BUSHFIRE bunkers should, like pool fences, be made compulsory in areas at high risk, planning expert Roslynne Hansen believes.
Professor Hansen, a consultant and adjunct professor at Deakin University, said bunkers could save lives just as the pool fences law had saved many lives, particularly those of children.
Bunkers were particularly important, she said, when the only escape route from a fire was a narrow road shrouded in bush.
The Bushfires Royal Commission has heard several stories of people surviving in their own bunkers, but it has also heard how difficult it is to approve a particular building standard for backyard refuges.
Professor Hansen said a requirement to build bunkers could be considered as part of approving a development in a high bushfire area, and could also be added to existing properties.
”There will be some who oppose this requirement, especially if it is made mandatory in specific locations [or] situations, because of the cost of constructing and maintaining private fire refuges,” she wrote in her submission to the royal commission.
”I regard every human life to be priceless and any action which has a high probability of saving lives during a bushfire attack is, for me, worth the cost.”
Governments could partly pay for the refuges using a rebate system, such as that which has encouraged the uptake of garden mulch and water tanks. The law could be phased in over a number of years.
”That means you can make sure people have done it, and then prosecute them if they don’t,” she said.