BUSHFIRE ATTACK LEVELS (BAL)

BAL (Bushfire Attack Level) assessments are a detailed way of gauging a home and properties ability to resist a bushfire by using complex scientific modelling looking at the homes construction type, radiant heat performance, proximity to outbuildings, slope of the land, vegetation type and fire shielding.
Conducting a BAL helps to categorize a property into 1 of 6 BAL categories. By doing this, a clearer understanding of the risks can be assessed, and the construction of the proposed building(s) can be determined to minimise bushfire risk to the property and buildings as per AS3959.
Existing homes can be retrofitted to help resist bushfire attack. However, categories BAL-40 and BAL-FZ are considered too higher risk for retrofitting to be of any additional protection, expert advice should be sought in these cases.
To minimise risk to buildings, many things can be done. The use of non combustible materials is one of the key things that can assist in minimising risk. Enclosing sub floors, filling gaps greater than 3mm, clearing gutters of leaves, clearing combustible materials from around the house perimeter are some other things that can be done to assist in minimising risk.

BAL Flames

The aim of AS3959 is to improve the ability of a building to withstand bushfire attack. Conducting a BAL (Bushfire Attack Level) assessment clearly identifies the risks associated with the rating given to the property and buildings on the property. By determining the BAL, suitable materials can be selected in relation to the rating.
The minimum rating for homes in bushfire designated areas is a BAL of 12.5. In the extreme rating of BAL-FZ (FZ = Fire Zone), a special window system is required as windows broken during a fire can allow embers into the house. This new system complies with AS1530.8.2.

In the event of a major bushfire, the fire services commissioner has overall control and co-ordinates the CFA/MFB fire services as well as the DSE. As the fire services commissioner also reports to the minister of police and emergency services, the police and SES can be mobilised to assist in emergency evacuation, rescuing and traffic management during a bushfire. Road closures and traffic alerts are updated on the VicRoads website state map. Ambulances are mobilised as needed but aren’t directed to areas of immediate danger. The Land and Fire Management Division of the DSE (Department of Sustainable Environment) are in charge of controlled burns on Victoria’s public land and work closely with Parks Victoria.
During major bushfires, the DSE also works with local councils, St John Ambulance, SES, Australian Defence Force and Victoria police. DSE also works closely with the Country Fire Authority (CFA) on the rural / urban interface across Victoria. Each year both agencies attend the same fires on numerous occasions, with either DSE or CFA controlling the fire as the lead agency for small or controlled burns. After a major bushfire, the DHS (Department of Human Services) is available to give support for affected people. This includes counselling, food, shelter, clothing etc.

 

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