Are building owners required to do trial evacuations?

This blog is a light overview of New Zealand's building owners obligations to have an evacuation training programme.

Fire Security Services works with hundreds of building owners and tenants across New Zealand. Please contact Fire Security Services if you would like more information about your specific situation. 

Trial evacuations - what is required by NZ law?

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The New Zealand Government made changes to fire safety legislation in 2017 that increased responsibilities for building owners. The Fire Service Act requires owners of relevant types of buildings to ensure regular trial evacuations are completed at least once every 6-months. 'Relevant' building types are sites that:

  1. gather 100 or more persons in one building.
  2. are a place of employment for 10 or more persons.
  3. provide accommodation for more than 5 persons (other than in 3 or fewer household units)
  4. store hazardous substances above prescribed minimum amounts.
  5. provide early childhood facilities*
  6. provide nursing, medical, or geriatric care*
  7. provide specialised care for people with disabilities*
  8. provide accommodation for persons under lawful detention (excluding home detention).

* Excludes buildings that are household units.

Source: Section 21A, Fire Services Act 1975 

Owners of buildings in categories (2) or (3) above who have an approved automatic sprinkler system, do not need an evacuation scheme and do not need to complete trial evacuations. But they must notify the National Commander that their building does not require an evacuation scheme. 

Source: Fire and Emergency NZ and Section 21E, Fire Services Act 1975.

To date of publishing this blog, we haven't seen these regulations proactively enforced by authorities, but this could change over the coming months. These regulations will most certainly be enforced following a significant fire event with hefty fines and prosecutions possible. 

What training is required for building evacuations and fire safety?

The owners of relevant buildings (listed above) must have, and practice, an evacuation training programme so building occupants can escape to safety during a fire emergency.

The training programme must include details of how the occupants are trained to:

  • use any firefighting equipment in the building;
    • this includes fire extinguishers, fire blankets, and fire hose reels.
  • use any emergency equipment in the building for assisting occupants with a disability to evacuate from the building; and,
  • know where information about the evacuation procedure is readily available.

Source:  Schedule 3 of Fire Safety and Evacuation of Buildings Regulations 2006

Is this why it is so important to check the building's means of escape?

 Image source: www.nist.gov

Image source: www.nist.gov

Recent fire-related tragedies overseas have highlighted the importance of building owners working with their tenants/occupants to ensure they maintain clear paths of escape from fire.

Building owners are ultimately responsible for ensuring the means of escape are maintained by checking:

  • they are kept clear of obstacles at all times; 
  • their exit doors are not locked, barred, or blocked so as to prevent any of the building’s occupants from leaving the building in a hurry; 
  • their smoke-control and fire-stop doors are not kept open otherwise than in a way that complies with the building code; and
  • their stairwells and passageways are not used for storage or accumulation of waste.

Source: Section 4 of Fire Safety and Evacuation of Buildings Regulations 2006

Tip: the final exits and signage must be checked and recorded each month. Many tenants and building owners want to complete their own monthly checks to save money, but they forget to check and record them. We highly recommended that your fire alarm provider completes these tests as part of their monthly fire alarm test to ensure it is completed properly. This will ensure your annual building warrant of fitness process runs smoothly.

Can Fire Security Services help building owners with their evacuation training obligations?

Fire Security Services has 9 local branches across the North Island and a network of agents in the South Island and East Cape that can help building owners with their building evacuation requirements.

Please visit the services section of our website. Also, feel free to contact us here.

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