According to a study conducted by Fire & Safety Australia, less than 50% of occupants feel confident in an emergency.
People don’t know what to do or where to evacuate during a fire emergency. This fact highlights the need for stricter and tighter fire protection standards all over Australia.
Fire protection is a crucial component of the health and safety regulations stipulated by the Australian Building Codes Board. Builders, owners, and managers are required to comply to these regulations with their buildings, residential apartments, housing complex, and other property structures. A structure or building should be regularly subjected to structural fire testing, fire propagation testing, fire retardant testing, and other types of fire testing to ensure compliance.
The growth of technology and new research studies in the fire industry enabled builders to create buildings with built-in safeguards to ensure the protection of life and property. Unfortunately, fire incidents continue to occur in buildings, just like the Spencer Street fire that sparked a review on the current fire protection standards in Sydney and other cities across Australia.
History of Fire Protection in Buildings
The evolution of the fire protection all over the world was shaped by several deadly historical fires that prompted authorities to review and amend current fire protection regulations in an attempt to prevent those fires from happening again. Here are some of the most deadly building fires in Australia that shaped our fire protection laws as they are now:
- Kew Cottages Fire – A fire burned Unit 31 of the Kew Residential Services, also known as Kew Cottages on 8 April 1996, killing 9 people. Investigation revealed that there were no proper fire protection system installed during the fire.
- Slack Creek Fire – A fire tore through a home in Logan on August 24, 2011, causing the death of 11 people. It was revealed that the fire alarm was switched off because it was too noisy. This incident further emphasized the importance of a working fire alarm system.
- Palm Grove Hostel Fire – 12 residents died during the fire in Palm Grove Hostel in Dungog, NSW because the fire alarms did not work during the fire and the only working phone in the facility was locked inside a room, so they weren’t able to call for help.
- Pacific Nursing Home Fire – 16 elderly died and 51 others got injured during the fire that tore through the Pacific Nursing Home in Sylvania Heights, NSW on April 29, 1981. The building had a fire protection system — fire door, fire extinguishers, and smoke alarms, except for a sprinkler system.
- William Booth Memorial Home Fire – The deadliest fire so far in Australia happened because of human error. The fire that broke out at the Salvation Army home for destitute men in Melbourne on 13 August 1966 started when a resident broke the rules and brought a heater into his room. There was no fire safety system installed, causing the fire to quickly spread out, killing 30 men.
These fire incidents emphasize one thing: not investing in fire protection can be deadly.
How to Protect Your Building From Fire
Fires are not only damaging to property, but can also be deadly, especially if you have no fire safety plan in place. Here are some practices to help prepare you building for a fire emergency:
- Implement a fire emergency evacuation plan – Emergency response is a lot easier and quicker if people know their respective responsibilities. Create a fire emergency plan that details how people should respond, when to respond, and where to go in case of a fire.
- Maintain emergency and exit lights – Implement a regular maintenance plan to inspect lights to ensure that emergency exits stay illuminated at all times. Test emergency powers as well to confirm if they are functioning.
- Practice proper housekeeping – Proper housekeeping tasks is crucial in keeping your building see from fire hazards. Keep flammable materials in locked storage. Ban smoking inside the building. Fire exits should be clear at all times.
- Preventive maintenance – Keep your building safe from fire by enlisted a certified and licensed fire protection company to conduct quality inspections, safety tests, and to install fire protection equipment.
Fires can be dangerous, especially now that meteorologists are predicting a hotter, drier, longer summer, which increases the risk of fire incidents. Following the above guidelines can help ensure that your building and its occupants will be better prepared in a fire emergency.