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Fire safety

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Fire safety

Marrickville Council has implemented a Fire Safety Program to ensure that suitable fire safety standards exist in all buildings.

Through an ongoing auditing program, particular emphasis is placed on inspecting existing residential development such as boarding houses and entertainment venues such as pubs, clubs and theatres. These developments present a high risk to life in the event of a fire and may need to be upgraded to ensure the safety of the occupants.

Development Applications and Construction Certificate Applications lodged with Council are also assessed to ensure the proposed buildings will comply with the fire safety requirements of the Building Code of Australia.

This information aims to increase general fire safety awareness, and develop an understanding of fire safety issues and how Council commonly deals with building fire safety.

Smoke Alarms

The Building Legislation Amendment (Smoke Alarms) Act 2005 and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Smoke Alarms) Regulation 2006 commenced in NSW on 1 May 2006.

The Legislation refers to residential and certain shared accommodation across NSW and requires:

  1. the installation of one or more smoke alarms in buildings in which persons sleep;
  2. smoke alarms installed in such buildings must be operational; and
  3. persons do not remove or interfere with the operation of smoke alarms installed in such buildings.

Do you live in or own:

Residential accommodation

  • detached houses, terrace houses, town houses, villa units (Class 1a buildings)
  • apartments, home units, flats (Class 2 buildings)
  • caretakers flats, single residences above shops (Class 4 parts of buildings)
  • relocatable homes, e.g. manufactured homes and moveable dwellings, but not tents, campervans, caravans or the like

Boarding Houses/shared accommodation

  • small boarding houses, guest houses, hostels; backpackers accommodation; bed and breakfast accommodation (Class 1b buildings not more than 12 persons with a total floor area not exceeding 300m²)
  • large boarding houses, guest houses, hostels, backpacker accommodation; residential parts of hotels, motels, schools, health care buildings, detention centres; certain residential accommodation for the aged, children and people with disabilities (Class 3 buildings more than 12 persons)
  • hospitals and nursing homes (Class 9a health care buildings)

If you answered yes to any of the above then the laws apply to you and you must have a minimum of one working smoke alarm on each level of your home.

Boarding Houses (BH) – Class 1B and Class 3 buildings

An annual boarding house (BH) inspection program is operating to ensure that all approved and known places of shared accommodation (boarding houses BH) within the Marrickville area are inspected, regulated and also subject to inspection fees. These premises either have consent / approval (Development Application, Building Applications, Construction Certificates) and/or previous repealed Ordinance 42 Local Government Act licenses, (please note that BH premises are no longer licensed under Ordinance 42).

Council officers will conduct inspections of boarding houses either unannounced or by appointment depending on the circumstance and risk factors. Council assesses the premises for compliance and adequacy with the requirements of the Building Code of Australia, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979, and the Local Government Act, 1993, which refer to such things as the number of boarders/rooms; light and ventilation; kitchen facilities; general cleanliness and hygiene; fittings, fixtures and furniture; consent requirements to ensure compliance with the approval; and in particular fire safety.

If problems are found during the inspection, a Council fire safety notice can be issued. This will normally be followed by an Order requiring the owner or operator to meet their obligations with respect to fire safety requirements. Council officers can also give on the spot penalties to individuals who commit fire safety offences. The building owner is responsible to ensure that all required fire safety measures installed within the boarding house are maintained so they work at the required standard during a fire emergency. Every boarding house is required to have suitable fire safety measures. Each year boarding house owners are required by regulation to provide an Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS) to council and Fire and Rescue NSW. Also the implementation of good fire safety management practices which involves the owner, operator, manager, agent and occupants can to reduce the likelihood of an outbreak and impact of fire.

Planning/zoning requirements as to where boarding houses can be permitted are regulated by Council's LEP (Marrickville Local Environmental Plan 2011). The type of construction and level of fire safety is regulated by the BCA (Building Code of Australia). Marrickville Council's controls, plans and policies provide an urban planning framework to guide development in the Marrickville Local Government Area (LGA). Planning controls can be in the form of Local Environmental Plans (LEPs), Development Control Plans (DCPs), State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) such as the Affordable Rental Housing SEPP 2009 as well as Council specific codes, strategies and policies.

The following provides an overview of the Boarding House Act:

  • The Boarding House Act 2012 (BHA) and the Boarding House Regulations 2013 was passed as a whole-of-government response to concerns about the rights and safety of people living in boarding houses.
  • The BHA requires operators of two types of boarding houses to register their boarding house with NSW Fair Trading. The 2 types of boarding houses that need to be registered are:
    • "general" boarding houses – boarding premises of 5 or more residents, and
    • "assisted" boarding houses – boarding premises where 2 or more residents have "additional needs".

Once boarding houses have been registered with Fair Trading, councils must inspect the premises within 12 months. The BHA provides councils with new powers to gain access to boarding houses in order to conduct the initial compliance inspection. The inspection is to ensure the premises comply with the council’s own policies and existing laws including the Local Government Act 1993 (LGA) and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EPAA)

The following links provide information concerning Boarding Houses:

For additional information please visit:

Classification of boarding houses – National Construction Code, Building Code of Australia

Class 1b

  1. a boarding house, guest house, hostel or the like—
    1. with a total area of all floors not exceeding 300 m2 measured over the enclosing walls of the Class 1b; and
    2. in which not more than 12 persons would ordinarily be resident; or
  2. 4 or more single dwellings located on one allotment and used for short-term holiday accommodation, which are not located above or below another dwelling or another Class of building other than a private garage.

Class 3: a residential building, other than a building of Class 1 or 2, which is a common place of long term or transient living for a number of unrelated persons, including—

    1. a boarding house, guest house, hostel, lodging house or backpackers accommodation; or
    2. a residential part of a hotel or motel; or
    3. a residential part of a school; or
    4. accommodation for the aged, children or people with disabilities; or
    5. a residential part of a health-care building which accommodates members of staff; or
    6. a residential part of a detention centre

Essential Fire Safety Measures

What is an Essential Fire Safety Measure?

Fire safety measures are any measures that are installed in a building to ensure the safety of persons using the building in the event of fire. The Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 contains a list of statutory fire safety measures that have been incorporated into the building to ensure the safety of the occupants within the building in the event of a fire or other emergency, including:

  • Access panels, doors & hoppers to fire-resisting shafts
  • Automatic fail-safe devices
  • Automatic fire detection and alarm systems
  • Automatic fire suppression systems
  • Emergency lifts
  • Emergency lighting
  • Emergency warning & intercommunication systems
  • Exit signs
  • Fire control centres and rooms
  • Fire dampers
  • Fire doors
  • Fire hydrant systems
  • Fire seals protecting openings in fire-resisting components of the building
  • Fire shutters
  • Fire windows
  • Fire Hose reels
  • Lightweight construction
  • Mechanical air handling systems
  • Perimeter vehicle access for emergency vehicles
  • Portable fire extinguishers
  • Safety curtains in proscenium openings
  • Smoke and heat vents
  • Smoke dampers
  • Smoke detectors and heat detectors
  • Smoke doors/Solid core doors
  • Standby power systems
  • Wall-wetting sprinkler and drencher systems
  • Warning and operational signs

Annual Fire Safety Statements

 

What is an Annual Fire Safety Statement?

From 1 July 2012, Council will be regulating the submission of the Annual Fire Safety Statement through the Annual Fire Safety Statement Register. Clause 182 of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Regulation 2000 requires the owner of any building class 1b or 2 -9 to maintain each fire safety measure in that building in accordance with relevant standards of performance as per the Development Consent, Construction Certificate or a previous Fire Safety Order that was issued upon that property.

This clause places ultimate responsibility for the maintenance of fire safety measures on the building owner. Owners and occupiers must realise that maintenance of their fire safety systems is not just a moral obligation, but also a legislative requirement.

Each year, in accordance with Clauses 177 and 180 of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Regulation 2000 the owner of a building must:

An Annual Fire Safety Statement is a statement issued by or on behalf of the owner of a building to the effect that:

a) each essential fire safety measure specified in the statement has been assessed by a properly qualified person and was found, when it was assessed, to be capable of performing:

i) in the case of an essential fire safety measure applicable by virtue of a fire safety schedule, to a standard no less than that specified in the schedule, or

ii) in the case of an essential fire safety measure applicable otherwise than by virtue of a fire safety schedule, to a standard no less than that to which the measure was originally designed and implemented, and

b) the building has been inspected by a properly qualified person and was found, when it was inspected, to be in a condition that did not disclose any grounds for a prosecution under Division 7 of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Regulation 2000.

Building owners need to be aware of the date on which the Fire Safety Statement must be submitted to Council and make the necessary arrangements for the fire safety measures to be inspected and certified before this due date. Owners are advised to employ the services of a professional fire safety consultant who is suitably qualified and fully aware of the relevant Building Code of Australia Requirements.

All Annual Fire Safety Statements submitted to Council are subject to a registration fee. See our Fees, Charges and Concessions page for details.

New Buildings

A Fire Safety Schedule will be issued with the Construction Certificate listing the essential fire safety measures that are to be installed in the building. A Fire Safety Certificate must be submitted prior to the issue of an Occupation Certificate. This certifies that each of the specified essential fire safety measures are capable of operating to the performance listed in the Fire Safety Schedule.

Subsequently, an Annual Fire Safety Statement must then be issued every year.

Old Buildings

Old buildings and buildings built before current Building Code of Australia standards are not exempt from fire safety requirements and it is the obligation of the owner to ensure that sufficient fire safety measures are in place.

It is necessary for owners to work with Council to achieve acceptable fire safety compliance and to undertake voluntary upgrades as needed by engaging the services of private fire safety consultants and engineers.

Where current BCA compliance is not achievable without substantial demolition and/or redevelopment, alternative solutions may be proposed to council by accredited professionals who have undertaken a detailed assessment of the building.

Owners of heritage buildings can contact The Heritage Council of NSW for guidance with fire safety compliance.

Penalties for Fire Safety Offences

Council can issue a range of other penalties for offences such as:

  • Not displaying Fire Safety Certificates, Annual Fire Safety Statements, or fire safety notices on-site
  • Failure to maintain essential fire safety measures
  • Interfere, obstruct, remove or damage fire safety notices, fire doors, fire exits or paths of travel that lead to exits
  • Failure to provide smoke alarms in any residential building in accordance with Smoke Alarms Regulation

All offences can result in fines being issued on-the-spot, and at the same the property may also be subject to an Order being issued so as to resolve the matter which caused the offence.

Aged Care Facilities

New Sprinkler System Laws

On 16 August 2012, the NSW Government announced that it would become mandatory for all residential aged care facilities to have an automatic sprinkler system installed. The new laws include the Environmental Planning and Assessment (Fire Sprinkler Systems) Regulation 2012, State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) Amendment (Fire Sprinkler Systems) 2012 and the Fire Sprinkler Standard.

The NSW Government is encouraging all facilities without a sprinkler system to install them as soon as possible to improve the safety of residents. Existing facilities will need to install a sprinkler system within 18 months, however some providers may request three years to complete the installation.

For more information see the Planning and Infrastructure website – Fire safety in aged care facilities.

Need Assistance?

If you need any further information please contact Council's Fire Safety Team on 9335 2222.

Please note this is a guide only to the relevant legislation, which should be consulted in the event of any required detailed interpretation. The Legislation includes: The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and Regulation thereunder, including the Building Code of Australia.

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