Firies put automatic sprinklers to the test

Published: 29th April 2019

Builders will be required to install automatic sprinkler systems in all new residential apartment buildings above three storeys to protect lives and property following improvements to the National Construction Code.

The importance of this change was demonstrated today when a mock furnished room without any water sprinklers became fully engulfed in fire during a few short minutes compared to an identical room fitted with sprinklers.

Minister for Emergency Services David Elliott observed these two buildings, specially designed by Fire and Rescue NSW, to illustrate the value of sprinklers during a blaze.

The demonstration was arranged to welcome the introduction of changes that will improve the safety of occupants in shared residential buildings up to 25 metres. The change comes following the fatal 2012 fire in a Bankstown apartment block that was not required to have sprinklers installed.

“Sprinkler systems have been used to protect lives and property in high-rise residential, industrial and commercial buildings for a very long time,” Mr Elliott said.

“Our focus remains on prevention; however, in the event of a fire, residential sprinklers help control it and provide improved protection against fatalities, injuries and damage. They can often mean the difference between a minor incident and a major tragedy.”

FRNSW Commissioner and Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council (AFAC) President Paul Baxter said FRNSW’s extensive research revealed stronger measures are needed to ensure best practice fire safety prevention in shared residential buildings.

“Residential sprinkler systems can contain at least 90% of fires to the room of origin, preventing it from spreading to other rooms and potentially extinguishing the fire and inhibiting the spread of lethal smoke,” Mr Baxter said.

The National Construction Code (NCC) 2019 will require the installation of automatic fire sprinklers in all new Class 2 (apartments, home units and flats) and Class 3 (boarding houses, guest houses, hostels, schools, aged care and disability facilities) buildings above three levels and below 25 metres in effective height from 1 May 2019.