Regulation of Bushfire Shelter Standards in Australia

April 2, 2012 11:50 am

The Regulation of Bushfire Shelter Standards in Australia

The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) refers to Australia’s regulatory body in regulating building design standards all over the country. It represents every government and representative in the field of construction, as well. ABCB also maintains the Building Code of Australia (BCA), which focuses on the minimum standard requirements for the sustainability and security of building construction and maintenance.

The Victoria Bushfire Incident of 2009

When the Victoria bushfire incident happened in Australia in 2009, a lot of residents started to bring up the factor of safety more aggressively and talked about the safety precautions that they felt they needed to follow in case another severe bushfire attack occurs. One of the safety precautions that they brought up included the use of a fire shelter to hide in when no other means of escape is present.

However, although there were already a lot of different kinds of fire shelters in the market at the time, the Australian government still hadn’t proposed a set standard to ensure their safety yet. Because of this, the ABCB started to take initiative in regulating fire shelter standards during bushfire season, while keeping the important aspects of safety in mind.

Still, the community had its concerns. They worried that there was too much of a lack of standards for fire shelters in the country when there was already heightened anxiety about the occurrence of more bushfire attacks.

The Official National Standard

Soon after that, though, the chairman of ABCB, Mr. Graham Huxley, announced that the chosen standards would eventually become the national standard within six months – and they currently are.

The reason why it took so long to come up with the national standard is pretty simple. In a nutshell, the Australian government wanted to adopt policies with hopes of encouraging voluntary shelter construction against bushfire and mandating their construction in bushfire prone areas. Therefore, they felt that they needed a strong set of standards to follow first.

In the end, they decided to develop mandatory rules for voluntary fire shelter construction since it would involve accreditation and testing of suppliers in the process. Although the mandatory rules might affect each person’s behavioral decisions on whether they should stay or leave, these risks can still be reduced with proper education.

Proper Bushfire Safety Solutions

Naturally, when it comes to bushfire prone areas, there are always going to be various things that need to be resolved, including the type of protection to use during high heat or flames, the air quality inside the fire shelter, the communication to the outside world while inside the shelter, the shelter’s building design, the construction materials used for it and its overall size.

While the ABCB as taken all of these things into consideration before announcing the national standard, they are still completely aware that shelters aren’t stand-alone solutions for the problem. Overall, it would be more important to follow effective coordination when it comes to fire safety altogether and the presence of fire shelters should not necessarily be seen as the ultimate safety measure against it.