The possibility of emergencies or crisis events occurring increases as political and social events, which cause major disruptions within our community, become more frequent, according to a leading industry expert.
Neville Betts, Chartered Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia and Registered Safety Professional gave a paper at the 2006 Safety Show, presented by Australian Exhibitions and Conferences.
Additionally, Betts said that organisations face increasing risk of an emergency occurring as new products and processes are introduced.
According to the Fire Protection Association of Australia (FPAA), 43 per cent of enterprises that sustain a major, but not necessarily total, fire loss never reopen for business.
Despite having various forms of insurance, 28 per cent of enterprises exposed to fire loses in Australia fail within three years.
Building owners and managers obligations
Fire safety surveys
A detailed fire safety survey of a building is conducted to assess and review fire safety systems and the compliance status of fire control and emergency equipment. Fire safety surveys should be conducted for all commercial premises, to ensure that fire safety systems and the compliance status of fire control and emergency equipment.
Essential services audits
In most states of Australia an annual audit of the essential services in a building is required to document the effectiveness of the “risk control” systems. Annual audits must cover life safety and fire safety features, to satisfy the requirements of Local Government Building Code and ordinances.
Emergency control organisation (ECO)
To fulfil a building owner's/manager's obligations under the OHS Act 1985, an evaluation of the occupant's vulnerability and level of preparedness to handle an emergency must be undertaken as detailed in Australian Standard AS 3745, Emergency Control Organisation and Procedures for Buildings. The development, training and implementation of an ECO will ensure the effective movement and control of personnel in the event of an emergency.
Planning fire and emergency protection systems
The introduction of fire protection of fire safety measures in the design stage can reduce the risk of an incident considerably.
These measures include consideration of:
- Establishing suitable design criteria
- Selecting appropriate construction materials
- Considering the location of the facility, in relation to the surrounding risks
- Selection of appropriate risk control systems
- The proximity and type of adjacent property/land uses
Cost to the community
Costs to the community of incorrect or inappropriate decisions in relation to fire protection and safety when planning to establish, or update an enterprise, can be disastrous. According to the CSIRO Division of Building, Construction and Engineering, the number of cases reported each year where fire damage cost was up to $1,000 was 59,000 and 20 cases are reported each year where fire damage is worth more than $5m.
To ensure that properties are protected and personnel shielded from the impact of fire and emergencies, the co-ordinated and strategic planning of key operational and management systems is essential. A fire safety review and audit must be followed by risk control and the development of an emergency plan whilst maintaining fire safety systems.