Bushfires in Australia have become such a common occurrence, we often refer to the hot summer months as the "bushfire season." As the season approaches, we take steps to protect our property as much as possible, but when a bushfire strikes, this is often impossible. If a bushfire is approaching, the best thing to do is evacuate, but what if this, too, becomes impossible? In a life or death bushfire emergency, having a fire bunker may be your only chance of survival.
What is a Fire Bunker?
A fire bunker is a structure or shelter specifically designed to protect occupants from injury or death caused by fire. In 2009, the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission undertook what they believed to be the creation of the world's first Technical Standard for the design and construction of fire bunkers. They did this in response to the urgent need for such a Standard in face of the increasingly devastating bushfires in Victoria and the failure of some fire bunkers to provide adequate protection.
To date, the State of Victoria is the only State or Territory in Australia to have taken such measures. The Building Commission of Victoria now offers a Certificate of Accredition for fire bunkers in bushfire prone areas up to the highest bushfire risk level, "Bushfire Attack - Flame Zone" (BAFZ).
Features of a Fire Bunker
By definition, a fire bunker must be able to shield its occupants from fire and intense heat. The challenge to fire bunker designers is in finding ways to provide this protection while at the same time providing adequate access to the shelter and the ability to retain ventilation when it is needed and shut it off when ventilation would be life threatening in a wildfire. The basic features of a fire bunker include:
- A thick concrete shell.
- A heat shielding and flameproof access door.
- A ladder or stairs that can be easily and quickly used even by children and the elderly.
- Enough oxygen within the sealed unit to sustain life for the duration of the emergency.
- Adequate room for the number of persons on your property.
These are the basic requirements. Additional features that enhance the safety of a fire bunker may include:
- A reserve air supply.
- A water tank and sprinkling system designed for extinguishing embers above the shelter.
- A high temperature window or peephole that can be fully sealed off from the inside of the bunker.
- A deflection cage to help prevent fallen trees from trapping occupants inside the fire bunker.
- A 12 volt or solar power supply. This is especially important for charging mobile phones.
If you feel you need to invest in a fire bunker for your family's safety, it is worth looking into the other optional extras that fire bunker suppliers offer, too. Some of these may include a bunker location siren and/or strobe light, signage that includes instructions and emergency phone numbers, a first aid kit, a survival kit and others.
Firefighting officials and manufacturers of fire bunkers stress the importance of remembering that fire bunkers are only to be used as a last resort. It is important to evacuate the area if at all possible. If this is not possible, a fire bunker can save your life and the lives of your loved ones.