New fire safety legislation will ensure buildings are all maintained to the same standards helping to protect the safety of the occupants.
Based largely on existing UK legislation, the Fire Safety Act (Here) has just been passed in the House of Assembly.
The legislation creates a regime that will increase the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service’s powers to promote fire safety and protection in premises in Bermuda at every stage of development, from the design stage through to construction and use.
Craig Stevenson, Manager, business development and sales for Air Care, which provides fire protection systems, said: “This new legislation will ensure all commercial facilities are first and foremost, compliant with the relevant fire code, otherwise penalties will be enforced through the courts which will hopefully act as a deterrent against non-compliance.
“Compliance with the relevant code is essential, if Bermuda is to take fire protection seriously and ensure the safety of occupants is maintained at all times.
“The current situation does not allow for any penalties or consequences to building owners, should they fall short of ensuring the applicable code is followed, leaving the sustained protection for occupants inconclusive.”
The Act adopts as law the National Fire Protection Association (www.nfpa.org) standards and codes of practice.
It will cover all commercial buildings such as shelters for the homeless, hotels, correctional facilities, churches, restaurants, animal shelters, storage places and workplaces.
New buildings will have to comply with the new standards before it can be issued with a fire certificate, which will need renewing. If inspectors are not satisfied, a notice can be served on the owner to improve fire precautions and a certificate will not be given until work is carried out.
Fire Inspectors will be appointed to enforce the Act and they will be given power of entry to properties in order to carry out risk surveys. They will also carry out surveys of existing premises to check they meet requirements.
In addition, where a license is required for a premises, the relevant authority cannot make a final decision to renew or give the license unless it has first consulted the Fire Service regarding any fire safety matters.
Mr Stevenson added: “The commercial real estate market when left to its own devices will find anyway it can to achieve the most competitive position possible, especially when facing a challenging economy and tenants who have a selection of available properties to choose from.
“Competitiveness can be achieved through managing costs, including the operational costs of a building, which can include the costs for testing, inspection and maintenance of fire detection and fire suppression systems.
“The legislation also ensures there is a level playing field and all buildings are maintained to the same standard, as it relates to life safety systems.”