A warning about the fire risks of clutter

clutterRecent changes made to the Victoria amendment of the National Construction Code are a timely reminder of the fire risks associated with clutter.

The changes required sprinkler systems in proposed multi-storey residential buildings to be extended to protect covered balconies, and address the findings in the Metropolitan Fire Brigade’s Post Incident Analysis of the Lacrosse building fire. Caused by an unextinguished cigarette on the balcony, the Analysis also found that excessive storage of materials on the balcony exacerbated the spread of fire.

While the installation of fire protection systems such as sprinklers helps to reduce the impact of fire, it is important not to rely solely on such measures. Prevention is always the best strategy when it comes to fire protection.

All landlords, tenant and strata managers are reminded that the build-up of clutter can expose the building and its occupants to increased fire risk. A pile up of clutter may provide more fuel for a fire to burn and potentially block passage ways and exits.

Tips for landlords and strata managers on tackling clutter

Those who own or manage properties in apartment buildings or complexes are encouraged to take heed of the following fire safety tips in relation to managing clutter in and around the building.

  • Ensure stairwells and hallways remain clear at all times.
  • Reduce the storage of items in common areas and encourage tenants to avoid accumulating excessively in or around the home.
  • Regularly monitor the property to check for any blocked pathways or exits or a build-up of empty boxes, especially when tenants move in and out of the building.
  • Encourage tenants to dispose of waste responsibly and provide adequate and regular rubbish removal facilities.

It’s important to note that there is a difference between clutter and hoarding. Hoarding can be a complex mental health issue and substantially increases the risk and impact of fire.

Sources:
Victorian Building Authority, www.vba.vic.gov.au
Fire Protection Association of Australia, www.fpaa.com.au
Metropolitan Fire Brigade, ‘MFP investigation report on the Lacrosse Docklands fire

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