What is a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL)?
With temperatures continuing to rise and the risks of bushfires a constant threat during the harsh Australian summers, it’s important to be prepared for any fire-associated dangers. That’s why the Australian government has the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) rating, designed to keep your home safe and adequately prepared in the event of a bushfire.
Below, we’ll explain in further detail how the BAL rating works and what impact it can have on your home and any future or current renovations or building projects you take on.
BAL ratings explained
BAL ratings are used to measure a home’s risk of exposure to ember attack, direct flame contact and radiant heat. If you’re in a bushfire-prone area, the BAL rating you receive will impact the building and construction requirements of your property.
There are 6 levels of BAL ratings, starting with BAL low, which is the lowest rating possible in a bushfire-prone area. If you receive this rating, it means that while there is a chance of an ember attack, the radiant heat flux exposure of this attack won’t be higher than 12.5kW per square metre. This means your construction or building process won’t come with any specific construction needs.
The construction requirements start with the second rating level, which is BAL 12.5. This rating means that there’s a risk of radiant heat flux exposure at a top of 19kW per square metre, as well as a possibility of wind-ignited embers and ignited debris that could cause a fire. You’ll need to work with new home builders or renovators that understand the complexities of these requirements, but they include factors such as all glazing used to be made from safety glass and all roof coverings being non-combustible or made from specified materials.
The highest BAL rating is BAL FZ, which indicates a significantly high risk of an ember attack, direct exposure to flames and extreme radiant heat, with the radiant heat flux exposure as high as 40kW per square metre. Some of the many BAL FZ construction requirements include all decking having no gaps and being made from a non-combustible material and all external doors and windows being screened with metal screens.
It’s worth noting that each local council will have different requirements for each BAL rating, so make sure you’re following all the relevant rules and regulations for your area.
How to find out your BAL rating
While anybody can perform the BAL assessment needed to assess your property’s rating level, this assessment will have to be approved by the building surveyor tasked with providing your building permit.
With this in mind, it’s recommended that you enlist the services of a qualified professional, who understands the ins and outs of this process and will save you from a rejected assessment and a delay in your building permit.
To find a qualified professional, you can contact your local council or visit the Fire Protection Authority website for a list of experts. If your BAL rating is 12.5 or higher, you’ll be provided with a report that contains the relevant building specifications you’ll need to follow and the materials you can and cannot use.
While a fire-resistant home may end up costing more than you might have hoped, it’s a small price to pay for the safety of yourself, your family and any future tenants.