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New Fire Regulations Impose More Obligations

Most bodies corporate have quite severe new obligations under the Building regulations of the Fire Safety Act. The Queensland government has apparently reacted to horrifying situations where people living in close community have died (such as the Childers backpackers fire) by imposing stricter fire safety regulations on all people who occupy multiple dwellings. At first glance many of these obligations seem a bit over-reactive, however the more people consider their obligations to fellow citizens properly, the more sense they become.

We encourage all committee people to make sure their complex complies with the laws, particularly the new fire regulations. It would be hard to live with yourself if you have a tragedy and had previously ignored statutory duties.

As of July 1 2008 all bodies corporate are expected to have fire evacuation management plans, including site- specific evacuation diagrams for all common property areas and detailed plans on how to evacuate the complex safely.

The fire evacuation management plans have to be site- specific and be updated according to who is resident in the complex. If there are people with mobility problems or other special needs, the fire evacuation management plans need to be written to make specific plans for those occupants.

Fire equipment continues to require regular, specified servicing and records need to be kept to show fire officers (who plan to inspect premises to ensure compliance) that the complex is complying with the law.

Similarly annual fire evacuation practices are needed for nearly all complexes and these should be documented. Regular fire equipment training of occupants is also a feature of the new regulations as is the necessity of explaining the fire equipment and evacuation procedures to new occupants of the complex.

The only exceptions appear to be duplexes or townhouse complexes with semi-detached or detached housing and with no common property areas. These may not need specialist advice, although we encourage all committees to become aware of their own site-specific obligations.

We urge all committee people to see for themselves that the consultants they use have appropriate qualifications to conduct inspections

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Ask to see Insurance for the specific duties Perhaps the easiest way to make sure that your building report consultant is properly qualified for the task is to ask the potential consultants to show you their company’s insurance statements. These have specific lists of business activities that are covered by the insurance. If your proposed or existing consultant does not have specific insurance for the duties they are going to undertake, they should not be offering that service.

Be particularly careful if your building is more than 25 metres tall (probably 8 or 9 storey’s – however check your body corporate records: Many builders/developers build to 24.9 metres to avoid the need for more onerous and extra fire equipment and services and that is probably in the interests of the eventual lot owners anyway) Tall buildings over 25 metres have even more stringent requirements. The fire equipment and service requirements in higher buildings are likely to be beyond the capacity of amateur volunteer committee people or most resident managers to discharge their obligations. A variety of specific equipment service people is likely to be needed at different time intervals. It is a nightmare and best handled by an outside specialist.