Fire safety upgrades

Council may require safety upgrades to a premises if a building does not comply with fire safety regulations.

Fire safety audits

Council may undertake Fire Safety Audits to ensure buildings within Lake Macquarie City meet an acceptable level of fire safety. The purpose of this audit program is to:

  • increase the safety of occupants within the building in the event of a fire
  • ensure compliance with statutory requirements
  • make sure that the maintenance and use of a building do not constitute a fire hazard.

Council conducts random fire safety audit inspections, with priority given to buildings that pose the greatest risk to human life because of the way the buildings are used and the number of people using it (e.g. hotels, boarding houses and residential flat buildings). Council will also conduct fire safety inspections when fire safety issues are brought to our attention.

The process

Council will conduct a fire safety audit inspection in conjunction with the manager/owner/agent of the building. We will liaise and consult with the property owner about any issues identified during the inspection.

A notice to upgrade the building will be issued if it is Council's opinion that:

  • the provisions for fire safety or fire safety awareness are not adequate to prevent fire, suppress fire or prevent the spread of fire or ensure the safety of the people in the building in the event of fire
  • essential fire safety measures are not being maintained
  • use of the premises constitutes a significant fire hazard.

In cases where the owner/occupier has shown a disregard for fire safety, a fine may be issued.

The draft order will indicate a schedule of works to be carried out within a specified time period.

A fire safety assessment report of the building by an independent and qualified building consultant or fire safety engineer may also be required. This report must compare the level of fire safety in the building against the current requirements of the Building Code of Australia. Where deficiencies are identified, recommendations will be made on how to achieve acceptable levels of fire protection.

In many cases, it is not practical to achieve strict compliance with the current requirements of the Building Code of Australia. Assessment using the performance clauses of the Building Code of Australia may provide a means of determining an acceptable level of fire safety.

Once the notice/order has been issued

The owner of the building is responsible for complying with a notice or an order. Where there is more than one owner, Council may direct each owner to carry out the works specified in the order.

Penalties, of up to $1.1 million, can be imposed by the courts when the work listed in a fire safety order is not carried out.

We will inspect the premises upon completion of the works, as noted in the notice/order. The owner or an agent will be required to submit a Final Fire Safety Certificate for any ordered works. Upon receipt of certification and if satisfied the works have been completed, Council will advise in writing of the completion of the works.

Common fire safety issues

  • Obstruction of exits and walkways to required fire exits and fire-fighting equipment.
  • Non-compliant locking devices on exit doors.
  • Hose reel cabinets, switch rooms and plant rooms used for storage.
  • Materials stored to close to smoke detectors and sprinkler heads.
  • Exit signs not illuminated.
  • Fire doors and doors to residential units chocked/held open.
  • Essential fire safety measures not maintained adequately

Fire safety tips

  • Clearly define exit routes, keeping walkways to the exits a minimum of one metre wide.
  • Keep clear a one-metre square space around an internal fire hydrant or fire hose reel and do not obstruct access to any portable fire extinguisher.
  • Ensure that any locking devices on exit doors, comply with the requirements of Clause D2.21 of the Building Code of Australia. A single-handed downward lever action handle or push (panic) bar are permitted. Internal knobs or turn nibs are not permitted. Key locking in not permissible on the egress side (inside) of the door and only one lock per door is permissible. Levers and locks must be fitted at a height of between 900mm and 1100mm from the floor level.
  • Remove any objects stored in hose reel cabinets, switch rooms or plant rooms.
  • Materials in stacks or racks must not be closer than 500mm from any smoke detector or sprinkler head.
  • Promptly replace burnt tubes or globes in illuminated exit signs and emergency lighting.
  • Keep fire-rated doors i.e. those protecting the door openings on firewalls or fire-isolated stairs and doors to residential units closed. Keeping them open may cause smoke/fire to enter a building/unit reducing the chance for escape.
  • Undertake regular maintenance ofessential fire safety measures (link to new page in staging) by a reputable person or company.
  • Adopt emergency evacuation procedures, with periodic review of these procedures. Train staff on how to use fire-fighting equipment. Practice fire drills. Carry out regular workplace safety audits.

Heritage and fire safety

Some buildings require the balancing of current fire safety requirements with heritage concerns. We will work with the building owners to address fire safety issues sympathetically with the building's heritage. The NSW Government has a fire advisory panel that can help owners of heritage buildings with fire compliance issues.

While we will negotiate compromises against the Building Code of Australia, we will not compromise on building and occupant safety if the fire safety issue presents an unacceptable fire safety risk.

Our primary objective is to improve the fire safety provisions of the building and alternative solutions may be considered or a dispensation agreed upon with the building owner.

Contact details

Should you wish to discuss your building, or you have a concern regarding essential fire safety measures within a building or fire safety of a building, please contact our Customer Service Centre, Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm, on 4921 0333.