Fire Doors in Unit Blocks: What Strata Managers Need to Know

Are the fire doors in your Strata building up to scratch? If you can’t answer with complete certainty, it’s time you have a trusted fire protection company take a look. 

When unit blocks are managed as part of a Strata scheme, it’s crucial to have all essential fire safety measures (EFSM) maintained in proper order to keep people and property safe. 

While many consider fire safety to include smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, passive fire measures like fire doors are also imperative in unit blocks and must be included in routine maintenance and checks. The trouble with passive fire protection is that it often goes unnoticed and is therefore easily forgotten, but we want to help change that. 

As a Strata Manager, you no doubt feel the pressure of having to manage multiple unit blocks at once and it’s easy to let things like fire door compliance slip if you’re not aware of the requirements. 

Managing fire safety for Strata buildings is no small task. If not maintained in accordance with Australian standards, it can leave the executive committee liable for council fines, or worse, occupants of the building susceptible to fire.

That’s where Betta Fire Protection can help. We’re a leading fire protection company in Sydney, specialising in fire safety for Strata properties. 

Having installed, maintained and inspected fire doors for Strata blocks for over 40 years, we know what to look out for, so we’ve outlined some key points to help you keep the fire doors in your Strata unit blocks compliant. 

Do Fire Doors Really Matter?

Absolutely! 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that fire doors aren’t one of the most important fire protection methods, but we beg to differ. 

Fire doors provide valuable time for building occupants to escape in an emergency and keeps hazards at bay which is why keeping them 100% compliant isn’t just a legal obligation, but a lifesaver.  

Fire doors are particularly crucial in unit blocks. Containing the fire and reducing its spread throughout the build, is critical in giving occupants time to safely and swiftly exit. If fire doors aren’t maintained, this vital element of fire protection is lost and leaves escape routes exposed to fire and smoke. 

How Does Fire Protection in a Traditional Unit Block Work?

Most unit blocks rely on two key forms of fire protection:

Smoke Alarms – These are primarily used to wake any sleeping occupants and only warns people in the fire-affected area.

Fire Containment – Each unit of the block, plus the internal common area, must be fire-separated from each other. All the walls, ceiling, and floors on the boundary between the units, common area and fire isolated stairwell or passageways, must have a suitable fire resistance level (FRL). All entries and doorways must also meet this same level as its corresponding wall. 

In the event of a fire in the unit, the smoke alarm will warn occupants in the fire-affected unit. The fire containment barriers slow the spread of fire, allowing the rest of the occupants to evacuate the building and time for the fire brigade to attend and control the fire.

A fire in the common area is more serious. This can impede the escape route for occupants evacuating the building. 

This means an occupant can’t egress the building and will need to take refuge in the fire compartment (a unit) until the brigade can control the fire, which is why ensuring each unit entry doorway has a compliant fire door is critical to safety.  

When is Strata Approval Required?

Perhaps one of the most important points to remember about fire doors is that they only provide the appropriate fire resistance level when it has been installed and maintained in accordance with the appropriate standard.

If residents make their own change to the door or around it, it can impact the efficacy of the door or negate it all together which becomes dangerous. 

It can depend on the individual bylaws set by the strata’s executive committee, but generally, any works done to the external walls and doors (including walls that are on the common area boundary) need to be approved by the Body Corporate.

Any hardware used on a fire door must be approved for use on that particular type of fire door. Approval means there is a test certificate to say that piece of hardware has undergone a laboratory fire resistance furnace test (literally exposing it to high heat, smoke and flames). 

People install hardware with the best intention of improving security, privacy and even aesthetics, but some hardware installations, however, can have the opposite effect.

  • Hardware that requires a hole in the door can compromise the fire resistance level.
  • Any hardware that does not meet the minimum fire resistance level or the fire resistance level has not been tested.
  • Most digital locks, non-fire rated door closers, plastic eye viewers, draught excluders and seals.
  • Painters painting over or removing the fire-rated tags.
  • The bottom of a door being cut off to suit the new floor level.
  • Flooring removal, leaving excessive gaps at the bottom.

This is where you as the Strata Manager need to ensure all works to fire doors are only carried out by accredited fire safety professionals.

 In summary, 

  1. Only do works with the executive committee’s approval.
  2. Only use hardware that is approved.
  3. Ensure all tradespeople are able to sign off to relevant standards upon completion of the works.

Having worked with Strata Managers for over 40 years, we understand the need to find fire safety solutions that are simple, cost-effective and compliant, which is why we offer fire safety packages specifically for Strata. 

Need your unit block fire door endorsed for the AFSS? Our team of accredited CFSPs have got you covered. 

For more information on fire doors in your Strata building, call Betta Fire Protection today on (02) 8669 9100.