When a new fire engineering Performance Solution is discussed, fire engineers are often asked questions such as “Do we need to refer the solution to the fire brigade?”, “What if the fire brigade does not accept this solution?” or “Will fire brigade sign-off on it?

Let us discuss the role of fire brigades as part of a fire engineering process and find answers to these questions.

The fire brigade plays a vital role when it comes to fighting fires and search and rescue operations. Therefore, it is not a surprise that they also play an important role when (alternative) Performance Solutions are proposed. However, the objective of fire brigade referrals is not to make our life difficult, but to make sure important aspects, that might affect the safety of fire fighters, are considered by project stakeholders. Though, the fire brigade is not the approval authority and cannot, as such, “reject” or “not approve” a solution.

The responsibility of “approving” a Performance Solution is always with the Building Certifier or Building Surveyor, as they are called in some States. The Building Certifiers are obliged to refer solutions affecting fire-fighting equipment or fire services that would influence fire fighters’ operation and may decide to request consultation if they see the need for their input on other matters.

In response to the referral, the Fire Brigades provide input and recommendations to improve the proposed solution. They may request clarifications, ask questions, or suggest additional actions. It is, however, up-to the Certifier to decide whether to take all recommendations on board. The Certifier has the option of using his/her experience and knowledge when making a determination about fire brigade comments or refer the proposed solution to an independent fire engineer for a peer review and hence obtain a third opinion before making the final decision.

Various Australian States and Territories adopt a different fire brigade consultation process, meaning there are different sets of paperwork to be filled out. Different fire brigades apply different pricing schemes. For instance, Fire & Rescue NSW apply a daily rate, whilst Queensland Fire and Emergency Services charge according to the floor area affected by the proposed works. Generally, however, a Performance Based Design Brief (PBDB) report is prepared and sent out to the fire brigade for review and comment. In NSW, FRNSW request that a Fire Engineering Brief Questionnaire (FEBQ) be filled out, in addition to the PBDB report.

Fire brigade consultation is not something that should be avoided, in contrast, the consultation can provide a design that is improved and provides a higher level of safety to occupants and fire fighters. This can positively affect the insurance premiums and, generally, provide a peace of mind to building owners and occupants. It is important, however, to start the consultation process early in a project, as due to limited resources and the amount of work, response from Fire Brigades can be slow and hence could delay a project.

In addition to standard fire engineering consultations, Fire Brigades have established departments to assist in assessment of combustible cladding as required by the Regulator. These days, consultations may or may not involve site visits and can be conducted using video conferencing facilities.

Experienced Building Certifiers and Fire Engineers will be able to share their experience and advise on the consultation process, should you require more information.

For more detail, please refer to the following resources:

Please get in touch should you wish to discuss the above topic.

Christina Knorr
Managing Director / Accredited Fire Safety Engineer
CJK Fire & Safety Pty Ltd

Phone: (+61) 0481 402 220

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