25 August 2021
By Jeff Anderson
Importance of a fire protection system
The purpose and importance of a fire protection system can be summarised in a solitary word: safety. A fire protection system – encompassing both active and passive fire protection measures – is designed to ensure that a fire can be easily contained, does not spread easily, that occupants can exit and fire crews enter easily, and that the structure stands up to the fire for as long as possible. With this knowledge, here’s a summary of why you need to ensure your fire protection system is compliant and well maintained:
- Peace of mind: When occupants know the evacuation procedures, when there are policies in place, and when they have plans of action, people feel safer.
- Code compliance: Complying with local and federal fire safety regulations, you avoid conceivably expensive fines and degrading censures.
- Fire and smoke detection: If smoke starts in an occupied area, at a time people are around, maybe you can depend on individuals inside your building to identify it and take action. But if the fire takes hold somewhere where there are not people, the role of fire and smoke detectors cannot be overvalued.
- Automatic fire suppression: Consider a complete fire protection system, incorporating sprinklers, foam suppression, or another automated system to douse the fire without human intervention.
- Evacuation plan: Audible and visual alarms promote life safety by alerting everyone in the building to evacuate. A well-executed and communicated plan will ensure that people escape efficiently and safely.
Fire safety upgrade
Ensuring the above elements work efficiently and correctly is determined through a fire safety audit. This audit works to identify everything works as it should and then provide a report outlining what areas need improvement. This audit may then set requirements for a Fire safety upgrade which entails the process of bringing up to date fire safety elements, including improving fire rating of building segments and components, installing specific alarms, smoke detection, emergency & exit lighting, sprinklers, and evacuation plans.
Signs you should retrofit or fire upgrade your fire protection system.
The Australian Fire Code mandates that suitably qualified firms and specialists complete regular Annual Fire Inspections and undertake testing, repair and maintenance on the Fire Alarm & EVCS or Emergency Voice Communication Systems. The latter you have probably heard a few times if you work in a large office building. You know that annoying series of beeps, followed by someone’s voice telling you there are fire tests being undertaken?
These are some of the more visible tests, though there are many others. Here are a few signs that will tell you it’s time to retrofit or upgrade your current equipment.
Aging installations & Fire Safety Equipment
Regardless of whether it’s fire alarms, active fire suppression, or passive fire protection, each system will age, be damaged and eventually need replacing and/or upgrading. Studies have shown that the average life span of a fire protection system is 12 to 15 years. Beyond this, the system may start to show signs of fault, degrade or not work as intended. If this is passive fire protection, it may look like the materials coming away from the steel, if it is an alarm, it may be increased numbers of false alarms and if it is a fire door, it may be flaking, or swollen meaning it is not shutting as it should.
Most alarm systems should be reviewed; monthly, semi-annual, or annually. Numerous local councils have adopted NFPA 72 as the requirement for inspection and testing frequency. Under this, recommended replacement dates for different components include:
- Fire control panel
If you begin seeing issues following ten years, it very well may be the ideal time for an upgrade. You ought to certainly replace and upgrade any system older than 20 years.
- Smoke detectors
NFPA recommends replacing and upgrading them at regular intervals every ten years.
- Fire extinguishers
As per NFPA standards, any dry chemical extinguisher manufactured before 1984 shall be eliminated from service, and extinguishers must be inspected yearly and serviced at regular intervals.
- Passive fire protection
Fire doors, dampers, partitions and walls bear a lot of use, and thus they are essential to inspect and upgrade.
Change of Building Layout
The design of both the workplace and stockroom may change as your business develops. When this happens, you need to revisit your fire safety plan and begin pondering migrating or upgrading your fire safety equipment. Now and again, it very well may be pretty much as straightforward as a quantitative redesign in the number of horn strobes or heat detectors. But, on the other hand, maybe you need to add another fire extinguisher, or you may need to upgrade your firewalls due to the repurposing of a certain building section.
Changes in the Fire Code or code updates
Fire codes don’t change much these days as a result of their longstanding history. But even minor modifications could influence your building’s status of compliance. While the rudiments of fire safety stay stable, they do change occasionally. Even inconspicuous changes may affect the code compliance of your building and thus require you to overhaul or upgrade your system.
In the event that your fire safety equipment begins to require a great deal of support and maintenance, it’s likely you are due for an upgrade. Quit paying for repairs and consider adding new components to your system. Think about putting resources into an upgrade on the off chance that your fire safety equipment needs frequent and successive servicing. It will save you cash over the long haul and convey superior performance and functionality.
Maybe you recently retrofit, but you have since found out that some complex components are incompatible. To re-establish fire safety and code compliance, you may need to upgrade your system once more.
Elements of a fire upgrade order
Regardless of whether a building is up for a fire system upgrade to meet code requirements, part of an essential, more extensive infrastructure renovation, or you need to satisfy insurance requirements, there are a few things you can do to comply or which will be identified in the Fire Upgrade Order:
Fire system assessment
The assessment of a fire system requires an on-site walk-through that provides the consulting fire protection engineer with an opportunity to discover the existing fire protection system and its features visually. This is critical in older buildings where additions have consistently been made throughout time, but previous fire system upgrades weren’t done in tandem.
Code and insurance requirements
An assortment of elements and factors will determine a building’s code and insurance requirements, including the type of facility and ownership. For instance, requirements for a hospital will be very different in relation to those that apply to a commercial office building or school. In addition, you may find that different LGA and councils have different requirements.
Undertaking Compliance works
If you have been given a fire upgrade order, you will likely need to reach out to a consulting engineer or other authorised body to help you ascertain what your options are, what you need to do and by when. This work needs to be specified, agreed to and implemented, with key timeframes met in order to comply and not receive fines and further warnings.
Our services at Remedial
By law, proprietors of a building are required to guarantee all tenants inside a building are safe. Hence, keeping your Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS) code compliant and up-to-date is essential. The Building Code of Australia fire safety requirements are continually updated like all codes, meaning over a stretch of time, most, if not all structures will be served with a council fire upgrade notice, identifying the current standards with which your building is not complying with.
At Remedial, we have been in business for more than 50 years, establishing ourselves as pre-eminent suppliers of specialist building services encompassing structural repair, Home Owners Warranty claim repairs, fire compliance orders and commercial flooring services. Although our experience has seen us traverse Australia on the odd occasion, we predominantly focus on providing the best services for NSW/Sydney. Over this time, our senior management has amassed close to 200 years of collective experience, give us the experience to provide you with the best specialist solutions possible.
We provide a wide array of fire safety services, and our strengths include;
- Application of thin-film intumescent coatings for timber and steel.
- Protection of openings through fire-resisting walls and floors (including installation of fire collars and wraps, fire dampers, fire-rated plasterboard, vermiculite boards, intumescent sealants, and specialist fire stopping products).
- Upgrade of sprinkler, hydrant and booster systems.
- Fire doors to units and stairways.
- Emergency lighting and exit signage.
- Certification of electrical installations.
- Existing fire alarm upgrades.
- Building occupant warning systems.
- Upgrade balustrades and handrails.
- Smoke control.
- Non-slip stair treads.
Since a facility’s fire protection system needs to protect occupants at all times irrespective of whether you have an upgrade or not, facility managers should do their homework. Take the time to identify and monitor your systems by conducting a thorough assessment of what’s existing and what is / is not/ will not meet all code and insurance requirements while also achieving the facility’s goals for fire protection.
In addition, it is important to choose a licensed fire system upgrade contractor and installer wisely. Know what they can and cannot do, and this will make the upgrade process a lot less painful and costly.
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