Spring and BAL Assessments

Hi and sorry for the lack of posting in recent months. It’s been a crazy spring, I’ve had a lot of rare flora surveys as well as the usual fauna surveys to conduct. I’ve had help from a botanist friend of mine and been looking at some really interesting plants. I’ll talk more about this in a later post.

Well summers nearly here and the weathers warming up. Time to make sure your house is ready for the coming bushfire season. In the area around the office (the south west of Western Australia) the ground is already bone dry and with the higher fuel loads that are around, it has the potential to be a bad fire season.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services website has a list of things you should do to make sure you, your family and your property are safe should a bushfire occur. In summary:

  • Prepare a plan and stick to it
  • Prepare your house and the surrounding area for a fire, BEFORE any exists (and by that I mean, prepare NOW)
  • Make sure your local government bushfire notice conditions are met (firebreaks, separation distances from fuels etc.)
  • Make sure there are no branches or trees overhanging your house
  • Clean out the leaves and other debris out of your gutters (and considered initialling gutter guards)
  • Clear out rubbish and any flammable material from, at least, the 20 metres from your house. This includes leaves, dead branches, wood piles; basically anything that is flammable.
  • The DFES have a good checklist that you should download to prepare your property. Its free and you can get a copy from http://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/safetyinformation/fire/bushfire/BushfireChecklists/DFES_Bushfire_Checklist-Preparing_your_property.pdf

There’s also been a lot of interest and work for me over the spring in conducting Bushfire Attack Level Assessments (BAL Assessments) for people wanting to build new homes in bushfire prone areas. I thought I do a series of posts on what they are and what they entail.

Australian Standard (AS) 3959-2009 requires that properties exposed to a potential bushfire risk, be assessed to determine a “Bushfire Attack Level” (BAL). The standard defines BAL as:

A means of measuring the severity of a building’s potential exposure to ember attack, radiant heat and direct flame contact, using increments of radiant heat expressed in kilowatts per metre squared, and the basis for establishing the requirements for construction to improve protection of building elements from attack by bushfire. (Standards Australia, AS 3959-2009).

Once assigned, a BAL will determine the appropriate construction requirements for a block or property.

AS 3959-2009 specifies 6 Bushfire Attack Levels (BAL), ranging from Low to Extreme. There are increasing construction requirements ranging from ember protection to direct flame contact protection as the BAL level increases.  A BAL assessment determines the appropriate construction requirements for the property. The determination of a property’s BAL in accordance with AS 3959 for bushfire prone areas, is a site specific assessment that considers a number of factors including the slope of the land, the types of surrounding vegetation and its proximity to other building or structures on the site.  A BAL-LOW rating is considered to be a low bushfire hazard land classification. BAL- 12.5 – BAL-29 ratings are considered to be areas with a  moderate bush fire hazard and BAL-40 and BAL-FZ are rated as areas with extreme bushfire hazard levels and these are not normally approved by the decision making authorities.

The aim of these standards is not for you to have a house that will survive a bushfire, but for you to survive a bushfire front while inside your house. The house will know it’s been in a bushfire and it may be in a terrible state, but you and your family sheltering inside it should be relatively safe to allow the bushfire front to pass and then make your escape. There are no guarantees though and the construction standards do not remove all risk.

People interpret risk differently. The way they prepare and maintain their properties, buildings and assets and the actions they take (e.g. evacuate early or stay and defend) greatly influence their personal safety. Should any residents eventuate within the proposed Site, they need to maintain self-reliance and not wait or expect warnings or assistance from emergency services.

I’ll continue on that thought in the next post, which won’t be as far away as this one has been.

If you need any bushfire planning advice, just contact us and we can provide you with the details and if you need a BAL assessment, we can give a quote for one.

Prepare and enjoy the summer. Speak to you soon



One Comment

  • Braden Bills

    August 26, 2016, 9:42 pm

    I’ve always wondered why someone would want to have a vegetation assessment done. I didn’t even think about the likelihood of fires! It makes sense that you would want to be sure that the plans around your home aren’t going to be a problem if a fire happens. Thanks for sharing!

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