AUST – HENDRY building surveyors advise that building owners and occupiers of multi-storey buildings (over 25m) often need to improve security of fire stairs. Typically, this is achieved by simply fitting locks to the stair side of the fire stair door but this solution in fact is contrary to Building Code of Australia (BCA) requirements of Clause D2.22.
Additional security within the fire stairs is not allowed to restrict re-entry onto the occupied floors in the building. Other than retaining the stair doors openable at all times, the dilemma between security and BCA compliance can be managed by implementing one of the following methods.
The doors on every fourth floor are not locked but the remaining doors are locked but fitted with a fail safe device that automatically unlocks them on a fire alarm. Signage is required to identify the normal re-entry floors.
All doors are secured but the doors automatically unlock on the activation of a fire alarm. An intercommunication system operated from within the fire stair must be provided next to doors. Signage is required at each door to explain the purpose of the intercommunication system and how it is operated.
All doors are secured but they automatically unlock on the activation of a fire alarm and an audible or visual alarm system is provided at each door that can operate from within the fire stairs. Signage located at each door must explain the purpose of the alarm system and how to operate it.
A further option, which requires an alternative solution, is to provide a break glass panel at each door that unlocks the fire stairs doors. The action of breaking the device can activate an audible alarm.
The following illustration from BCA Illustrated depicts the requirements of clause D2.22. (Please note BCAI ‘Issue’ and ‘Explanation’ is not included.)
Additional considerations, no matter what option is adopted, include being satisfied that sufficient lighting exists in the stairwell for a person to be able to read any instructions or signage provided at the doors. Also an alteration to an existing building will require a permit before proceeding, and compliance with the BCA.