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
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