Fire Safety Schedules and Testing requirements
Fire Safety Schedules:
A fire safety schedule (FFS) is a document describing all of the essential fire safety measures in a building. It can include measures that already exist, as well as ones that are proposed.
Commencing from 1 August 2023, FSS’s must be issued using a standard template form published by the NSW Government.
In order to provide further details, a fact sheet has been made available for certifiers, councils, industry practitioners, and affected building owners. You can access the factsheet here.
- It is important to note that existing buildings will not be required to use the standard template unless a new schedule is needed.
- If a council re-issues a fire safety schedule due to corrections or if the schedule is missing, they are not obligated to use the new template unless the new form was already required for the existing or replaced schedule.
- This will make it easy for buildings to have their fire safety schedule amended (previously the regulatory requirements was via a fire order or Complying Development Certificate (CDC)
To provide you with more information, please find attached a copy of the approved form for the new fire safety schedule noting this comes into effect on effect from 1 August 2023.
Changes commencing in February 2025 – Mandatory Routine Servicing Requirements and how this will affect Owners Corporations. There is an 18-month transition period to allow sufficient time for accreditation and testing changes to be rolled out.
What do these changes require:
The amended regulations will mandate processes for the routine maintenance of specific essential fire safety measures. These will apply to buildings where an annual or supplementary fire safety statement is required.
How will these changes affect testing of fire safety measures?
The amended regulations will require owners to ensure that inspection, testing and servicing of essential fire safety measures, are completed in accordance with Australian Standards AS1851-2012 Routine service of Fire protection systems (AS1851).
- These changes will lead to stricter standards of testing that are assessed at during inspections.
- This will cover the testing process, frequency and documentation required for specific fire safety measures.
- Owners Corporations will also be required to keep details inspection records on site and could face fines for non-compliance with the new standards.
- The AS 1851 standard will apply to new and existing Class 1b to 9 buildings, but not to measures that are not covered by the standard, or where the fire safety schedule specifies a different maintenance process.
How will these affect testing and defects reported for my building?
Currently Fire companies are preparing for these changes in their testing and reporting.
This is leading to stricter standards of testing that are assessed at an annual inspection. Previously something that was listed as a non-conformance, could soon be listed as a defect, that must be rectified before the FSS can be issued. This can cause issues for many buildings that may be required to spend funds to rectify these defects, which were previously only a recommendation based on best industry practice.
This will be a requirement as it will be mandated in these amended regulations.
The Accredited practitioners signing off these measures must ensure is complies with AS1851 (unless advised otherwise) as well as ensuring documentation for maintenance of this equipment complies with AS1851.
Common examples impacting clients during these transitional regulatory changes.
Previously a smoke alarm would pass testing if it functioned, and it would be recommended to move the location further away from light fittings. With these new regulations, it would be a requirement to re-locate all smoke alarms 300mm away from lights, as required under AS1851. Additional funds required to re-locate existing smoke alarms
Expiry dates for smoke alarms:
Previously it was a recommendation only for smoke alarms older than 10 years to be replaced, now it will be a requirement for the smoke alarms to be replaced once expired, even if it passes the test. Additional funds require to replace expired smoke alarms.
Door Tags and Door Frame tags:
Previously fire doors missing tags, did not cause the door to fail it’s testing, now with these new changes this will cause the door to fail testing. Common issues are tags that have been painted over and are not visible. This can be costly to remove or re-tag the door if the paint does not come off. In some instances the whole door may need to be replaced if the door cannot be re-tagged.
Hydrant Block plans:
Installation of Hydrant Block plans must be installed for the system to pass testing. If this plan cannot be located in Owners Corporation Records from building construction of fire upgrade documents, this will require a hydraulic engineer to be engaged so that the block plan can be created and drafted.
Passive and Mechanical testing:
Baseline data and installation data is being requested for testing and reporting requirements by the contractors. This is resulting in buildings contacting Council or original developers, for documents from the time of Construction or installation if these are not located in Owners Corporation records.
This can be time-consuming and delay certification. In some instances, specialist contractors or consultants may need to be engaged to create baseline data
How can buildings prepare:
Both the Department of Customer Service and the Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA) are encouraging Owners Corporations to plan and budget for these changes, which may result in additional maintenance costs.
Buildings can start preparing now by budgeting to allow for these unforeseen costs relating to their fire safety testing, maintenance and defect repairs.
Your dedicated Strata Manager can assist with discussions around any concerns with budgeting, and also review specific building requirements with your buildings fire contractor(s) and our Compliance team.