Upholding strata fire safety compliance can be one of the most complicated components of managing a strata scheme situated in the inner city. This is even with Australian Standards set in place to ensure fire safety equipment is maintained consistently and is fit for use.
This is generally because the strata plans that make up the city of Melbourne are quite unique, to say the very least, and range from townhouses, ground floor units, and multi-level apartment complexes, amongst many others. Naturally, the fire safety requirements of one complex aren’t likely to be identical to another.
So how can strata managers ensure that the Fire Safety Schedule as outlined in their body corporate’s documents, is perfectly suited to protect your strata scheme? Today, our fire safety specialists at Alexon will be sharing all their expert knowledge on maintaining strata fire safety compliance plans, to support both strata managers and owners corporation committees in keeping their complex and its community safe year-round.
This is how to ensure you maintain your strata fire safety compliance plans:
According to Australian Standard AS3876, all buildings must be fitted with a working smoke alarm on every level and positioned in proximity to all bedrooms and living room spaces. Although strata title owners are responsible for replacing dead batteries in their smoke alarms, strata managers are responsible for ensuring that these smoke alarms are serviced annually, alongside all other fire systems installed within their strata plan at the time of its registration with council offices.
An Annual Fire Safety Statement (or ‘AFSS’) must be submitted by strata managers every year for the purpose of confirming that all fire safety systems and equipment installed upon registration of a strata plan are in good working condition. The AFSS should be submitted to your local council offices and to your local fire safety authorities to be reviewed by qualified personnel. It’s common for your local authorities to charge an administrative fee to body corporations upon receiving or following the review of their submitted AFSS.
Unlike the AFSS that must be submitted annually, Fire Safety Certificates are generally issued only upon completion of a building development, following preliminary fire safety inspections conducted by an accredited fire safety specialist. This practitioner then submits their inspection report to local council offices in order for that new development to receive its Fire Safety Certificate. Fire Safety Certificates must be reissued if any new fire safety systems or equipment are installed in that building. Fire Safety Certification can be revoked if strata managers fail to submit the AFSS or other supplementary documentation required to maintain certification for that calendar year.
Now that you have a solid understanding of the AFSS and how it relates to Fire Safety Certification for your strata plan, let’s take a closer look at developing Fire Safety Schedules (or ‘FSS’). The FSS for your strata plan is a sort of maintenance checklist designed to ensure that all fire safety systems and equipment that can be found throughout each lot and in common areas of your strata scheme, are tested annually and are included in your AFSS.
As your FSS will largely be shaped by the fire safety equipment and systems installed in and around your strata scheme, you’ll find that these schedules can differ greatly from complex to complex. For instance, a complex of free-standing units or townhouses that are all fitted with their own smoke alarms will have a fairly simplistic FSS. Contrastingly, a multi-level apartment complex with smoke alarms in every strata lot, a fire hose reel in the carpark, and a sprinkler system that runs across all floors, will be accompanied by a lengthier safety schedule.
As you can see, the bulk of responsibilities surrounding maintaining fire safety compliance for strata managers revolves around making sure that all fire safety systems and equipment adhere to strict maintenance schedules. That being said, there are naturally additional safety measures that must be considered in order to ensure that your strata fire safety compliance plan and all of the lots that make it up, are as safe as possible for title holders.
For starters, strata managers are encouraged to consider whether additional fire safety systems or equipment is required to support fire safety for their strata plan. Would your strata plan benefit from the installation of a fire hose reel to be used on common property? Should there be access to a fire extinguisher in common areas? Do emergency exit lighting or signage need to be installed?
If your strata scheme doesn’t possess shared amenities like a building lobby, car parks, swimming pools, or fitness facilities, then chances are that you don’t require too much fire equipment installed on your strata scheme aside from smoke alarms and perhaps a sprinkler system. However, if these larger amenities, rooms, or buildings comprise your common property, then these fire safety systems and equipment must be installed in these areas, alongside clear informational signage outlining how the equipment must be used. Similarly, fire exits or staircases are required on all multi-storey residential buildings, alongside clear emergency exit signage.
There are many potential penalties for failing to remain compliant with Australian fire safety requirements for strata plans. If your strata manager fails to submit your AFSS to local council and fire safety authorities, they may receive fines of up to $110,000 by authorities for non-compliance. Strata managers may even be prosecuted if steps are not taken to maintain strata fire safety compliance following the issue of fines.
Alongside this, non-compliance may result in strata managers being liable for potential lawsuits by strata title holders or even civilians who may accrue injuries during incidents where fire safety equipment had failed or had not been provided.
In truth, maintaining compliance with fire safety standards for strata schemes isn’t too far removed from the essential fire safety measures that are practised by commercial building owners and managers, or even the safety measures you use every day in your own household. Regardless of whether your strata plan is a multi-level complex or a subdivided plot of land for two or three units alone, maintaining strata fire safety compliance is best achieved by sticking with the maintenance schedules for all your fire safety equipment and following maintenance expectations as outlined by Australian Standards.
See Also: Fire Alarms In The Workplace
With Australia’s urban centres being more densely populated than ever before, developing fire safety procedures has become a matter of utmost importance for all responsible building managers, developers, and residents alike. Having a succinct and effective fire safety plan in place alongside installing fire alarms as well as other fire safety measures, can help to not only mitigate risks of fires occurring in your building, but also ensure that your building occupants maintain the strongest chances possible for evacuating in the unlikely event that a fire does occur.
Today, we’ll be sharing some fire safety tips specifically for residential and commercial inner city buildings. Our own fire safety specialists here at Alexon will also be providing some information surrounding fire safety protocol and regulations so that both inner city building residents and building managers can be fully informed on fire safety standards and how their building can maintain compliance.
The steps to develop a fire safety plan are:
First and foremost, any modern fire safety plan should naturally include fire equipment testing and routine equipment maintenance. Maintaining all of your active fire protection (or AFP) equipment is foundational to developing a good fire safety plan for your building, simply because virtually all instances where your building could experience a fire will call for the utilisation of fire equipment.
Fire equipment, like fire extinguishers and smoke alarms, is also one of the most important ESMs (or ‘Essential Safety Measures’) that your building will require. Other ESMs will actually work in conjunction with your building’s fire equipment. For example, ESMs all stipulate that alongside all buildings being fitted with fire exits on every floor, all fire doors must also be kept closed, unlocked, and clear of obstructions at all times.
If you’re a tenant in a residential building or even a business owner in a commercial building and have reason to believe that your building is fitted with faulty fire equipment or a failure to maintain other ESMs, then you’re encouraged to alert the issue to your building managers. If your building managers fail to rectify the situation in a timely manner, they may be in breach of urban fire safety laws and could be issued a fine from your local council or the Fire Authority.
Although fire safety procedures are vital to healthy and secure living in all inner city spaces, these plans become increasingly essential in high-rise buildings or buildings with multiple storeys. The reason for this is simply because fire or emergency evacuation processes can naturally become more complicated when elevators, escalators, or staircases are involved. This is precisely why all inner city buildings are expected to develop and maintain an emergency evacuation plan that can be used in the event of fires or other emergencies like natural disasters.
Your building’s evacuation plan should also be printed and posted in full detail on every floor of your building so that all occupants can familiarise themselves with the fire safety procedures they are expected to follow. Copies of your evacuation processes should also be clearly displayed with large graphics and in simple English by fire exits and in foyers for any guests who may be visiting the building as well as existing building occupants.
Having a building evacuation plan in place is one thing, but making sure that all your building’s occupants know just how to act in the event of a fire, is a whole other task on its own. That’s why it’s a requirement that all buildings or facilities conduct fire drills at least once annually. If your building houses a business that possesses a higher fire risk (such as a workshop, factory, or even a hospitality business), then your industry standards may require multiple fire drills to be conducted annually.
On top of being a highly essential component in your building’s fire safety plan, running fire drills is also a superb way of staying on top of your ESMs and their maintenance requirements. If you experience faults with sirens or alarms during your fire drill, then you can take note of these during your drill with minimal fuss. These faults can then be easily rectified by fire safety electricians proactively rather than retroactively.
Alongside knowing how to act in the event of a fire, your building’s occupants should also maintain strong personal fire safety themselves by following fire safety tips or best practices for lighting fires in domestic or commercial settings. For instance, if your building is fitted with air conditioning units or ducted heating, then providing occupants with written information on how to help mitigate fire risks when using these fixtures, can also help support your building’s fire safety strategies.
Conscientious building managers could take measures to provide new residents or building occupants with fire safety tips and other documents that can help maintain their building’s impeccable fire safety measures. And this information doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of printed pamphlets. Even digital safety resources for new residents or building occupants could help maintain responsible fire safety throughout your building.
If you can ensure that both your building evacuation plan and recommended fire safety tips are provided to new residents or occupants, then you’ll know that you’ve done your due diligence as a building manager.
With all the fire safety tips and fire risk mitigation strategies we’ve shared and outlined above, chances are you’ll be leaving this little guide with a lot to think about. But let us leave you with just one final, ultimate fire safety tip: the best fire safety plans are ones that take a dynamic approach to fire preparedness. For building managers, it’s not enough to fit your building out with fire safety equipment. And for residents, it’s not enough to participate in fire safety drills or evacuation processes without actively practicing fire safety yourself in your own personal and professional lives.
At the end of the day, fire safety is a collective responsibility. Treating it as such and holding one another accountable for upholding fire safety standards in your building, will help keep you all firmly at low risks of experiencing damaging fires in your inner city building.
See Also: Fire Alarms in the Workplace
Complete the form to request a call
from a friendly Alexon team member.