The 2013-14 bush fire season has begun more suddenly and more dramatically than any of us could have imagined. In NSW, we've already lost more than 200 homes. With more hot, dry weather predicted, what can you do to take care of your house and family? Determining danger, maintaining your property and keeping fire-fighting pumps at hand are all essential aspects of the protection process.

The first step is to assess your risk level. If you live or work anywhere in or near the bush, then you should take bush fire preparation seriously. Don't fall for the mistaken thinking that it won't happen to you. Complacency is often the biggest threat.

Secondly, reduce and remove flammable materials - both natural and man-made. This means:

- pruning all overhanging trees and shrubs
- cutting the grass frequently
- keeping the roof, gutters and down pipes clear of leaves
- fitting leaf guards where necessary
- storing garden mulch, wood piles and flammable items at a good distance from the house
- buying a non-combustible doormat
- positioning any LPG cylinders so that their pressure relief valves face away from your home

Thirdly, ensure that all built structures are in the best possible condition. In other words, you should replace any damaged or missing roof tiles, seal any gaps in the external walls and cladding, and install screens on both windows and doors. Either metal fly wire or solid screens are most suitable.

Fourthly, prepare fire-fighting equipment and water pumps adequately. If there's a constant water supply on your property (a tank, dam or swimming pool), then it's a good idea to put up a 'static water supply sign'. Make an investment in a high-quality fire pump. Attach it to a hose that's long enough to reach every part of your home and property. We have a wide selection of fire pumps, from diesel pumps to petrol pumps.

Finally, while it's definitely worth taking the time and making the effort to protect your property to the best of your ability, it's never worth risking your safety, or that of others. If you're asked to evacuate, then do so as soon as possible.