Fire Safety

Hawkesbury City Council is required to ensure that appropriate fire safety standards exist in all buildings.

Fire safety is the responsibility of all property owners, property managers, tenants, and business operators who own, occupy or manage buildings in the area ranging from various types of residential properties to commercial, retail and industrial premises.

It is your responsibility as a building owner to ensure that:

  1. All fire safety measures are inspected by a competent fire safety practitioner. Visit the NSW Planning and Environment website for guidelines to ensure the measures are being maintained to the appropriate standard of performance. This should occur at least annually and more frequently in certain circumstances
  2. An Annual Fire Safety Statement is provided both to Council and Fire and Rescue NSW.
  3. Fire Safety Statements are displayed in a clearly visible prominent position inside the building such that Council or Fire and Rescue NSW officers can see them when inspecting the premises; and
  4. All exit doors are kept in good working condition, and corridors or other paths of egress are kept clear of any obstruction.

These measures aim to prevent the spread of fire and to save property and lives.

The Fire and Rescue NSW website also has valuable information about home fire safety including a Fire Safety checklist.

What are fire safety measures?

The most common fire safety measures found in buildings are Portable Fire Extinguishers, Emergency Lighting, Exit Signs, Fire Hose Reels and Fire Hydrants. Buildings that involve sleeping occupants will also have smoke alarms.

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 may 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. Below is a list of all fire safety measures:

  • Access panels, doors and 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 and intercommunication systems
  • Exit signs
  • Fire control centres and rooms
  • Fire dampers
  • Fire doors
  • Fire hose reel systems
  • Fire hydrant systems
  • Fire seals protecting openings in fire-resisting components of the building
  • Fire shutters
  • Fire windows
  • Lightweight construction
  • Mechanical air handling systems
  • Perimeter vehicle access for emergency vehicles
  • Portable fire extinguishers
  • Safety curtains on a theatre stage (proscenium openings)
  • Smoke alarms and heat alarms
  • 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.

You will know what fire safety measures are applicable in a building from looking at the Fire Safety Schedule that exists for the building premises

What is a Fire Safety Schedule?

A Fire Safety Schedule identifies each fire safety measure that either exists in the building or on the land or that is otherwise required to be installed in the building or on the land.

The Fire Safety Schedule also identifies the standard to which the fire safety measure must be installed and maintained. In most cases that will be the relevant Australian Standard.

The Building Code of Australia (BCA) requires the installation of essential fire safety measures. A Fire Safety Schedule must be issued with a Construction Certificate or Complying Development Certificate for new building work involving certain types of buildings (identified under the BCA as Class 1b and Class 2 – 9 buildings).

Council may require the installation of essential fire safety measures or the fire safety upgrading of buildings in the following instances:

  • Development Applications for building works

When a Development Application for works involving the rebuilding, alteration, enlargement or extension of an existing building is submitted to Council for approval, Council will consider whether it would be appropriate to require the existing part/s of the building to be brought into total or partial conformity with the BCA. If that is the case, Council will inform the applicant via placing conditions on the development consent.

A construction certificate would be required to be issued prior to work commencing and a Fire Safety Schedule will be issued at the same time.

  • Development Applications for change of use

Where the use of an existing building is proposed to be changed, but the applicant does not seek the rebuilding, alteration, enlargement or extension of the building, Council must still consider the consequences to the safety of persons proposed to occupy the building as a result in the change of circumstances and purpose for which the building will function.

In considering the change of use, Council will determine and nominate any essential fire safety measures that are needed to be installed, thereby requiring building work to be carried out even though none is proposed as part of the application. A Fire Safety Schedule will also be issued with the consent in these circumstances.

Smoke Alarm Regulations

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 (these are 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, camper vans, caravans or the like).

Boarding houses/shared accommodation:

  • small boarding houses, guest houses, hostels; backpackers accommodation; bed and breakfast accommodation (these are Class 1b buildings but only where not more than 12 persons may ordinarily sleep and 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 with more than 12 persons)
  • hospitals and nursing homes (Class 9 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 property.

The NSW State Government allows building owners to install either hard-wired smoke alarms, or ones that are battery-only operated in certain existing buildings. However, the Regulation amendment does not override a local council's role under the Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979 when a council has to consider a development application in which changes are proposed to existing buildings.

The Regulation amendment does not override the need for a new building or an addition/alteration to an existing building to comply with the Building Code of Australia (BCA). Construction certificates and complying development certificates for building work cannot be issued unless the proposed works demonstrate compliance with the BCA which requires the installation of a hard-wired battery backup smoke alarm. The Regulation amendment also does not prevent a council from issuing a fire safety upgrade order on a building to which the Regulation amendment applies, because if an existing building is subject to a current order, the Regulation amendment does not override that order.

If any residential premises (i.e. dwelling, unit, hotel, motel, boarding house, backpackers etc.) ever comes under the scrutiny of a council through an application that is submitted such as a development application, complying development certificate, building certificate, etc., then that application will be subject to an assessment under the BCA. If that occurs then the requirements of the BCA will be applied to that assessment and it will be insisted at that time that the BCA requirements for a ’hard-wired’ smoke alarm system compatible with that particular building use be provided.

Similarly, these same requirements will be applied to buildings that Council audits for fire safety purposes and then follows-up with the issuing of a fire safety order. Basically, more stringent BCA requirements will be applied to any buildings that attract Council's involvement for any sort of assessment or audit.

Fire Safety Certificates

A Fire Safety Certificate is a certificate which is typically issued at the completion of a building project once the installation of new or upgraded essential fire safety measures has been completed.

The fire safety certificate states that the newly installed measures have been provided in accordance with the approval documentation and are operational. A fire safety certificate is required:

  • before the issue of an Occupation Certificate under clause 153(1) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000; and
  • if a fire safety order has been issued in relation to a building or premises.

A copy of the Fire Safety Certificate is also to be forwarded to Fire and Rescue NSW and a copy must be prominently displayed in the building.

Annual Fire Safety Statements

All building owners and property managers must maintain essential fire safety measures in their buildings, as outlined in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000.

Clause 182 of the Regulation requires the owner of a building maintain each essential fire safety measure in that building in accordance with relevant standards of performance, and those standards are usually nominated in a Fire Safety Schedule. A Fire Safety Schedule will most likely have been issued by Council or an accredited certifier under a previous development consent, construction certificate or complying development certificate. It is also a requirement that it be attached to any previous fire safety order that may have been issued upon that property.

The Regulation places the ultimate responsibility for the maintenance of fire safety measures with the building owner.

Apart from legal requirements, other vital reasons for maintaining fire safety measures include:

  • to ensure safety of building occupants
  • to preserve the function and performance of fire safety systems and equipment
  • to maintain and protect assets – proper preventative maintenance can save money, and
  • to avoid business interruption and disruption to activities/operations in the event of fire.

An annual fire safety statement is a statement issued by or on behalf of the owner of a building to the effect that:

1. 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:

  • 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
  • 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

2. 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 and Assessment Regulation 2000.

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. These contractors are required to be competent in their field. 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.

An annual fire safety statement for a building must deal with each essential fire safety measure in the building premises.

There is no requirement to submit an annual fire safety statement for single dwelling houses classified as Class 1a buildings under the Building Code of Australia. Typically, Class 1a refers to single dwelling houses, terraces or villa houses. If in doubt, ask.

Blank Annual Fire Safety Statement forms for existing buildings are available here:

Annual Fire Safety Statement form

It must be submitted within 12 months after the date on which the previous statement or the final Fire Safety Certificate was given, and it must be lodged within 3 months of the date of inspection and assessment. The statement must be submitted to Council (council@hawkesbury.nsw.gov.au) and the Commissioner of NSW Fire and Rescue (afss@fire.gov.au)

Please note an administration fee is payable for the lodgement of the Annual Statement to Council.

What will happen if I do not submit an Annual Fire Safety Statement?

Council treats fire safety very seriously. Where required under legislation to provide a statement, the owner is responsible to ensure lodgement, regardless as to whether the property is tenanted or vacant.

Please consider the following:

  • incomplete or late fire safety statements may result in a fine.
  • if the fire safety statement is not completed satisfactorily, you will be required to submit a corrected statement.
  • failure to provide an annual/supplementary fire safety statement can result in on-the-spot fines ranging from $1,000 to $4,000 per week.
  • if a fine is issued, it will not excuse you from the need to submit an annual fire safety statement. If you fail to meet your statutory requirements, Council will take legal action against you and/or will continue to issue on-the-spot fines. Penalty Notices relating to fire safety offences are very heavy.
Vacant Buildings

All fire safety measures listed on the annual fire safety statement and fire safety schedule including egress paths and exits must be maintained at all times even when the building becomes vacant, in case of fire.

Vacant buildings should also be the subject of regular security checks and ongoing maintenance to prevent the premises falling into disrepair and possible unauthorised access by squatters and vandals. Maintaining the fire safety measures and ongoing maintenance will promote the safety of persons who are nearby the premises or who access vacant buildings (e.g. security, Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Police, building owners, Council staff, real estate agents, etc.).

New Buildings

After receiving development consent and before work commences, 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.

At the completion of building work, 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.

Every year after, an Annual Fire Safety Statement must then be submitted to Council and to Fire and Rescue NSW as well as being prominently displayed within the building every year.

Existing Buildings

All existing buildings are required to submit each year an annual fire safety statement to Council and NSW Fire and Rescue.

There is an administration fee payable for lodgement with Council.

Very Old Buildings and Heritage Listed Items

Very 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 by accredited professionals who have undertaken a detailed assessment of the building for Council’s consideration.

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

Aged Care Facilities

In August 2012, the NSW Government announced 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, the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) Amendment (Fire Sprinkler Systems) 2012 and the Fire Sprinkler Standard.

The NSW Government encouraged all facilities without a sprinkler system to install them as soon as possible to improve the safety of residents. Existing facilities were required to install a sprinkler system within 18 months, however some providers may have requested three years to complete the installation. For more information see the NSW Planning and Environment website – Fire sprinklers in aged care facilities.

Tourist and Visitor Accommodation - Class 1b buildings

Tourist and Visitor Accommodation – Class 1b buildings

The building owner is responsible to ensure that all required fire safety measures installed within buildings used for Tourist and Visitor accommodation (including Rural Tourist Facilities) are maintained so they work at the required standard during a fire emergency.

The fire safety measures typically encountered in tourist accommodation is smoke alarms and some form of emergency lighting that is activated by the smoke alarm. This is to enable occupants (who would not be familiar with their surroundings) to quickly and safely evacuate the building in the event of fire.

Each year, owners are required by regulation to provide an annual fire safety statement (AFSS) to Council and to NSW Fire and Rescue. Heavy penalties exist for failure to provide the statement and/or failure to maintain the required fire safety measures.

The implementation of good fire safety management practices which involve the owner, operator, manager, agent and occupants can reduce the likelihood and impact of fire.

Planning/zoning requirements as to where Tourist and Visitor accommodation can be permitted are regulated by Hawkesbury Local Environmental Plan (HLEP). The type of construction and level of fire safety is regulated by the BCA (Building Code of Australia).

Fire Safety Upgrade Orders

Council may, at any time, assess the fire safety level of an existing building and if it is considered necessary, order the owner/s to carry out upgrading works and install essential fire safety measures compatible to the buildings use.

I want to carry out some building works. What am I required to do?

For existing buildings

If you have existing essential fire safety measures in your building and:

  • intend to carry out work for which development consent or a Complying Development Certificate is required, or
  • intend to change the use of the building for which consent is required.

A suitably qualified competent person should be engaged in order to research and verify the design standards to which those measures were originally installed. Once this has been undertaken, verification in the form of a fire safety audit report is to be forwarded to Council. In the event approval is granted, Council will nominate (via either consent conditions and/or a fire safety schedule), any additional essential fire safety measures required in the building and the appropriate design standard to which they must be installed.

For new buildings

If you intend to construct a new building, approval is required. As part of any construction certificate that is issued, Council or a private certifier will nominate the essential fire safety measures required and the design standards to which they must be installed.

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