It is critical that buildings are constructed to contemporary standards, and regularly upgraded and maintained, to ensure appropriate fire safety standards are maintained.
Wagga Wagga City Council works closely with NSW Fire and Rescue to provide a high level of fire safety in our community.
We also team with NSW Fire and Rescue and licensing Police to conduct regular fire safety inspections of bars, clubs and other entertainment venues.
Council is committed to educating building owners, managers and occupiers about their legal responsibilities regarding fire safety.
Council and the NSW Fire and Rescue can issue orders to ensure that buildings and temporary structures are safe and will take immediate action to protect lives.
A Fire Safety Certificate must be submitted to Council for all new building works that involve fire safety measures such as hose reels, exit sign, etc with an application for an occupation certificate. The Final Fire Safety Certificate Form can be found here.
Fire Safety Orders
Fire Safety Orders are issued by Council or the NSW Fire and Rescue where the level of fire safety within a building is found to be inadequate.
Fire Safety Orders may be issued as Emergency Orders where immediate action is required to reduce fire risk. Where an Emergency Order is issued it is imperative that the terms of the order be complied with immediately and that Council is contacted to establish that the terms of the order will be complied with.
Where an Emergency Fire Safety Order is not complied with within the required period Council may immediately seek Court directions to have the terms of the order fulfilled.
Where a lesser fire risk is evident or more extensive works are required a Notice of Intention to Serve an Order will be issued. The notice will indicate the terms of the proposed order, the proposed period of compliance and the period in which representation must be made to the Council officer who has issued the notice.
In the case of fire safety upgrades the Notice of Intention to Serve an Order may require that a report assessing the level of fire safety within the building and recommended action be submitted to Council within a determined period. Once the report has been found satisfactory a second Notice of Intention to Serve an Order may be issued requiring that work indicated in the recommendation of the report be carried out within a determined period.
Upgrading your Building
It is the responsibility of the owner of every building to make sure that they not only maintain essential fire safety measures and safe egress from their buildings but upgrade buildings when necessary to protect occupants.
There are three ways fire safety upgrades, in general, occur:
- voluntary upgrades
- conditions of development consents
- fire orders
Voluntary upgrading is where the building owner approaches Council with a plan to upgrade the building and negotiates the terms of appropriate orders or lodges a development application and construction certificate application to effect a planned upgrade. This process is actively encouraged and with proper planning is the most economic option.
If the upgrade is identified under a development application Council may impose development consent conditions which require the Construction Certificate to detail specific works to upgrade the building even where no such works were proposed by the development application. See clause 93 & 94 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000.
Fire orders are issued by Council or the NSW Fire and Rescue when the level of fire safety within the building is brought to their attention through the a development application, a change of building use or when a complaint is received. The building will initially be inspected by Council's Fire Safety Officer, a Council Building Surveyor or a NSW Fire and Rescue. See section 121B (Order 6) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
Seek expert advice
Council does not carry out fire safety audits as Council is the regulatory authority. It is therefore important that building owners seeking expert advice to assist in undertaking a fire safety audit of their building under AS 4655-2005 Fire safety audits.
The assessment report is required to compare the level of fire safety in the building against the current requirements of the Building Code of Australia. Where deficiencies in fire safety are found the report must provide recommendations indicating the method of achieving an acceptable level of fire protection within the building.
Building design and the level of risk posed to occupants will be different in each case and accordingly the upgrade requirements, fire safety priorities and associated upgrade expenses will vary.
In many cases it is not practical to achieve strict compliance with current requirements of the Building Code of Australia. Assessment using the Performance Clauses of the Building Code of Australia may provide a means of determining that an acceptable level of fire safety can be provided. In these circumstances it is recommended that upgrade assessments are conducted by a qualified building surveyor and possibly a fire engineer.
Once the assessment report is provided to Council the recommendations of the report are considered and may be referred to the NSW Fire and Rescue for comment. Where the recommendations of the report are found to be acceptable, Council will then serve a Fire Order or agree that the appropriate process is a development application and construction certificate application where major works are required.
The process will vary depending upon the scale of the upgrading required.
Annual Fire Safety Statements
All building owners and property managers should be aware of their responsibilities for the maintenance of essential fire safety measures in their buildings, as outlined in the Environmental Planning & Assessment Regulation 2000. Clause 182 of the Regulation requires the owner of a building to maintain each essential fire safety measure in that building in accordance with relevant standards of performance, and those standards are usually nominated by Council in a previous 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. It is important that owners and occupiers realise that maintenance of their fire safety systems is not just a moral obligation or their duty of care, but more importantly is a legislative requirement as mentioned above. Apart from this, other vital reasons for maintenance are:
- To ensure safety of building occupants
- To continuously preserve the function and performance of fire safety systems and equipment
- To maintain and protect assets - proper preventative maintenance can save money
- To avoid business interruption and disruption to activities/operations in the event of fire
Generally what will happen every year is that you may have several different contractors attending the premises at specific intervals throughout the year to provide a maintenance service for several different fire safety measures. Each contractor should then give you some type of certification in relation to the assessment they have carried out, listing the specific measure/s they have serviced and referencing a particular Standard of Performance that the installed measure is achieving. Once you have obtained and gathered all this together, you are then required to consolidate all this information and transfer it collectively onto the one document known as an Annual Fire Safety Statement.
The correct statutory version of an Annual Fire Safety Statement is available at Council as a blank Annual Fire Safety Statement form that may be used for the above purpose. This form can be collected in person from Council, or may be downloaded from this website.
A copy of Council's Annual Fire Safety Statement Form can be found here.
For more information contact Council's Planning Directorate on 1300 292 442.
Penalties for Fire Safety Offences
The NSW State Government has introduced a stringent penalty system to assist local Councils, whose role it is to administer compliance with current fire safety regulations. As a result of Amendments to the Environmental Planning & Assessment Regulation 2000, building owners who are late (even 1 day) in submitting their Annual Fire Safety Statements may receive a $500 fine in the first week after the Statement is due. If this continues to occur, the fine progressively increases in increments of $500 per week for every week thereafter, up to a maximum of $2000.
It is suggested that the arrangements for maintenance checks of existing fire safety measures be commenced approximately 3 months before the deadline for when the Annual Fire Safety Statement is due. This is in order to provide sufficient lead time for building owners to co-ordinate all of the necessary testing with various maintenance contractors well ahead of the deadline to ensure they have time for compliance, which should also take into account an allowance for access difficulties and repair time etc.
The legislation states that an Annual Fire Safety Statement must cover all essential fire safety measures installed in the building. Even if a Statement is submitted on time but is only partially completed, it will still attract a penalty.
A range of other penalties, which vary in monetary value from $100 to $3000, are also applicable 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.
Smoke Alarms to Dwelling Houses
Smoke alarms are a mandatory requirement for all dwelling houses in accordance with 186A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000. This has been the case for some time now. In accordance with the Regulation, the owner must ensure that smoke alarm/s are located on or near the ceiling in any storey of the building and in every corridor or hallway associated with a bedroom. If there is no corridor or hallway associated with a bedroom then a smoke alarm is to be installed between that part of the building containing the bedroom/s and the remainder of the building.
The smoke alarm/s are required to comply with the requirements of AS 3786. As a minimum a battery operated smoke alarm/s is needed to a single dwelling house.