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Thousands Of Apartment Owners Urged To Schedule Fire Safety Audits As Flammable Cladding Disaster Exposed

Expert Opinion piece – Stephen Raff, CEO of Ace Body Corporate Management.


We’re very concerned that auditing taskforces won’t be able to tackle safety hazards soon enough, purely due to the scale of this issue.

September, 2017
By Stephen Raff

Ace Body Corporate Management is urging thousands of apartment owners around the country to fully review their building’s fire safety and emergency evacuation procedures, following revelations from a Four Corners report last week, which described the volume of flammable cladding products in Australia as “unquantifiable”.

The Combustible report, has prompted us to issue a warning for owners not to wait for State Government audits, and instead, check their building’s safety ASAP.

Despite being legal to use, flammable cladding products have been responsible for a 13 storey fire in Melbourne back in 2014 as well as the devastating Grenfell Tower incident in London this year, which killed at least 80 people.

Fundamentally, it puts a spotlight on the importance of thorough fire safety audits in all apartment complexes and all owners following agreed fire evacuation procedures.

At this point in time, the case of flammable cladding is full of unknowns, in terms of how much of it there is, where it is and what level of risk it presents to individual buildings, so we’re urging apartment owners to be as proactive as ever.

What we don’t want to see is owners in playing a dangerous waiting game, because we know full well how devastating the results of that game can be.

It would be easy for apartment owners to pass this off as someone else’s job, especially with various State Government audits already underway, but Ace is strongly warning against this behaviour.

We’re very concerned that auditing taskforces won’t be able to tackle safety hazards soon enough, purely due to the scale of this issue.

The task of identifying and remediating unsafe buildings has been exposed as a worryingly large task for Government and it could take years to fully achieve.

With all the uncertainty surrounding the current auditing and compliance process, it’s now crucial for apartment residents to take control of their own safety and request a fire safety audit from their body corporates straight away.

We urge that apartment owners do not leave their immediate safety in the hands of the taskforces, who may not be able to act on potential safety hazards before more lives are at risk.

So much of the cladding issue (supply and installation) is out of the owners’ control, but simple tasks in the hands of owners like sprinkler maintenance, and ensuring smoke alarm battery replacements are regularly checked can make all the difference in ensuring buildings are fire safe.

Flammable cladding was absolutely the reason for the destruction seen at Grenfell earlier this year, but further investigations showed that the fire was ultimately facilitated by inadequate safety standards.

The building had no sprinklers or fire-proof doors, fire alarms were broken and fire escape routes were blocked, and it’s this type of poor management that owners cannot afford amid such a worrying issue.

It’s still unclear where the greatest risks lie but special consideration must be taken by owners in smaller buildings of between 3 and 8 storeys.

It’s of great concern to us that the National Construction Code has not made sprinklers and other fire-prevention systems mandatory in smaller buildings, which we see in high rises every day of the week.

In any multi-level complex, four storeys or 44, there are increased fire risks so we implore owners in the ever popular smaller apartment blocks to seriously consider a fire safety audit, to better understand how much safer their building can be and ensure fire evacuation procedures are implemented.

Optimising the safety of your body corporate when it comes to maintenance issues, from fire safety through to upcoming issues like pool safety this summer can greatly benefit from the presence of a suitably qualified strata manager.

Ace Body Corporate Management
This article is not intended to be personal advice and you should not rely on it as a substitute for any form of advice.Ace Body Corporate Management offers this newsletter to clients to assist in updating them on company and industry news. The content within this newsletter is of a generic nature and may not be applicable to all owners corporations. Ace Body Corporate Management attempts to provide the most up-to-date and accurate information for our clients, however we strongly recommend that individuals and committees seek further advice before acting on any information in this newsletter.