Are you aware if your Scheme is compliant with Queensland's fire safety rules? We all need peace of mind that our lives and property are safe from the risk of fire.
We've outlined here the regulations and your Body Corporate's obligations.
Under the Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008 all buildings have annual fire compliance obligations. All buildings classified as class 1B to 9 must comply every year (only stand-alone houses and townhouses are exempt).
Do you have fire obligations?
If your building is anything but a standalone house or townhouse (with no other lot, car park or other class of building part above or below each dwelling, except the dwelling’s own garage), then you have fire safety obligations.
For strata this means almost all BFPs (Building Format/Building Unit Plans) will need to comply. Most SFPs (Standard Format/Group Titles Plans) will have no requirements; the only exception is for common property buildings that are used by tenants and owners.
The Building Code of Australia defines Classes of buildings; all Class 1b to 9 buildings must comply.
What are the objectives of the legislation?
- To ensure persons can evacuate the building safely and quickly in the event of an emergency.
- To ensure prescribed Fire Safety Installations for the building are maintained.
What do we need to do to be compliant?
All Bodies Corporate must ensure the following requirements are met ANNUALLY:
- Maintain all prescribed Fire Safety Installations (FSI)
- Complete an occupier’s statement annually
- Check defined evacuation route(s) are clear and safe and document it
- Review the fire and safety evacuation plan annually
- Appoint and re-train your Responsible Persons annually and keep records of this
- Have an evacuation practice at least annually
All the above must be completed and records kept as evidence of compliance.
What are the penalties if you do not comply?
Penalties range from $8,250 for every single offence of non compliance, and up to $165,000 and three years jail for an offence that leads to a fire causing multiple deaths.
What are your obligations?
Maintain prescribed Fire Safety installations
The Body Corporate for a building must maintain the prescribed Fire Safety installations for that building. Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 - ‘s104D Occupier of a building to maintain prescribed Fire Safety Installations
- The occupier of a building must maintain at all times every prescribed Fire Safety installation to a standard of safety and reliability in the event of a fire.’
The required maintenance regimes for Fire Safety installations are covered in the Queensland Development Code and AS 1851-2012 (Maintenance of Fire Protection Systems and Equipment).
What are the prescribed Fire Safety installations in your building?
Prescribed Fire Installations include:-
- Fire extinguishers, hydrants and fire hoses;
- Exit and other signs;
- Fire sprinkler systems;
- Smoke alarms and fire alarms;
- Automatic fire pressurisation systems (often used in high rise fire escapes);
- Fire control rooms and panels;
- Automatic smoke exhaust and ventilation systems;
- Occupant warning system (public address and alarm system)
All of these elements make up the Fire Safety installations in your building and all of them must be checked for integrity and maintained to a relevant Code or Standard.
- Keep defined evacuation route clear and safe
There are a number of requirements in the Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008, including:
- Keep evacuation routes free from obstructions
- Ensure locks and handles on any doors on the evacuation route are compliant
- Keep evacuation routes isolated from fire
The evacuation routes are defined in the Fire and Evacuation Plan and diagrams. These clearly defined paths of escape must remain compliant at all times. They must be reviewed and inspected at least annually.
- Complete a Fire and Evacuation Plan (including evacuation diagrams) and review it annually
In a fire or emergency, you will only have one to two minutes from when the alarm is sounded to when your life is seriously endangered by smoke or fire. Even small concentrations of carbon monoxide (which builds up rapidly around fires) can render you unconscious and may lead to death in under three minutes. As such, it is very important that your building has a Fire and Evacuation Plan to help ensure the safe, orderly and rapid evacuation of people in an emergency.A Fire and Evacuation Plan contains a lot more than just the evacuation diagrams displayed on walls in buildings. It also contains Evacuation Coordination Procedures, which are procedures for:
- Alerting and communicating with people in the building;
- Alerting the fire service;
- Arranging for the evacuation of people with special needs, members of the public and other persons;
- Checking whether all people have been evacuated;
- Informing the Responsible Person(s) of how many people have been evacuated, who have been evacuated and who are not accounted for;
- Meeting fire officers who attend the building
- Instructions for evacuating the building in accordance with the Evacuation Coordination Procedures;
- Instructions for operating fire-fighting equipment and alarms in the building;
- Procedures for giving instructions and training to people working in the building and to ensure that instruction is given;
- Contact details for the Responsible Persons and other people responsible for evacuating the building, the Fire Safety Advisor (in a High Occupancy Building), as well as for the people responsible for giving instructions and for developing and reviewing the Fire and Evacuation Plan.Penalties range from $11,000 for a simple offence, or up to $220,000 and three years jail for an offence which leads to a fire causing multiple deaths.
- Identify a person responsible for carrying out the evacuation coordination procedures
All buildings (except Class 1a) are required to have a responsible person who can carry out the Fire and Evacuation Plan. The responsible person is commonly known as the Chief Fire Warden. Others responsible are commonly known as Fire Wardens, Floor Wardens and/or Deputy Wardens.The number of people responsible for carrying out the Fire and Evacuation Plan must be determined by a risk analysis of the building. There are no firm rules for determining how many people need to be responsible, except that it must be enough to ensure that their duties may be carried out effectively.
- Have an evacuation practice at least annually
Conduct an annual evacuation practice – ‘The Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008 - Division 7: Evacuation practices44 Evacuation practice – other buildings
- This section applies to the occupier of a building other than a budget accommodation building.
- The occupier of the building must ensure that an evacuation of the building is carried out-
- By an appropriate number of persons; and
- In an appropriate way; and
- At intervals of not more than one year.’
‘Examples of operations of subsection (2)-
- The managing agent for an apartment block has made reasonable efforts to contact residents of the building to organise a practice evacuation but some residents are absent and others are sick. The agent arranges an evacuation at a time when most of the residents are present. The agent also arranges for some residents to evacuate from different parts of the buildings general access area to simulate evacuation of the residents who live near those parts.’ (Emphasis added)
- Complete an occupier’s statement annually
There is a requirement that the occupier of a building must complete an annual occupier’s statement. This statement declares that all Fire Safety Installations are properly installed and maintained by appropriately qualified people in accordance with the QDC, AS 1851 or another appropriate Australian Standard or recommendation. A copy of the statement must be sent to the fire commissioner within 10 days of the date the statement is required to be prepared initially (1 July 2009).
Additional fire compliance requirements
Maintain and store documentation and records to prove fire requirements have been met. There are a number of requirements relating to the keeping of records. Records must be kept in relation to every aspect of fire safety including
- Maintenance of prescribed Fire Installations
- Copies of the Fire and Evacuation Plan and diagrams and records of annual reviews
- Records of training for Responsible Persons
- Records of the evacuation training and evacuation practice conducted
- Records of annual occupiers statements
Most buildings will be compliant if they meet their ANNUAL requirements to:
- Maintain prescribed Fire Safety Installations (FSI);
- Keep checking defined evacuation routes are clear and safe;
- Complete a Fire and Evacuation Plan and review it annually;
- Identify a person responsible for carrying out the evacuation coordination procedures and train them;
- Have an evacuation practice at least annually;
- Complete an occupier’s statement annually.
When a building is audited by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services or an insurer, they are looking for the records to show that all the above obligations have been met. Having up to date records is paramount.
Your safety is top priority
Apart from the compliance requirements, making sure that everyone residing or visiting your premises is safe, should be everyone's no 1 concern. Make sure your Body Corporate Managers or Committee is vigilant about your obligations and compliance.