In June this year, an inner city apartment block in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley was engulfed by flames. Some residents had to be saved from the building with cherry pickers, while other residents told the Courier Mail that some alarms within the complex allegedly did not sound and they were only alerted to the fire when they either saw or smelt smoke. On this occasion, there were no causalities but several months on and the multi-million dollar repairs continue.
While investigations into the cause and implications of the Brisbane fire are on-going, this incident serves as a reminder of how important it is to maintain a rigorous fire safety regime for all strata titled properties. Living within close quarters means that fire has the potential to spread extremely quickly to the homes of many.
In strata properties the most common cause of fire is electrical, usually related to cooking or heating equipment. A smouldering lounge caused by a nearby heater or a dirty oven can fill an apartment with toxic smoke long before a fire breaks out.
Effective fire safety measures have the potential to saves lives and prevent building damage.
In New South Wales, there are laws governing fire safety. The Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 states the fire safety requirements that must be followed in the construction of new buildings and also the regulations for existing properties.
While every Council is bound by the same regulations, each Council applies the rules in a slightly different manner, so it’s important to check the details with your Council. In this case, let’s take North Sydney Council as an example.
For new buildings, North Sydney Council expects, in line with the statutory requirements, “The owner of a building, or the owner’s agent, needs to provide a fire safety certificate to the certifying authority (a Council or a Private Certifier) with an application for an Occupation Certificate… A copy of the certificate also needs to be given to the Commissioner of New South Wales Fire Brigades, and displayed in the building in a prominent position.”
On the other hand, existing buildings are required to complete a fire safety statement every year. “A copy of the statement also needs to be given to the Commissioner of New South Wales Fire Brigades and displayed in the building in a prominent position.”
North Sydney Council may issue a Penalty Infringement Notice to property owners if they don’t submit the Annual Fire Safety Statement by the due date.
The fire safety statement confirms that essential fire safety measures have been assessed by an appropriately qualified person and that, “all Fire Safety Notices (applicable to Fire Isolated Stairway, Passage or Ramp) are displayed, all Fire Exits, Doors relating to Fire Exits, and Paths of Travel to Fire Exits, are not obstructed or impeded.”
Engaging the services of a fire safety inspector is an annual expense; therefore we recommend that Owners Corporations lock in the cost of the inspector into their budget.
Netstrata has a dedicated Fire Coordinator Tracy Stockton who is responsible for our scheme compliance. For more information regarding fire safety, contact your Strata Manager.