Australia is home to some of the most stunning landscapes on Earth, but the beauty of our vast wilderness comes with an inherent risk: bushfires. As we approach another bushfire season, it’s crucial to be proactive in ensuring our homes are prepared. But how can we decide the best measures to put in place?
This is where Bushfire Attack Level or BAL Ratings come into play.
Understanding BAL Ratings
The first step towards bushfire readiness is understanding BAL ratings. The Australian Standard AS 3959-2018 details these ratings, which range from BAL-LOW, indicating very low risk, to BAL-FZ, signifying a fire zone with extreme risk. BAL ratings are determined by assessing several factors, including the type of vegetation, its proximity to your home, the slope of your property, and the Fire Danger Index for your region.
Tailoring Measures to Your BAL Rating
Once you’ve determined your property’s BAL rating, you can begin to plan and implement measures to protect your home adequately. Here are some recommended steps based on different BAL ratings:
Even though the risk is low, it’s still wise to undertake some basic measures:
- Clear debris: Regularly clear dead leaves, twigs, and bark from your gutters, roof, and around your property.
- Establish defensive space: Keep a 20-metre space around your home free of flammable materials.
- Use fire-resistant plants: Certain plants resist burning more than others. Incorporate these into your landscape where possible.
BAL-12.5 to BAL-29
As the risk increases, so should your measures:
- Improve building materials: Use fire-resistant materials for your walls, roofs, and decks. This might involve retrofitting older homes.
- Protect windows: Heat can cause glass to break even before the fire reaches your home. Install toughened glass, and use metal screens to provide added protection.
- Maintain a well-pruned garden: Regularly prune shrubs and trees, especially those close to the house.
BAL-40 to BAL-FZ
In these highest-risk areas, you’ll need to take substantial measures:
- Use specialised building materials: All exterior cladding, roofs, and windows should be made of non-combustible materials.
- Create a firebreak: Keep the immediate area around your home – up to 20 metres – completely clear of trees and shrubs. This serves as a firebreak, a crucial factor in limiting fire spread.
- Install sprinkler systems: Consider installing an external sprinkler system to dampen your home and surrounding area in the event of a bushfire.
Work with Professionals
While it’s possible to estimate your BAL rating, professionals trained in bushfire risk assessment can provide an accurate rating and tailored advice. They can guide you through the complex process of retrofitting your home and ensuring your landscaping best helps protect your property.
Preparation is not a one-time task. Regular maintenance, ongoing vigilance, and awareness of current fire danger levels are paramount for the safety of your home and loved ones. Remember, while we can’t control when or where a bushfire may strike, we can control how prepared we are to face it.
Understanding and working with your home’s BAL rating can go a long way in helping you prepare for the bushfire season. Implement the appropriate measures, seek professional advice when needed, and always stay informed about your local fire danger levels. Here’s to a safe and secure bushfire season.