Don’t panic

Don’t panic

Don’t panic – matters seem to be cooling off, and co-operation abounds. ūüôā

We’ve been getting worried abut pending litigation at one site where we see baseline problems with Essential Safety Measures, in a new built block of multilevel apartments, in particular Fire Doors and incomplete documentation. After a¬† little more time – some cooling of the heads – remediation is underway & documentation is catching up. We have included guidance from the fire door manufacturer and we’re comfortable things are going to work out alright for the safety of the occupants. In the end the Owner’s Corporation is footing the bill, but it’s not horrendous.

The Owners understand their safety is our concern, and the remediation has proceeded fairly quickly once the way forward was agreed.

Can we help you?

Give us a call

1300 134 971

Building occupancy permits

Building occupancy permits

We are seeing some problems with construction completion and Building occupancy permits (OP). How is this even a getting as far as us?

Proper chain of events

Here is what should happen.

  1. Building design is completed, checked and approved. (properly engineered and code compliant)
  2. Selected builder drafts building permit application. Approval is sought from local government (Council)
  3. Once building permit is approved the builder gets cracking. Free-issue materials (generally specially designed items) are accepted from the owner, other materials are procured as required and construction proceeds in accordance with the drawings.
  4. A registered builder surveyor (RBS) makes inspection as necessary, engaging specialist inspectors as required.
  5. Once compliant completion is confirmed the RBS signs the Occupancy Permit (OP) which includes the ongoing maintenance obligations (MD) to keep the Essential Safety Measures (ESM) in operable condition.
  6. Handover to owner is completed. This should included baseline documentation on the Essential Safety Measures equipment.
  7. The Owner, or Owners’ Coporation, engages a contractor such as us, often involving a Facilities manager, to perform some or all of the ESM inspection and maintenance obligations, on an ongoing basis.

Everything hinges on the OP. It is a key document. It is evidence of building completion and proper compliance; compliance with building regulations and codes as well as the owner’s approved drawings.

Now, consider the case where the RBS has conducted inadequate inspection and verification prior to signing the OP. In recent cases publicised in the media, a number of Victorian building surveyors have been de-registered for failing to discharge this responsibility properly. One arm of local government affected by this is the planning department of various local councils. We have recently come across the fallout of a couple of these cases. The council in question has investigated other OPs signed off by the, now de-registered, building surveyor, and have found building deficiencies that were overlooked. The Council has conducted it’s own inspections and are now requiring that Owners’ Corporations rectify these defects. Whether there is an opportunity for re-dress with the original builder is not known to us, but the council is probably not waiting for resolution on that point before compulsorily demanding defect remediation.

Case 1

One new client has a 15 yo building, The Facility Manager has carefully kept (or gathered) correspondence relevant to the original OP. This includes a letter dated only a few weeks before the OP was signed by an independent¬† inspector who checked some aspects of the then new building. This report indicated (amongst other comments) that fire alarm speakers installed in the building were of insufficient cone diameter and proximity to achieve the prescribed 56 dB(A) at the bedhead of a sleeping occupant, and advised that, in this case, speakers bigger than 6″ need to be installed above the bed in each bedroom in the building. The OP was signed very shortly thereafter. Our concerned FM was keen to understand if the prescribed alterations had been complied with and if not, could we now quote to do so, that is, install the bigger speakers¬† described in the inspectors’ letter.

Our initial investigation indicates that
(a)   no larger speakers have been installed and
(b)   the 56 dB(A) may not match the current requirement, and may not even have been the correct figure 15 years ago.

Further code and BCA investigation is required.

Case 2

We have quoted and won a job to upgrade fire alarm speakers in the bedroom of a multi unit dwelling. We duly went along and installed the necessary speakers, removing some of those originally installed. On speaking with some of the tenants we found that our work is a rectification that the Council has recently imposed. Residents have been living in this 5 year old building without mishap until earlier this year when a number of Council initiated demands for rectification have hit the Owners’ Corporation – apparently out of the blue.¬† We suspected this might be a sign of a de-registered building surveyor? Sure enough, the name was one that has been mentioned in the press.

Other Safety Equipment upgrades in existing buildings

Following the Grenfell fire disaster in London, it seems that Victorian State planners have been re-visiting occupant safety in the existing public housing stock in Melbourne. This is generating a bunch of upgrade projects, which the State Planning Minister is proud to describe in his electoral newsletter.

 

All good stuff.

 

We’ll keep you posted on more of these issues as we come across them.

 

 

New clients – gotta love ’em

New clients

New clients – our joy. Of course, hanging onto our clients is a top priority, but getting on-board with new clients is pretty exciting too.

As we explore the new site and discover the Essential Safety equipment, joy can turn to anxiety, even gloom. Concerns arise if we find the baseline data is elusive and documentation seems non-exitant. How did this place get built? Or what information did the previous service provider use? (if we have replaced an earlier contractor).

What about the complete AS1901 Part 1 dossier on Fire doors (see below); compiled initially by the manufacturer then added to by the installer – this is meant to be given to the owner and held on site. If this can’t be made available to us we have to provide a quote to research and investigate with the various parties. What if the builder or Original Equipment Manufacturer are no longer in business? Since testing of Fire doors is a destructive process we can’t investigate your doors to prove they are fire doors, if no such indicator exists in the first place.

For one new client recently we rang the manufacturer of the Fire Doors – identified from the tag information available on some of the doors. This is helping us to understand the practices and mechanisms actually in use. Thus, we can more clearly identify the weaknesses in the intended process (although most of these weaknesses are largely anticipated in the AS code, which explains some of the steps the code lays out.)

What we learned from the Fire Door manufacturer

They sell a door and frame, as specified, complete with closers, latches, Drop-down door seals (DDS). The¬†Door serial number which appears on the door tag is used by them as a cross reference to the details of all the fittings supplied for that particular door, so there are no manufacturer’s details, models or unique serial numbers observable on the door fittings themselves.

The builders install the door and fittings¬†in compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions and prepare a Statutory Declaration stating they have done so. The manufacturer may or may not attend the site to check the details. The manufacturer then issues the AS1901 door and frame tags, for the builder to affix.The tags include year of manufacture and a unique serial number.¬†The manufacturer may never see how the tags are affixed.

The tags may be issued in stages, depending on the overall project construction schedule, or delays for example, if gaps round some doors don‘t initially comply. So the unique serial¬†numbers in a building need not continuous.

These manufacturers expect that a spot checks of these details is part of the due diligence activities of the Registered Building Surveyor who authorises the Certificate of Occupancy.

What we should find when we first get to site

Once the building is ready for tenants or new owners to move in, the building or facility manager sets up systems for maintenance of the Essential Safety equipment. This generally calls for a maintenance contractor, or a number of maintenance contracts where more specialised equipment is installed, eg HVAC, fire pumps, lifts, etc.

We can help you with this contract set-up stage, of course, and we can subcontract specialist equipment contractors if required.

Drawings

Drawings showing the location of all your safety equipment helps us to find all your equipment quickly and without chance of over-looking some items. For example in-duct smoke detectors in the air conditioning can be tricky to spot in an initial walk-around. The drawing of Essential Safety Equipment is probably not the same drawing used to show Evacuation routes for building occupants. The Essential Safety Equipment layout drawing requires considerably more detail than your Evacuation drawings, details which would clutter up the Escape route drawings and render them useless..

Equipment dossiers

We need lists of your Essential Safety equipment, their location and type. (eg. all Emergency lights, fire doors, firewater valves)

For more complex or unusual equipment we also need access to your maintenance manuals. Often the Operating and Maintenance instructions produced by the manufacturer comes as a combined manual.

In the absence of ready made equipment lists we need to generate our own asset list from scratch for your premises. THis allows us to discharge our responsibilities in a comprehensive manner. This is typically a time-consuming and potentially wasteful activity. It is prone to omissions and confusion, generally requiring a number of iterations and repeated visits. We can’t include for this in our quote, if we ever want to win any work. This phase can be well beyond initial site familiarisation, which is always expected. Inevitably we must seek compensation if we find it must be done. Without comprehensive asset lists and equipment details we can’t meet the AS1851 maintenance requirements. And if you change maintenance contractor, the new incumbent has to scavenge what they can from the previous “unsatisfactory” contractor. Or repeat the whole process.

Do we want to do this?

Do we want to spend lots of time hunting down all the far flung or hidden safety equipment on your site, and document all the relevant details? Then negotiating how this is to be paid for?

No we don’t.¬† ¬† ¬†It’s simply not the best use of your $.

How can we help?

We’d like to help you know what information you most probably do have somewhere.

Give us a ring on

 1300 134 971

 

Fire pump system upgrade

Fire pump system upgrade

The fire pump system upgrade referred to below followed on from some work we did last year. On this day work centred on pump replacements.

Several months ago a regular client of ours requested us to run the 5 yearly hydrant test at one if their premises. Pretty quickly it was established that the necessary flow rate was not being achieved.From our the our point of view, we simply reported a TEST FAIL.  Our client choose to take further action in which we were not involved.
Almost a year later however we spent A LOT of last month in assisting with installation and commissioning  of the newly purchased replacement pumps. These were specified as like-for-like. The previous pumps were probably 20 to 30 years old. Our scope has included upgrading the associated switchboard, and a general equipment maintenance campaign, as required, to bring the whole system up to a good working order.

Here are some images of the pump house and water tank.

Image 1 – Bushes cut back at the valve station. Controls pulled out prior to re-running the wiring.

 

Image 2 – Re-wiring for the relocated switchboard and damaged controller wiring.

 

 

 

Image 3 – The old pumps ready for disposal.

I can tell you that a little bit of “gardening” came into our activities too, to ensure safe access. We are not often engaged to do gardening! – but it had to be done.

Image 4 – Pump house and water tank with the newly cleared pathway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire doors – code compliance

Fire doors – achieving initial code compliance

AS1905 (*) is the code for your fire doors. We have posted before about the tired condition of some of the fire doors in older buildings. This causes them to fall out of compliance; repair is not really a practical option and we have to report non-compliant Fire doors.

4Apr2018 264 Waterdale Rd

Manufacturer’s plate on door and frame. Some compliance issues with this – can you see them?

 

Inspection of new fire doors should be a more straightforward process – but there are a few details to check out to verify compliance in the initial ESM checks. And don’t forget that the door set typically includes the door frame, the door seals and the latching mechanism.

There is more to fire door compliance than having the manufacturer’s plate on the side of the door and frame.

 (*) AS1905.1:2015 Components for the protection of openings in fire-resistant walls, Part 1 Fire-resistant doorsets. Refer to the code for the full requirements, only examples are cited in this post.

What your builder should provide

As well as purchasing and installing all the required fire-resistant doorsets your builder should provide you (the owner or owner’s representative) with a certificate recording¬†final inspections, and verifying that a manual – a dossier of the necessary evidence – has been prepared.

The manual includes a full schedule of the fire-resistant doorsets, and their details. A hard copy of the manual shall be retained on site. This is obviously a critical tool in the Essential Safety Measures maintenance process. If we ever see one we’ll add a picture of it.

Rolling out the ESM maintenance process

With the new building you may also have; punchlist items, new tenants, new ESM contracts, teething problems, etc. There are potentially many pitfalls so getting established in a robust routine can take a few trips to set-up. The AS1905.1 manual for your fire doors is an important tool in establishing the proper baseline for your fire doors.

We then come along as the Maintenance Determination schedule requires and check, for example, that signage has not been removed or changed, that door closers and latches still work as they should, that obstructions have not been introduced to impede proper fire door access or operation, that the door gaps and are within the code specs, that door seals operate properly, and so on.

However if we can’t confirm that these compliance details are met from the outset, you are not getting the protection you and your tenants need. Nor are you getting what you paid for in your new-build. And you risk being non-compliant.

How can we  help you?

Don’t risk undiscovered non-compliances. Let us help you identify them and recommend your best way forward.¬†Make sure your builder provides the fire door manual, and that it remains on site.

Call us today on 1300 134 971.

Your questions answered

Your questions answered

We often find when we arrive on site that Owners and Facility Managers are keen to meet code and industry standards, but are looking for better ways to achieve this. Or they may have created a novel solution and they want to show us their “new idea”.

Another bunch of queries we get relate to the need for certain practices, or a better understanding of the reasoning behind some compliance requirements, and critically, how they can lower their costs. We are only too happy to assist our client to get a better understanding, and get rid of cost ineffective activities, or help reduce costs by working together with a clear understanding of the essentials

Upcoming Blog topics

In fact we get some questions over and over again so we’ve outlined a handful of Blog topics below.
Feel free to comment on this topic list or raise additional topics if your favourite is missing. Plz don’t use the “Leave a comment” link on our Blog page (because it is “broken” at present). Instead send an email to Drew – he loves emails from clients.

Email: service@melfire.com.au

Seq Title wk
1 Fire blanket deployed 8
2 PLAN for the year. 11
1  Fire Alarm Installation
2  Block plans for buildings
3  Hydrant flow testing
4  Repairing a fire alarm system
5  Monthly Maintenance of a fire alarm system
6  My fire pump controller: We have the answer to let you sleep at night. Ps РWhat is a PRV and can it save my building?
7  What is the difference between a conventional and analogue fire detector
8  Why do I have to test my sprinkler heads? Why do the chemical properties of sprinkler heads change?
9 ¬†I’m getting quotes for essential services but I don‚Äôt know what I‚Äôm getting quotes for? Heres our easy to read guide on what you are asking for.
10  How do you test a buildings passive elements? What should the report look like?
11  How do you test a fire hose reel?
12  Why would you choose MFE over a big company? I think the answer depends!
13  Why are sprinkler fitters so expensive?
14  Scope: You need to know what you are asking for when getting a quote for essential services, it makes a big difference… or does it?
15  Difference between preparing an AESMR for $120, for free, paying someone $500.00 or paying $$$$ for an audit……..
16  How do do your own AESMR? Would you like us to do it for you?
17  Who should you trust with your fire inspections?  Do I go with a big company or a small company? How can I tell the difference between a good and bad company?
18  What are passive fire inspections?
19  What to do with old fire extinguishers
20  Why do conventional smoke alarms only last 10 years

Of course we’ll still write posts about the interesting, and downright weird, things we come across as we go about our regular fire maintenance inspection business.

 

Fire extinguishers – used as intended

Fire extinguishers.

Fire management equipment can be seen every where, but how often do you see it used in an emergency? Earlier this month one of our clients had cause to deploy a dry powder fire extinguisher and a fire blanket, in a busy commercial kitchen. The fire was quickly controlled. They then contacted us to replace the two pieces of used equipment.

These pieces of equipment are both classed as fire extinguishers.

Fire blanket

This fire blanket was quickly and effectively deployed. It was hanging nearby the fire and the kitchen staff quickly pulled the two straps as intended, to release the blanket and spread it quickly over the fire. In this case, only scorch marks on the blanket remain.

The red pack shows how to get hold of your blanket;
PULL TAGS DOWN TO RELEASE BLANKET
and how to re-fold the fire blanket, but this is not required as the fire blanket should be disposed of after use.

For effective use the fire blanket must be mounted by hanging it from above, within easy reach, and with no obstruction to quick access.

 

 

The blanket must comply with AS/NZS 3504. Nevertheless most fire blankets we see were made in China.

 

Below is the commonly available Aldi product, which of course, still complies with the standard. It is used in exactly the same way. Again – these are NOT to be re-folded after use, but discarded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How can we help?

Call us on 1300 134 971.

We can confirm your fire blankets and other fire extinguishers are code compliant and properly mounted. We will arrange to check them on a regular basis and replace them quickly if they are used (following your call) or if they are found to be out of date.

Sub-divided commercial properties

Sub-divided commercial properties

Part 2 – an ancient specimen

While investigating the hardware in our client’s half-century old warehouse we came across this vintage sprinkler.

Kraft Crt Broady

Image 3 – sprinkler fitting on sprinkler branch line, running just under the roof

 

Note the older style trigger device. Metal tabs made of lead  (Pb) are set to soften at the trigger temperature, allowing the valve to open under the constant water pressure.

Stamped on the sprinkler head is 160 degrees. This would be the trigger temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, at which the lead tabs would give way Рequivalent to about 75 degrees Celsius.

 

 

This item indicates its date of manufacture, 1966, which is consistent with our understanding of the age of the original part of the warehouse.

Look out for¬†Sub-divided commercial properties ‚ÄstPart 3

Talking book articles from ME mag

Talking book articles from ME mag

Drew is interested in providing regular Blog posts for the benefit of our clients. He also wants to provide some reference to trade magazines; such periodicals as The Master Electrician, Facility Perspective (for Facility Managers and their support contractors) and Fire Australia (from FPA). Send us an email with your feedback.¬†So here is my idea – Talking book articles from ME mag … and others. You can use these like a podcast, which you may find more accessible than reading the magazine itself.

Here goes

Firstly From the Oct2017 issue of The Master Electrician magazine

  • The Contents list¬†SDR_0003
  • Article about AS3000 revision due out soon :¬†SDR_0004
  • Article about Tesla Farms :¬†SDR_0007

Here is a link to Fire Australia, the FPA magazine site

http://www.fpaa.com.au/news/fire-australia-magazine.aspx

And from the Facility Perspective – relevant to our Essential Safety Measures area of business.

  • Article about Non-compliant cladding :¬†SDR_0006

Once again here is that familiar image.

 

 

 

Send an email to request for to tell us what other articles to record.