Strathbogie Shire Council

Tel: 1800 065 993

Bushfire Shelters

Bush Fire Attack Level (BAL)

Victoria has mapped bushfire prone areas.  There are many precautions you can take to help protect your home and maximise your safety.

If you are planning to build or renovate key steps include:

  • ensuring an appropriate building site location
  • using suitable building materials
  • ensuring proximity to independent water resources
  • managing the vegetation surrounding the building and clearing debris close to the building.

It is also important to ensure your property is accessible for emergency vehicles and has a water supply for firefighting.

The Victorian Building Authority recommends the following to help reduce the risk of damage to homes in the event of a bushfire:

  • Use building materials appropriate for the conditions and your Bushfire Attack Level (BAL)
  • Remove any overhanding tree branches, take out shrubs over one metre high next to or below windows, keep grass short and clean up other debris near your building site or home that could easily catch fire to help provide some defendable space
  • Follow the step-by-step guide to protecting your home from fire by downloading the Country   Fire Authority (CFA) Fire Ready Kit from www.cfa.vic.gov.au  or phoning the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667 for a copy.
  • Ensure you have a Bushfire Survival Plan in place and practise it regularly.
  • Get involved in community meetings about fire preparedness in the neighbourhood. Go to the CFA website for meeting details. 
  • If you have a full rainwater tank near your home, ensure it is accessible.

Bush Fire Prone Map

Bush Fire Attack Level Assessment Form

 

Bushfire Shelters (Bushfire Bunkers)bunker

On 11th November 2009 the Victorian Government introduced the Building Amendment (Private Bushfire Shelter Construction) Interim Regulations 2009. These regulations mean that a building permit must be obtained for private bushfire shelters (bushfire bunkers) prior to construction. Bushfire shelters have to comply with the performance requirements in the regulations.

  • Regulations are now in place which require all private bushfire shelters to have a building permit.
  • Private bushfire shelters are to be used for the purpose for which they are designed, built and approved.
  • Private bushfire shelters may not be a safe option in all cases and are a last resort as part of a bushfire survival plan. The best way for people to ensure their safety during a bushfire is to leave their properties early when it is recommended under the new bushfire warning system and heed the CFA Prepare Act Survive messages. 

If you have any further questions please contact Council on 1800 065 993.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does a private bushfire shelter meet the requirements for a building surveyor to issue a building permit?
Will a private bushfire shelter be the safest option in a fire?
Can I use a private bushfire shelter as a wine cellar?
Can I use a private bushfire shelter for storage?
Is it compulsory to build a private bushfire shelter?
Are there any accredited private bushfire shelter products? 
What should I do if I am considering purchasing or building a personal bushfire shelter?

 

How does a private bushfire shelter meet the requirements for a building surveyor to issue a building permit?

Bushfire shelters have to comply with performance requirements set out in the regulations including safe accessing and exiting the shelter and maintaining conditions within the shelter for the period of occupancy. To obtain a building permit under the new system you either need to:

  • Purchase a shelter which has been accresited as meeting the porformance requirements in the regulations by the Victorian Government's Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC); or
  • Apply to Building Appeals Board (BAB) for a determination that your non-accredited bushfire shelter complies with the regulations; or
  • Obtain certification from a fire safety engineer who did not design the shelter to satisfy a building surveyor that your non-accredited bushfire shelter meets the requirments of the regulations.

Will a private bushfire shelter be the safest option in a fire?bushfire

A private bushfire shelter is an option of last resort where individuals can take refuge during a bushfire while the fire front passes. This may be a pre-fabricated commercial product or a structure built on site. You should continue to heed the new warning system and leave early. You should also continue the preparation of your property before each fire season itilising the information in the CFA's Prepare-Act-Survive publication available on the CFA website.

Can I use a private bushfire shelter as a wine cellar?

Both new and old wine cellars do not meet the building regulatory requirements of private bushfire shelter construction. Be aware that come manufacturers may continue to advertise and sell unaccredited private bushfire shelters and may either misrepresent their products, or promote a shufire bunker as a safe storage room or as a wine cellar.

If a consumer feels a supplier has misrepresented a bushfire bunker product they can call Consumer Affairs Victoria for advice on 1300 558 181

For information on approved private bushfire bunkers contact Council on 1800 065 993 or the Building Commission Website - Bushfire Shelters or call them on 1300 815 217.

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Can I use a private bushfire shelter for storage?

A private bushfire shelter is only to be used for the purpose it is designed, built and approved. A sealed shelter will only have a particular volume of air in it, which is required for the period of time that you use it. By storing other things in it, you are lessening the air supply that you will need in an emergency. Therefore using a bushfire shelter as a storage room could compromise your family's safety in the event of a bushfire. 

Is it compulsary to build a private bushfire shelter?

There is no legal requirement to build a private bushfire shelter. It is a matter of personal choice as to whether people want to construct a private bushfire shelter as part of their bushfire survival plan.

Are there any accredited private bushfire shelter products?

 Yes. Information about accredited private bushfire shelters is available at the Building Commission’s website Building Commission Web Site - Bushfire Shelters.

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What should I do if I am considering purchasing or building a personal bushfire shelter?

If you are considering building or installing a private bushfire shelter, there are a number of issues you will need to consider:

Location:

  • The private bushfire shelter should be located so that collapsing structures or trees do not prevent entry/exit.
  • The private bushfire shelter should not be located too close to high threat vegetation areas.
  • The private bushfire shelter should be sited so that there is a safe path from the house to the private bushfire shelter. this may involve the removal of hazardous vegetation around the private bushfire shelter and along the path from the hosue to the shelter.  
  • The private bushfire shelter should not be located too close to other fire hazards including a house or other buildings.
  • The private bushfire shelter should be well signposted or otherwise identifiable to assist emergency services in locating it.

Construction:cfa

  • The private bushfire shelter must be able to withstand high wind and the impact of wind born ember and debris.
  • If the private bushfire shelter is undergound, it needs to be waterproof, and be able to withstand or prevent vehicles driving on top of it.
  • The private bushfire shelter must be resistant to flames, high temperatures and ember attack.
  • The private bushfire shelter must have fire resistant windows or some other way of allowing the occupants to know when it is safe to leave the private bushfire shelter.
  • Doors should be fire resistant and should be made of material that has a low conductivity and high insulating properties.
  • You should consider the direction in which the door swings and the locking and latching mechanisms.

 Amenity:

  • The private bushfire shelter must be big enought to hold the expected number of occupants.
  • The private bushfire shelter must have an air supply, or be sufficiently large to hold enough air, to allow the occupants to remain inside until it is safe to leave the refuge.
  • The private bushfire shelter must be able to exclude smoke, and must be well insulated to prevent the temperature inside the private bushfire shelter from increasing beyond a safe level.

Note that in bushfire conditions, services and equipment such as electricity, phone, radio, water, pumps and sewerage usually become inoperable. It is important that you seek the advice of a relevant building practitioner, such as a fire safety engineer and a structural engineer, prior to purchasing or constructing a private bushfire shelter, or modifying an existing building to be used as a private bushfire shelter.

We urge you to consider your options carefully, and to view a private bushfire shelter as a part of your overall bushfire survival plan, rather than a simple solution. You also need to consider whether you and your family are psychologically ready to stay in the private bushfire shelter during a fire.

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