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Helping communities improve bushfire resilience

Bushfires can happen unexpectedly and cause devastating effects on land, homes and livelihoods. So in the wake of the Black Summer bushfires, WFI’s parent company, IAG, is proud to be working with the Bushfire Building Council of Australia (BBCA) on a world-first project to increase bushfire resilience and help protect lives.

The project – the Bushfire Resilience Star Rating system – has been made possible thanks to $3 million in funding from the Australian Government, and industry support from IAG, BlueScope, and NAB.

The Bushfire Resilience Star Rating system aims to help people living in bushfire risk areas assess and adapt their homes to make them more resilient to bushfires, using a self-assessment app that’ll be free to all Australians, and is planned to be released nationally in 2023.

The Star Rating System will convert decades of scientific research into a clearly communicated action plan for any home – old or new. The app puts practical, evidence-based tools for improving bushfire safety in the hands of Australians and is focused on empowering them to make informed decisions about their bushfire risk.

IAG Executive Manager Natural Perils, Mark Leplastrier, said as an insurer, IAG has witnessed the devastating impact of the Black Summer bushfires firsthand while helping customers recover and rebuild.

“We’ve been working with the BBCA team over the last two years to input into the development of the Bushfire Resilience Star Rating system and we’re excited about its potential to improve people’s understanding of bushfire risk, and to incentivise and support them to take action at their property to reduce and mitigate these risks.”

BBCA CEO, Kate Cotter, said it’s estimated “that at least 90 per cent of buildings in high bushfire risk areas are not resilient to bushfire, putting lives, homes and livelihoods at unacceptable risk”.

“We have brought Australia’s leading bushfire scientists, engineers and industry together to give households a personalised, practical solution to adapt their homes,” Ms Cotter said.

“Resilient homes build sustainable communities and economies – making our nation stronger, safer and better prepared for the inevitable next disaster. We are very excited to get to work on real action and incentives for households.”

The voluntary and customised Star Rating system will provide users with a tailored appraisal of their property’s bushfire risk via a self-assessment app, and a list of practical tasks they can do to make it more bushfire resilient.

Developed by Australia’s leading bushfire experts, it takes a best practice and holistic approach to bushfire resilience that covers building, landscaping, and ongoing maintenance.

The Star Rating system also has the potential to give insurers, banks and investors a framework for financing and rewarding bushfire resilience adaptations.

Former Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner and BBCA Expert Advisory Board Member, Craig Lapsley, said: “The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements has recommended a national approach and urgent action to inform and reward household resilience.”

“After decades of inquiries and recommendations we are finally able to apply Australian science and technology to deliver practical action that will have global impact”, Mr Lapsley said. “This is a break-through moment and an exciting world-first project that will help protect lives and properties.”

How will the Bushfire Resilience Star Rating system work?

  • Using the app, households will enter their address to assess the risk of bushfire at that site.
  • Next, households are asked a series of questions about their home and landscaping.
  • A Star Rating (1 to 5 stars) is then provided for the property along with a tailored list of evidence-based, site-specific measures that will achieve a higher rating. For example, mitigation measures might relate to adapting a home’s roof, decking or garden to increase bushfire resilience.
  • Each additional Star Rating achieved because of changes that are made halves residual risk - creating a strong incentive for homeowners to take action.
  • The Star Rating and actions are only shared with the person completing the assessment. It is up to the household how they use or promote their rating.
  • Households will be encouraged to maintain their Star Rating through annual self-assessment. Industry and governments will be encouraged to provide incentives for the upgrade and maintenance of Star Rated property.