Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Charges for false fire alarms in strata?

What is the charge for false fire alarms in strata?

False fire alarm call-out fees for strata can cause a significant impact on owners corporation expenditure. The charge for false fire alarms in strata are charged at $1,600 per call-out in NSW.

Is it essential that a strata building’s automatic fire alarm system (AFAS) is well maintained as a poorly maintained system causing a weekly call-out would cost the owners corporation $81,600 a year. (The first call-out in a 60-day period is free of charge). Poorly maintained systems are the primary cause of false alarms.

Automatic fire alarm systems

Automatic fire alarm systems often play a major role in loss prevention during a fire emergency. These systems can be just as complicated as they are important.

The basic purpose of an automatic fire alarm system is to detect a fire in its early stages, notify the building occupants that there is a fire emergency and report the emergency to Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW). These alarm systems are common in large strata schemes.

It’s a requirement in NSW that an Automatic Fire Alarm system is remotely monitored by an automatic fire alarm service provider.

Call out Statistics*

  • 48,000 call outs to automatic fire alarms each year
  • 97% of automatic fire alarms are false alarms
  • 38% of all Fire & Rescue responses are to automatic fire alarms

(*2015 figures – the latest available)

Unwanted alarms create complacency towards genuine alarms that can result in serious injury or loss of life. They also divert fire and rescue resources that would otherwise be available for genuine emergencies.

Read related: False fire alarm strata by-law

What is the charge for false fire alarms in strata?

The charge for false fire alarms in strata is $1,600 per call-out.

Historical false fire alarm charges

  • $250 from 1 September 1995
  • $500 from 1 July 2009
  • $750 from 1 August 2011
  • $1,250 from 1 July 2013
  • $1,600 from 1 December 2016 (current)

The NSW Fire Brigades ACT 1989, Sec 42 allows FRNSW to charge for attending false alarm call-outs to monitored automatic fire alarm systems. This charge is intended to motivate building owners and managers to be continually pro-active in managing their systems and to ensure they are properly maintained.

Are all strata false fire alarms chargeable?

Not all false fire alarms are chargeable. In certain circumstances false alarms will not be charged. For example;

  • the cause was beyond the control of the owner, for example as a result of storms or natural disasters.
  • there is only one false alarm within a 60-day period (subsequent false alarms in the 60-day period will be charged).
  • there are repeat false alarms in a 24-hour period (only the first alarm will be charged).

Can I apply to waive the strata false fire alarm charge?

FRNSW can, in certain circumstances, waive all or part of an alarm charge. A building owner or manager can seek a waiver for the false alarm charge through their Automatic Fire Alarm Service provider.

FRNSW officers attending incidents do not have authority to waive unwanted alarm charges. A waiver or reduction of unwanted alarm charges is at the discretion of the Commissioner.

Read related: Emergency Services Levy Explained

The main causes of false fire alarms in strata

  • poor ventilation
  • burnt toast
  • cooking fumes
  • steam
  • aerosol sprays
  • cigarettes and candles
  • tradespeople and cleaners
  • dust
  • dirty smoke detectors
  • damage to ‘break glass alarms’ or ‘manual call points’
  • system malfunction
  • poorly-maintained systems
  • insufficient maintenance frequency in harsh environments
  • insect infestation.

How to avoid false fire alarms in strata

  • Be aware of where all alarm detectors are in your home and ensure all reasonable measures are taken to avoid false alarm activation.
  • Some smoke detectors are extremely sensitive and steam from showers, smoke from burning food, even sprays from aerosol cans such as deodorant and hair-spray can set them off.
  • Ventilate steam and fumes away from smoke detectors, particularly from bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Ensure any fans, vents, and if possible windows, are open before cooking or showering.
  • Do not leave cooking unattended.
  • Do not walk away from a toaster that is in use.
  • Do not smoke near smoke detectors.
  • Do not use aerosol sprays near smoke detectors.

It is the role of strata building management to effectively maintain the automatic fire alarm system. Building management should also ensure a well-regulated workplace for contractors. They should manage work activities that produce dust, heat, smoke etc. to ensure a detector is not activated. Steps should be taken for the appropriate isolation of fire detectors while maintenance work is undertaken.

Need further information on the charge for false fire alarms in strata?

Full details of the information above can be found on the Fire & Rescue website.

Fire & Rescue NSW have also produced a brochure on ways to reduce unwanted fire alarm instances. You can download a here

Parts of this article may be subject to copyright – © Copyright Fire & Rescue NSW

Strataville Editorial
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