World first project helps communities improve bushfire resilience

World first project helps communities improve bushfire resilience

IAG and the Bushfire Building Council of Australia are helping people in bushfire risk areas assess and adapt their homes.

In the wake of the devastating Black Summer bushfires, IAG is proud to be working with the Bushfire Building Council of Australia (BBCA) on a world-first project to increase bushfire resilience and protect lives.

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. The national launch of the Bushfire Resilience Star Rating app is planned for 2023 when it will be available for free to all Australians.

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

IAG Executive Manager Natural Perils, Mark Leplastrier, said: “As an insurer we witnessed the devastating impact of the Black Summer bushfires firsthand as we helped our 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.”

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

BBCA CEO, Kate Cotter, said: “We estimate 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.

“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 Star Rating system is voluntary and customised. It will provide individuals with a tailored appraisal of their property’s bushfire risk via a self-assessment app, and a list of practical things 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.

We’re excited about [the app’s] potential to improve people’s understanding of bushfire risk, and to incentivise and and support them to take action at their property to reduce and mitigate these risks.

Mark Leplastrier

IAG Executive Manager Natural Perils

Funding is provided through the Australian Government’s National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA), who support national projects targeted at reducing the risk and impact of natural disasters on Australian communities.

Executive Director of Disaster Risk Management at NRAA, Michael Crawford, said: “The Bushfire Resilience Star Rating system is an important initiative to help Australians understand their disaster risk and what they can do to reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards.”

“We can’t prevent natural hazards from occurring so reducing our vulnerability to those hazards is central to limiting the impact they can cause. The Star Rating self-assessment app will help put knowledge in the hands of all Australians to guide their risk reduction decisions.”

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. 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.
BBCA Resilience Star Rating team

The BBCA Expert Advisory Panel is made up of independent bushfire resilience experts working to solve complex disaster risk problems with innovative adaption tools. Pictured from left to right: Craig Lapsley, Glenn Kell, Stephen Kip, Ian Bennetts, Vince Dowling, Kate Cotter, John Nicholson and Gavin Freeman.

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