The Country Fire Authority (CFA) recommends having a backup plan in case your house ignites. Your backup plan should identify shelters and places of last resort around your property. The objective of this section is to help you identify and site potential shelters and places of last resort that can be used to shelter in if your primary place of shelter (typically your house) becomes untenable.
Where to start
While the safest option is to leave the area before the bushfire arrives, it is important to identify areas around your property where you may be able to shelter as a place of last resort in case you become trapped or your home catches fire and cannot be defended.
Potential shelters include (not in any particular order) a well prepared building (e.g., a shed, garage, or neighbours house) or an accredited private bunker. Any of these could function as your primary or secondary place of shelter.
Potential places of last resort are typically those places that you will evacuate to when you have no other means of escape or shelter (i.e., a literal place of last resort). Common places of last resort include areas of open land (e.g., a ploughed paddock or sports ground), a stationary car in an open field, and bodies of water (e.g., a beach, pool or dam).
- Shelters should be located relatively close to your home, preferably more than 10 metres but less than 20 metres away.
- Consider constructing a compliant private bushfire shelter (PBS). More information on PBS is available from the Victorian Building Authority and the CFA
- Consider making your shelter a fixed structure (i.e., a building) made of non-combustible materials, with non-combustible internal elements. These shelters should be sealed to the outside environment (as close to an airtight as practical) to maintain the integrity of the building’s envelope.
- When the shelter is a fixed structure, make sure the surrounding area is free of heavy fuels (such as Classified vegetation and sources of consequential fire).
- When used as a place of last resort, open land should be free of heavy fuels and fine surface fuels. If possible, shelter inside a vehicle in the middle of the open space (as far away from hazards as possible), or shelter behind a solid non-combustible object (such as a water tank or fence) that can act as radiant heat barrier.
- Consider building an enclosed (or semi-enclosed) pathway (using non-combustible materials) between your home and the shelter, to protect against wind, radiant heat, and other attacks. Use tactile surfaces or lighting aids to assist navigation. It is very important to maintain a safe escape route from your home to the shelter in the event that your house (or other refuge) ignites.
- Pathways leading to/from shelters should be free of combustible surfaces, steps, and steep slopes. This will reduce the risk of trips and falls (trips and falls are common during bushfire because of low visibility).
- Plan for multiple contingencies in case your first options fail.
- Do not place gas cylinders or combustible elements within or adjacent to shelters or the pathways leading to them.
- Do not shelter in vehicles that are parked closer than 6 metres to a building, in case fire spreads from the building to the car, or vice versa.
- Do not rely on a single exit path to the shelter.
- Do not assume that your shelter will not be on fire when exiting the house.
Bushfire Neighbourhood Safer Places are intended as a place of last resort