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Fire doors and fire stairs

Discussion in 'Property Management' started by Burramys, 15th Apr, 2016.

  1. Burramys

    Burramys Well-Known Member

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    A strata title property has a number of enclosed stair wells, each servicing several flats on several levels. The ground floor doors are keyed from the outside and do not require a key from the inside. The doors are self-closing. Some are made of timber, and some are nearly all glass, in panels. The ground floor doors and the stair wells are the only way into the flats.

    The OC manager has had signs put up that the ground floor doors are fire doors and must be kept shut. As far as I can see the doors are ordinary timber hollow construction, if heavy. Most door are wide, which would account for the weight. It may be that a fire door cannot be determined from the outside.

    It seems that fire doors are only used on fire stairs. That is, if it's not a fire stair there can be no fire door. There's a morass of information about this, including BCA, fire brigade and many local sources. I can't find brief definitive information about this.

    I think the OC manager has goofed, and may have to pay for this. I've given some advice from the fire brigade to evidence the aforementioned goofing, and the OC manager is digging in.

    1 Is the stair as described above a fire stair?
    2 Are glass doors allowed on fire stairs?
    3 Is there any easy way to determine if a door is made to be a fire door?
    4 Could websites backing up the above be provided?
    5 Is there anything else that would add to the above?

    Many thanks.
     
  2. Scott No Mates

    Scott No Mates Well-Known Member

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    Was the building constructed under the BCA or its predecessor?

    Fire doors have a deeper rebate in the jamb than a normal door jamb, have a fire rated lockset, closer (usually), have a tag on both the door and jamb.

    The stairwell may be the only egress from the apartments but that doesn't mean that it's a fire stair. BCA will provide specific requirements.

    Fire rated doors are definitely not hollow core nor are external doors h/c.

    Fire doors are generally required at the entrance to each sole occupancy unit ie your unit's door but not at the bottom door unless the stairs are required to be a fire separated stairway.
     
  3. Burramys

    Burramys Well-Known Member

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    Scott, thanks for that advice. The property was built in about 1975.The doors are about 1000 mm wide, 40 mm thick with a rebate of 25 mm. The door is hollow. The lockset is nothing special, just another lock, and has been there for decades. There's a recent safetytag on the frame, which like all frames in this block are metal and over 40 years old

    I'm attempting to prove one way or another that the stair well is or is not a fire stair. I cannot access BCA, and seek another website.

    As far as I'm aware, most if not all external unit doors are hollow core.
     
  4. Scott No Mates

    Scott No Mates Well-Known Member

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    The BCA is free online.

    The property predates the BCA so it may not apply unless substantial upgrade work or fire cimpliance has been undertaken.

    If the stairs are required ie the only means of access, then it's a fire egress - you cannot block the stairs, prop the door open etc.

    It wouldn't need to have a fire rated door at the bottom of the stairwell but would need to comply with regards to the type of lock on the door ie single handed operation with lever and cannot be locked from from the stair side. It can be lockable for external security.
     
  5. Matthew Savage

    Matthew Savage Active Member

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    I'm a body corporate manager - there is little chance your OC Manager would have made an executive decision to install fire door signage - if anything your committee may have relied on a recommendation from a fire equipment contractor. Presumably you have extinguishers, emergency exit signage and lighting, and would be having those, and the fire doors inspected on a programme.

    Your owner's corporation, Manager and committee are likely not fire experts, so their decision making can only be as good as the advice they rely upon.

    It is possible that those doors were originally specified as fire doors. We recently had a complex in QLD that was built in the 1970s and had to have 60 unit doors replaced with modern fire rated doors following expert advice that considered the construction of the building and historical rules, and determined that the current doors were not satisfactory.

    Get access to the source material that led to the decision to install the signage.
     
    Russ likes this.
  6. Burramys

    Burramys Well-Known Member

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    Matthew, I agree the the OC manager and/or committee would rely on advice before taking action. Quite often they get it wrong. There's a confict of interest between a company wanting to sell goods and services, and advising about those aspects.

    A week ago fire extinguishers were installed in the stair wells, and this is contrary to fire brigade advice. For many years I've known that the fire bigade does not like stair well extinguishers, and checked a few days ago - still the same. The reason is that extinguishers should be close to the fire, and once you leave a burning dwelling, don't go back. There are no exit signs.

    I hope to obtain source material next week. The OC manager may object. We shall see.

    Questions remains:
    1 Is the stair as described above a fire stair?
    2 Are glass doors allowed on fire stairs?
    3 Is there any easy way to determine if a door is made to be a fire door?
    4 Could websites backing up the above be provided?
     
  7. Scott No Mates

    Scott No Mates Well-Known Member

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    Refer to my original post. Read the building code which applied at the time of the original building approval not the Building Code of Australia.

    You haven't provided sufficient information to determine if a fire isolated stair is required. Number of storeys, travel distances, fire source features, distance from hydrant, location of fhr etc all were considered in the design of the building.

    Get the original plans and approval conditions from council (under FOI or may not even have records after 40 years ).

    Fire doors are tagged - no tag, not a fire door or jamb - easy.

    If extinguishers aren't in the common stairs, where else on common property are they to be located? The FB doesn't permit extinguishers, hose reels or hydrants in fire stairs but if they're not fire stairs there's no issue.

    Your unit (private) opens into a stairwell (common property) so it is unlikely that it's a fire stair which has a door between 2 common areas.

    If this isn't a fire isolated stairwell, then the only requirement is that there's fire isolation on each unit's door ie each unit has a fire door to prevent the spread of fire to the common area and rest of the building.

    There may be times when a company engaged has vested interest however if they're providing incorrect advice there's professional indemnity insurance for that.
     
  8. wylie

    wylie Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm unsure why you are wanting answers to this? Is it because you don't agree that the doors must always be closed? Do you want to be able to prop them open all the time or just when you bring groceries up, or something like that?

    If the OC manager has been given wrong information, how does he/she have to "pay for this"? What would he/she be paying for?
     
  9. Burramys

    Burramys Well-Known Member

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    Brilliant, many thanks. I was unaware that the applicable code was the one that applied at construction. It's just an average block, nothing special. Car units unserneath, two levels of dwellings above, four flights of stairs. There's no hydrant on site. If water to douse a fire is required, there's places in the street within reasonable proximity.

    I can't see any hope of obtaining plans and approvals from 1975 - too long ago. The door is not tagged, just a sign that say Fire door keep shut or the like.

    The only practical place for extinguishers is the common stairs. Everywhere else risks being stolen or damaged by vandals. Your advice that the fire brigade doesn't permit extinguishers in fire stairs is interesting, and I'll chase this up later. There seems to be problem in that the sign says Fire door and this applies only to fire stairs, which cannot have extinguishers.

    All units open into a stairwell, and there's just one way in and out. There's nowhere else that a fire stair could be located.
    Most units have hollow doors, installed by builders, perhaps unregistered or unaware of fire door requirements. Hanging a door is not hard.

    I agree about the vested interest comment. I'll get more details and see what the OC manager says. I still think the OC manager goofed.
     
  10. Burramys

    Burramys Well-Known Member

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    Wylie, the OC manager has a history of poor financial decisions. If the sundry fire measures have been made contrary to fire brigade advice, then residents are placed at risk. There's also the question of liability. My aim is to clarify what should and should not be done.

    Doors have been propped open when people are using the stairs, say for a reno or when moving. Whilst perhaps contrary to how a fire door should be used, this is the only practical way to manage.

    The OC manager has been reluctant to recover funds before, and the OC is out of pocket on other issues. This fire matter seems to be reasonably clear cut. If the extinguishers and signs have been installed contrary to fire brigade advice (and I have this proven for the extinguisher) then the OC does not have to pay for it. This leaves the manager to pay.
     
  11. wylie

    wylie Moderator Staff Member

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    Is there some sort of service (Fire Brigade?) where someone who knows what should be where, what sort of doors they are, what they should be etc can come out in a formal sense and advise exactly what is needed, if things need to be changed?

    Is the OC manager an owner? Maybe bring this up at the next meeting and table it, document it, and get it sorted out once and for all?
     
  12. Burramys

    Burramys Well-Known Member

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    The OC manager is a REA. Right now I'm the only person in the owner-OC-OC manager chain that knows about these things. A similar issue was raised before, and I stopped that at well, OC manager had very bad fire and OHS advice.

    I've contacted the fire brigade about the extinguishers, and that stopped the OC manager for a bit. The OC manager would not take my direct quote from a fire brigade email at face value, and asked for the email details. Done.

    So the OC manager has the direct quote, has the email contact, and should retreat. That took four days to achieve. Even when I gave the fire brigade quote that extinguishers should not be in the stair well, the OC manager said that he wanted extinguishers ... For information, extingushers should be in the kitchen, and when you leave a burning dwelling, don't go back. Also, stop the fire asap, not take 40-60 seconds to go outside the dwelling to an extingisher 2-4 flights of stairs away, and back. And if the door to the flat is open while you get the extinguisher, smoke fills the stair well. LOL. I wonder what else the OC manager proposes to breach good practise. Maybe a coroner's report will make it clear.

    Now I'm working on the purported fire doors. Once I nail that then the next question is who pays. Not the OC.
     
  13. Scott No Mates

    Scott No Mates Well-Known Member

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  14. dabbler

    dabbler Well-Known Member

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    I am not really sure of what you asking exactly, but essentially any door in a stair well that can restrict flow of air is acting as a fire door, they can be made of anything, fire spreads the quickest when air flows freely, it would be wise on any stair well to keep doors and windows closed & unit doors to stair wells closed, especially when sleeping, but even when awake for security and fire safety.

    You can see the potential result of free flowing air when a fire starts if you look at what happened in the apartment block in Bankstown.
     
  15. wylie

    wylie Moderator Staff Member

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    If advice is to have fire extinguishers in each kitchen, they could easily be added, or have the ones moved from the stairwell and enough extras bought to have one per kitchen. That would cost only the moving of the wrongly placed ones, plus buying enough extras to provide one per kitchen, wouldn't it?

    I'm still unsure why the OC Manager would be up for any cost if the stairwell doors turn out not to be fire rated doors, unless he/she ordered the installation of the doors? Did this OC Manager arrange to have these doors newly fitted, and got it wrong? If so, if he can prove he got advice from somewhere, isn't he covered from having to personally pay to fix it?

    If they were always there, what has he "spent" money on that he would need to pay to fix?

    I'm still a bit confused as to what result you want, other than fire extinguishers in each kitchen.
     
  16. Burramys

    Burramys Well-Known Member

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    Dabbler, you said "any door in a stair well that can restrict flow of air is acting as a fire door". Agreed. Regardless of the construction of the doors - mostly hollow - a closed door wwill protect from heat and smoke for at least a short time. This is one reason why the extinguisher in the stair well is stupid - smoke gets from the unit into the stair well. Given that fire would be unlikely on the ground floor - only concrete and bricks - a hollow door should work well. External unit doors should hold for a few minutes, as there's just carpet

    Wylie, the fire brigade says that the best place for an extinguisher is in the kitchen. This is private property, outside the remit of the OC. There's just one big extinguisher in the stair well, too big for kitchens. Some people have extinguishers, and I have a fire blanket as well. All my properties have this setup.

    The stair well extinguisher is contrary to fire brigade advice, encourages people to go back to a burning dwelling, gives the fire more time to catch, and allows smoke to fill the stair well. The cost of installing the extingushers and probably the signs and tagging should not be borne by the OC. The decision to put these in is bad, most probably based on bad advice and an OC manager that does not know the fire rules. The doors have been there for 40 years.

    The door aspect relates only to having the signs put on. There was no need, no problem at all. The doors are usually shut, open only when in use, and propped open when reasonable, such as a reno.

    I would be happy to have fire extinguishers in each kitchen, but this is impossble to order.
     
  17. dabbler

    dabbler Well-Known Member

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    If it is a block of units, don't you engage professional fire solution people to check and certify ? Sounds like you should engage one for all common areas and supply the findings to all involved, instead of trying to do this via the internet and calling the fire brigade etc, then you can act on that advice by telling the manager to follow, everyone is covered that way.
     
  18. Burramys

    Burramys Well-Known Member

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    The OC manager has engaged a professional contractor and has acted on this advice, which I believe to be questionable. I'm attempting to check the decisions online from reputable sources like the fire brigade and base information such as the BCA. Next week I'm going to ask if the contractor advice can be provided to me. As an OC record I'm entitled to see this advice, but the OC manager may baulk.
     
  19. Scott No Mates

    Scott No Mates Well-Known Member

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    The provision of extinguishers inside the unit is purely for the owner or occupiers to address.

    Surely the FB aren't suggesting that common property be moved into private units.

    You have carpet on your stairs - this IS NOT A FIRE ISOLATED STAIRCASE.

    Your building is a risk and any additional measures taken by the OC are an improvement - if they have sought guidance from a consultant then the executive committee and bc can request this information as the strata manager is working for you.
     
  20. wylie

    wylie Moderator Staff Member

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    If this professional and paid for advice proves to be wrong, wouldn't the company doing the advising need to address the issues, not the OC manager?