Upgrading your building
It is assumed that when a building is built it will comply with the relevant building standards of the day - however these standards change over time. There are continuing advancements in technology and changes in our knowledge and community expectations. The community will not accept a low level of safety simply because a building is old.
Since 1948 the State Government has given local councils the power to require the upgrade of buildings deficient in fire safety. Currently local councils can issue ‘Fire Safety Upgrade Orders’ requiring the fire upgrade of buildings under s9.34 and Schedule 5 of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979. Fire Safety Upgrade Orders are issued to remedy fire safety deficiencies in existing buildings to ensure and promote adequate fire safety and fire safety awareness.
An adequate level of fire safety is not necessarily full compliance with the current building regulations, as consideration must be given to the age of the applicable building and the practicality of compliance along with the benefits that will be achieved.
Generally an upgrade of a building in relation to fire safety cannot be conducted without either:
- a. a development consent; or
- b. a Fire Safety Upgrade Order issued by Council under s9.34 and Schedule 5 of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979
Due to the significant number of heritage buildings in our area, it is critical that fire upgrades are undertaken sympathetically. Council will not give a Fire Safety Upgrade Order unless it has considered the impact of the order on the heritage significance of the building.
Examples of how sympathetic upgrades can be achieved include the following:
- a. Emergency lighting
- b. Timber balustrade/handrail required to be increased in height
- c. Replicated original door-sets to fire door-sets with restored and re-instated door hardware
Fire safety orders
Fire Safety Upgrade Orders are issued under s9.34 and Schedule 5 of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979.
Prior to issuing an Order Council will generally issue a ‘Notice of Intention to Give an Order’ that will detail the schedule of work that is considered necessary and the timeframe within which the Order is to be satisfied. At that time the owner of the building can make representations as to:
- why the order should not be given; or
- the terms of or period for compliance with the order; or
- period for compliance with the order
A ‘Notice of Intention to Give an Order’ will not be issued if there is serious risk to health or safety or where there is an immediate fire safety threat. In such cases Council will issue an ‘Emergency Fire Safety Upgrade Order’.
On service of a Fire Safety Upgrade Order the owner may lodge an appeal against the Order to the Land & Environment Court within 28 days.
Fire Safety Upgrade Orders can be amended if changes in circumstances so dictates.
If a Fire Safety Upgrade Order is not complied with and a property owner is not making a genuine effort to work towards compliance, the Council can initiate enforcement proceedings in accordance with Council’s adopted ‘Enforcement Policy’. If enforcement action is taken in the Land & Environment Court the maximum penalty that can be imposed pursuant to the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 for not complying with a Fire Safety Upgrade Order is $5,000,000.
New building requirements
Before new building work is constructed the Principal Certifying Authority will issue a construction certificate with a Fire Safety Schedule attached.
The Fire Safety Schedule will indicate all existing and proposed fire safety measures to be installed in the building as required by the Building Code of Australia.
The principal certifying authority must issue an Occupation Certificate before the building (or part) can be occupied. The Principal Certifying Authority must ensure that they have received a Final Fire Safety Certificate.
The Final Fire Safety Certificate is used to ensure that a competent fire safety practitioner has properly installed the fire safety measures. The Final Fire Safety Certificate should be noted upon the Occupation Certificate as a part of the information that was used to determine that the Occupation Certificate can be issued.
A Final Fire Safety Certificate is issued by or on behalf of the owner of a building indicating each essential fire safety measure specified by the fire safety schedule for the building has been assessed by a competent fire safety practitioner. It should also indicate that the measure was found, when it was assessed, to be capable of performing to at least the standard required by the current Fire Safety Schedule.
The owner of the new building must also as soon as practicable provide a copy of the Final Fire Safety Certificate to the Commissioner of the NSW Fire Brigades and cause a further copy of the certificate, together with a copy of the current Fire Safety Schedule to be prominently displayed in the building.
Within 12 months after the Final Fire Safety Certificate is issued the owner of the new building must cause an Annual Fire Safety Statement to be given to the Council and the Fire Commissioner and be prominently displayed in building.
Every building that is not a single residential dwelling or a residential garage is required to have the fire safety measures assessed annually and have an Annual Fire Safety Statement given to the council, to the Fire Commissioner and prominently displayed in the building.
Building owners should be aware of their obligations and establish as a matter of priority the date that the Annual Fire Safety Statement is due each year. It is recommended that the inspection and maintenance of the fire safety measures be addressed in the months prior to the date the Annual Fire Safety Statement is due to allow any necessary maintenance to be conducted.
Council's fire safety register is constantly maintained and updated. Significant penalties apply to owners of buildings that do not ensure that annual fire safety statements are provided to council by the due date.
Please scroll through the Annual fire safety statements(PDF, 306KB) alphabetical street listing to establish the due date of your annual fire safety statement.
Forms and relevant legislation
For more information, contact our Fire Safety Officer:
Phone: 9391 7147
Fax: 9391 7044