Australia has a love hate relationship with bushfires. It has been so much a part of the natural history here it has become an endemic part of existence; without bushfire certain plants wont propagate, although the rest of anything living, fears it. It’s just one of the many parts of the Australian lifestyle that needs to be taken in a serious light – and be prepared for.
Assessing Bushfire Risk
There have been major developments in ways to protect in the case of bushfire – from household escape plans, to continuing technology in fire fighting strategies and more recently since dramatic fire events, building design. Australian Standards have developed AS 3959, and as part of that, a system that determines your Bushfire Attack Level or BAL. In the BAL, it gives a provision for products in the building industry to be rated according to their resistance to bushfire attack.
The BAL rating for your situation can be determined by referring to AS3959 or guides provided by your local services. NSW Rural Fire Service has a comprehensive user guide as an Application Kit to the BAL for reference. You will attain one of six rated categories. Your risk is assessed by looking at type and proximity of vegetation, and the slope of the land your property is on. Your calculated BAL rating is used to select building products. Products will be rated with the same figures, offering protection for that level of BAL rating.
BAL Rated Glazing Options
G.James Glass & Aluminium has developed a BAL manual to guide people through making the right decision when looking at glazing products. It outlines the G.James glazing suites that should be used for buildings in the following high risk categories:
- BAL 19
- BAL 29
- BAL 40
The G.James BAL manual outline the glazing system, glass type, hardware, gaskets and mesh requirements for the individual systems according to your BAL rating. As an example, if you have a rating of BAL 29, and need a double hung window, we will suggest you use the following:
The 136 Series Double Hung Window with a minimum of 5mm toughened glass, standard mohair, glazing vinyls and other hardware, and external screens require a fire retardant spline with aluminium or steel mesh with an aperture of less than 2mm. This is an example only, and you need to confirm details with G.James staff that can ensure these are the products you need for your individual situation.
Your selection of glazing should not be limited. G.James have BAL glazing solutions for sliding doors, louvres, double hung windows, fixed windows, hinged doors, bifold doors, awning windows, casement windows and sliding windows. When you talk to G.James personnel, they can guide you through the options.
Requirement for Buildings
There is no requirement to alter existing building materials, but if you plan on building or renovating, you will need to implement the recommendations of the the BAL report. It is a wise idea to be aware of the rating your property would get even if you aren’t looking at building in the near future. Finding out the weak points, you can make minor adaptions to the building materials or surrounding vegetation to give yourself a better chance in case fire ever threatens your neighbourhood.
Be aware of the different ways you can keep knowledgeable about risks in your area. Know your local brigade and SES, having their contact details on hand. Check your states fire services for more information.
During recent fire incidents when the heat was on, communication became difficult due to cut lines, and websites being bombarded and going down. The NSW Rural Fire Service had a great system of reporting regular updates on their face book feed. Know where to keep up to date on the latest details and leave emergency lines free for those that require it.
Be prepared and stay safe.