This article about the implications of temporarily suspending Fire Maintenance Services in WA during the Coronavirus pandemic has been provided by Greg McCulloch, Westside Fire Services and Leonie Milonas, PSC Property Lync Insurance Brokers.
In accordance with Australian Government orders, we have been asked as a community, to implement social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing requires us to not leave the house unless obtaining essential living requirements (ie food) which means working and schooling from home have become the new norm.
Safety in the home is always important, but it has become paramount with higher populations residing in strata buildings both day and night, due to the new COVID-19 government requirements.
Fire equipment in a building is installed for the safety of persons and property and maintenance of these systems is treated as an essential service as part of the upkeep of the building, even during COVID-19 pandemic.
Westside Fire Services has received a number of enquiries from Strata Companies who wish to suspend maintenance services. Westside understands there is significant community concern about service contractors attending buildings during the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
In the event of a fire during self-isolation, there is the risk of increased numbers of people who may need to evacuate a building all at the same time. We all rely on the building’s fire protection systems and equipment to alarm us or extinguish fires as quickly as possible and we assume this equipment is operable and working. The equipment plays an important part in safety and is in place to help save lives in the event of a fire emergency. Therefore, upkeep and maintenance of fire protection systems and equipment within your building is essential, particularly during COVID-19.
Building legislation in Western Australia requires owners of Class 2 to Class 9 buildings (which includes residential apartments) to ensure the building’s safety measures are maintained. This is to ensure that safety systems remain capable of performing to a standard not less than they were originally required and commissioned to achieve.
Under Regulation 48A of the Western Australian Building Regulations 2012, safety measures are required to be maintained in accordance with relevant building standards, including:
- building fire integrity;
- firefighting services and equipment;
- automatic fire detection and alarm;
- occupant warning systems;
- building clearance and fire appliances;
The Building Commission considers the adoption of Australian Standard AS1851-2012 Routine service of fire protection systems and equipment as good practice and a means for owners to ensure fire safety measures are serviced at regular frequencies to demonstrate suitable operation, and rectified or repaired if necessary to meet their regulatory obligation on maintenance.
As a Strata Company, for the best advice on how to deal with the upkeep of your essential services equipment in a building, (such as fire equipment, during the COVID-19 pandemic), you should refer to government authorities, such as Department of Fire & Emergency Services (DFES), local council and your fire services company. Whatever the agreed action plan, it should be relayed to your insurer.
If you decide to suspend the inspection and testing of fire systems and then fail to notify your insurer, this could result in your insurance cover being void in the event of a fire or building emergency.
It is also important to have fire impairment procedures in place to aid instruction, to help people such as building managers when dealing with any fire equipment that may be temporarily out of use.
These procedures would include notifying DFES, the Strata Manager and your insurance company. Fire protection equipment that is built into a building is expected to be operable and in use by emergency workers and to keep all the residents safe who live in the building in the event of an emergency.
If your fire equipment is not working because it was not serviced as it should be, then the strata may be prejudicing their insured rights and may mean that a claim is declined.
This post appears in Strata News #337.
Have a question about temporarily suspending Fire Maintenance Services in WA during the Coronavirus crisis or something to add to the article? Leave a comment below.
This article is prepared for informational purposes only, and is not insurance, financial or legal advice and should not be relied on as insurance, financial or legal ad¬vice. You should consult with a qualified insurance or legal advisor. PSC Property Lync Insurance Brokers is an Authorised Representative (AR 1235681) of Professional Services Corporation Pty Ltd (AFSL 305491).
Please note this advice was provided prior to the proclamation of the new strata title amendments and will be updated in due course.
- WA: Is the Fire Detection System in Your Building Monitored?
- WA: Have you had your smoke and fire barriers inspected this year?
- WA: Maintenance Planning and Insurance: The Strata Titles Amendment Act 2018 (STAA 2018)
- Dept Health: Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources
- WA Dept of Fire and Emergency Services
- COVID-19 coronavirus: Western Australian Government response
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