Better baseline data to improve fire safety

Have changes been made to floor, wall and ceiling linings? That is the main purpose for doing fire safety inspections.  Unfortunately, owners rarely have detailed information on which materials were used and where in the first place. A new project is aiming to provide better baseline data on this issue and potentially save lives.

Seeing the interior of your shop, office or other type of non-residential building burning is bad enough. However, should the building itself surrender to the flames and floors, walls and/or ceilings catch fire, the situation is even worse and potentially life threatening. Making sure that floors, walls and ceilings are covered with appropriate fire-resistant materials is therefore of extreme importance ensuring that people inside the building have time to safely make their way out.

However, until the new ‘Form 3 – ESP Maintenance Certificate’ came into effect, a lot of building owners and their representatives just casually signed off the documents without actually making sure that all materials met the required fire safety standards, but not any longer.

The new Form 3 calls for a competent person to do the inspections resulting in much more business for fire protection maintenance companies like Fire & Emergency Services SA, but they face a massive challenge: How do they establish what was originally approved and how do they make sure there hasn’t been changes to what was initially approved?

The building owners rarely have the as constructed drawings that in detail would show the coverings of the floors, walls and ceilings, which would make inspecting relatively easy. Members of the Fire Protection Association of Australia are working on a project aiming to provide options to obtain the required information should the as constructed drawings not be present.

So far, the project group has come up with three ways to obtain the required information in order to establish a baseline for future inspections. These options are:

  1. Obtain the as constructed drawings
  2. Identify which materials are actually in the building now, and set those findings as a baseline regardless of whether what is there now complies with what is supposed to be there
  3. To take what is there now and either get certifications or tests to see whether the fire-resistant materials are of required standards or better.

The project is expected to be finalised and signed off by all the different stakeholders in March 2022.

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