Devastating bushfires have ravaged large areas of Victoria and other regions of Australia, destroying homes and forcing residents to flee affected areas. The deaths of a number of people either caught in affected areas or working to prevent the spread of the fires is a tragic reminder of the importance of Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO).
Bushfire Management Overlay
Any area that is vulnerable to serious bushfires is covered by the Bushfire Management Overlay. This means that developers and homeowners are required to obtain a planning permit, depending on the type of development. The BMO is particularly applicable when it comes to new builds, as relevant bushfire protection measures are required.
The general purpose of the BMO is to evaluate risk in areas that are identified as bushfire zones. Hazards that may help bushfires to spread are of particular concern. Some of the areas that are assessed include slope, site access, and vegetation. Any identified risked should be managed with appropriate protections.
The CFA and CSIRO have carried out extensive work as part of the Victoria government’s efforts to manage the risk of bushfires in affected areas in the state. Local councils also play a significant role in ensuring that the BMO is updated and implemented to help mitigate the risk of bushfires.
Reconstruction & New Developments
In the wake of Victoria bushfires, once the dust has settled and affected areas are made safe, developers and homeowners will begin the job of reconstruction and new developments. Many of these developments will need to comply with the requirements of the BMO. The CFA takes on the role of providing invaluable bushfire management guidance to councils and the Minister for Planning. Any existing or new regulations may affect reconstruction and development projects.
There are several issues that developers and homeowners need to consider. If you are planning on storing flammable or volatile goods on your property, the CFA provides detailed guidance on fire protection and emergency planning. The monitoring and maintenance of alarm systems are also essential to help prevent false alarms that could misappropriate much-needed resources.
Bushfire Attack Level (BAL)
Another critical element of preventing the spread of bushfires is Bushfire Attack Level (BAL). If you are building in an area that is vulnerable to bushfires, construction standards are essential. Bushfires can spread rapidly from building to building unless adequate measures are taken to ensure structures withstand bushfires. In many cases, homeowners and their families are not willing to abandon a home. Greater protection is essential in increasing the likelihood of a building in the path of a fire front.
BAL is a rating system that provides developers and homeowners with information on required protection measures. A BAL–LOW rating, although it is the minimum risk level, requires construction that meets BAL-12.5. The reason that BAL-12.5 is considered a risk is due to ember attack. The risk of BAL–19 moderate as there is a higher risk of ember attack, burning debris and increased radiant heat.
BAL-29 applies to high-risk areas where ember threat is further increased and debris affected by wind-borne embers is increased. If an area or site is considered BAL-40, the threat to buildings is considered very high, with the risk of exposure to direct flames as well as ember attack and radiant heat. Areas that are at extreme risk of bushfires spreading and causing devastation are designated as BAL-FZ. Levels of radiant heat, ember attack, and exposure to direct flames are a significant risk.
Construction Inspections in Bushfire Areas
If you are planning reconstruction or a new build in bushfire-prone areas, all work must comply with BMO and BAL requirements. It is important to work with a construction inspection company that can identify any building standards that fall short of required standards.
If you are rebuilding your home in Victoria or planning a project that requires planning permits and must meet necessary bushfire protection standards, reach out to our Houspect offices today to arrange regional inspections.