Bed and breakfast bunkers up

Bed and breakfast bunkers up

16 November 2010

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Australia —  Summertime is when most of the businesses along the south-west Victorian surf coast make their living.

But many accommodation providers have been forced to reconsider accommodating guests on hot days.

Jock and his partner own cottages surrounded by forest in the hinterland outside of Apollo Bay.

Before Black Saturday, they had planned to fight a bushfire and retreat inside the house.

Since then they’ve dramatically changed their bushfire plan.

Jock has designed and built a bunker on his property big enough to accommodate up to 10 people, including themselves and the maximum amount of guests that may be staying there at any one time.

While they advise visitors not to come on days rated Extreme or Code Red, Jock says they have to work on the premise that the guests will arrive and they therefore have a duty of care towards them.

“Some of the international people of course, English is their second language and there’s a certain problem with trying to look after those people; trying to caution them, trying not to get them to come into the Otways when there’s a bushfire or when there’s a total fire ban.

“Many of them don’t have email when they travel, they certainly don’t have phones that work.”

Jock built a four by four metre refuge into the side of a slope before the State Government released interim regulations for bunkers.

However, he’s confident with the design.

“This structure is I guarantee going to be here for another thousand years.

“I’m an architect and landscape architect so I’ve had about 40 years experience in building all sorts of different structures.”

Jock says he did extensive research to try and find a suitable prefabricated bunker design.

“There was nothing I could find anywhere, either here in Australia or overseas that was going to be really suitable for what I wanted.

“This space that we have here at the moment, this is good for at least 50 minutes with ten people.”

When guests arrive at the property during summer, they are briefed on the facility’s fire plan and are advised to go into town on days of extreme fire danger.

Each room contains instructions on what to do if they happen to be on the property during a bushfire.

“If they hear a siren during the night, it’s me with my hooter up here with a pre-organised signal, they’ve got to immediately grab their passports, wallets, etc and immediately come up to the car park here.”

Jock and his partner have owned the bed and breakfast for around 10 years and have recently decided to retire and sell-up.

The property hasn’t sold yet, which means they’ll be there for another summer.

But Jock remains optimistic about the upcoming fire season.

“We have a lot of people around who keep talking about ‘it’s not if the Otways burn, it’s when the Otways burn’ and I get mildly angry at that sort of comment.

“I don’t think the Otways have to burn at all. I think we can all take responsibility for ourselves and make sure that none of this stupidity happens this season.”

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