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    New amendments improve sprinkler installation process at aged care facilities after tragic 2011 fire

    Geraldine Chua

    A western Sydney nursing home which was destroyed by fire in 2011 has recently re-opened, with the new facility designed by Allen Jack + Cottier. This follows from new amendments to improve the sprinkler installation process in aged care homes.

    The Quakers Hill aged care residence was gutted by an arson attack on November 2011, which killed 11 residents and injured a further eight people.

    In its aftermath, the fatal fire led to new laws surrounding fire safety in residential nursing homes. Although the Quakers Hill facility had fire extinguishers and fire doors, it did not have sprinklers in place.

    In August 2012, the NSW Government announced that it would be mandatory for all residential aged care facilities to have an automatic sprinkler system installed. The laws giving effect to the requirement commenced on January 1, 2013.

    A new Fire Sprinkler Standard has recently been introduced and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 amended to make the implementation of fire sprinkler safety systems in aged care facilities simpler and more effective.

    The new Standard, which replaces the Standard of December 2012, allows some exemptions from mandatory fire sprinkler installation, while ensuring that areas with a high fire risk are sprinkler protected.

    These exemptions may apply to areas containing dry electrical equipment, and certain non-resident areas, such as offices and gyms, that sit beneath a resident area in a building subject to adequate fire and smoke barriers, and smoke detection.

    However, they cannot be applied to high fire hazard use areas, such as car parks, kitchen and related food preparation areas with an aggregate floor area of more than 30m2, laundries, and well as storage rooms.

    An interactive map showing the status of aged care facilities in NSW. The green houses signify completed sprinkler installation; the red houses have no sprinklers installed or partial installation only. The map is current only as of March 2013.

    Changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 ensure, among other things, that cost-related information about sprinkler systems will not be published by the Fire Sprinkler Systems Implementation Committee.

    According to a statement by the government, “the changes will enable some facilities to reduce their installation costs while still protecting lives and ensuring safety”.

    The revision is being made through the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Fire Sprinklers) Regulation 2014, and applies to applications for approvals to install a fire sprinkler system in a residential aged care facility lodged on or after 14 February 2014.

    Fire and Rescue NSW has supported the amendments.

    To find out more, please visit www.planning.nsw.gov.au/firesprinklers.

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