NSW – Essential Property Services advises property managers and real estate agents of the need to advise building owners to be more aware than ever of the need to supply an Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS) to council and the fire brigade. The fines payable under Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation (EPAR) for neglecting this paperwork, or even being late, are enough motivation to ensure the Annual Fire Safety Statement is prepared.
However, when building owners and managers are preparing the Annual Fire Safety Statement, they are not only signing off on the performance standard of the essential fire safety measures, but also confirming that the building has been inspected by a properly qualified person and was found, when it was inspected, to be in a condition that did not disclose any grounds for a prosecution under Division 7 of EPAR 2000.
To sign off on this aspect of the Annual Fire Safety Statement, the property owner needs a report from a properly qualified person that they have inspected the building’s essential fire safety measures and that the Division 7 issues are complied with.
These measures include:
- fire safety notices
- fire exits;
- doors relating to fire exits; and
- the exit paths to fire exits.
It is an offence under the EPAR if these essential fire safety measures are not maintained as required.
Some property managers just rely on the report from their annual evacuation exercise to sign off on the Paths of Travel to exits, an essential fire safety measure. If the report doesn’t mention any problem, then the property manager assumes that egress must be operation and unobstructed. There are a few problems with this approach. Clearly, an evacuation exercise is an indispensable safety measure, but it is designed to give occupants and the emergency control organisation experience in evacuating the building, not observing and taking notes of the status of the paths of travel to exits. Reports on paths of travel within trial evacuation reports generally:
- Are a compilation of anecdotes of non-conformances from participants in the evacuation exercise, and are not objective audits across defined criteria – such as distance to travel, width of pathway, trip risks, non compliant locking devices etc.
- Are provided without the duty of care required for the property owner to take responsibility for the signing off the Annual Fire Safety Statement. The provider of the report may never have intended for it to be an assurance of safe paths of travel, just a discharge of their duty to report on problems observed, and nothing to do with an Annual Fire Safety Statement.
- May not have occurred within a reasonable time period from when the Annual Fire Safety Statement is dated. Any earlier than three months would not suit the requirements of EPAR.
- May not have been completed by a suitable person as required by the EPAR.
Paths of Travel to exits need a specialist approach as it is risky to sign off without checks and balances in place to ensure they have been adequately maintained, particularly if it happens just once a year when the Annual Fire Safety Statement is due.
Fire Safety Compliance: Essential Fire Safety Measures