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What Every Club Should Know About Fire Protection

What Every Club Should Know About Fire Protection

Sports Clubs, Working People's Clubs, RSA's and the like form an integral part of New Zealand's culture and history. Often they contain photographs, records, memorabilia that is irreplaceable and of historical significance.

In the last few months New Zealand has lost two significant club buildings; the Lower Hutt Cosmopolitan Club and the Wanganui Golf Club. Those involved in managing clubs need to have a serious look at what they are doing to not only protect their buildings and people but also their irreplaceable records and memorabilia.

There are a number of things that a responsible management committee needs to do. This includes management procedures to minimize the possibility of a fire starting, management procedures to minimize the effects of any fire and the provision of building life and property detection and protection systems to detect fires and extinguish fires in their early stages.

The first step is to ensure that the chances of a fire starting are minimised. Things that you need to think about include how do you deal with cigarette butts from your bar? In our investigations of sprinkler-protected fires, cigarette butts being disposed of with other rubbish have started more than one fire.

If your building is old, especially if it is of historical significance, how sound is your electrical system?One of the first things that you should do is have your wiring and switchboard checked. Secondly, fit Residual Current Devices to your lighting and power circuits. Doing so will reduce the probability of an electrical fire.

Arson can also be an issue. One of the common causes of sprinkler-controlled fires we find is setting fire to rubbish skips and the like. Do you have your rubbish stored in unlocked skips adjacent to combustible cladding? Have you a security system to alert security guards if bored kids break in to your building. How about security lighting to the dark corners outside your building?

Lastly, simple house keeping can dramatically reduce the probability of a fire. If your club operates a kitchen, how often are the grease hood exhaust ducts cleaned? Or are they left with thick layers of grease, which can allow a very hot and difficult to extinguish fire to start.

If a fire breaks out, what happens then? Ultimately, the best level of protection that can be provided to any building is an automatic alarm system combined with an automatic sprinkler system. Sprinklers are designed to only open in the vicinity of a fire and extinguish or control a fire with a minimal level of fire, smoke and water damage. We are aware of systems installed in a number of clubs throughout New Zealand, ranging from Sports Clubs, Returned Serviceman's Clubs and even a motor cycle gang's headquarters. New Zealand has the world's best-reported sprinkler system reliability, with a success rate somewhere in the order of 99.9%. A sprinkler system often represents a considerable investment, however Wormald can offer a leasing service if the capital outlay is too great.

An automatic alarm system will automatically summons the Fire Service on detection of a fire. These systems use either heat detectors or smoke detectors or a combination of both to detect a fire in its earliest stages. If you are planning on such a system or already have such a system it is essential that it be connected to the New Zealand Fire Service. Having an alarm system will not save the building if the Fire Service does not arrive early enough to have a positive impact on the fire. For similar reasons we do not recommend that smoke detectors be installed as part of a security systems - more than one building has been lost because of the delays between a fire being detected by a smoke detector connected to a security alarm and a security guard arriving to dial "111."

Finally, part of any planning for an emergency in a club must allow for the worst case. Simple things such as backing up your club's computer, including financial records and database and keeping copies at another site. For example, if you club relies on volunteers who work from home ensure that key electronic files are not only kept on the treasurer/secretaries computer but on a second computer as well. If they have a fire at home or their computer is lost or stolen this will ensure that the club can keep on functioning. Other 'back-ups" may also be in order. How about those historic team photographs dating back to the turn of the century? Even if your club can afford a sprinkler system, will they survive the smoke and water that will potentially damage then in an incident? Even if you don't have a fire, will they survive the ravages of time anyway? One suggestion is to have them professional scanned and saved on CD. Again, keep them at a different location so that if the worst happens you will be able to have them reprinted, reframed and rehung in your clubrooms.

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