Understanding and fulfilling the fire resistance requirements for aged care facilities
Understand aged care buildings classification and regulations in Australia
Aged care facilities are classified by the NCC (National Construction Code) as Class 9c buildings. These are residential care buildings where 10% and over of the residents require personal care services and need physical assistance to evacuate the building during an emergency.
Due to the vulnerability and lack of mobility of some residents in aged care centres, these types of buildings are required to comply with a high standard of fire protection:
- Compliance with AS 1530: Part 4 (fire resistance testing of building elements in accordance with the standard fire curve to determine the elements Fire Resistance Level).
- Properly operating fire safety systems including sprinkler systems, smoke alarms, emergency exit signs.
- Safety measures such as clear pathways to exits, proper training of staff, and good maintenance and housekeeping must also be addressed.
Aged care facilities are complex buildings with a lot of different requirements within one building which need careful consideration and selection of passive fire protection systems.
High traffic areas where many people come and go every single day may require fire rated walls or special attention paid to acoustic requirements. These buildings need to be able to withstand the rigours of a busy environment.
Address fire safety in aged care centres
Fire safety in aged care is a topical issue nowadays and though it is not always possible to prevent a fire outbreak, it is essential for the facility managers to be prepared and have the right equipment in the building.
- The equipment must be installed in accordance with relevant legislation and standards, especially when it comes to passive fire protection solutions. In case of a fire, passive fire protection products are designed to protect the structural adequacy of the building and allow enough time for the safe evacuation of its occupants. This extra time can be crucial in aged care centres as elderly and immobile residents will require special assistance to evacuate.
- A proper fire protection plan must be developed in collaboration with fire protection specialists to ensure any identified fire hazards are minimised through routine maintenance and inspections. According to the Australian Standard AS 4083-2010 (Planning for emergencies – healthcare facilities), an annual building review and regular equipment and system checks must be undertaken .
- Facility managers and staff must be trained to use the installed equipment and be aware of what is applicable to their individual facility. Fire safety training can help ensure that staff and occupants are aware of the building’s emergency management and evacuation plan (exit plans, evacuation procedures, evacuation floor diagrams for all facility areas) and avoid panic in case of a fire. Trained staff that are proficient in emergency procedures will ensure that residents can be evacuated in a methodical and efficient manner.
To prevent or reduce the risks of a fire that may result in death, injury, or property damage, both active and passive fire protection measures are required. Fire sprinkler, fire alarms, mechanical smoke evacuation systems, fire extinguishers and occupant training, in conjunction with the correct installation of passive fire protection systems, are a safer approach to protecting an aged care building and its residents.
What are the different passive fire protection systems that can be used in healthcare buildings
Passive fire protection solutions are based on compartmentation and structural fire protection, which can be achieved using different types of systems:
- Fire protection of structural elements using intumescent paint, spray coatings (vermiculite spray) or fire rated boards systems.
- Compartmentation using fire barriers, fire rated partitions (fire rated walls, floors and ceilings) and smoke barriers.
- Firestopping materials to seal service penetrations of the building using fire pillows, fire batts, fire mortar, fire mastic, fire collars and other fire sealant products.
Compartmentation, a key component of the fire safety design of aged care buildings
Effective compartmentation is essential to any passive fire protection strategy and should be incorporated into a construction project as early as possible to help preserve the stability of the building’s structure in the event of a fire. Compartmentation is the process of dividing large spaces within a building into smaller spaces for more effective risk management in case of a fire.
Fire compartmentation can create a protected path in the building allowing the safe evacuation of its occupants and preventing a fire from reaching parts of a building that are of particular value or contain hazardous materials. This is crucial especially in healthcare facilities like aged care centres where residents might have mobility issues and medicalised equipment and highly flammable products are used for residents with special care requirements.
The compartmented areas are separated from each other by fire rated boards which acts as a fire barrier to the spread of fire and smoke for a specific period of time.
These fire proofing walls and ceilings can be rated for the following time periods which indicate how long they survive when they are exposed to a fire source for a given time period:
- 4 hours firewall
- 3 hour fire rated plasterboard
- 2 hour fire rated wall
- 1 hour fire rated wall
- 90 minutes fire rated board
- ½ hour firewall
These ratings are the result achieved from undertaking specific fire tests in a registered testing laboratory. The specific fire rating requirement for each fire compartment wall is based on the building’s class, its design and the fire safety management plan of the building.
Progressive Materials is the exclusive supplier of Promat fire rated boards in WA, with an extensive range of lightweight fire separation walls and boards that have been assessed to Australian and international standards. Promat’s fire board such as PROMATECT® 100 can achieve up to 4 hours fire protection and has been used in a lot of projects around Australia for aged care facilities, hotels, hospitals, office and mixed-use residential projects.
Some of our recent Aged care centres project in WA:
Carnarvon Aged Care
Promatect 250 was used to provide structural steel protection for this project. The use of a single layer system was a cost effective and a aesthetically pleasing way of protecting structural steel without the need for multiple layers.
Villa Terenzio in Marangaroo
Promat fire collars were supplied to the plumbing contractor for the protection of plastic pipe penetrations. The collars were used to seal service penetrations to stop heat, smoke, fire and gas moving between compartments of the building.
The products featured on this project were:
- Promaseal Cast-in Fire Collars
- Promaseal CFC Fire Collars
Singleton Aged Care
Progressive Materials supplied a combination of different fire stopping systems for that project including fire collars, bulkhead batts and intumescent mastic to seal fire penetrations.
As it is still in the construction phase, Promat Cast-in Fire Collars are featured in that project, allowing for accurate set out of pipework; these are a cost-effective solution as a large number of fire collars are required.
PROMATECT 100 boards have also been supplied as a 2 hour fire rated wall for the project. The project architects relied on PROMATECT 100 firewalls because these are lighter than conventional double layer plasterboard systems. These are also thinner overall walls, allowing for larger rooms and common areas in the aged care. Finally, these fire rated board have both structural steel protection approvals as well as fire wall approvals, allowing for one type of board for the whole project.
What are the best fire collars for aged care?
A: We recommend Promat Fire Collars for aged care project
Can we use Promat products to seal services through smoke walls?
A: Yes, Promat products can be used to seal services through smoke walls. Please contact Progressive Materials for further information
Why do aged care facilities have so many compartments?
A: Aged care facilities are generally broken into a series of fire and smoke compartments. Given the risk of the occupants of the building, a carefully thought out and designed fire compartmentation plan is implemented to ensure a safe building for all occupants.
09 Nov 2021