Star BMS looks at fire safety

Fire Safety For High Rise Buildings


The tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London on Wednesday, 14 June 2017 has vital, life-saving lessons for everyone who lives and works in a multi-storey building in Australia.

Fire Safety Audit

The first step is for communities to commission a fire safety audit – especially vital in buildings that are more than just a few years old, which may not have been built to modern safety codes.

An annual fire safety audit will cover:

  • prescribed fire safety installations and contractor logbooks to ensure compliance with BFSR and relevant Australian Standards with regards to the buildings approval dates and age.
  • essential documentation such as Certificate of Classification, Annual Occupiers Statement and fire engineer reports
  • passive prescribed fire installations i.e. paths of travel, exit doors, fire doors, shutters penetrations, collars and seals
  • the Fire and Evacuation Plan to ensure compliance with Building Fire Safety Regulation and Queensland Fire & Rescue Service (QFRS) requirements
  • emergency training and records such Evacuation Co-ordination instructions, General evacuation instructions, First response instruction and Annual evacuation practice

While Queensland law may not require a Fire Safety Audit, it is a legal requirement that as an owner, you are responsible for ensuring that your building complies with the relevant building fire safety legislation at all times.

Commissioning a professional fire safety audit by a qualified person is a prudent move which fulfils your obligation and gives you and your community peace of mind.

In the meantime, the Queensland Fire & Rescue service has an excellent checklist to follow.

Fire And Evacuation Plan

Queensland’s Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008 says Class 2 Unit buildings (buildings with a height of 25 metres, which is about six or seven storeys) must have a written Fire and Evacuation Plan.

Ensuring a common area Fire and Evacuation Plan for the entire building is the responsibility of the Managing Entity (Body Corporate).

This plan includes:

  • a written fire and evacuation plan for the building
  • evacuation signs and diagrams must be displayed
  • a procedure must be in place to provide ‘adequate instruction’ to prescribed persons
  • an evacuation practice must be conducted annually
  • exit door hardware must be the correct type
  • prescribed fire safety installations must be maintained and inspected regularly

 

Fire Safety Advisor

In addition, the legislation states that owners in these class 2 buildings must appoint and train a Fire Safety Advisor (FSA).

A FSA is a person who holds a building fire safety qualification for an approved building fire safety course, issued within the last 3 years.

The approved building fire safety course comprises 8 units of competency in Workplace Emergency Response within the Australian Quality Training Framework. They are:

  • PUAWER001B – Identify, prevent and report potential workplace emergency situations
  • PUAWER002B – Ensure workplace emergency prevention procedures, systems and processes are implemented
  • PUAWER003B – Manage and monitor workplace emergency, procedures, equipment and other resources
  • PUAWER004B – Respond to workplace emergencies
  • PUAWER005B – Operate as part of an emergency control organisation
  • PUAWER006B – Lead an emergency control organisation
  • PUAWER007B – Manage an emergency control organisation
  • PUAWER008B – Confine small workplace emergencies

Safety Is Your Responsibility

The best legislation and building materials in the world is useless unless individual lot owners and tenants take personal responsibility for themselves and the community they live in.

Fortunately there are simple and practical steps that every person can take every day to help prevent tragic loss of life in a high rise fire.

  • reduce the risk of fire spreading – keep halls and walkways free of rubbish and obstructions
  • keep clear – keep fire escapes clear of obstructions and ensure that stairs are well lit
  • ensure smoke detectors are checked annually
  • ensure you are familiar with where fire exits are in your building
  • ensure you are familiar with where fire extinguishers or other firefighting equipment is on your floor
  • practice personal evacuation plan from your apartment
  • ensure your body corporate/owners corporation conducts an annual fire inspection audit
  • ensure your body corporate/owners corporation conducts an annual fire and evacuation drill

Additional reading:

High-rise apartment fires – evacuate or not? – https://www.fmmagazine.com.au/sectors/high-rise-apartment-fires-%E2%80%93-evacuate-or-not/

London’s Grenfell Tower disaster: how did the fire spread so quickly? – http://www.propertyobserver.com.au/forward-planning/investment-strategy/property-news-and-insights/71724-grenfell-tower-disaster-how-did-the-fire-spread-so-quickly.html

London tower block tragedy ‘could happen here in the blink of an eye’ – https://www.domain.com.au/news/london-tower-block-tragedy-could-happen-here-in-the-blink-of-an-eye-20170615-gwrm9v/



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Recent Comments

1 Comment

Peter Dunphy On June 19, 2017 | Reply

It seems problematic getting residents to volunteer to become Fire Safety Coordinator to assist the Building Manager who is usually the Chief Warden in an emergency situation.
It is uncommon to conduct a fire drill as Building Managers see this as an inconvenience to residents. In a high rise this is essential to familarise residents with exit points, the difficulty in negotiating a staircase and ensure checks are undertaken for an effective evacuation.
There is no good time to conduct a drill but perhaps with adequate warning a weekend exercise may have a higher participation rate rather than a working weekday which is more inconvenient and disruptive. It should be emphasised participation is advisable but not compulsory.
Don’t waste the evacuation drill. Revisit the exercise with resident feedback at the marshal point or a follow up survey.
There is a good chance Building Managers may recruit fire evacuation coordinators through a drill exercise.

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