In the early hours of the morning of November 25, 2014, a fire broke out in the 23-storey Lacrosse apartment building located in La Trobe St, Docklands in Melbourne. An improperly discarded cigarette butt was said to be the cause of the fire.
However, investigations have shown fire safety risks in the cladding used by the builders, which contributed a lot to the spread of the fire and the extensive damage it has brought to the 500 residents. The fire spread vertically from the 6th to the 21st floor, and the fire was not contained in the area of fire origin.
Reports revealed that Lacrosse used Alucobest for its external façade wall, a cheap, highly flammable, and non-compliant cladding material. According to investigators, this was the reason why they failed to contain the fire and instead spread upwards.
There were no casualties or serious injuries during the fire, but the damage was extensive. The residents had to drop everything and run for their lives, leaving their belongings behind. The fire also caused the value of the property to drop.
Lesson learned: It is clear that there is a problem with some of the strata complexes in Australia that need to be addressed. We don’t have to wait for another Lacrosse fire before taking action. There are things that you can do today to avoid another incident and protect your property from fire.
Here are some steps you can implement to make it fire-proof:
1. Get certified.
All strata-titled properties including residential apartments, are required to undergo a fire safety inspection of the property. This inspection should be carried out at least once a year to identify issues relating to the fire safety of the building.
What does the fire safety inspection involve? It ensures:
- That evacuation routes are clear of obstructions
- That all fire safety installations are tested at regular intervals and a log of these tests is kept
- That exit doors have the correct hardware
- That documentation is complete and available
- That staff are trained
- That the certificate of classification is displayed on the building
2. Consult with a fire expert.
Even without the inspection, you should consult with fire professionals to check if your building’s fire safety is up to standards. Your fire safety consultant can also recommend fire safety installations and fire measures you should adapt to protect your property from fire.
3. Have a fire and evacuation plan in place.
Mapping out an evacuation plan for a strata building requires the cooperation of the tenants, residents, employees and personnel. It should lay out the roles, responsibilities and required actions for all those occupying the building. It should be simple, effective and generic in nature. The purpose of the plan is to provide coordinated and key emergency services during a fire.
Emergency situations can arise at the most unexpected moments. However, being prepared for a disaster will provide you focus and direction should one occur.