Security screens on fire doors

Firstly and importantly – Fire and Rescue New South Wales advise against the fitting of security screens to fire doors, although it really is a BCA compliance issue.

There are several issues with security screens…

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Passive Fire Protection

Passive Fire measures are designed to stop (or slow) the spread of fire from one part of the building to another. Most buildings have Passive Fire protection measures – even if they are not specifically listed on the AFSS.

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Emergency Lights

In an emergency situation emergency lights should run on their backup battery for at least 90-minutes. Australian Standards require that exit & emergency lights be tested every 6 months. Exit and emergency lights have a shorter lifespan when compared to non-emergency lights.

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Smoke Alarms & Landlord Obligations

Landlords have clear obligations when it comes to the installation, repair and maintenance of smoke alarms.
So who is responsible for what?
Landlords can engage Civil Fire to fulfil their obligations for $75 + GST each year.

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Can I install downlights, ducted air conditioning, ceiling exhaust fans or manholes in my unit ceiling?

Yes… but first you would need to:

1. Obtain approval from the strata plan (as they typically own the ceilings), and
2. Establish whether the ceiling is designed to have a resistance to the incipient spread of fire to the roof space for a period of not less than 60 minutes. 

If it is found that the ceiling carries this fire rating, then installation is still possible, but it gets trickier… and more expensive. Think of the ceiling as a barrier. Each time a hole is punched through the barrier (by pipe, light, conduit, access hole), and the barrier is no longer effective. Each hole would need to be ‘protected’ with an appropriate passive fire protection element (fire seals, fire dampers and additional lightweight construction).

A ducted air conditioning system penetrating a fire rated ceiling could cost upward of an additional $10,000. A simple exhaust fan could cost an additional $1200. Fire-rated downlights or downlight covers can add 50% to the purchase costs and impact on the positioning of the lights.

It is our recommendation that you engage a Passive Fire Specialist at the time you are obtaining quotes for your new installation. Why? Well, tradies working in this space usually work in houses and have never heard of fire-rated-ceilings. They go about their business of installing the system – blissfully unaware of the damage they are doing to this critical piece of building infrastructure.

Historical construction codes (such as Ordinance 70 – 1973) right through to the current release of the BCA allow for various means of construction of ceilings and roof spaces under Specification C1.1. You need to know your stuff! It is not as simple as relying on the advice of the tradies you have chosen to undertake the installation – you should always engage a passive fire specialist.

We’ve estimated that about 80% of installations we’ve come across are not done in a compliant manner. The figure is significantly higher when the buildings fire safety schedule for annual endorsement does not contain items such as fire seals, fire dampers and lightweight construction or when a building is not required to submit an Annual Fire Safety Statement.

Owners of strata buildings should ensure procedures are in place to a) identify all fire rated ceilings, and b) ensure the system is not compromised through by penetrations.

Only maintained, and operating fire safety systems save lives! A fire rated ceiling full of penetrations is safety hazard. Defective fire systems can affect insurance premiums & payouts and may lead to litigation for the building owners.

Owners of strata buildings should:

  • Identify all fire rated ceilings in their building.
  • Prevent new installations from occurring in fire rated ceiling without sign-off from a passive fire specialist.
  • Determine the current state of the fire rated ceiling. Is it currently compliant? Or are there historical defects?
  • Rectify historical defects to restore the fire rated ceiling to compliance.
  • Ensure routine assessment of the ceiling is being undertaken by an accredited individaul.

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