Week 11 No.1 Smoke detectors

Smoke detector testing

Smoke detectors save lives.

We hear this often, when news items come up about house fires especially.  This reminder about smoke detectors underlines how important our job is, and your role too, in ensuring your tenants are adequately protected.


For contracts where we perform your routine smoke detector tests you can rest assured we have you covered for AS1851 compliance on monthly, six-monthly, yearly and five-yearly testing.


We visit our client premises on a routine basis to conduct the tests due for the respective period.

Firstly we switch your fire alarm panel to test mode to prevent unnecessary alarms or fire brigade calls. Then we make the standard PA announcement of the testing regime about to be commenced.

Panel switched to test mode

We bring the test equipment we require.







Half of the devices are required to be tested each cycle and we take care to ensure each device gets its fair share of testing. We also routinely confirm that no changes on site have adversely affected the coverage of your existing smoke detection devices.








If any device is found to fail, or due to be replaced, we’ll raise a work order request so you are aware of the event, and generally our contract with you authorises this expenditure.

Our tests are recorded on the spot in the AS1851 compliance reports, which are retained on your site for seven years. These reports are immediately accessible to the fire brigade and other authorised parties, should they attend your site for any reason.

Once the test are over and written up, the fire alarm panel is returned to normal operating mode.

Repair and replacement

We’ll generally make a follow-up visit for the changeover of expired or faulty devices. Here we are replacing a faulty smoke detector in a resident’s room in an aged care facility. The device being installed was selected for compatibility with the alarm panel in this particular facility.

The failed device, identified in an earlier visit.

New smoke detector installed






Call us

See you at your’s next month, or call us.

Week 10 No.2 – Hydrant boost test, South Melbourne

Five yearly hydrant boost test

This week we had a date with 40 Albert Road, South Melbourne, for a five yearly hydrant boost test.

Image 1 – Early start to beat the traffic, still finding the red lights.

Image 2 – 40 Albert Road, South Melbourne









Setting up

We check the local mains pressure at ground level. After a short line flush we head upstairs. The highest part of the building is the open deck on the roof. The nearest hydrant is on the floor below, so our hose is connected.

We check the hydrant pressure achieved here from the mains pressure alone.

Image 3 – Initial hydrant flush, ground level, while waiting for this parking space to clear.

Image 4 – Hose from the top floor hydrant to the roof

Image 5 – Hose under pressure







Image 6 – Water gushes from the flow test device


Initial hydrant test

The test starts with a static pressure reading. Then we open the flow test device to record the dynamic pressure and flow rate. This requires water to flow and in this particular building the roof gutters carry the water to a storm-water containment reservoir, for processing.
(Note:- Checking the drainage is not part of our test. However a previous test in these premises, by others, lead to flooding on the top floor. Careful execution ensured we did not repeat their expensive incident.)

Booster test

In the second part of the test we run the big pump in the fire truck to boost the mains pressure to the achieve the prescribed pressure. We pressure test the hydrant system at the higher pressure without any flow (static pressure), then a brief burst of water allows the flow rate and pressure (dynamic pressure) at the roof to be measured again.


Image 9 – Two hoses connect the mains supply to our truck. Flow returns at the boosted pressure, into the building hydrant system.

Image 8 – Two hoses feed into the on-board pump. Two hoses run back to the building’s hydrant system.

Image 7 – Hoses crossing the footpath in a location with many pedestrians require continuous traffic management.








Image 10 – Frida the fire truck – most greatly admired by the passing pram traffic.

A successful day’s work for the first city outing of our fire truck.

Your next hydrant boost test

We’d love to help you with your next five yearly hydrant boost test. Give us a call on 1300 134 971


Week 10 No.1 – Fire Hydrant Boost Testing – Our latest addition  

Our Latest Addition!

We are were very excited this week to receive a new addition to our fleet. This ex NSW urban pumper has come off the line and straight into service as our second boost testing truck. This truck, whilst over 20 years old has done very little work. It has travelled less than 100 km per week for its entire life! The new truck will out-perform on boost testing hydrant systems!

Pumping System

The pump is directly driven off the PTO on the truck engine, with 4 inlets on the bottom of the pump and 4 outlets on the top of the pump. This means we are able to test most large sites without any trouble.

Key Features of MFE Boost Testing.

  1. We operate all of our boost testing under the supervision of a registered plumber.
  2. We use micrometers to measure the flow of water
  3. If required we are able to perform the overhauling of the hydrant service prior to undertaking the boost and pressure test.
  4. Our reports are simple to read!
  5. We provide a short video as evidence of the pressure and flow testing.
  6. For the more difficult sites for access we are able to undertake pressure and flow testing on the weekends where required.
  7. If you dont have a block plan we are able to assist, we have draftsman on staff who are able to re create your block plan if needed.

Watch out for our upcoming post capturing the action when we used this truck in in busy South Melbourne to perform a five yearly hydrant booster test.

If you are looking for a company to complete your five yearly boost and pressure testing give us call today! We would love to help!


Week 8 no.1 – Heritage buildings

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.

260 Lt Collins St, Melbourne

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.


  • 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.



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.


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


Week 4 no.1 – Sump Pump Cleaning and Draining Melbourne

Sump Pump Repairs And Cleaning

What are sump pumps?

Sump pumps are located in the basement of buildings and are used to drain ground water or leaking water away from the building. Building sump pumps are generally electric and are operated by a float switch; when the water rises, the float switch triggers, the pump starts and drains water from the sump for discharge into the storm water system.

Key Places You Find Sump Pumps 

  1. Car Park Basements
  2. Lift Shafts
  3. Machinery Rooms
  4. Basements of Buildings
  5. Bin Rooms on lower levels
  6. Utility rooms
  7. Near your fire pump

You will find them in

  • Low level buildings
  • Apartment Buildings
  • High Rise Buildings

Key Parts That Need Service 

The sump pump system includes a number of components and all of these need to be kept in working order. Here are the components which typically require periodic servicing.

  • Sump pump – including inlet basket and the discharge pipe (usually flexible)
  • Float switch – this turns the pump on and off
  • Secondary float switch – optional (sits at a higher level, may be connected to an alarm, to indicate the normal operating system has a problem

We often get call-outs to check the electrical systems associated with Sump Pumps.

How can we help? 

We can help you manage your sump pump through ongoing inspection and periodic testing of the sump pump. This generally means we will clean the sump pit, fill the sump pit with water, check the pump float is working and pump is able to handle water.

These pictures show a pair of sump pumps we inspected last week in Melbourne CBD. The first image is typical of the grimy location of some sump pumps – in this case under a false floor in a disused lift well. The second picture shows a rather smarter set-up in a basement utility room.

Sump Pumps Melbourne

Sump Pumps Melbourne

Sump Pumps Melbourne








Watch this space as we give a bit of a face lift to the one on the left.