Operation of an Emergency Warning System

I have been asked multiple times by building owners and occupiers about the law regarding the operation of an occupant warning system or emergency warning system in Victoria given the introduction of changes in the legislation effective December 1, 2012.

In summary, in Victoria, it is an offence to damage or interfere with a fire indicator panel or other apparatus that transmits the alarm signal to the fire services without reasonable excuse.

The Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) state the offence provisions are:

  1. Resetting a FIP (fire indicator panel) without a reasonable excuse; and
  2. Damaging or interfering with an FIP or other apparatus without a reasonable excuse – this includes isolating, disabling, disconnecting or modifying your monitored automatic alarm system.

These are contained in Section 75B of Metropolitan Fire Brigades Act 1958 and Section 106A of Country Fire Authority Act 1958.

In the document - Monitored Automatic Alarms, a guide for building owners and managers (3rd edition) the authors go on to say what you can and cannot do as follows;

Evacuation Procedures and Emergency Warning and Intercommunication System (EWIS)
The fire services recommend all premises have a documented Emergency Plan which includes Emergency Response Procedures, Evacuation Diagrams and a Training Schedule (Chief Warden, Wardens and Extinguisher), to meet AS 3745-2010.

With an Emergency Plan in place, it may be practical for a trained Warden to silence the audible alert siren at the EWIS panel when a monitored automatic alarm activates, providing an immediate investigation of the cause of the alarm is made by a trained occupant. Do Not reset your FIP - wait for the fire services. Ensure public safety is not compromised.

With this as a guide, Firewize recommends that building owners and occupiers take a cautious approach to operating the emergency warning systems in a building taking into consideration occupant safety and amenity.

To achieve the objectives of the guide, building owners and occupiers who may be required to operate an emergency warning system in an emergency should have in place the following;

  • Emergency Planning Committee (EPC)
  • Emergency Plan
  • Emergency Control Organisation (ECO)
  • Emergency Response Procedures
  • Evacuation Diagrams

These should be developed in accordance with the relevant Australian Standard AS3745-2010 - Planning for Emergencies in Facilities.

Based on the MFB guide, once these have been established and the relevant training undertaken, it is appears reasonable for a competent person to operate the emergency warning system in an emergency.

Fore more information contact the MFB Workplace Emergency Management Department by email at wem@mfb.vic.gov.au.

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