The importance of fire safety compliance for strata plans
Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS):
Which regulations are applicable and what are the exceptions?
As per the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (part 9), all properties must have all of their fire safety measures tested and certified on a yearly basis. This forms part of the process required to obtain a current AFSS. There are several exceptions to this rule which are outlined below:
- Crown developments do not require an AFSS unless the building has been subject to any of the following since being built:
- modification application
- construction certificate
- complying development certificate
- change of use development consent
- fire safety order
- Class 1a buildings (cottages, townhouses and villas) and buildings constructed prior to 1988 are exempt.
- Strata buildings are regarded as Class 2 and require an AFSS to be carried out on a yearly basis (with the exception strata plans build prior to 1988).
An AFSS forms part of the building’s compliance to ensure the safety of its occupants should a fire occur within the property.
The relevant Council and the Fire Commissioner keep an accurate record of the most recent AFSS recorded for a property. The fire brigade uses the AFSS as a reference document in the event of a fire.
How do council obtain the fire safety measures and what are the next steps?
When a developer submits their final occupation certificate to council, they provide a list of fire safety measures. Council then registers these measures and issue a letter requesting an AFSS.
Once all of the measures have been tested and certified by a Competent Fire Safety Practitioner (CFSP), the completed AFSS is sent to either the property owner/manager or Strata Manager to review and sign with Common Seal Stamp.
Once completed, a copy must be displayed in a prominent location in the building and another copy must be sent to Council and the Fire Commissioner.
What items are tested?
- Access panels, doors and hoppers to fire-resisting shafts
- Automatic fail-safe devices
- Automatic fire detection and alarm systems
- Automatic fire suppression systems (flow Test)
- 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 in 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
In circumstances where an Owners Corporation do not take fire protection seriously or have disputes with respect to what is urgent or the quotes obtained, the following consequences may occur:
- Fines being issued by council for non-compliance ($1,000 the first week and every week afterwards)
- Fire Order being issued
- Potential Office Bearers claims as result of non-action
- Liability or property claim being denied due to negligence (inadequate maintenance))
- Loss of life
- Damage to third party property
How does an AFSS affect my insurances?
It is import for a building to be compliant with their fire protection. If the fire safety measures noted on the Fire Safety Schedule are not complied with, there will be a drop in protection to the building which can affect your insurance premiums.
Insurers look at fire protection as an important aspect of their risk review. If the building is compliant, it goes in the insured’s favor and the insurer will provide competitive terms (please note the construction, location, maintenance and claims are also considered by insurers prior to offering terms).
- Insurer declining renewals
- Higher premiums and excesses being imposed
- Insurers not providing cover leaving the plan uninsured
- Insurer limiting their claim settlement or cancelling if the Owners Corporation and/or Strata Committee have been found negligent (knowing of an issue and not seeking to resolve it).
The implications of not taking fire protection seriously are great and can leave an Owners Corporation with uninsured risk exposures.
At Bellrock our approach is to demonstrate to insurers we are seeking terms from, that the Owners Corporation are proactive, risk management focused and maintain their property as per the requirements of the Strata Management Act 2015.
For further information and advice regarding insurance for strata properties please contact us via the form below.