Stakeholder Views in Relation to the Introduction of Residential Sprinkler Legislation in New South Wales, Australia

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By Mark M. Brown

The problem was that the introduction of legislation requiring the installation of residential sprinkler systems was not being seriously considered within the fire protection community in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. This meant that an effective, proven engineering solution was not being provided for members of the community who are more at risk from fires in the home, including young children, older adults, and people with disabilities.

The purpose of this paper was to investigate the potential barriers that existed in relation to the introduction of residential sprinkler legislation in NSW, by describing the viewpoints of key stakeholders within the fire protection community. This was a descriptive research project and the research questions were:

  1. What automatic fire protection measures currently must be installed in residential structures in NSW, including the specific requirements in relation to sprinklers?
  2. Who are the key stakeholders within the fire protection community in relation to the introduction of residential sprinkler legislation in NSW?
  3. What are the views of these key stakeholders in relation to the introduction of residential sprinkler legislation in NSW?

The procedures involved examining the relevant legislation and codes in NSW to identify what requirements existed for automatic fire protection measures in homes. Semi-structured telephone interviews were then conducted with 15 representatives of organizations or groups identified as key stakeholders. Their responses were summarized to show the following attributes in relation to the introduction of residential sprinkler legislation in NSW: (a) benefits to stakeholders, (b) disadvantages or risks to stakeholders, (c) resources that stakeholders have available, (d) power of stakeholders, and (e) interest of stakeholders.

The results were that, while there are appropriate standards for residential sprinklers in Australia, the deemed-to-comply provisions of the Building Code of Australia do not require them to be installed in homes. The responses of the 15 stakeholders representatives who participated in this study indicated that there was a lack of understanding of residential sprinklers within the fire protection community, and that future support is contingent on demonstrating their cost-effectiveness for residential property in NSW.

The major recommendation of this study was for the NSW Fire Brigades to develop strategies to improve the level of knowledge regarding residential sprinklers, especially among the key stakeholders. This includes forming a coalition of supportive stakeholders to combine their resources to promote residential sprinklers, as well as undertake further research into the cost-effectiveness of residential sprinklers for both new and existing dwellings in NSW.