Bushfires are unfortunately a part of living in Australia. Mother nature is changing and due to climate change, we are seeing longer, hotter summer seasons putting us as a community and our households at risk. However, there are many things you can do around your home to create a safer place for yourself and your community, to help reduce the impacts of such extreme weather events.
STEP 1 – Assess your risk
We can assess our risk in many ways, first, consider if the location of your home is in a bushfire prone zone. Use the sources below to assess information on your risk, in each state, in the event of bushfire.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services
New South Wales Rural Fire Service
Tasmania Fire Service
South Australian Country Fire Service
Northern Territory Government
Government of Western Australia
According to the Bushfire Resilient Building Guidance for Queensland Homes, there are three things to consider when accessing risk at your property.
A hazard is defined as an event or natural phenomenon that may cause loss of life, injury, house and infrastructure damage, and socio-economic and environmental disruption.
Exposure refers to the elements exposed to bushfire. This includes people, infrastructure, housing, production capacities and other tangible human assets located in hazard-prone areas.
Vulnerability is defined according to the responses of people, houses, and assets in mitigating the impacts of a hazard. Specifically, it refers to the extent to which a community, building, services, or location is likely to be damaged or disrupted by the impacts of a hazard, such as a bushfire.
STEP 2 – Consider materials
When building or renovating a home it is important to consider the materials used and if they are bushfire resilient. Many states have different regulations, depending on the elements they’re exposed to. In regard to materials for security screening and fly screening of your home be careful to read through the information laid out in the Australian Standards AS3959-2009 – Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas. These standards set out the “construction requirements are intended to improve the performance of buildings subjected to burning debris, radiant heat or flame contact.” Dependant on your property’s location, slope, vegetation, or distance from vegetation will determine your properties BAL Rating. According to https://www.bushfireprone.com.au/what-is-a-bal/ below are descriptions what each rating means:
- BAL Low: There is insufficient risk to warrant specific construction requirements
- BAL 12.5: Ember attack. (BAL 12.5 Construction Requirements)
- BAL 19: Increasing levels of ember attack and burning debris ignited by windborne embers, together with increasing heat flux. (BAL 19 Construction Requirements)
- BAL 29: Increasing levels of ember attack and burning debris ignited by windborne embers, together with increasing heat flux. (BAL 29 Construction Requirements)
- BAL 40: Increasing levels of ember attack and burning debris ignited by windborne embers, together with increasing heat flux and with the increased likelihood of exposure to flames. (BAL 40 Construction Requirements)
- BAL FZ: Direct exposure to flames from fire, in addition to heat flux and ember attack. (BAL FZ Construction Requirements)
Many of Prowler Proof’s materials meet different standards, The Australian Standard for construction of homes in bushfire prone zones (AS 3959) simply states that openable windows must be screened with corrosion-resistant steel, bronze, or aluminium mesh with an opening of less than 2 mm x 2 mm. Below are Prowler Proof security doors and window screens that suit specific BAL Ratings.
- ForceField BAL FZ
- Guardian BAL 40
- Protec BAL 29
STEP 3 – Be prepared
Fire management and ongoing maintenance is a community effort. Homeowners are responsible for mitigating risk. Our roles and responsibilities under local government legislation include clearing overgrown vegetation and responsibly storing materials in and around your home. These could be regulated under your local government legislation. Keep in mind there are also local vegetation protection laws that may apply to an area, so read up on these before clearing any vegetation on or around your property. Below are our top tips on being prepared for bushfire season.
- Clean leaves from gutters, roofs, downpipes, and mow your grass regularly.
- Install fine steel wire mesh screens on all windows, doors, vents, and weepholes.
- Fit metal NOT plastic fly screens on windows and doors.
- Enclose open areas under your decks and floors.
- Seal all gaps in external roof and wall cladding.
- When installing LPG cylinders around your home, make sure that pressure relief valves face outwards so that flame is not directed towards the house.
- Keep your backyard tidy, free from any build-up of flammable material.
- Remove excess ground fuels and other combustible material.
- Ensure your garden hoses are long enough to reach the perimeter boundary of your property.
- Plant trees and shrubs that are less likely to ignite due to their lower oil content.
- Trim low-lying branches two metres from the ground surrounding your home.
- If you have a swimming pool, have a Static Water Supply sign placed on your front fence. Contact your local fire station for information.
- On Total Fire Ban days obey regulations regarding barbecues and open fires.
- Make sure that if there is a fire hydrant outside your home it is easily located and not obstructed.
- Ensure ALL members of the family know where the community evacuation area is.
- If there is a Community Fire Unit nearby, consider becoming a member.