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Fire Australia 2022: Day Three Program Highlights

Posted on : Thursday, 5 May 2022


We've wrapped up Fire Australia for another year, packed away the tradeshow and taken a couple of tours of leading facilities.  So what happened on day 3?  



Session 1...


The Plenary saw InspectorJohn McDonough  of FRNSW give insights into the experience of firefighters when they enter a burning building, and what they are looking for.  He discussed the reality of fighting fires inside structures and the supportive role that fire systems play.  John showed a variety of confronting videos to demonstrate the firefighters' experience, which were very informative.  He said that in almost all cases a firefighter has no advanced knowledge about what the risks of a space might be during a fire and "the best way to describe a fire is to put up black screen".  He also observed that "the biggest risk to the safety of firefighters is changes/relaxation of the current legislation, coupled with the introduction of new and untried building systems."  



Perceptive Stream


The "perceptive" stream on day 3 was dedicated to bushfire issues. 


It started with a presentation by the soon-to-depart CEO of Natural Hazards Research Australia (NHRA), Richard Thornton, who discussed the agency's formation out of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and its role in promoting leading research into the management and mitigation of natural hazards.  NHRA was formed in July last year and has been establishing the programs and processes that will make it a success.  Richard reflected upon his time with the agency and its predecessors and talked about the different risks faced by communities and why people put themselves at risk:  "Telling people there's a threat does not get action - we've learnt to target and refine messages and recognise conflicting views." 


This was followed by a session examining the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition Australia research project into bushfire residential sprinklers.  The project is looking at options to protect housing in bushfire prone areas using cost-effective fire suppression.  Mark Potter  (Agilus) sought the insights of Mark Whybro  (HFSCA), Alan Green  (University of Wollongong), and Kathy Tannous  (Western Sydney University) who are developing viable options for use in residential buildings.  Alan said that, in relation to the need for research and development of designs, "there's an opportunity for active systems to complement passive systems more effectively"



Political Stream


In the "political" stream, we examined the role and output of Australia's building regulator - the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB). 


First up was Gary Rake, of the ABCB, who discussed his new role as its CEO and talked about the future of the organisation.  He said that, apart from the development and release of the National Construction Code (NCC), a lot of the focus of the organisation over the next few years will be on the rollout of the Shergold-Weir Building Confidence  report.  He discussed some of the challenges he anticipates and how they will approach building regulation.  But, he said, industry is an important partner:  "We need to create more opportunities for stakeholders to consult and play a collective role in the development of the NCC." 


He was followed by Kingsley Lunt  of the Hendry Group, who discussed the use of performance solutions and when to depart from deemed-to-satisfy provisions of the NCC.  He said that a lot of the potential benefits that were expected to come from the use of performance solutions aren't being realised, and talked about how the ABCB has been trying to encourage more flexible use of the Code.  He said that there are benefits to using performance solutions:  "As a Japanese saying goes:  'No matter how good something is, it can always be improved upon'." 



Practical Stream


There was only one session of the "practical" stream on day 3, where Bob Grieve  (Delta Fire) discussed fire safety strategies in high hazard areas with Brett Staines  (Special Hazards Fire Protection), Alex Starkey  (LPG Fire Australia), Stephen Oxley  (Wormald), and Jason D'Silva  (Transport for NSW).  They worked through a variety of scenarios and talked about different materials and systems.  The topic of PFAS and other firefighting foams Alex commented that "To think that fluorine-free foams are environmentally safe is not accurate.  They are more environmentally responsible, but you've got to account for their ability to extinguish the fire". 



With that, the program was over, delegates headed for the offsite tours, airports, or home, the Tradeshow was packed up, and plans commenced for 2023.  Well, sort of.  


FPA Australia thanks all of the presenters, exhibitors, attendees, and staff for their support of, and participation in, this year's Conference and Tradeshow.  


We look forward to seeing you in Sydney in 2023.