Always install an accredited bushfire shelter

Mallacoota bushland
As Victoria’s bushfire season approaches, the best way to stay safe is to follow the advice of your local fire service and leave your property when prompted.

For those who stay to defend their homes or find themselves unable to leave, a private bushfire shelter can provide temporary refuge from the immediate life-threatening effects of a bushfire. Such shelters, however, should not be considered a substitute for creating a bushfire plan and leaving early.

In Victoria, private bushfire shelters must be accredited by the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC), approved for use by the Building Appeals Board, or certified by a registered fire safety engineer.

The accreditation process involves detailed assessment of every element of a bushfire shelter by a panel of experts who are leaders in their fields of expertise. It may also involve fire testing of the product.

To install a bushfire shelter on your property, you must have a building permit authorising the work. You may also need a planning permit from your local council, depending on the zoning of your land.

Bushfire shelters must meet strict performance requirements set out in the National Construction Code, such as having safe access and maintaining acceptable internal conditions when occupied during a bushfire.

Any bushfire shelter installed without a building permit could place its occupants at serious risk of injury or even death if it is used during a bushfire.

The VBA advises very strongly against the construction and installation of do-it-yourself bushfire shelters, such as those constructed from converted water tanks and shipping containers.

Owners should also be aware that it is illegal to build a bushfire shelter, claiming it is for storage or other purposes, when it is actually intended as a refuge during a bushfire.

BRAC has accredited four private bushfire shelters from three companies – Wildfire Safety Bunkers, Frankston Concrete Products and Innovative Building Systems.