Naracoorte Herald journalist on alert to flee bushfire

Naracoorte Herald journalist Elisabeth Champion with the family's bags.

Naracoorte Herald journalist Elisabeth Champion with the family's bags.

Having lived in the country for most of my life, I am used to the threat of bushfires.

As kids, we learnt about having a fire escape plan and what to do and not do during a fire.

I don't know anyone who hasn't honestly thought about what three things they would grab in the event of a fire.

But all that doesn't make it any easier when the alert pops up on your phone that there is an out-of-control bushfire threatening your township.

As a journalist, my first instinct is to know what is happening and get the news out - straight to the Country Fire Service website and then a trip to photograph a water-bomber.

Once that is done, thoughts quickly turn to my own family - my daughter, who is just a toddler and is blissfully unaware of why there's so much activity all of a sudden, and my cat, who will need to be wrestled into the carrier should we need to evacuate.

We had been discussing for months the need for a bushfire safety plan for our new house, but we hadn't got around to it.

We put it off, thinking "we'll do it later", but with work and life so busy, "later" never arrived.

Thankfully, my husband (who is well-versed in bushfire safety) was already in action, packing the bags and wrangling the toddler, who didn't even realise what was happening and it wasn't long until we were ready to go.

While I filed the latest news to the Herald website, trying to keep our readers up to date, my husband gathered the important documents, phone chargers and clothes.

We make our plans, answer many concerned messages from loved ones who have seen the news, and continue to monitor the situation.

I keep gathering information and make plans for how I can keep working if we have to go - thank goodness for laptops so I can work on the road.

Then comes the waiting game - not wanting to leave too early, but knowing it may not be safe to wait.

It is a little scary - anyone who has lived in rural Australia knows how quickly things can turn.

I make phone calls and write, while my husband tries to keep our daughter calm and entertained - it must be nice to be a toddler and not have to worry about such things.

Thankfully, the hard working volunteers of the CFS get the fire under control and we can all breathe a little easier, but it is a timely, potentially deadly, reminder of how quickly things can change and why we need to be prepared.