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Fire Safety in Buildings

Planning and Environment’s Role in Building Fire Safety

Fire safety is a very important part of the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s role in protecting the people of New South Wales.

The department supports a number of fire safety campaigns, including:

– The strengthening of fire safety certification for new and existing buildings. This includes the requirement for all new buildings to have sprinklers installed as well as meeting modern building codes for fire safety.

– Developing the regulatory frameworks for retrofitting fire sprinklers in all existing aged care facilities in NSW.

– Expanding the requirement for the mandatory fitting of smoke alarms to caravans and other moveable dwellings.

Fire safety certificates

A fire safety certificate is a document issued by or on behalf of the building owner(s) upon the completion of new building work.

The certificate confirms that each of the fire safety measures that apply to a building, (as listed in the fire safety schedule; A Fire Safety Schedule (FSS) is a detailed list of the fire safety measures applicable to a building that forms the basis of the Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS) have been installed and checked by a properly qualified person. This helps verify that the required fire safety measures can perform to the minimum standard.

Fire Safety Certificates are required for all commercial buildings, residential buildings over 2 stories high, multi-unit dwellings and childcare centres. The certificate must be issued using a standard template form published by the Government: fire safety certificate

Fire safety statements

If you own a building in NSW, you are required by law to issue regular fire safety statements.

A fire safety statement is a document issued by or on behalf of the owner(s) of an existing building. The statement confirms that an accredited practitioner (fire safety) has assessed, inspected and verified the performance of each fire safety measure that applies to the building.

There are two types of fire safety statements:

An annual fire safety statement must be issued each year and include all the essential fire safety measures that apply to a building. The statement also verifies that an accredited practitioner (fire safety) has inspected and confirmed that the exit systems in the building are in compliance with the Regulation.

A supplementary fire safety statement is issued at more regular intervals (as specified in the fire safety schedule) for any critical fire safety measures that apply to a building.

The NSW Government has released a new fire safety statement template that building owners should use for all future statements.

The new standard template applies to all fire safety statements issued from 1 March 2021. Building owners should check the date on which their fire safety statement is likely to be issued before selecting the relevant form and preparing the statement.

Fire Safety Statements must be issued using a standard template form published by the Government. Following the commencement of the Fire Protection Australia (FPAA) accreditation scheme for accredited practitioners (fire safety), the department has updated the fire safety statement form. The new standard template form applies to all fire safety statements issued from 1 March 2021.

Fire Safety Statement template issued on or after 1st Sept 2022

Accredited practitioners (fire safety)

In NSW, building owners and building certifiers are required to ensure that the plans and specifications for all fire safety systems are developed by, or under the direction of, an accredited practitioner (fire safety). This is a change from previous requirements.

The Department of Customer Service has a co-regulatory framework to recognise industry accreditation schemes for accredited practitioners (fire safety). The Fire Protection Association Australia (FPAA) accreditation scheme was approved by the Government in July 2020 and is the first industry accreditation scheme to receive approval. Only practitioners accredited by the FPAA can perform the functions of an accredited practitioner (fire safety) where that function is covered by the FPAA scheme. For some fire safety functions, there are currently no practitioners accredited by the FPAA. For these functions a building owner or building certifier will be required to determine that a person is an accredited practitioner (fire safety). This is much like the role undertaken by building owners and building certifiers previously.

Selecting an Accredited Practitioners (fire safety) building owners guide

Fire Sprinkler Systems in Age Care Facilities

The NSW Government made automatic fire sprinkler systems mandatory in all residential aged care facilities after the tragic nursing home fire in Quakers Hill in 2011. These laws took effect on 1 January 2013.

The Fire Sprinkler Systems Implementation Committee (key facts) monitored the overall progress of the retrofit program for fire sprinkler systems.

All aged care homes in NSW in the retrofit program have now completed this work and are sprinkler protected. The NSW Government has worked with industry to ensure that there are no barriers to any building owner or manager obtaining a quote for installation of an automatic fire sprinkler system, or for any other aspect of compliance with their obligations under the legislation.

Fire Sprinkler Standard 2013 PDF 

Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms are important safety devices that alert you to the presence of a fire. In NSW, smoke alarms are compulsory in all homes, apartments, rental properties,  caravans, relocatable homes, moveable dwellings and other residential buildings where people sleep.

Since the early 1990s, smoke alarms have been mandatory in certain newly constructed buildings in NSW. This was expanded in 2006 to require smoke alarms in all existing homes and other shared accommodation buildings.

Building owners must ensure that at least one working smoke alarm complying with AS 3786 is installed on each level of the premises. Information about the types of alarms required and where to locate alarms in existing buildings can be found in the Smoke Alarms Advisory note (PDF, 457 KB). This information is only relevant to buildings that were not required to have smoke alarms installed as part of the construction of the building or similar requirement.

Additional Resource:  AS1670 Automatic Fire Detection and Alarm Systems

Smoke alarms are a requirement in all new buildings, including caravans and moveable dwellings as mentioned above. Information can be found at: new smoke alarm requirements for moveable dwellings

The NSW Government has implemented the National Construction Code (NCC) to ensure that all new buildings have adequate fire protection. For residential dwellings, the NCC requires that where there are sleeping rooms on other than the ground floor, each room must be provided with either an interconnected smoke alarm system or a smoke alarm installed within 3 m of the bedroom door. This can include an interconnected system or a combination of one smoke alarm placed in each room plus another located at an appropriate location near the entrance to the building (eg. hallway).

More Information

Fire and Rescue NSW

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) is a government agency that provides information to the community about the risks of fire, how to prevent fires and what to do if there is one. FRNSW also provides advice for landlords, tenants and residents about how to maintain alarms in their home.

For more information about fire safety in NSW buildings, visit Fire and Rescue NSW.

NSW Fair Trading

Landlords are required by law to install smoke alarms in every room of their rental property where there is a sleeping area. Tenants are responsible for maintaining these alarms. Both landlords and tenants should be familiar with their responsibilities under the law. For more information about changes to fair trading laws that affect landlords and tenants, owners and residents of residential parks, strata scheme lot owners, operators and residents of retirement villages, visit NSW Fair Trading.

Department of Customer Service

The Department of Customer Service building code advisory service can provide general information about smoke alarm requirements for new or existing buildings. The service operates between 9:30am-11:30am on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and can be contacted on (02) 9372 9271. For further information, visit Department of Customer Service.

If you require clarification on any of the above, give us a call or shoot us an email enquiry, and we’ll be only too happy to answer any questions you may have..

If you would like to see what services we offer check our website “Building Fire Safety Services” page.

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