False Alarms - Section 32D, MFB Act (Vic) 1958

Earlier today, I received an email from a customer seeking our support for the payment of Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade ("MFB") fees associated with a false alarm. This gave me the impetus to read Section 32D of the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Act (Vic) 1958 that addresses these fees.

On further investigation, it became apparent that the Automatic Fire Alarm System had been isolated due to planned maintenance. When an alarm signal was detected, the personnel on site made a telephone call to the emergency telephone number "000", and reported a fire alarm.

Section 32D of the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Act (Vic) 1958 sets out the terms for the legitimate fees for the attendance to a false alarm from an automatic fire alarm system.

METROPOLITAN FIRE BRIGADES ACT 1958 - SECT 32D
False alarm of fire

  1. This section applies if a unit in the metropolitan district responds to a false alarm of fire at a premises given by or originating from—
    1. an automatic fire alarm system; or
    2. equipment designed to detect a fire or other emergency conditions and transmit a signal of that detection.
  2. The Board may, by written notice, require the owner, occupier or owners corporation of the premises to provide details of the circumstances of the false alarm of fire to the Board.
  3. A person who receives a notice under subsection (2) may provide the Board with an explanation of the circumstances of the false alarm of fire and any information supporting the explanation including maintenance and testing records.
  4. The Board is not required to consider an explanation given by a person under subsection (3) unless it is—
    1. in writing; and
    2. provided to the Board within 14 days after the person has received the notice under subsection (2)
  5. After the expiry of the period provided under subsection (4)(b) for the provision of an explanation, the Board must consider whether or not there was a reasonable excuse for the occurrence of the false alarm having regard to—
    1. subject to subsection (4), any explanation and information provided by the person under subsection (3); and
    2. any report of the member of the operational staff who attended at the false alarm of fire at the premises; and
    3. the history of any attendances at the premises; and
    4. any other information that the Board considers is relevant.
  6. If, after considering the matters referred to in subsection (5), the Board is not satisfied that there was a reasonable excuse for the occurrence of the false alarm of fire, the Board may by written notice require the person to whom the notice under subsection (2) was given to pay to the Board the fees and charges prescribed for the attendance of the unit in response to the false alarm.
  7. A person who receives a notice under subsection (6) may apply to VCAT for review of the decision of the Board to issue the notice.
  8. An application under subsection (7) for a review must be made within 28 days after the later of—
    1. the day on which the applicant is notified of the decision; or
    2. if, under the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998 , the applicant requests a statement of reasons for the decision—the day on which—
      1. the statement of reasons is given to the applicant; or
      2. the applicant is informed under section 46(5) of that Act that a statement of reasons will not be given.

The key in reading this is that the Act states that the MFB can charge fees for the cost of a false alarm;

  1. This section applies if a unit in the metropolitan district responds to a false alarm of fire at a premises given by or originating from
    1. an automatic fire alarm system; or
    2. equipment designed to detect a fire or other emergency conditions and transmit a signal of that detection.

I layman's terms, Section 32D only applies to false alarms originating from an automatic fire alarm system or equipment designed to detect a fire or other emergency conditions and transmit a signal of that detection.

According to my reading of the legislation, if the MFB levy a fee after a "good intent, 000" telephone call, then under the provisions of Section 32D, at this time (July 2015) they do not appear to have the legislative authority to do so.

I guess the logic goes that if a member of the public observed a fire or other emergency in a building or structure that they should feel free to contact "emergency 000" without fear of penalty.

Hopefully, this deep-dive into the legislation helps a building owner or occupier in responding to similar instances and false alarm fees from the MFB when dealing with false alarms originating from an automatic fire alarm system or equipment designed to detect a fire or other emergency conditions and transmit a signal of that detection.

Feel free to contact our support team if you have a question about false alarms in your building.

Russ

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