The following information is important for all property owners, property managers, tenants, and business operators who own, occupy or manage buildings throughout the municipality ranging from various types of residential properties to commercial, retail and industrial premises.
This information aims to increase general fire safety awareness, and develop an understanding of modern day fire safety issues and how City of Newcastle commonly deals with building fire safety.
Smoke Alarms Regulation
An important State Government decision came into affect in 2006 to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries, by gazetting the Regulation makes smoke alarms compulsory in all residential homes and shared accommodation buildings.
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.
The state law carries a minimum penalty of $300. It is also an offence to interfere with or remove a smoke alarm unless for maintenance or replacement.
Smoke alarm battery replacement for the elderly (SABRE)
Fire & Rescue NSW's SABRE program is designed to support senior citizens residing in their own homes who have limited domestic support, in assisting them in the maintenance of their fire safety devices, primarily their battery operated smoke alarms.
Smoke alarms for the deaf and hearing impaired
Conventional smoke alarms are not effective in alerting those with hearing impairments. A visual warning device which is interconnected to the smoke / heat alarm can be obtained. Also, a special emergency call service is available for people with a hearing impairment (or speech impairment) with direct access to fire safety emergency response. For more information visit the Fire & Rescue NSW webpage.
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.
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. We recommend you seek advice from an appropriately qualified Fire Safety Engineer or Company to identify what type and how many alarms you may require in your premises.
Fire safety for boarding houses
A boarding house provides accommodation for a fee. Boarding houses are sometimes called lodging houses. All boarding houses operating within New South Wales must be registered with the NSW Department of Fair Trading.
There are two types of ‘registrable’ boarding houses covered by the Boarding Houses Act 2012. These are:
- General boarding houses – accommodate five or more paying residents, excluding the proprietor, the manager and members of their families. General boarding houses do not include hotels, motels, backpackers’ hostels, aged care homes or other types of premises excluded by the Act
- Assisted boarding houses – accommodate two or more persons with additional needs.
A person with additional needs has a disability such as an age related frailty; a mental illness and/or an intellectual, psychiatric, sensory or physical disability, and needs support or supervision with daily tasks and personal care such as showering, preparing meals or managing medication. Assisted boarding houses are licensed by NSW Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC), which is part of the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS).
Boarding houses and group homes have more stringent fire safety conditions imposed on them than standard residential style accommodation. When this type of dwelling is used to accommodate not more than 12 persons, the dwelling is classified as a Class 1B residence under the Building Codes of Australia (BCA).
A class 1B occupancy must have:
- A Fire Safety Schedule; and
- An Annual Fire Safety Statement that ensures the requirements set out in the Schedule are met. (Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000, Clause 167 & 168)
- A minimum of one battery operated smoke alarm per bedroom, and
- A minimum of one battery operated smoke alarm with built in lighting, or lighting initiated by alarm activation, in the hallway between the bedrooms and the exit.
- Smoke alarms must meet Australian Standard AS3786. (Building Code of Australia, Volume 2, Part 184.108.40.206 & 220.127.116.11)
NSW Fire & Rescue also recommend
- Ensure access and egress routes in hallways and stairwells are kept clear of obstructions
- Learn and practice an escape plan regularly
- Understand how to contact emergency services on 000 (triple zero)
- Practice safe use of kitchens and enforce rules prohibiting cooking in bedrooms
- Ensure heaters are used properly. Do not use them for drying clothes or towels and keep them clear of furniture and curtains
- If rooms have individual locks make sure a caretaker, manager or staff has an easily accessed key to all rooms
- Ensure that smoking is prohibited in the bedrooms.
What are the responsibilities of the building owner?
Under the provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000, owners of buildings such as commercial or industrial premises, residential flat buildings etc. have a legal obligation to ensure that all fire safety measures installed on the premises are maintained in good working condition at all times. It is the responsibility of the building owner to ensure:
- All fire safety measures are inspected by a Competent Fire Safety Practitioner/s to ensure the measures are being maintained to the appropriate standard of performance
- Fire Safety Statements are displayed in a clearly visible position such that Council or Fire & Rescue NSW officers can see them when inspecting the premises and
- All exit doors are kept in good working condition, and corridors or other paths of egress are kept clear of any obstructions.
These requirements are in place to promote the prevention and spread of fire. Fire safety measures assist in reducing the spread of a fire and early detection helps to save property and lives.
Clause 177 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000, stipulates each year, the owner of a building to which an essential fire safety measure is applicable must cause the Council to be given an annual fire safety statement for the building.
A failure to give an annual fire safety statement to Council within the time required constitutes a separate offence for each week beyond the expiry of that time for which the failure continues.
What is an Annual Fire Safety Statement?
Each year, the owner of a building to which an essential fire safety measure is applicable must submit an Annual Fire Safety Statement for the building to City of Newcastle.
Annual Fire Safety Statements are issued by or on behalf of the owner of the building. They declare that all fire safety measures on the premises have been maintained to the appropriate standards and that exit paths allow for the safe passage through the premises in the event of fire. Annual Fire Safety Statements must be issued in the form approved by the Secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment. Please note that only the fire safety statement form approved by the Secretary and published on the Department of Planning and Environment's website is to be used. A downloadable copy of the form can be found at the Department's website at - http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/Policy-and-Legislation/Buildings/Building-Regulation-and-Certification-Reform .
City of Newcastle annually sends building owners an Annual Fire Safety Statement reminder which lists what 'Essential Fire Safety Measures' exist for their building. It is the building owner or their representatives responsibility to ensure the annual fire safety statement is completed, signed and returned to us by email, post, fax or in person and to Fire & Rescue NSW.
We charge an administration fee of $78 for the handling and management of submitted annual fire safety statements.
The fee came into effect on 1 July 2018. An invoice will be provided in accordance with the City's fees and charges, which will set out the payment conditions. Fees and Charges (pdf)
Although it is not required to do so by law, City of Newcastle sends a courtesy reminder letter to the owners of premises, care of the address provided for rates and notices, advising when they are required to submit their annual fire safety statement. This service is to assist building owners to arrange having their premises inspected by a competent fire safety practitioner and submitting an annual fire safety statement by the due date. However, we accept no responsibility for any reliance upon it and the legal responsibility for providing the statement when due rests with the owner of the premises.
It is important to ensure Annual Fire Safety Statements are accurately and fully completed as any incomplete or incorrect statements are returned for amendment and an additional processing fee applies.
What is an Essential Fire Safety Measure?
A fire safety measure is any aspect of construction, piece of equipment or can be evacuation plans that are required to ensure the safety of people within the building in the event of fire or other emergency.
These measures include things like:
- Smoke detection and alarm systems
- Automatic fire suppression systems, such as sprinkler systems
- Portable fire extinguishers
- Fire hose reels
- Emergency lighting, exit signs or evacuation plans.
Fire safety requirements vary from building to building.
It is an offence under the Environmental Planning & Assessment Regulation 2000, for a person to fail to maintain an essential Fire Safety Measures. The minimum penalty is $3,000.00 for an individual and $6,000.00 for a corporation.
Who do I have inspect my premises?
The owner must ensure that a competent fire safety practitioner inspects each fire safety measure. The choice of person to carry out an assessment or inspection is up to the owner. The person who carries out an assessment must inspect and verify the performance of each fire safety measure being assessed.
Information on how to select a competent fire safety practitioner is contained in the attached document from NSW Department of Planning and Environment.
Note: All paperwork provided by your service provider is for the owner only and is NOT to be lodged with us. It is important that records of inspections are kept by the owner.
How do I lodge my annual statement?
Complete all sections on the Annual Fire Safety Statement form and provide dates and signatures where required to do so. Check the form again for accuracy and completeness and then lodge it with us.
An Annual Fire Safety Statement for a building must deal with each essential fire safety measure in the building premises. It must be submitted within 12 months after the date on which the previous statement or the Final Fire Certificate was given, and it must be lodged within three months of the date(s) of inspection and assessment.
The statement must be submitted to council and Fire & Rescue NSW.
It is important to ensure Annual Fire Safety Statements are accurately and fully completed as any incomplete or incorrect statements will be returned for amendment, and an additional processing fee of $78 will apply.
What to do when there are anomalies between what is listed on a Fire Safety Schedule and what is installed in a building, or the Fire Safety Schedule appears to be incorrect?
- Notify us as soon as possible by submitting an AFSS request for a 'Stay of Infringement' Application form
- Follow the same process as you would for any other issue preventing you from submitting the AFSS by the due date
- List the anomalies identified on page 2 of the stay of infringement application in sections 4 & 5 as appropriate, and complete all other sections listed. Example of anomalies may include;
- Fire Safety measures installed in the building but are not listed on City of Newcastle's fire safety schedule
- Essential Fire Safety Measures listed on City of Newcastle's Fire Safety Schedule but are not installed in the building
- Where you suspect the minimum standard of performance listed on the fire safety schedule is inaccurate
- We may correct any anomalies identified if there is evidence to support any amendments
- We may request work to be carried out, issue a Development Control Order or any other action we deem necessary to allow the building owner/s to issue an Annual Fire Safety Statement to City of Newcastle.
What about home owners?
There is no requirement to submit an Annual Fire Safety Statement for single dwelling houses classified under 1a under the Building Code of Australia. Typically, Class 1a usually refers to single dwelling houses, terraces or villa houses. If in doubt, ask.
Home owners must ensure they maintain their smoke alarms.
What will happen if I do not submit an Annual Fire Safety Statement?
City of Newcastle treats fire safety issues seriously. Where required under legislation to provide a statement, the owner is responsible to ensure lodgement, regardless as to whether the property is tenanted or vacant.
It is an offence under the Environmental Planning & Assessment Regulation 2000 to fail to provide the statement. Substantial and continuing weekly penalty notices apply for this offence:
- 1 week late - fine of $1,000
- 2 weeks late - fine of $2,000
- 3 weeks late - fine of $3,000
- 4 weeks late - fine of $4,000
For further information on fire safety, including smoke alarms, home evacuation plans, winter fire safety at home and fact sheets, please also refer to the Fire and Rescue NSW and for more information on legislation refer to the Department of Planning.
Stay of Infringement Application
If you are experiencing difficulties in having your building assessed and will be unable to submit your annual fire safety statement to us by the due date then you should submit a stay of infringement application. This will allow you to apply for extra time to have the necessary inspections conducted and avoid being fined for the late submission of your annual fire safety statement. A stay of infringement can be applied for via this link - Stay of Infringement Application
Regulatory, Planning and Assessment Fire Safety Officer or Development and Building Officers on (02) 4974 2000.