Bushfires – is your building protected?

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In what feels like a distant memory, last season’s bushfires ravaged the country destroying billions of dollars’ worth of facilities. Longer and more destructive bushfire seasons are here to stay. Climate change is contributing to the acceleration of severe bushfires. Asset protection and building maintenance needs to be top of mind for building owners to protect against them.

Five important considerations to keep assets safe are listed below:

  1. Each state has its own set of guidelines and a building code to help mitigate and protect against fire damage. Additional requirements are in place for bushfire prone areas. The main purpose of building and fire codes is to ensure the quality and safety of facilities. These codes set the minimum requirements to safeguard the occupants of a building and to protect the building structure from various threats and exposures. Fire technicians are best placed to advise on how to comply with building codes.

  2. Timely maintenance and fire risk assessments are often overlooked by building owners. It is critical that a fire technician regularly inspects both the building and equipment to protect people in the event of a fire. Assessments should be undertaken every 12 months. They typically cover the building’s construction, layout and use; electrical equipment; smoking areas; defense against arson and protection from fires that are caused by lighting.

  3. Prepare a bushfire mitigation strategy which should include determining bushfire risk and hazards, reducing fuel loads, increasing safety, fulfilling legislative requirements and promoting best practice for employee safety.

  4. Build employee awareness and skillsets through fire training safety programs. They are a vital step towards protecting employees. Each employee should be familiar with emergency procedures in the workplace. Designating an internal safety officer should also be part of the overall fire protection plan.

  5. Implement a passive fire protection strategy that reviews structural components such as structural steel and joint systems; compartmentation: i.e., fire barriers, firewalls, fire partitions and smoke barriers; and open protection: i.e., fire doors and windows. These measures are the first barrier against an external fire, it is critical flammable items which act as fuel are removed and disposed of regularly to ensure the passive systems are able deliver the protection required as designed.
In future years the frequency and ferocious nature of fires will continue to increase. Every business owner needs to ensure their assets are protected with a comprehensive fire management plan.