Every second counts when a fire breaks out, so having reliable fire protection equipment is essential to protect people and property.
Keeping fire systems and equipment regularly maintained will help to ensure it always performs as originally intended and in line with the Australian Standard AS1851-2012.
Regular inspections are recommended for business owners, who are required to provide annual fire safety statements to ensure equipment is functioning properly, and to identify any faults or issues that may cause malfunction.
In instances where an issue is detected and a defect notification given, the building owner must rectify the issue in order to remain compliant. Defect notifications are classed into three categories – critical, non-critical and non-conformance
- Critical defect notice: A critical defect impairs the system completely, preventing it from operating properly, such as an issue with water supply that affects the ability for the sprinkler system to function. Critical defects are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the safety of building occupants during a fire emergency and therefore must be rectified as soon as possible to avoid penalties. It is also expected that the building owner will initiate interim measures where necessary.
- Non-critical defect notice: A system impairment or faulty component may be detected that is unlikely to critically affect the operation of the overall fire protection system. This might include a local alarm bell that isn’t working, and while it is not likely to prevent proper functionality, should still be repaired.
- Non-conformance notice: Any features that are required in order to facilitate ongoing routine service, but do not affect operation of the system, for example, missing or incorrect Fire Alarm Block Plans. Also commonly known as Zone Block Plans, these should be installed adjacent to the Fire Indicator Panel, and must clearly show the location of the panel, as well as the area of each Fire Alarm Zone.
The importance of maintaining fire alarm panels
One of the most common reasons a critical defect notice is issued is due to an ageing or poorly maintained fire alarm panel. The fire panel controls the fire alarm system, however if it is outdated or faulty it can cause a range of issues, not just for building owners, but also for the fire department due to the increased likelihood of false alarm call outs.
Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) responded to approximately 48,000 Automatic Fire Alarms (AFAs) in 2015, with 97 per cent of these alarms being unwanted. A properly maintained system can help to dramatically reduce the number of false alarms and fire brigade services charge fees to attend to a false alarm call-out, a tactic designed to motivate building owners and managers to proactively manage AFA systems.
Advice for business owners
Every business must have appropriate fire equipment in place, and it is a mandatory requirement to have it routinely tested no matter how big or small the business is. This includes upgrading fire panels that are 10 or more years old.
While the initial investment to upgrade or migrate to newer fire equipment may require significant upfront investment for some businesses, maintaining an outdated system can be more expensive in the long run to service and repair, due to the high cost of obtaining outdated replacement parts that are increasingly difficult to source.
Wormald continues to innovate its services by introducing new technology to help businesses stay on top of their fire maintenance and testing obligations. This includes the introduction of Wormald Direct, a new online portal. Wormald can also assist businesses by providing a life cycle plan that includes the cost of testing, maintenance and replacement, forecasted up to 25 years, through capex funding arrangements.