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Preventing Winter Fire Hazards

Statistics show that almost half of unit fires are started in the kitchen and 43% of all fire fatalities occur in winter.

With winter well and truly upon us, now is the time to be prepared, if you haven’t already, by reducing the risk of fires occurring which can lead to loss of property, major burns and even worse, the loss of life.

In this article, we have provided tips on how to be prepared and compliant from a Body Corporate Committee member’s perspective and tips for residents to prevent fire hazards within their unit this winter, ranging from the addition of a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket to keep handy in the kitchen, through to information on evacuation planning.

There are many areas of being prepared which can be completed as an individual and as a community. Here, we break down the ways you can be prepared in both circumstances:

As a Committee Member

  1. Complete a Fire Safety Audit – The report will detail the current level of compliance/non-compliance of safety practices and equipment maintenance including images, references to standards and recommendations to assist you with achieving compliance.
  2. Submit an Occupiers Statement – An Occupiers Statement must be submitted annually to the Qld Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) and is a declaration that all prescribed fire safety installations located within your building have been maintained in accordance to the relevant standards.
  3. Prepare a Fire and Evacuation Plan – A Fire and Evacuation Plan is a comprehensively written document detailing the policies and procedures for the building when responding to, and managing, fire and other emergencies. Determine if required for your building here. It is developed following a thorough inspection of your building and will be tailored to the specific requirements of your site. Your Fire and Evacuation Plan must be reviewed annually.
  4. Conduct Evacuation Practice and Training – Generally referred to as an evacuation exercise, this annual requirement is designed to test the effectiveness of the emergency procedures outlined in the Fire and Evacuation Plan as well as ensure that building occupants are aware and become familiar with the emergency procedures. Also included in the service are specific instructions for those persons responsible for carrying out emergency procedures.
  5. Appoint a Fire Safety Advisor – A Fire Safety Advisor is required to be appointed where your building is more than 25 meters in effective height or where there are 30 or more workers on site. A qualified and experienced Fire Safety Advisor should be appointed to your building and be available to provide advice to you at all times.
  6. Display Evacuation Diagrams – A building must display evacuation diagrams in common areas to outline the process to follow in the event of a fire or other emergency and direct people out of the building to a designated emergency assembly area. If a unit is being used for short-term accommodation, an evacuation diagram must also be displayed inside the unit. Various finishes are available to suit the design and materials of your building and the evacuation diagrams are subject to a separate quotation being provided.

 

As a Resident/Lot Owner

  1. Review the Fire and Evacuation Plan – Determine if required for your building here. If there is, then ensure it is current and obtain a copy of it, paying attention to where the assembly area is, what firefighting equipment is on-site and most importantly, what evacuation routes/paths of travel to use.
  2. If you are considering having any form of heating elements installed, ensure you use equipment that is approved to Australian Standards and will be installed by a licensed and insured electrician.
  3. Never leave your cooking unattended and always keep watch (particularly when cooking with any volume of oil). Keep a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket handy in your kitchen; it’s a great safety addition.
  4. Make sure the smoke alarms in your unit have been serviced and tested. You can read more about the compliance requirements here. If you have a tenant in your unit, we recommend contacting your rental agent to confirm the inspection and servicing of your smoke alarms have been completed.
  5. Check your electric blankets to see if there are frayed cords before placing them on your bed. If you’re not comfortable with it, throw it out.
  6. If you’re using a portable heater, ensure it’s kept away from flammable materials such as curtains, blinds, tablecloths and bedding.
  7. If you need to hang wet clothes in front of your heater, make sure they are positioned at least 1 metre away.
  8. If you use a clothes dryer, ensure that the filter is lint-free every time you use it.
  9. Always ensure any candles are extinguished or any other open flames are out, before going out or going to bed.
  10. Store any matches, cigarette lighters or candle lighters in cool, secure places and out of reach of children.
  11. Avoid the use of portable gas heaters on your balconies. The use of this type of equipment could lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide in the unit which could have a fatal consequence.

Should you require further guidance about fire safety compliance on either a personal basis or specific to your strata community, please get in touch directly or leave a comment below.

 

This article was contributed by Sean Albert – General Manager, Strata Compliance Solutions

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  1. Braden Bills

    I want to make sure that my home is safe from fires, but I’m not sure how to go about it. It makes sense that I would want to get a professional to take a look at my home for me. They would be able to ensure that my home isn’t at risk of accidental fires.