Fire safety is the responsibility of all property owners, property managers, tenants, and business operators who own, occupy or manage various types of residential, commercial, retail and industrial premises.
It is the responsibility of the building owner to ensure that:
- All essential fire safety measures are inspected by an Accredited Practitioner (fire safety) (visit the NSW Planning and Environment website for guidelines) to ensure they are maintained and operating to the appropriate standard of performance; and
- Annual Fire Safety Statements (AFSS) are provided to Council and Fire and Rescue NSW and prominently displayed inside the building; and
- All exit doors are kept in good working condition, and corridors or other paths of egress are kept clear of any obstructions.
These measures aim to prevent the spread of fire and to save property and lives.
The NSW Fire and Rescue website also has valuable information about home fire safety including a fire safety checklist.
The Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 requires the owner of a building to maintain each essential fire safety measure in that building in accordance with relevant standards of performance. Those standards are nominated by Council or an accredited certifier in a Fire Safety Schedule which is provided with a Development Consent, Construction Certificate, Complying Development Certificate, or fire safety order that was issued upon that property.
To demonstrate that the measures have been maintained and are operating effectively the owner of the building is required to lodge an Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS) to both Council and Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW).
An Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS) is a statement issued by or on behalf of the owner of a building to the effect that:
(a) Each essential fire safety measure specified in the statement has been assessed by an Accredited Practitioner (fire safety) and was found, when it was assessed, to be capable of performing:
(i) In the case of an essential fire safety measure applicable by virtue of a fire safety schedule, to a standard no less than that specified in the schedule, or
(ii) In the case of an essential fire safety measure applicable otherwise than by virtue of a fire safety schedule, to a standard no less than that to which the measure was originally designed and implemented, and
(b) The building has been inspected by an Accredited Practitioner (fire safety) 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 the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000.
The general process is that every year the building owner will engage an Accredited Practitioner (fire safety) that holds the appropriate level/s of accreditation to:
- Assess the performance of each essential fire safety measure listed on the Fire Safety Schedule; and
- Inspect the building (including all required exits and exit paths) to ensure that there are no grounds for a prosecution under Division 7 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000; and
- Endorse the Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS).
The AFSS for a building must:
- Include each essential fire safety measure in the building premises as listed on the Fire Safety Schedule; and
- Be endorsed by an Accredited Practitioner (fire safety); and
- Be submitted within 12 months after the date on which the previous statement or the final fire safety certificate was given; and
- Be lodged to Council and FRNSW within 3 months of the date of inspection and assessment.
There is no requirement to submit an Annual Fire Safety Statement (AFSS) for single dwelling houses classified as 1a under the Building Code of Australia. Typically, Class 1a refers to single dwelling houses, terraces or villa houses.
Fire safety statement – Frequently Asked Questions
On 1 July 2020, legislative changes updated the requirements for Accredited Practitioners (fire safety) (previously known as ‘competent fire safety practitioners’).
Who can assess fire safety measures for an annual fire safety statement or supplementary fire safety statement?
Only Accredited Practitioners (fire safety) who hold current accreditation under an approved industry accreditation scheme. The practitioner must be accredited to assess each of the measures listed on the Fire Safety Schedule.
Visit the FPAA website for a register of accredited practitioners.
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.
Please consider the following:
- Incomplete or late fire safety statements may result in a fine.
- If the fire safety statement is not completed satisfactorily you will be required to submit a corrected statement.
- Failure to provide an annual/supplementary fire safety statement can result in on-the-spot fines ranging from $1,000 to $4,000 per week.
- If a fine is issued, it will not excuse you from the need to submit an annual fire safety statement.
- If you fail to meet your statutory requirements, Council will take legal action against you and/or will continue to issue on-the-spot fines. "Failure to maintain essential fire safety measures" (which is a separate offence) can also result in a fine. The penalty in this instance is from $3,000 to $6,000.
All fire safety measures listed on the annual fire safety statement and fire safety schedule including egress paths and exits must be maintained at all times even when the building becomes vacant.
Maintaining the fire safety measures and ongoing maintenance will promote the safety of persons who are nearby the premises or who access vacant buildings (e.g. security, Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Police, building owners, Council staff, real estate agents, etc.).
A fire safety schedule will be issued with the Construction Certificate or Complying Development Certificate listing the essential fire safety measures that are to be installed in the building. A fire safety certificate must be submitted prior to the issue of an Occupation Certificate. This certifies that each of the specified essential fire safety measures are capable of operating to the performance listed in the fire safety schedule. Subsequently, annual fire safety statements must then be submitted to Council and Fire and Rescue NSW as well as prominently displayed within the building every year.
Old buildings and buildings built before current Building Code of Australia standards are not exempt from fire safety requirements, and it is the obligation of the owner to ensure that sufficient fire safety measures are in place.
It is necessary for owners to work with Council to achieve acceptable fire safety compliance and to undertake voluntary upgrades as needed by engaging the services of private fire safety consultants and engineers.
Where current BCA compliance is not achievable without substantial demolition and/or redevelopment, alternative solutions may be proposed to Council by accredited professionals who have undertaken a detailed assessment of the building.
Fire safety schedules list the measures required to be installed within the building and the standard they need to achieve. A fire safety schedule can be issued:
- By Council or an accredited certifier in relation to a Construction or Complying Development Certificate; or
- By Council in conjunction with a fire safety order; or
- By Council in some cases with a development consent, such as for a change of use in an existing building.
A fire safety schedule is only applicable if any of the above occurred after 1988.
A final Fire Safety Certificate is a certificate which is issued once the installation of new essential fire safety measures – either as a result of a fire order or new building construction works – have been completed.
The certificate is supplied to Council as part of a fire order upgrade or as part of an Occupation Certificate application prior to the occupation of a building.
A final fire safety certificate is only required:
- Before the issue of an Occupation Certificate under clause 153 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000; or
- If a fire safety order has been issued in relation to a building or premises.
A copy of the fire safety certificate is also to be forwarded to Fire and Rescue NSW and a copy must be prominently displayed in the building.
Essential fire safety measures are any measures that are installed in a building to ensure the safety of persons using the building in the event of fire. The Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 contains a list of statutory fire safety measures that may have been incorporated into the building, including:
- Access panels, doors and hoppers to fire-resisting shafts
- Automatic fail-safe devices
- Automatic fire detection and alarm systems
- Automatic fire suppression systems
- Emergency lifts
- Emergency lighting
- Emergency warning and intercommunication systems
- Exit signs
- Fire control centres and rooms
- Fire dampers
- Fire doors
- Fire hose reel systems
- Fire hydrant systems
- Fire seals protecting openings in fire-resisting components of the building
- Fire shutters
- Fire windows
- Lightweight construction
- Mechanical air handling systems
- Perimeter vehicle access for emergency vehicles
- Portable fire extinguishers
- Safety curtains in proscenium openings
- Smoke alarms and heat alarms
- Smoke and heat vents
- Smoke dampers
- Smoke detectors and heat detectors
- Smoke doors
- Solid core doors
- Standby power systems
- Wall-wetting sprinkler and drencher systems
- Warning and operational signs
The Building Code of Australia (BCA) specifies when the installation of essential fire safety measures are required.
The Building Legislation Amendment (Smoke Alarms) Act 2005 and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Smoke Alarms) Regulation 2006 commenced in NSW on 1 May 2006.
The legislation refers to residential and certain shared accommodation across NSW and requires:
- The installation of one or more smoke alarms in buildings in which persons sleep;
- Smoke alarms installed in such buildings must be operational; and
- Persons do not remove or interfere with the operation of smoke alarms installed in such buildings.
The following types of residential and shared accommodation must have a minimum of one working smoke alarm on each level of the property:
- Residential Accommodation
- Detached houses, terrace houses, town houses, villa units (Class 1a buildings).
- Apartments, home units, flats (Class 2 buildings).
- Caretakers flats, single residences above shops (Class 4 parts of buildings).
- Relocatable homes, e.g. manufactured homes and moveable dwellings, but not tents, camper vans, caravans or the like.
- Boarding houses/shared accommodation
- Small boarding houses, guest houses, hostels; backpackers accommodation; bed and breakfast accommodation (Class 1b buildings not more than 12 persons with a total floor area not exceeding 300m²).
- Large boarding houses, guest houses, hostels, backpacker accommodation; residential parts of hotels, motels, schools, health care buildings, detention centres; certain residential accommodation for the aged, children and people with disabilities (Class 3 buildings more than 12 persons).
- Hospitals and nursing homes (Class 9a health care buildings).
As part of its internal fire safety upgrading program, Council may, at any time, assess the fire safety level of an existing building and if it is considered necessary, order the owner/s to carry out upgrading works and install essential fire safety measures compatible to the building use.
If you have existing essential fire safety measures in your building and:
- Intend to carry out work for which development consent or a Complying Development Certificate is required, or
- Intend to change the use of the building for which consent is required.
A suitably qualified competent person should be engaged in order to research and verify the design standards to which those measures were originally installed. Once this has been undertaken, verification in the form of a fire safety audit report is to be included with the development application.
Assuming approval is granted, Council will nominate (via either consent conditions and/or a fire safety schedule), any additional essential fire safety measures required in the building and the appropriate design standard to which they must be installed.
If you intend to construct a new building, approval is required. Forming part of any Construction Certificate or Complying Development Certificate that is issued, Council or a private certifier will nominate the essential fire safety measures required and the design standards to which they must be installed in the Fire Safety Schedule.
Recent high-profile building fires in Melbourne and Grenfell Tower in London have identified concerns and potential risks for buildings that have non-compliant wall cladding which can consist of aluminium composite panels (ACP).
As a building owner, you are responsible for ensuring your premises are maintained, safe for occupation and that essential fire safety measures are in working order.
Owners of certain buildings with external combustible cladding are required to register their building with the NSW Government through its cladding registration online portal.
For further information on actions taken by the NSW Government, details on external wall cladding and next steps for property owners/occupiers, please visit the NSW Fair Trading website.