Apartment Living


SPECIAL OFFER - APARTMENT LIVING - DESCRIBED BY 'THE AGE' AS "the Lonely Planet for apartments' IS NOW AVAILABLE HERE FOR HALF PRICE Apartment Living and the more recent and modestly titled Ultimate Guide to Buying and Renting Houses and...



Flat Chat

All fired up over safety flaws

They're not actually fiddling while Sydney burns but it's taking a while for the state government's Fire Protection Systems Working Party to issue a report that should reveal fatal flaws in our apartment buildings.

"The problems arise from design, installation, certification and maintenance of systems," said the NSW Fire Brigades last year, in a submission that recently fell off the back of a fire truck.

And with modern apartment buildings housing hundreds of people, the potential death toll from a real life Towering Inferno is too horrific to even contemplate.

In simple terms they are talking about the lack of basic measures that should be built into high rise apartment blocks and offices to prevent fires spreading sideways and upwards.

These could be air vents that have fire dampers missing, wrongly installed or damaged by subsequent work. Then there's inadequate fire doors, sprinkler systems, smoke alarms or even, believe it or not, walls that don't go all the way up to the ceiling.

Some developers insist the current fire safety measures are excessive and will fight owners tooth and nail not to have to remedy them when flaws are exposed in their buildings.

NB: thanks to our rabidly pro-developer pollies, it's left up to us to take these multi-billion dollar companies to court, to get what should be there by law. Be warned - if they don't fix it, the Fire Brigade and your local council will eventually come after YOU to pay for it.

But how real is the problem? In 2001, at a 40-storey apartment block fire in Houston, Texas, 175 fire fighters faced zero visibility while internal temperatures reached 475 C. In 2005, a 32-storey office building in Madrid was absolutely destroyed in a 24-hour blaze. In 2004 a fire in Venezuela's highest building spread 26 levels from the 32nd floor.

But are we worried? One developer-friendly Executive Committee in Sydney recently set aside $20,000 - not to fix problems but to fight fire orders in court.

No wonder our Fireys are fired up - they're the ones most likely to be injured or killed. While we scuttle down the fire stairs, cats and laptops under arm, they have to go in and put out the flames. We really don't deserve them.

First published SMH August 2007