Building Manager Review Issue 3 2013

Welcome to the July edition of the Building Manager’s Review. In this issue we deal with fire, essential services and safety tips.


The consequences of fire in an apartment complex can be devastating! Over 100 lives are lost every year due to fires in dwellings. Each year, Fire and Rescue NSW attends approximately 4,500 residential fires in NSW with approximately 30% of them occurring in winter months.

Building managers, strata managers and owners corporations have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure all fire systems work appropriately, are tested regularly (as to code) and there is a safe environment for all residents.

The risk of fires in complexes is elevated simply due to the larger amounts of residents.

The most common causes of fire are:

  • cooking

  • heating equipment

  • smoking

  • electrical appliances

  • children playing with matches or lighters

Essential services and maintenance

What are Essential Services?

Essential Services are safety installations in a building that assist in reducing risk to life and property in the event of an emergency or fire. These measures may include but are not limited to:

  • Automatic Fire Sprinkler Systems
  • Automatic Fire Detection and Alarm Systems
  • Emergency Warning and Intercommunication Systems
  • Exit / Emergency Lighting
  • Fire-Resistant Door sets
  • Fire Hose Reels
  • Fire Hydrant Installations
  • Fire Mains and Water Supply Services
  • Mechanical Ventilation Systems
  • Portable Fire Extinguishers and Fire Blankets
  • Smoke Dampers
  • Smoke Control Systems
  • Smoke Doors

What is maintenance of essential services?

Essential services, by law, need to be inspected, tested, maintained and have necessary records on file. Maintenance can be done weekly, monthly, quarterly, bi-annually and annually depending on what essential service item is being inspected – for example the fire hydrant diesel and electric pumps may be inspected and tested weekly, exit and emergency lighting is inspected and tested bi-annually, fire doors inspected and tested annually and fire and smoke dampers inspected and tested annually.
The Fire Protection Association of Australia states “Fire protection systems and equipment are required to be in a functional state that allows them to

operate at all times. Throughout the life of a building, fire protection systems and equipment may only be required to operate infrequently. However, if they fail to operate as designed, a substantial threat to occupants and property may arise”.

In the event of repairs to critical items such as hydrant pumps you should inform your insurance company and the local fire brigade of the fault and rectification process.

What are the main fire issues in buildings?

I spoke to a representative from Fire & Rescue NSW and asked him what issues the Fire Brigade face when attending emergencies in complexes.
  • no access – leads to forced entry by the Fire Brigade & a costly repairs for the strata plan
  • no block plans with clearly defined zones – valuable time wasted by the Fire Brigade
  • fire indicator panel – isolated zones due to faults. Faults need to be remedied immediately
  • fire exits – obstruction due to dumping of rubbish
  • poor system maintenance – no service register or service company details. Service documents inform the Fire Brigade of any system faults & issues
  • residents not evacuating when alarm sounds
  • ill-informed on-site security – on-site personal must be better educated & have a sound knowledge of the property & system layout
  • smoke alarms – installed in the wrong area & not maintained appropriately
  • signage – there must be highly visible hydrant, hose reel and extinguisher signage

Safety tips

Are you fire safe in the home?

The fire services recommend this simple safety checklist to assist in keeping your home fire safe.

  • Test smoke alarms annually
  • Having a written escape plan from your apartment in case of fire and practicing it regularly
  • Never leave cooking or any other open flame including candles or oil burners unattended. If you must leave the room take something with you as a reminder of what you are doing e.g. cooking – take a wooden spoon with you.
  • Never smoke in bed and take extra care if consuming alcohol whilst smoking
  • In Winter take extra care when using heaters, electric blankets or open fires
  • Don’t overload power points and switch off appliances when not in use
  • Always keep lighters and matches away from children and educate them that they are “tools not toys” to only be used by responsible adults
  • If you have a gas or electric always check that it is in safe working order before lighting and that it is always in the care of a responsible adult when in use
  • Never use an elevator in a fire emergency.
  • Use the emergency exit stairs only.
  • Never use a faulty electrical appliance, or one that has a frayed cord, cracked or broken plug, or any appliance that has given someone any kind of shock
  • Keep all combustible material (e.g. clothes, bed linen, curtains and tea towels) away from stove tops, heaters and lamps as heat build-up can cause fires
  • When using your clothes dryer, ensure the load goes through a full cycle to allow the dryer to cool down. Also clean the lint filter of your clothes dryer each and every time you use it.
  • Electric blankets should be laid flat and secured tightly on the bed and remember to turn off your electric blanket at the power point when you get into bed
  • Electric blankets are not recommended for use by babies or young children as “bed-wetting” may occur
  • Clean ovens and hot plates regularly to prevent the build-up of spilled fats and burnt foods
  • Remove bread crumbs daily from toasters.
  • Do not plug high wattage appliances (such as heaters) into power boards as they could overheat the circuit wiring through overload and cause a fire
  • Never touch anything electrical with wet hands or bare feet
  • Do not use portable heaters in bathroom areas. Instead, you should have either a strip heater installed high on the wall or a ceiling unit installed by a registered electrical contractor
  • Do not place extension leads near heaters and cookers
  • Know where your switchboard is located on your property in case of an emergency.

If the Fire is in your apartment.
1. Get everyone out. Stay low as you go out. Close the doors as you leave.
2. Alert others on the floor by knocking on the doors.
3. Activate the fire alarm if there is one (if not already sounding).
4. Go to the nearest fire exit stairwell.
5. Call the Fire Brigade from a floor BELOW the fire.
6. DO NOT use the elevator.

If the Fire is not in your apartment. 1. Feel the door with the back of your hand for heat, if the door is hot do not open it. If it is cool open slowly and check for smoke in the hallway.
2. Leave the building by the nearest fire exit stairwell if it is safe to do so.
3. DO NOT use the elevator.
4. Assemble at your buildings assembly area.

If you are trapped in your apartment.
1. Stay calm.
2. Close all doors between yourself and the fire.
3. Go to a room that has a phone and call the Fire Brigade even if you can see Fire Trucks in the street below.
4. Tell the Fire Brigade exactly where you are in the building.
5. Go to a window and use a torch or a bed sheet to attract the attention of the firefighters.

Special Needs.
If you have special needs that prevent you from exiting your building by the stairwells, talk to a neighbour or the building manager. Make them aware of your special needs for assistance in case of an emergency.

You should try to set up a support network of neighbours and residents in your building.

See if your building/floor has a safe area set aside for people with a disability.

The Fire Brigade can assist you with developing an escape plan that you can practice with people that live with you. A few hours of pre-planning may save your life!

Ensure that egress routes in your building are keep clear of any obstructions.

Report all potential fire hazards to your building manager.

Smoke alarms

Smoke alarms in strata dwellings are mandatory. Smoke alarms are life-saving devices that provide benefits for occupants. They detect smoke well before any sleeping occupant would and provide critical seconds to implement actions to save life and property.

Residents must have at least one working smoke alarm installed on each level of their home.

Smoke alarm batteries should be changed annually. Set a time aside such as Easter, the beginning daylight saving or New Year to replace your batteries. In a rented apartment the batteries should be replaced either annually or on every change-over of tenant.

Fire & Rescue recommends the following:

  • test your smoke alarms monthly
  • every six months you should clean your smoke alarm with your vacuum cleaner to remove any particles that will hinder smoke alarm performance
  • replace your smoke alarm with a new unit every ten years.

Fire Safety Statement

What is an Annual Fire Safety Statement?

An Annual Fire Safety Statement is a certificate that attests that each Essential Fire Safety Measure installed in the building or on the land has been assessed by a properly qualified person and was found to be capable of performing to the standard required by the most recent Fire Safety Schedule.
The owner of each building (or the owner’s agent on behalf of the owner) is required to provide the certificate to the Council and the Fire Brigade each 12 months and to display the current certificate prominently at the premises.

What happens if I don’t submit an Annual Fire Safety Statement?

Clause 177 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 states that it is an offence to fail to provide the statement. Escalating cumulative weekly penalty notices apply for this offence:

  • 1 week late $500
  • 2 weeks late an additional $1000
  • 3 weeks late an additional $1500
  • 4 weeks late an additional $2000

Although it is not required to do so by law, Council commonly sends a reminder
notice to building owner at its address for rates and notices. Therefore Council’s
policy is that Penalty Notices issued for late submission of the AFSS will stand.
Failure to submit an Annual Fire Safety Statement could also lead to civil or criminal
proceedings in the Land and Environment Court. The maximum penalty for breach is
$110,000, or council can obtain Court orders that the AFSS be provided to Council.

What needs to be tested?

As all strata complexes are designed differently not all buildings have the same fire safety measures in place.
Items that require testing, but not limited to include:

  • hydrant booster pumps
  • fire dampers
  • mechanical air handling system
  • emergency and exit lighting
  • fire doors (including apartment front entry doors)
  • lightweight construction
  • hoppers
  • fire extinguishers
  • fire hose reels
  • fire panel
  • occupant warning system
  • paths of travel
  • smoke alarms

Have a question you’d like answered or feedback?

Just get in touch –

K&S BMS has been working in the strata sector for almost 30 years. Our services are designed to assist owners corporations with the smooth running of their buildings. Duties we undertake include: by-law enforcement, coordinating repairs and maintenance, assisting with building defects issues and claims, coordinating fire and essential service compliance, managing various maintenance contracts, liaising with owners and tenants in the day-to-day operation of their building, and waste management.


Jamie Killorn – Director

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.