shopify visitor statistics
SEARCH ALL
Fire Safety
Fire Safety

Precis

(Updated 17 November 2017)

Fire safety is one of the areas deeply embedded in the entertainment industry and yet one of the least understood. Whilst everybody is aware of flame retardant requirements, there is confusion about what is fire retardant, how it is tested and where it applies. Fire is a very misunderstood risk that can escalate much quicker than many people expect. Fire poses a number of risks, first of all of course heat, causing burns. In an enclosed area the smoke, possibly toxic, not only restricts vision it can also suffocate people. Fire also consumes a lot of oxygen, depleting the surrounding areas. And the heat can start chain reactions causing explosions and structural collapse.

This chapter will look first at fire prevention and then at fire fighting solutions.

5.1 Referenced documents:

NCC 2016 (replaces the BCA)

WHS Regulation 2011

AS 2444-2001 – Portable fire extinguishers and fire blankets – Selection and location

AS/NZS 1850:2009 – Portable fire extinguishers – Classification, rating and performance testing

AS/NZS 1221:1997 – Fire hose reels

AS/NZS 1530.3:1999 – Methods for fire tests on building materials, components and structures – Simultaneous determination of ignitability, flame propagation, heat release and smoke release

AS 1530.4:2014 – Methods for fire tests on building materials, components and structures – Fire-resistance tests for elements of construction

5.2 Definitions

The following definitions are extracted from the National Construction Code, formerly the Building Code or Australia.

5.2.1 Assembly building

Means a building where people may assemble for—

(a) civic, theatrical, social, political or religious purposes including a library, theatre, public hall or place of worship; or

(b) educational purposes in a school, early childhood centre, preschool, or the like; or

(c) entertainment, recreational or sporting purposes including—

(i) a discotheque, nightclub or a bar area of a hotel or motel providing live entertainment or containing a dance floor; or

(ii) a cinema; or

(iii) a sports stadium, sporting or other club; or

(d) transit purposes including a bus station, railway station, airport or ferry terminal.

5.2.2 Backstage

Means a space associated with, and adjacent to, a stage in a Class 9b building for scenery, props, equipment, dressing rooms, or the like.

5.2.3 Fire hazard

Means the danger in terms of potential harm and degree of exposure arising from the start and spread of fire and the smoke and gases that are thereby generated.

5.2.4 Fire hazard properties

means the following properties of a material or assembly that indicate how they behave under specific fire test conditions:

  • Average specific extinction area, critical radiant flux and Flammability Index, determined as defined in 1.
  • Smoke-Developed Index, smoke development rate and Spread-of-Flame Index, determined in accordance with Specification A2.4.
  • Group number and smoke growth rate index (SMOGRARC), determined in accordance with Specification C1.10.

5.2.5 Fire safety system

Means one or any combination of the methods used in a building to—

(a) warn people of an emergency; or

(b) provide for safe evacuation; or

(c) restrict the spread of fire; or

(d) extinguish a fire,

and includes both active and passive systems.

5.2.6 Flammability Index

Means the index number as determined by AS 1530.2.

5.2.7 Safe place means—

(a) a place of safety within a building—

(i) which is not under threat from a fire; and

(ii) from which people must be able to safely disperse after escaping the effects of an emergency to a road or open space; or

(b) a road or open space.

5.2.8 Smoke-Developed Index

Means the index number for smoke as determined by AS/NZS 1530.3.

5.2.9 Spread-of-Flame Index

means the index number for spread of flame as determined by AS/NZS 1530.3.

5.2.10 Stage

means a floor or platform in a Class 9b building on which performances are presented before an audience.

5.3 Fire Risk Management

  • Effective management of fire safety starts with understanding fire risks and how to make sure a fire is unlikely to occur during the event. The second part is how to respond to a fire when it does occur.

Assembly building means a building where people may assemble for—
(a) civic, theatrical, social, political or religious purposes including a library, theatre, public hall or place of worship; or
(b) educational purposes in a school, early childhood centre, preschool, or the like; or
(c) entertainment, recreational or sporting purposes including—
(i) a discotheque, nightclub or a bar area of a hotel or motel providing live entertainment or containing a dance floor; or
(ii) a cinema; or
(iii) a sports stadium, sporting or other club; or
(d) transit purposes including a bus station, railway station, airport or ferry terminal.

5.3.1 Flame Retardant classifications

To reduce the likelihood of a fire starting or a small fire getting out of control, the National Construction Code sets out a number of classifications and codes in relation to materials and their flammability.

An ’assembly building’, as defined in the NCC, is classified as a 9B building.

NOTE: NSW has a large section in the NCC Appendix specifically dealing with ‘entertainment venues’ which is the definition set out in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Entertainment Venues) Regulation 2009

From Section 6 of the National Construction Code: Proscenium curtains
A curtain required by Clause 5 must be—
(a) a fire safety curtain—
(i) made of non-combustible material; and
(ii) capable of withstanding a pressure differential of 0.5 kPa over its entire surface area; and
(iii) so fitted that when fully lowered it inhibits the penetration of smoke around the perimeter of the opening, from the stage; or
(b) a curtain—
(i) having fire hazard properties complying with Specification C1.10; and
(ii) protected by a deluge system of open sprinklers installed along the full width of the curtain.

5.3.2 Fire resistance

Section C of the NCC deals with general Fire Resistance performance requirements but don’t overlook Section H ‘Special Use Buildings’ for further details and State specific requirements, for instance C1.0 (a)(iii) includes Part H1 for Class 9B buildings.

For the sake of clarity, this chapter will only look at use of a building, not the core construction side of things.

5.3.3 Fire Hazard properties

Part C.10(a)(v) sets out the requirement to comply with Specification C1.10:

(v) In Class 9b buildings used as a theatre, public hall or the like—

(A) fixed seating in the audience area or auditorium; and

(B) a proscenium curtain required by Specification H1.3.

NOTE NSW has their own variation in the Appendix.

Be aware that in Part C.10(c)(xiii) it excludes non-building materials or assembly if it is:

(xiii) an attached non-building fixture and fitting such as—

(A) a curtain, blind, or similar decor, other than a proscenium curtain required by Specification H1.3; and

(B) a whiteboard, window treatment or the like; or

NOTE NSW has their own variation in the Appendix.

 

Specification C1.10, Table 1 shows that a Class 9B building must comply with Clause 7.

Materials and assemblies in a Class 9B building must not exceed the indices set out in Table 4.

Table 4

Table 4 OTHER MATERIALS

Material or assembly location

Flammability Index Spread-of-Flame Index Smoke-Developed Index
Class 9b buildings used as a theatre, public hall or the like:
(a) Any part of fixed seating in the audience area or auditorium. 0 5
(b) A proscenium curtain required by Specification H1.3. 0 3
Other materials or locations and insulation materials other than sarking-type materials. 9 8 if Spread-of-Flame Index is more than 5

NOTE NSW has their own variation in the Appendix.

5.3.4 Determining Fire hazard properties

Where a Deemed-to-Satisfy Provision requires a building component or assembly to have a fire hazard property it must be determined as follows:

(a) For average specific extinction area, critical radiant flux or Flammability Index as defined in A1.1.

(b) For Smoke-Developed Index, Spread-of-Flame Index in accordance with Specification A2.4.

Flammability Index means the index number as determined by AS 1530.2.

Smoke-Developed Index means the index number for smoke as determined by AS/NZS 1530.3.

Spread-of-Flame Index means the index number for spread of flame as determined by AS/NZS 1530.3.

5.3.5 AS 1530.2 and AS/NZS 1530.3

These standards will need a little explanation because there is some confusion about what they stand for.

Both Standards outline how tests are to be conducted and how the interpret the test results. Contrary to popular belief, an AS1530 test certificate does NOT mean it has passed, it only shows the material has been tested and what the results are. These results must then be compared with the requirements under the NCC or any other relevant piece of legislation.

For example, the material in the Sample 1 test report would be not be suitable for (a) or (b), both Spread of Flame (7) and Smoke Developed Index (7) are too high, but could be used elsewhere.

But the material in Sample 2 could be used in all of the above applications. Therefore it is important to understand how to interpret the test results that are presented. A test report is not a compliance certificate.

5.3.6 Part H1 – Class 9B Buildings

Class 9B buildings that fall in this category must comply with H1.2 – Separation and H1.3 – Proscenium wall construction. There are a few other areas too which will be addressed in the relevant Chapters.

NOTE: For NSW, replace ‘assembly building’ with ‘entertainment venue’.

5. Protection of openings in proscenium wall
Every opening in a proscenium wall must be protected—
(a) at the principal opening, by a curtain in accordance with Clause 6 which is—
(i) capable of closing the proscenium opening within 35 seconds either by gravity slide or motor assisted mechanisms; and
(ii) operated by a system of automatic heat activated devices, manually operated devices or push button emergency devices; and
(iii) able to be operated from either the stage side or the audience side of the curtain; and
(b) at any doorway in the wall, by a self-closing -/60/30 fire door.

5.3.7 Specification H1.3

Although not looking at building construction, it is important to understand the requirements under NCC H1.3 regarding the protection of openings in a proscenium wall.

Nothing production brings into the venue, if fitted with a safety or fire curtain, may obstruct the functioning of that safety or fire curtain as described, nor interfere with any fire doors.

If there are any requirements that may conflict with these requirements, a full fire risk assessment ought to be conducted and be approved by the licensing body under which jurisdiction the assembly building falls.

5.4 NSW Appendix conditions

The additional conditions as listed in the NSW Appendix of the NCC are quite extensive. Even productions that may originate outside NSW but intend to tour to NSW must comply with these additional or variation conditions.

First of all, there are additional conditions found in Table 4:

5.4.1 Table 4

Table 4 OTHER MATERIALS

Material or assembly location

Flammability Index Spread-of-Flame Index Smoke-Developed Index
Class 9b buildings used as an entertainment venue: (Note 4)
(a) A material used to cover closed back upholstered seats in any part available to the public where—

(i) smoking is permitted; or

6 5
(ii) flame is exposed in connection with the preparation of meals. 6 5
(b) A material used as a curtain, blind or similar decor in any part available to the public. 6
(c) A material used to form a cinematograph screen (Note 5 and 6) 12 0 7
Class 9b buildings used as a public hall or the like, a proscenium curtain required by Specification H1.3 0 3
Other materials or locations and insulation materials other than sarking-type materials. 9 8 if Spread-of-Flame Index is more than 5
Notes
4. Any fire-retardant coating used in an entertainment venue to make a material subject to (a), (b) or (c) comply with a required Flammability Index, Spread-of-Flame Index or Smoke-Developed Index must be certified by—

(a) its manufacturer or distributor—

(i) as approved for use with the fabric to achieve the required indices; and

(ii) to retain its retardancy effect after a minimum of 5 commercial dry cleaning or laundering operations carried out in accordance with AS 2001.5.4, Procedure 7A, using ECE reference detergent; and

(b) the applicator as having been carried out in accordance with the manufacturer’s specification.

5. Materials subject to (b) or (c) must have a label affixed to a representative sample of each different material indicating, in legible characters—

(a) name of manufacturer; and

(b) trade name and description of material’s composition; and

(c) retardant treatment (if any), name of applicator and date of application; and

(d) AS 1530 Part 2 and/or AS/NZS 1530 Part 3 test number and its Flammability Index, Spread-of-Flame Index and Smoke-Developed Index; and

(e) approved methods of cleaning.

6. A cinematograph screen must have a supporting frame of metal construction.

5.4.2 Temporary Structures

Part H102.8 details the indices for fabrics used in the construction of temporary structures:

NSW H102.8 Fabrics

Fabric that is used in the construction of a temporary structure must have—

(a) a Flammability Index of not more than 6 where used—

(i) within a height of 4 m of the base of the temporary structure; or

(ii) in an air-supported temporary structure without other supporting framework; and

(b) a Flammability Index of not more than 25 in every other case.

NSW H102.17 Fire-fighting services

(a) Fire-fighting services and appliances must be so provided as to afford adequate protection and must be so located as the approving authority, on the advice of the Director-General of New South Wales Fire Brigades, may require.

(b) Where required by the approving authority, the fire-fighting services and appliances must comply with Part E1.

5.5 Fire Fighting

Part E1 of the NCC sets out the basic requirements for fire fighting requirements. This chapter will not look at permanent fire fighting installations such as sprinklers, fire hose reels, smoke extractors and the like.

Due to the often changing use of an assembly building, or entertainment venue, it will be important to make sure that the type and level of temporary fire-fighting equipment such as portable extinguishers and fire blankets meet the fire load introduced by the use of the venue, whether permanent or temporary, enclosed or outdoors. With proper use a portable fire extinguisher will be able to reduce or eliminate the degree of injury, damage and cost to business in the event of a small fire.

  • Portable fire extinguishers are required to be maintained in accordance with the requirements of AS1851-2012 to ensure they are fully operational in the instance of a fire. Portable Fire Extinguishers need to be tagged & tested every six (6) months. All fire extinguishers need to be refilled and pressure tested every five (5) years.
  • Each extinguisher shall be located in conspicuous, readily accessible location. Fire & Rescue Services recommends that a surrounding clearance of a minimum of 1000mm be maintained around each extinguisher.
  • Each extinguisher shall be supported by an appropriate support fitting or bracket, or placed in a cabinet or enclosure with the front of the extinguisher facing outwards.
  • Distribution of extinguishers in buildings shall be in accordance with the hazard present in the area to be protected rather than size of the area.

5.5.1 Types of fire extinguishers

Water – solid red

Suitable for Class A fires. Not considered effective for Class B and Class C fires, and dangerous if used for electrically energised equipment or cooking oils or fats.

Foam – red with blue band or label (previously solid blue)

Suitable for Class A and Class B fires, with limited effectiveness for Class F fires. Not considered effective for Class C fires, and dangerous if used for electrically energised equipment.

Dry Powder – red with a white band or label

These extinguishers are rated as either ABE or BE. ABE rated extinguishers are considered suitable for Class A, Class B, Class C and Class E fires. They are not considered effective for Class F fires. BE rated extinguishers are considered suitable for Class B, Class C and Class E fires, and may be used with limited effectiveness on Class F fires. They are considered effective for Class A fires.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – Red with a black band or label

Suitable for Class E fires. Has limited effectiveness on Class A, Class B and Class F fires.

Vaporising Liquid – Red with Yellow band or label

Suitable for Class A and Class E fires. Has limited effectiveness on Class B fires. Not considered effective for Class F fires.

Wet Chemical – Red with an Oatmeal band or label (previously oatmeal colour)

Suitable on Class F fires and may be used on Class A fires. Not considered effective for Class B or Class C fires and dangerous if used on Class E fires.

5.5.2 Classes of Fire

Class A Ordinary Combustibles

are those which involve carbonaceous solids. A carbonaceous solid is one which contains the chemical element carbon as the basic fuel. This is probably the most common type of fire encountered by firefighters. Examples: Wood, paper, cloth, rubber, plastics, grass, coal.

Class B Flammable and combustible liquids

Examples: Petrol, kerosene, oil, tar, paint, wax.

Class C Flammable and combustible gases

Examples: LPG – liquefied petroleum gas, butane, propane; LNG – liquefied natural gas, acetylene.

Class D Combustible metals

Examples: Sodium, potassium, magnesium and aluminium shavings.

Class E Electrically energised equipment

there is no ‘official’ Class E fire. Electricity is not a fuel; it does not burn like a fuel. However, it is a dangerous complication at a fire, because it is a source of heat and potential electric shock.

Class F Cooking oils and fats

Examples: Lard, vegetable oils, deep frying oil

NOTE: Oil and fat fires are among the most dangerous as they can quickly escalate if treated incorrectly. Never use water to extinguish a fat or grease fire. Restricting oxygen by placing a lid or other pan on top is recommended, fire blankets are discouraged as they may be less effective than thought. Never move a burning fat fire vessel. Call 000 from a safe position.

5.5.3 EP1.2

Fire extinguishers must be installed to the degree necessary to allow people to undertake initial attack on a fire appropriate to—

(a) the function or use of the building; and

(b) any other fire safety systems installed in the building; and

(c) the fire hazard.

5.5.4 E1.6 Portable fire extinguishers

(a) Portable fire extinguishers must be—

(i) provided as listed in Table E1.6;

5.5.5 Table E1.6 REQUIREMENTS FOR EXTINGUISHERS

Occupancy class Risk class (as defined in AS 2444)
General provisions

Class 2 to 9 buildings (except within sole-occupancy units of a Class 9c building)

(a) To cover Class AE or E fire risks associated with emergency services switchboards. (Note 1)

(b) To cover Class F fire risks involving cooking oils and fats in kitchens.

(c) To cover Class B fire risks in locations where flammable liquids in excess of 50 litres are stored or used (not including that held in fuel tanks of vehicles).

(d) To cover Class A fire risks in normally occupied fire compartments less than 500 m2 not provided with fire hose reels (excluding open deck carparks).

(e) To cover Class A fire risks in classrooms and associated corridors in primary and secondary schools not provided with fire hose reels.

(f) To cover Class A fire risks associated with a Class 2 or 3 building or Class 4 part of a building.

All fire extinguishers to be selected, located and distributed in accordance with Sections 1, 2, 3 and 4 of AS 2444.

 

 

5.5.6 Use a fire extinguisher

There are a number of different types of portable fire extinguishers, each can be identified by the colour coding and labelling. Check that the extinguisher you intend to use is suitable for the type of fire encountered eg a water extinguisher must never be used on any fire involving electrical equipment.

There are four (4) basic steps for using modern portable fire extinguishers.

The acronym PASS is used to describe these four basic steps.

  • Pull (Pin) Pull pin at the top of the extinguisher, breaking the seal. When in place, the pin keeps the handle from being pressed and accidentally operating the extinguisher. Immediately test the extinguisher. (Aiming away from the operator) This is to ensure the extinguisher works and also shows the operator how far the stream travels
  • Aim Approach the fire standing at a safe distance. Aim the nozzle or outlet towards the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze Squeeze the handles together to discharge the extinguishing agent inside. To stop discharge, release the handles.
  • Sweep Sweep the nozzle from side to side as you approach the fire, directing the extinguishing agent at the base of the flames. After an A Class fire is extinguished, probe for smouldering hot spots that could reignite the fuel.

Revision history:
First version loaded 17 November 2017