean.

“There have also been significantly below average rainfalls over the last decade across almost all of eastern Australia, the west coast and Tasmania,” the note continued.

“Such underlying dry conditions mean that any surface moisture from recent rains will quickly decline once temperatures begin to warm. 2014 was Australia’s third warmest year since records began and, when combined with such long term rainfall deficiencies, an early start to the bushfire season is likely in many areas.”

Spokesperson for Understand Insurance, Campbell Fuller, said that the updated risk outlook gives consumers cause for re-evaluating their insurance needs as bushfires have cost billions of dollars over the past decade.

“The Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in January 2009 claimed 173 lives and more than $1.4 billion in insurance settlements,” Fuller said.

“Since then, we’ve had the October 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires ($183.4 million), the Dunalley fires in Tasmania ($78 million) and already this year the January fires in South Australia have cost $36.6 million.

“And these are only the financial costs. They don’t take into account the loss of human life, nor the emotional toll of a family home, or someone’s livelihood, being wiped out.

“Underinsurance is one of the biggest risks facing home owners, with 83 per cent of home owners admitting they probably don’t have enough cover,” Fuller continued.

“Now is the time to reassess the value of your valuable assets to ensure you’re protected financially.