Fire Rated Ceilings: A resident’s guide

Can I install downlights, ducted air conditioning, ceiling exhaust fans or manholes in my unit ceiling?
Well yes… but you need to be very careful if your ceiling designed to have a “resistance to the incipient spread of fire to the roof space for a period of not less than 60 minutes”.
Fire rated ceilings are an fire safety measure, designed to slow the spread of fire from one part of the building to another.

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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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Security screens on fire doors

The fitting of security screens to fire doors is really a BCA compliance issue. Whilst we are not accredited to give BCA compliance advice, we can offer some general information on the topic.

Firstly and importantly – Fire and Rescue New South Wales advise against the fitting of security screens to fire doors, and some councils do not permit security screens and will require them to be removed when/if a fire safety order is issued regardless of whether they breach the BCA or not.
There are several issues with security screens:

 – Security screen doors may obstruct or restrict a path of travel to an exit, as it swings open.
 – Depending on how the screen door is affixed to the door or door frame, it may compromise the fire rating of the door.
 – Locking mechanisms may make it difficult for emergency services to access the property in the event of an emergency.
 – Occupants may be inclined to leave their fire door propped open – with security screen locked – in order to enable great ventilation or air flow.

Why install a security screen?

Security screens are usually installed for one of two reasons:

1) To allow airflow & ventilation into the apartment, and/or
2) To enhance security. 

Airflow / Ventilation

Unfortunately, security screens cannot be installed in order to enhance airflow / ventilation within the apartment. 
The fire door of an apartment should NOT be left open, or propped open for ventilation purposes even if a screen door is providing security.
Fire doors are required to be in the closed & latched position at all times when not in use. An open fire door allows fire, heat & smoke to pass from the unit into the common area, or visa versa.

Enhanced Security

If security is the key concern, the resident may consider installing a peep-hole that is approved for use with the particular fire door that is installed.

Civil Fire’s general advice is: don’t fit a screen door unless you get written advice from an accredited consultant to say you can.

Remember, owners & residents should not make any modifications to their fire door without seeking written approval from the Owners Corporation. Unit entry doors (fire doors) are not owned by the owner of the unit.