Fire safety

Fire safety

Keeping fire at bay

The City of Sydney has strict rules and procedures in place to prevent buildings catching fire.

Annual fire safety statement

Every year the owner of a building or premises must provide the City and Fire and Rescue NSW with a statement certifying all fire-safety measures work properly. This statement must be assessed by qualified personnel and be displayed prominently.

Once the annual statement is complete, lodge it with the City by email, post, fax or in person at a Neighbourhood Service Centre, and to Fire and Rescue NSW. For details, visit the Fire and Rescue NSW site. A blank copy of the annual fire statement can be downloaded below. There is no fee for lodging this statement.

Supplementary fire safety statement

A supplementary fire safety statement applies to fire-control measures so it's important that they must be certified more frequently than every 12 months. The frequency will be stated on the premises’ fire-safety schedule. There is no fee for lodging this statement.

Essential fire safety measures

These measures include installations, equipment or forms of construction that will protect occupants of a building in the event of fire or other emergencies. They include:

  • automatic fire detection and alarm systems
  • automatic fire suppression systems, such as sprinkler systems
  • emergency lighting and exit signs
  • fire hose reels, fire hydrants and portable fire extinguishers
  • fire doors and mechanical air-handling systems
  • lightweight fire-resistant construction materials.

Fire safety schedules

Fire safety schedules list the measures required to be installed and the standard they need to achieve. A fire safety schedule can be issued:

  • by the City or an accredited certifier
  • by the City with a fire safety order
  • by the City in some cases with a development consent, such as for a change of use in an existing building.

A fire safety schedule is only applicable if any of the above occurred after 1988.

You can obtain a copy of the latest fire safety schedule from the City.

Fire safety certificate

For new or altered buildings, the first certificate, called a fire safety certificate, must be furnished for each new or altered essential fire safety measure. No fee applies.

At least once within every 12 months after the fire safety certificate is completed, an annual fire safety statement must be supplied to the City, certifying a qualified person has inspected the building and found fire-safety measures meet relevant standards.

For existing buildings, every year, within 12 months of the date of the previous annual fire safety statement, the owner of a building must submit an annual fire safety statement to the City certifying that each of the measures listed in the most recent fire safety schedule installed on the premises remain capable of operating to the standards listed in the schedule.

Penalties

It is an offence to fail to provide the statement. Substantial and continuing weekly penalty notices apply for this offence:

  • 1 week late $500
  • 2 weeks late an additional $1000
  • 3 weeks late an additional $1500
  • 4 weeks late an additional $2000.

Although it is not required to do so by law, the City sends a courtesy reminder letter to the owner of affected premises care of the address provided for rates and notices. However, the City accepts no responsibility for any reliance upon it and the legal responsibility for providing the statement when due rests with the owner of the premises.

Failure to submit an annual fire safety statement could also lead to legal proceedings in the Land and Environment Court, where the maximum penalty for a breach is $110,000.

Essential fire safety measures needing repair

In circumstances where an annual fire safety statement cannot be submitted because repairs are required, the City may consider postponing weekly penalty infringement notices. If you want the City to consider your case, please fill out a request to be excused from the penalty, using the form below.

The City will only consider requests to stay penalty notices for repair works taking up to 6 months to complete. For situations where repair work will take longer than 6 months please contact the City's Essential Services Section on 02 9265 9333.

The owner of the premises must make the necessary arrangements for the fire safety measures to be inspected and statement provided before the expiry of the time allowed. The City is unlikely to stay penalty infringement notices in the event of a history of late submission.

Following orders

Authorised fire-safety officers will inspect buildings thought to be at risk. Fire safety inspections do not normally involve domestic single dwellings (class 1a type buildings).

The City's officers will conduct the inspection as soon as possible. They have legislative power to enter and inspect premises. They carry photographic identification that can be produced on request.

Subsequent inspections can be organised to suit the requirements of the owners and or occupiers of the building.

Fire safety orders

The City can issue fire safety orders to building owners, directing them to undertake improvements. The order will list and specify the reasons for issuing the order, what needs to be done and a deadline. The building owner is responsible for ensuring the order is complied with, while tenants may have certain legal obligations under various lease/contract arrangements.

Beforehand, the City will issue a "notice of intention" to give an order. The owner can then discuss the terms of the proposed order with the City. The owner can be represented by a legal practitioner or an agent. The owner has 14 days from the date in which the notice of intention was issued to indicate that they wish to make representations to the City. Any request for representation must be writing.

An order may demand safer fire exits, appropriate fire-safety equipment or proper fire-resistive construction. The cost of improvements and their effect on a building's heritage status will be taken into account. The City will give the owner a reasonable amount of time to comply with the order, depending on the complexity of the improvements. The deadlines may be set in stages.

Anyone receiving an order has a right to appeal or challenge the order or a specified part of the order within 28 days to the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales.

Any applications to have the compliance period extended must be supported by contributory reasons or evidence of hardship. The application must also put forward a works proposal which sets out how and when the outstanding works are to be complied with.

Complying with an order

The City recommends you hire a suitably qualified person to review the order and oversee the works. You or your consultant should arrange to meet regularly with the City officer.

A City officer will inspect the completed work and any certificates that state work complies with the order. The City will then issue a letter confirming the owner has complied with the order. The building is then added to the City's computer network and you are required to submit an annual fire safety statement.

Penalties

The City can take a building owner to court if an order is not carried out. If the City is successful in this legal application the court can issue a court order, which has serious implications for non-compliance.

The City can apply for legal costs and the court can impose substantial fines for ignoring an order.

Contacts

Fire Safety Unit: Building Surveyors

02 9265 9739

Links

Fire and Rescue NSWHeritage Council of NSW

Smoke alarms

Everyone who lives in NSW must have smoke alarms fitted in every storey of their house or dwelling (apartments, hostels and hotels), and in rooms where people sleep.

This state government law has been in place since 2006, and carries a maximum penalty of $300. It is also an offence to interfere with or remove a smoke alarm unless for maintenance or replacement.

The law aims to reduce home fire injuries and deaths. It was brought about by a horrific spate of home fires in 2005, which caused 13 deaths in NSW during a two week period. This tragedy led NSW to join Victoria and South Australia in making residential smoke alarms mandatory.

What type of alarm do I need?

The type of alarm you need depends on your dwelling. Private dwellings require an Australian Standard 3786 hard-wired smoke alarm. Fire and Rescue NSW recommends photo-electric alarms.

The number of alarms you’ll need depends on the size of your dwelling and its configuration. A private dwelling needs an alarm placed on the ceiling in an area between sleeping and living areas (such as a hallway leading to a bedroom), as well as in any other storey of the same building, even if it does not contain bedrooms. You can get more information about alarms from the Fire and Rescue NSW website link.

Fire safety for boarding houses

All boarding houses in the local area ought to adhere to fire safety guidelines. These guidelines aim to reduce the chance of fire, and also limit a fire’s impact.

Every boarding house should have:

  • fire safety plans that explain how to escape the building in case of fire, and what should be done afterwards
  • fire safety measures such as smoke alarms, evacuation lighting, fire extinguishers and fire blankets
  • fire safety management that involves the owner, operator and occupants following simple steps to reduce the likelihood of a fire breaking out
  • a fire safety statement.

A full outline of the guidelines can be downloaded below.

Links

Fire and Rescue NSW

Last updated: Friday, 10 January 2014