Crack down on fire safety

Dunedin building owners are failing to comply with fire safety legislation and can expect to be caught out this year.

Most commercial building owners are legally required to have an evacuation scheme approved by the New Zealand Fire Service, and to conduct trial evacuations every six months.

They must notify the Fire Service 10 working days before a trial evacuation by lodging a completed form, and lodge another form after the trial.

The Fire Service keeps records of compliance and non-compliance.

East Otago fire risk management officer Michael Harrison said fire safety compliance would come under scrutiny this year.

''It [non-compliance] is a common thing. We are coming across it more often than we would like, and we are making an effort this year to look into compliance issues and act on them as we see them,'' he said.

The issue was raised at a special licence application hearing in Dunedin yesterday, involving tenants of Allbell Chambers in lower Stuart St (Di Lusso) and 12 the Octagon (Macs Brew Bar).

Reading his submission at the hearing, Mr Harrison said an evacuation scheme for Allbell Chambers was approved on November 17, 2005, and for 12 the Octagon on July 29, 2010.

''Our records indicate there have been no trial evacuations carried out at either building since the evacuation schemes were approved.

''It is the opinion of the Fire Service that the staff of Macs Brew Bar and Di Lusso have not received sufficient training through the trial evacuation process to ensure the safe and efficient evacuation of the buildings in the event of a fire,'' he said.

Outside the hearing, a director of the companies which owned the buildings said he believed an administration error was the reason the Fire Service had no record of trial evacuations.

The director, Lauchlan Chisholm, said fire safety compliance was taken very seriously and he was working to resolve the issue.

Trial evacuations would be conducted as soon as possible if they were overdue, Mr Chisholm said.

Mr Harrison said although building owners were responsible for compliance, in many cases tenants suffered the consequences of inaction.

''Worst case scenario, we can remove our approval for the building's evacuation scheme, and that can have some pretty significant repercussions ... for instance, in a bar situation, if we remove our approval for the evacuation scheme that means the liquor licence will be suspended and they won't be able to trade any more.''

He said the Fire Service was not on a ''witch hunt'' and would give non-compliant building owners ample time to carry out trials.

Building owners would be notified about their non-compliance and asked to conduct a trial, and if they did not, they would receive written requirement from the Fire Service to do so within a certain period.

If they still failed to comply, the Fire Service would involve the Dunedin City Council, he said.

''This is a very good reminder for building owners to have a look at their evacuation scheme and plan a trial.''

The Fire Service Act 1975 stipulated criteria for buildings which required an evacuation scheme, including those likely to have 100 or more people in them at any time, 10 or more workers, or more than five residents.

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