Heritage buildings Fire Maintenance

Essential safety compliance in Melbourne’s heritage buildings

Some contractors may prefer to avoid them but we have helped more than a few city addresses to rise gracefully to meet the safety expectations of the 21st century. It’s not too daunting. In fact it’s a pleasure to work with these old dames of Melbourne.

Some date back to a time not far removed from the gold boom, when Melbourne was fleetingly one of the world’s richest cities.

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The modern appearance in the entrance area, disguises a city apartment building created in times gone by – in this case a stunning Art Deco building.

It was recently extended  and spruced up to look pretty smart. And of course the fires services had to be brought up to current standards.

 

 

 

 

 

The simple, modernised apartments on the floor above street level are provided with an original timber fire escape – not seen in new builds but permitted here only with dispensation and additional safe-guards.

 

 

Timber fire escape

Fire alarm panel near a ground floor escape path, provides easy Fire Brigade access

 

The fully up-to-date alarm panel is located near the street, in a revitalised (that is, painted black – it’s a Melbourne thing!) fire stair which is available to the some of the ground floor and first floor tenants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 7 no.2 – Smoke alarm – more

Smoke alarm and RCD avert tragedy

Radiant bar heater – typical

A family home had a radiant bar heater in an upstairs study, the type without an on/off switch. It just plugs into the a general power outlet or a powerboard. This one was on a powerboard, because of course, there are so many appliances used in the home study these days. Being summer the radiator was pushed out of the way near the curtains.
However the adult son does some work at home in the next room. He has an extension cord off the power board to the table where he works. He turns on a piece of equipment he hasn’t used in a while, but finds no power. He traces back to the power board, then the switch on the wall, which he turns on and goes back to his room.
In this case, unluckily, the radiator turns on too, and soon the curtains catch fire. The next thing that happens – the circuit breaker in the fuse box trips so the power is out in the whole house. Good. But before the son finds out he has lost all power, or about the fire, the upstairs smoke alarm starts sounding. He rushes into the study, finds the curtains alight and yells “Fire. Fire.” Mum and dad were just about to go out for the evening, but they rush upstairs to see the curtains in flames over 2 m high. Fortunately they managed to extinguish the fire quickly, using water and bed blankets. Some foot injury happened because it was a hot day and no one was wearing closed shoes.

Apart from the minor burn to the foot, no one was hurt. There were enough alert and agile people around to react quickly with the right ideas.

Learnings:

  • Radiator with no integral ON/OFF switch left plugged. Poor practice. Don’t do it.
  • Unused radiator left where it might gather dust (problem when next used) Poor practice. Don’t do it.
  • Radiator on a power board. This could easily lead to  overloading of the wall outlet or powerboard because these appliances are usually 1 kW, or more, thus require the full current available at a single outlet. Poor practice. Don’t do it.
  • Turned on power to a powerboard without checking what else was being powered up.Poor practice.

What did they do?

  • Tossed the radiator
  • Got all house electricals checked for effects of the fire, and any hidden wire overheating.
  • Bought a fire blanket for upstairs and downstairs
  • Spent a lot of time since then cleaning up the fire damage and being thankful it wasn’t worse.

How can we help?

Have you done your annual smoke alarm check? In a tenanted building, have you replaced any smoke alarm older than 10 years? Call us and we can help,

Week 7 no.1 – Fire Alarm Block Plans & Baseline Data

Fire alarm block plans are often missed and forgotten about when servicing your fire alarm. These are referenced in both AS1851-2012 and AS1851-2005 Routine Service of Fire Protection Systems and Equipment, which means it’s been a requirement for at least 10 years.

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TYPICAL BLOCK PLANS or BLOCK DIAGRAMS

Typical - Fire equipment layout

TYPICAL LAYOUT Smoke detectors, Basement level

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However time and time again I turn up to quote a maintenance job and find there are no block plans or any installation data. There are a number of problems with this for ME, the prospective contractor, and YOU, the facility manager or owner.

I have detailed my top half dozen concerns below.

  1. Fire Brigade Call OutsIf the Fire Brigade attends, they can get lost and can’t find the detectors which alarmed and triggered the call out. Worse still they may be exposed to hazards that are undocumented and hidden.
  2. Following a fire

    After a fire, even a minor one, your insurance provider will undertake an insurance investigation on your claim. This will be hampered in the event block drawings are out of date or non-existent. This is just the sort of finding to put at risk the validity of your insurance cover.
  3. Scheduled maintenance

    It’s more difficult and costly to run your routine checks, monthly, annual or other periodic system tests without block diagrams to find and identify all relevant equipment for each equipment type.
  4. Break down maintenance

    The technician, mine or yours, can’t repair a faulty system if the detector which triggered an alarm can’t be found.
  5. Maintenance difficultiesEven your “usual” contractor may not remember where everything is, and any specialist or fill-in contractor can’t find anything without investigation and time-wasting searches
  6. You can get locked in to you current contactorChange of maintenance contractor can be a real problem if you don’t have any information on your system. When you go to change contractors, the new company is starting from scratch, investigation and “discovery” time will eventually be to your cost and there can be disputes about what is required.

How can we help?

We can survey and document your system and create new block plans and as built drawings. If you have drawings and they are out of date we can update them, and if you no longer have soft copies we can as-build from your old prints.

Week 5 no.2 – Guideline 35 Hydrostatic Testing Of Hydrants

Fire Brigade Guideline

Here is the MFB GL-35 on hydrostatic testing of hydrants.

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This guide line was issued in December 2010 by the Melbourne Fire and Emergency Services Board. In it they give their opinion related to maintenance of fire hydrant system which do NOT have an MFB booster connection.

 

Week 5 no.1 – Is your switchboard a mess?

Is you switchboard a mess?

Below is an electric switchboard we worked on last week in Melbourne. We found it in an absolute mess as the picture shows.

Electric Switch Board, Melbourne - 260 Lt Collins St, basement, Jan 2017

Electric Switch Board, Melbourne – messy board

What is wrong with it?

Poorly labelled, loose terminals, unknown earth point, stripped screws, multiple penetrations, etc.

Why? How did it get like that?

The switchboard has had multiple repairs and new installations added over the years. These changes are common and are carried out to meet the changing needs of the tenants, or different needs of incoming tenants.

However some of the work has been done in a hurried and incomplete manner (perhaps some jobs were quoted too low, in order to win the work). An electrician who comes along to make the next repair or change can’t be sure of every connection. If there is any safety uncertainty, every step requires extra verification The board has become a disaster.

 

What to do?

Repair the board. This means taking steps such as

  • fully label the board and sub circuits,
  • replace temporary and hard-to-read labels,
  • replace the faulty breakers,
  • replace damaged or missing screws

How can we help?

We are electricians who can help with this sort of work. And we are in the city daily.
Call Drew today on 1300 134 971