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false fire alarms
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roddy
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03/08/2013 - 9:07 pm
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the body corporate through the EC installed a fire alarm system which was subsequently found to be inappropriate for some units.  The result is that having a shower may set off an alarm.  The fire brigade now charge for all false alarm callouts and the owner is expected to pay for this.

My contention is that the fire alarms system is common property, installed by the body corporate and since it is inappropriate should either pay the cost of false fire alarms or install a different system

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mattb
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04/08/2013 - 8:47 am
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It is a requirement to have working fire alarms, and they are common property.

If the alarms that the OC are installed are defective, then they need to be replaced at the OC’s expense, and pretty quickly as neither an owner, nor the OC should have to foot the false alarm call outs (which I believe are about $200-400). It’s a waste of money and fire department resource, and if there were a real fire, you don’t want to be known as the building that cries wolf.

You have some options as I see it.

* Raise the matter with the EC via your strata manager. It needs to be given urgent attention.

* It may be that the alarm system is covered by warranty. Most should have at least 2+ years. In that case, get the EC to seek repairs under warranty.

* Get the matter added to an AGM. Especially if not covered by warranty, it will need to be replaced (which will require capital works approval)

If that doesn’t work then I would launch action through fair trading to have the OC cover/reimburse owners the cost of the call outs. Once that precedent is set and is costing the building money, you will see that the EC will make sure the defective system is repaired/replaced

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kiwipaul
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04/08/2013 - 8:48 am
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The EC couldn’t authorize this as it is an improvement and so requires a 75% vote in favor by the OC to install it. So you must have had your chance to contribute to the decision when the vote was taken.

Also it is not the system that is at fault just a few of the sensors and so it will be relatively easy to fix by just replacing the faulty sensors with others that do work properly. If this is a new installation it should be covered by the warranty so get the EC (or yourself) on to the installer to get the faulty sensors replaced.

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Austman
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04/08/2013 - 12:10 pm
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They must be optical smoke detectors because steam should not set off an ionization smoke detector.

But regardless, having a smoke detector alarm call the fire brigade?  That seems wrong to me – false smoke detector alarms happen all the time.  Are you sure the fire brigade is attending?  In our system, only a water sprinkler trigger will bring the fire brigade.

Still, the false alarms would be very annoying.   And it should not be that hard to relocate the detector or replace it with a different type.

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04/08/2013 - 12:23 pm
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In our building the  internal smoke alarms are unit-only but the external ones (in common areas like lift lobbies)  are hard-wired to the fire board and linked to the Fire Brigade – as we discovered when someone left something on their stove and opened their apartment door to clear the resulting smoke.  Fire Dept arrived as did the bill for the call-out.

In this case, it sounds like a common property system (albeit within a lot) and that means the OC are responsible both for fixing it and the cost of the call-outs until they do.

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roddy
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04/08/2013 - 10:26 pm
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The fire brigade did attend and charged $800+ and this is apparently going up to $1200+.If it is optical, can one or more detectors be changed to what? without all being changed?

Austman said 
They must be optical smoke detectors because steam should not set off an ionization smoke detector.

But regardless, having a smoke detector alarm call the fire brigade?  That seems wrong to me – false smoke detector alarms happen all the time.  Are you sure the fire brigade is attending?  In our system, only a water sprinkler trigger will bring the fire brigade.

Still, the false alarms would be very annoying.   And it should not be that hard to relocate the detector or replace it with a different type.

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Austman
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05/08/2013 - 1:00 pm
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The fire brigade did attend and charged $800+ and this is apparently going up to $1200+.If it is optical, can one or more detectors be changed to what? without all being changed?

In my building the same brand of smoke detectors are available in both optical and ionizing models.  They are electrically and physically identical, so can be interchanged.  It seems that optical ones are more likely to false alarm from steam and should not be located near bathrooms.  Your installer should be able to advise further.

It does seem strange that the detectors inside each apartment sets off a Fire Brigade alarm.  That’s going to be very expensive for the OC!   False alarms happen quite a lot.   Like JimmyT’s apartment,  in our building the interior apartment smoke detectors are stand alone. The detectors in the common areas are linked to the Fire Indicator Panel and cause a full building alarm.  But we have water sprinklers in every room and only a trigger of one of those will cause the Fire Brigade to be alerted

 

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just get on with it
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06/08/2013 - 2:22 pm
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mattb said
It is a requirement to have working fire alarms, and they are common property.

Fire detectors inside an apartment are only common property if they are hard wired 240V alarms. Battery operated ones stuck on the ceiling are not (such as those in JT’s apartment).

If the system was recently installed, it is likely that the current BCA requirements would ensure that it is a monitored system. The consultant who designed and oversaw the installation should have advised the OC of these requirements. They should also have ensured that the detectors are situated in a suitable location outside bedrooms (not bathrooms).

In your case it appears that the rectification of the issue is definitely an OC issue and if the false alarms are not caused by your actions then you should not wear the costs.

FYI – NSWFB have been charging $750 for false alarm call outs but this has just gone up (or is about to go up) to $1250. This is charged to the alarm monitoring company who will then invoice the OC with an additional admin charge.

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Boronia
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06/08/2013 - 8:23 pm
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the body corporate through the EC installed a fire alarm system which was subsequently found to be inappropriate for some units.  The result is that having a shower may set off an alarm.  The fire brigade now charge for all false alarm callouts and the owner is expected to pay for this. My contention is that the fire alarms system is common property, installed by the body corporate and since it is inappropriate should either pay the cost of false fire alarms or install a different system

 

These should have been installed by a (hopefully) qualified contractor. If the detectors are inappropriate for the area being protected, perhaps this contractor needs to be called to account.

Who decided that the lot owner should pay the fine? The OC would be the “owner” of the system, and the fine should go to them. Wouldn’t it require a SBL to make a lot owner contribute to the fine?

 

If these alarms had been installed as a result of a council directive, I don’t think the OC can vote against it.

 

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Boronia
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10/08/2013 - 12:41 pm
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From the FRNSW (Fire & Rescue NSW) web site:

From 1 July 2013 the false alarm charge will increase to $1250.

In certain circumstances, such as for storms and other natural disasters, false alarms will not be charged if the alarm was beyond the control of the owner.

There are additional circumstances (leniencies) resulting in no charge, including:

One false alarm within a 60 day period will not be charged. Subsequent false alarms which occur within 60 days of the first alarm will be charged.

A 24 hour leniency period applies in which repeat false alarms will not be charged. Only the first alarm will be charged within the 24 hours. Multiple false alarms within a 24 hour period are considered a one off event giving the business owner or manager time to rectify their alarm system.

Billing of charges

Building owners or managers are responsible and accountable for the payment of false alarm charges resulting from unwanted false alarms. FRNSW invoices AFASPs (Automatic Fire Alarm Service Providers), they in turn invoice building owners or managers.

FRNSW is not involved where owners forward false alarm costs on to a third party, such as hotel guests when the activation resulted from normal occupant activities such as cooking and showering.

Queensland has a similar policy, and I suspect the other states do likewise.

Editor’s acronym whinge:  I had no idea what FRNSW or AFASP meant and had to go and look them up.  It’s a lot easier if posters spell out acronyms and abbreviations the first time they use them, however familiar they may be with them.

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gloriajean
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13/04/2018 - 11:16 am
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Can anyone update me on this topic? Our building in Sydney City Council area was required to install a new fire safety system. Basically if someone sets off the smoke detector within their unit and it in turn sets of the fire alarm in the common area (eg because they opened their door to let smoke out) it triggers an automatic call out from the Fire Brigade. The call-out fee for false alarms is now something like $1600 – and we have had several in the last few weeks.

Can the Owners Corp pass a by-law requiring the resident to reimburse the OC for the amount of the fine if they caused the false alarm? 

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harmonious
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16/04/2018 - 7:06 am
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Roddy you are right. The fire detection system should be fixed so the system works not cost money.

There are many different systems and set ups. Some (properties) have sprinklers only, some detectors only, some only common areas, some is everything and some you can’t even fathom linked back to a monitoring company which sends the signal to FRNSW.

Servicing companies do get it wrong and if you are getting ‘unwanted’ alarms costing money then the servicing company should be contacted to provide a system that doesn’t give ‘unwanted’ alarms. 

I have lots of examples of poor service costing owners $100000s (that’s right hundreds of thousands) a year in fines. 

“FRNSW has a team of dedicated Alarms Assessment Officers who can give advice on strategies to minimise unwanted alarms.  For further information phone the FRNSW Fire Safety Compliance Unit on 02 9742 7400 or email alarms@fire.nsw.gov.au.”

copied from FRNSW website. 

Hope this helps. FRNSW first introduced fines along time ago ($250) so people would fix the problem. Once they had fixed it they could reclaim their fines. The Baird government put an end to that. I will stop now..

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