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Is your club covered in the event of a fire?

To be published in the October November 2021 Edition of Clubs Queensland's Club Insight magazine.

There are few things as unpredictable and as devastating as fire, and whilst it is probably not the first thing you think of when de-risking your club, it is certainly something you want to be prepared for should it happen to you.

In researching this article, we discovered fires in clubs (particularly nightclubs) are more common than you would think. The most common causes of major club fires are electrical faults, pyrotechnics and arson, as seen in two infamous and devastating fires - The Station Nightclub in the United States (2003) and The Whiskey Au Go Go Nightclub in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley (1973) - where 100 and 15 people respectively lost their lives.

This is all very grim, but it does highlight the importance of compliance with fire safety obligations to keep your staff and patrons safe. Even in the event of a non-tragic fire, whereby no one is injured, it can have a devastating effect on club owners and operators with damage to the building and disruption of operations.

So, here are our top tips to ensure fire safety at your club.

Keep a Fire & Evacuation Plan

All clubs will be required to keep a written Fire and Evacuation Plan for their building. The plan must include the following:

  1. an evacuation diagram for the building;
  2. the name and address of the building;
  3. evacuation co-ordination procedures and instructions for evacuating the building safely in accordance with those procedures;
  4. instructions for operation of firefighting equipment and manually operated fire alarms in the building; and
  5. contact details of the owner of the building, occupier of the building and each person responsible for carrying out the evacuation procedures or giving evacuation instructions.

Appoint a Fire Safety Adviser

If your club is considered a High Occupancy Building then you will also be required to appoint a qualified Fire Safety Adviser. Your club will be a High Occupancy Building if 30 or more workers are normally employed at the workplace during the current year.

A Fire Safety Adviser must have completed an approved fire safety course within the last three years, and must be re-accredited if appointed beyond three years. Their contact details must also be noted on the Fire and Evacuation Plan.  The duties of a Fire Safety Adviser include developing and annually reviewing the evacuation plan and signage, coordinating evacuation practices and providing evacuation instructions.

Hold and store your Approval documentation

Clubs will also be required to hold any relevant approval documents for the building and store copies of these documents with their Fire and Evacuation Plan. A relevant approval document is any approval document from a building development application that is relevant to a matter that must be included in the Fire and Evacuation Plan. Most commonly, this documentation would be a list of the required fire safety installations for the building that were issued as a condition of the building/development approval.

Maintain fire safety equipment and records

Clubs are also required to have an appropriately qualified person conduct regular maintenance of their fire safety equipment and infrastructure at regular intervals. In addition to keeping records of the maintenance, you will also need to provide a yearly statement to Queensland Fire and Emergency Services which confirms that the buildings fire safety installations have been maintained in accordance with the relevant standards. This is known as an Occupier's Statement.

Last Words

As seen from this article, there are several fire safety obligations clubs need to consider. Whilst some are straightforward, others can be somewhat tricky. If you would like to safeguard your club against fire hazard and better understand your club's obligations regarding fire safety, please give me a call on (07) 3224 0353.

Article written by Matthew Bradford (Partner) and James Browning (Associate).

"The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication."