How to Prepare Your Home for Bushfire Season
Living near National Parks or in the Australian bush is quintessentially Australian, with many Australian families enjoying all that this unique landscape has to offer. But the iconic beauty of the Australian bush can present challenges and risks to homeowners, particularly from bushfires when the temperatures rise in the summer months. Although we can never be certain when bushfires will occur, we can watch vigilantly for alerts and prepare ourselves for the season by making our homes as safe as possible.
According to the Rural Fire Service of Australia (RFS), the El Nino weather phenomenon characterised by warmer temperatures across the Pacific Ocean will be present this year, increasing the risk of bushfires. And with summer just around the corner, preparing yourself for bushfire season has never been more important.
About bushfire protection
When building or renovating your home, following some simple steps and regulations can help to better protect it in bushfire season. Bushfire protection is the way that certain buildings and homes, located in bushfire prone areas, are built to withstand the radiant heat of flame generated by bushfires. It is specified in the Australian Standard AS3959-2009, ‘Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas’.
When building a bushfire protected home, the focus goes primarily towards including special windows and doors. You can choose these according to your home’s Bushfire Attack Levels (BAL) rating. To know your BAL, simply get in touch with your local council. It’s important to know if your home falls under any of BAL’s classifications as you must have bushfire protection.
The BAL classification
There are six classifications of the level of bushfire risk:
- BAL Low – very low risk
There is not enough risk to have specific building requirements, but there still may be some hazard.
- BAL 12.5 – low risk
‘Protection from ember attack and radiant heat up to and including 12.5kW/m2’. This means there is some risk of ember attack.
- BAL 19 – moderate risk
‘Protection from ember attack and radiant heat greater than 12.5kW/m2 up to and including 19kW/m2’. This means there is risk of ember attack and burning debris, which could be worsened by wind borne embers. It is also likely to be exposed to radiant heat.
- BAL 29 – high risk
‘Protection from ember attack and radiant heat greater than 19kW.m2 up to and including 29kW/m2’. This means there is a higher risk of ember attack and burning debris, as well as a greater level of exposure to a high level of radiant heat.
- BAL 40 – very high risk
‘Protection from ember attack, increased likelihood of flame contact and radiant heat greater than 29kW/m2 up to and including 40kW/m2’. This means that the risk of an ember attack is quite high, as well as the burning debris ignited by windborne embers. There is also a strong chance of exposure to high level radiant heat and fire flames.
- BAL FZ – extreme risk
‘Protection from flame contact, together with ember attack and radiant heat of more than 40kW/m2’. This means that the risk of ember attack and ignited burning debris is extremely high, as well as an increased risk of exposure to flames and levels of radiant heat.
How bushfire screens can help
Installing fire and emergency screens or ember guards is one of the most important things you can do to prepare your home from bushfires. These screens are designed to keep embers and flames from entering into the home or roof, and protect windows from radiant heat.
The screens and mesh are made from special non-combustible materials, and to be effective they must comply with the Australian Standards AS3954-2009. They also have to be properly installed, minding the gap you leave between the screen frame and the area to be covered (it cannot be more than 2mm).
Other ways you can prepare
Besides building your home to be bushfire protected, there are other small things you can do to constantly minimise your home’s risk from bushfire:
- Keep surrounding trees trimmed,
- Clear and remove all leaves from gutters,
- Mow your lawn regularly and keep it trimmed short on summer, ensuring you always get rid of the excess grass,
- Remove all flammable material around your property,
- Have hoses that are able to stretch all the way around the house, and
- Always maintain your house and keep it clear of any leaves or waste that could catch far.
If there is a bushfire near your area and you feel your home may be in danger, there are some more things you can do to keep your home safe:
- Close all doors and windows to keep smoke from entering,
- Keep outdoor furniture under cover,
- Retract pool covers,
- Place your pets in a protected area,
- Remove all clothing from clotheslines,
- If you have asthma or breathing conditions, reduce outdoor activities and make sure you have your medication on you, and
- If driving, keep your lights on and maintain a slow speed.
Taking the necessary measures to prepare your home for bushfire season is crucial, especially if you live in a bushfire prone area. Being informed and learning about bushfire safety can make a real difference in protecting your home, and may even help to save a life.
If you’re considering preparing your home for bushfire season, get in touch with us now. Here at SP Screens we comply with all the Australian standards for Bushfire Protection AS3954-2009, and we want to keep you and your family safe, whether it be from fire, ember, radiant heat, flying debris, or insects. Because when it comes to the safety of you and your family, you can never be too cautious.