Australia– Backyard bushfire bunkers in Victoria will need to meet basic safety standards under regulations that came into force this week.
The State Government has reluctantly agreed to introduce the standards under pressure from the Bushfires Royal Commission.
The move also comes after concerns were expressed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that some companies were making false claims about their bunkers.
Bunkers will be illegal unless they meet minimum standards on such things as size (depending on how many people live on the property), building materials and air flow.
People who want to build a bunker will have to get a building permit.
All bunkers will need to be accredited.
Anyone who has already constructed a bunker is required to have it inspected by a registered fire safety engineer.
National regulations on bunkers are expected to be introduced next year. However, the State Government has decided to introduce its “interim” standards in a bid to prevent people buying or building dangerous bunkers for this fire season.
State Planning Minister Justin Madden recognises that some people are planning to install a bunker as a last resort – despite the State Government’s advice that such shelters should not be relied on to save lives.
“That’s why we are putting in place interim regulations to provide Victorians who do decide to build a bunker or private bushfire shelter with a clear set of guidelines they need to adhere to,” he said.
In September, the commission called for building standards to be developed for bunkers before this bushfire season. The consumer watchdog last month criticised three companies for advertising bunkers that they said met “Australian standards” when no such standards yet existed.