Fire and Evacuation Plans – Why you need one

September 4, 2018

We regularly get asked the question; “why do we need to have a written fire and evacuation plan?” In this article we cover who needs one and what the plan needs to include to be compliant with the QLD Fire and Emergency Service (QFES) requirements.

The following information is extracted from the QFES website – Fire Safety Management Tool for Owner/Occupiers. Our summary explains which classification of buildings relevant to strata schemes require a Fire and Evacuation Plan and why this document is required for your strata building.

Every building must have a written fire and evacuation plan in place – except Class 1a and Class 10 buildings.

The actual Fire and Evacuation Plan may be a hard copy or in electronic format and below we outline some of the questions and answers to determine compliance requirements.

Is there a managing entity and secondary occupiers’ fire and evacuation plan for multi-occupancy buildings?

A multi-occupancy building is a building where there is more than one tenant, for example a high-rise building or a shopping centre. A managing entity is, for example, a Body Corporate or Centre Manager.

Secondary occupiers are occupiers of part of a multi-occupancy building, other than the managing entity. These are usually tenants or owner occupiers of lots.
The managing entity is responsible for evacuating people from the common areas of a multi-occupancy building to a designated assembly area on the fire and evacuation plan. A common area is a passageway, foyer, stairway, corridor or mall.

Secondary occupiers are responsible for evacuating people from their tenancy.

For example, an occupier in retail or commercial strata unit will evacuate themselves and their customers to the common area, and then the managing entity’s plan (Body Corporate) will evacuate them out of the building to the designated assembly area.

Both parties are responsible for ensuring their plans complement the other.

In Class 2-unit buildings, a separate Fire and Evacuation Plan is not required for each residence. In these buildings, only a common area Fire and Evacuation Plan for the entire building is required. This is the responsibility of the Managing Entity (Body Corporate).

Are all the fire and evacuation plans kept in the specified form?

Fire and Evacuation Plan must incorporate all the requirements of the Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008. The plan must be in written form. This can be either as a hard copy or in electronic format as long as it is available on request in the building.
It must include:
The evacuation diagram/sign of the building.
Name and address of the building.
Name, address, telephone number and electronic contact details of the owner and occupier of the building.
The evacuation coordination procedures for the building.
Instructions for evacuating the building in line with the evacuation coordination procedures.
The method of operation of firefighting equipment and manual fire alarms in the building.
The procedures for giving fire and evacuation instructions to persons working in the building and ensuring the instructions are given.
The name and contact details of persons responsible for carrying out the evacuation procedures.
The date each person became responsible for carrying out the procedures.
The names and contact details for persons responsible for giving the fire and evacuation instructions.
Name of the person who developed, changed and reviewed the fire and evacuation plan.
In instances where several persons fill a position across rotational shifts, QFES will accept a position title rather than person’s name. For example – ‘Nurse in Charge of Acute Care’ may be listed as the responsible person for the Intensive Care area.
If the building is a high occupancy building (requires a Fire Safety Adviser – over 25 Metres in effective height or more that 30 workers) the fire and evacuation plan must incorporate additional requirements:
The name of the Fire Safety Adviser
Contact details for the Fire Safety Adviser (e.g. Phone number and electronic contact details).
A description of the qualification/s held by the Fire Safety Adviser.
The Registered Training Organisation that issued the qualification.
The date the qualification was issued.

Do fire and evacuation plans reflect alternative building solutions?

An alternative solution is that which has been assessed and agreed between parties such as fire engineers, QFES and building certifiers. It allows for an alternative building solution to be put in place meeting the performance, rather than the prescriptive, requirements of the Building Code of Australia. Alternative solutions for your building can be found on your building’s Certificate of Classification. If there is an alternative solution for the building, the alternative solution is to be included in the fire and evacuation plan. For example, if a building has extended travel distances, the fire and evacuation plan must reference this.

Is there a procedure in place to evacuate persons with special needs?

If persons with special needs are in the building the occupier is responsible for ensuring there is a procedure in place to evacuate them safely.
A person with special needs can be:
A person with a disability.
A child.
A person affected by medication or alcohol.
A person in lawful custody.
A person working in the building where access is restricted (e.g. a basement, false ceiling cavity).
A person working in a hazardous area of a building.
An example of a procedure to evacuate persons with special needs may be to identify one or more persons who, on activation of the alarm, are to proceed to the area where the persons with special needs are and assist them in evacuation.
A record of this procedure must be retained with the fire and evacuation plan and other documents required to be kept.

Are all fire and evacuation plans available upon request?

All fire and evacuation plans must be made available to interested persons for inspection, free of charge, upon request during normal business hours. This includes electronic copies.

Are all fire and evacuation plans current and reviewed annually?

All fire and evacuation plans must be reviewed annually.
An example of reviewing the plan may be to walk through the building with the plan to ensure that the evacuation routes have not changed and checking that the same persons remain in the roles listed on the fire and evacuation plan.
The review process must be recorded and kept with other relevant documents. If changes are made to the building which affects the fire and evacuation plan, the plan must be altered to reflect the changes as soon as practical but no later than one month after the change occurred.

Examples of this include refurbishment or a change in the use of the building.

Below is a summary of buildings classifications and structures as defined in the Building Code of Australia
Class 1a a single dwelling being a detached house or one or more attached dwellings, including a row house, terrace house, town house or villa unit,
Class 2 A building containing 2 or more sole occupancy units each being a separate dwelling.
Class 3 A resident building, other than a Class 1 or 2, which is a common place of long term or transient living for several unrelated persons (e.g. boarding house, hostel, backpackers, hotel, residential part of school etc.).
Class 4 A dwelling in a building that is Class 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9 if it is the only dwelling in the building.
Class 5 An office building used for professional or commercial purposes, excluding buildings of Class 6, 7, 8 or 9.
Class 6 A shop or other building for the sale of goods by retail or the supply of services direct to the public (e.g. café, restaurant, bar, kiosk, hair dresser’s shop, showroom, service station).
Class 7
Class 7a A building which is a car park
Class 7b A building for storage or display of goods or produce for sale by wholesale.
Class 8 A laboratory, or a building in which a handicraft or process for the production, assembling, altering, repairing, packing, finishing, or cleaning of goods or produce is carried on for trade, sale or gain.
Class 9
A building of a public nature –
Class 9a a health care building.
Class 9b an assembly building, including workshop, laboratory or the like, in a primary or secondary school, but excluding any other parts of the building that are of another class.
Class 9c an aged care building.
Class 10 A non-habitable building or structure –
Class 10a a private garage, carport, shed or the like.
Class 1a and Class 10 buildings are not subject to the requirements of the Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008.

If you are unsure of the compliance requirements for your building, we suggest you contact a Fire Safety Compliance professional to assist you in gaining certainty of fire safety for your property and its residents.

This article was contributed by Sean Albert – Compliance Manager, Archers the Compliance Professionals.