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Commercial, Industrial and Business Premises

Essential Safety Measures


What are Essential Safety Measures?

Essential Safety Measures are designed to save lives, properties and businesses in emergencies. They range from a smoke alarm in a house or pool barrier, to multiple fire safety systems in small or  large buildings and hospitals. All commercial buildings have some form of Essential Safety Measures in the form of construction, equipment maintenance, or paths of travel to the exit door(s).


What is an Annual Essential Safety Measures Report?

Building owners must show annually that all buildings fire safety features have been maintained to the required standards by preparing an Annual Essential Safety Measures Report. The annual report must be available to be inspected by Council or CFA staff.


Some information that may assist you is in the Victorian Building Authority’s brochure or the manual. Owners (or their representatives) must ensure that all building maintenance and testings are carried out, before completing the Annual Essential Safety Measures report. These requirements apply to all commercial buildings.


Link to VBA Brochure

Link to VBA ESM maintenance manual

Link to ESM annual report example (123 Fake Street)


What does Council do?

Council’s role is to inspect commercial properties to ensure that building fire safety features are maintained. The building owner must hold the Annual Report at the property for inspection by Council’s Municipal Building Surveyor or a Country Fire Authority (CFA) Fire Safety Officer. Building owners are required to be given 24 hour notice before inspections.


Council is constantly contacting commercial building owners and organising inspection times. All commercial properties will be inspected. Where buildings have not been adequately maintained, fines may be issued.


For further information refer to the Essential Safety Measures section of the Building Commission Website.


Accommodation Buildings

All existing accommodation buildings must be upgraded to include a degree of fire safety. Some buildings to which these requirements apply include:

  • Hotels
  • Motels
  • Hostels
  • Backpackers Lodges
  • Shared Accommodation Facilities
  • Aged Care Facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Pubs with accommodation
  • Facilities with accommodation for mentally challenged and disabled persons

Building Owners

If you are a building owner of any of the above, this could impact you. Depending on the characteristics of the building one of the following systems must be installed:

  • Smoke Alarms
  • Smoke detection
  • Automatic sprinkler.

This applies to buildings that don’t have any existing fire detection, alarm or sprinkler systems.


Hardwired Alarm Systems or Smoke Detection

If your building was constructed prior to 1 August 1997, one of the following systems must be installed: 

A smoke alarm system to Australian Standard AS3786

A smoke detection system to Australian Standard AS1670

These systems usually require a small number of smoke alarms connected to mains power with battery backup. Smoke alarms are usually located closely to all bedrooms and in every storey, and only programmed to ‘beep’ upon activation. Smoke alarms can be interconnected to one another so all alarms activate upon activation of a single alarm.


These systems usually require a large number of smoke detectors located throughout the building, in every room of every storey, connected directly to a main Fire Indicator Panel (FIP). The FIP usually alerts the fire brigade or sends the building into alarm and escape mode upon the activation of one of the detectors.













Download a typical layout diagram for hotels and motels (PDF 32Kb) 



Automatic Sprinkler Systems - Accommodation Building

To find out whether your Shared Accommodation building needs to have an Automatic Sprinkler System installed, see Requirement for Automatic Sprinkler Systems


Automatic Fire Sprinkler Systems - Residential Care Buildings

If your building is a Residential Care Building constructed prior to 1 August 1997, it must be installed with a sprinkler system to AS2118.4 – 1995. Where the sprinklers system will be installed in a building which has one of the following:

  • More than 100 sprinkler heads 
  • Accommodates more than 32 residents

The system must be connected to a fire station or other approved monitoring service in accordance with Residential Fire Safety Systems Practice Note 2006-07 issued by the Building Commission in May 2006.


What is a Residential Care Building or Shared Accommodation Building?

The Building Code of Australia Volume 1 (BCA) defines the two as following:


Building Type


Residential care building

means a building which is a place of residence where 10% or more of persons who reside there need physical assistance in conducting their daily activities and to evacuate the building during an emergency (including any residential care service, State funded residential care service or supported residential service as defined in the Health Services Act 1988 and an aged care building) but does not include—

(a) a hospital or 

(b) a dwelling in which 2 or more members of the same family and not more than 2 other persons would ordinarily be resident or

(c) a place of residence where only one resident needs physical assistance in conducting their daily activities and to evacuate the building during an emergency.

Shared accommodation building

means a Class 3 building having—

(a) more than one sole-occupancy unit of which any sole-occupancy unit has sleeping facilities capable of accommodating 3 or more unrelated persons or

(b) sleeping facilities capable of accommodating 13 or more unrelated persons, that is a boarding-house, chalet, guest house, lodging-house, backpacker accommodation or the like, or a residential part of a hotel offering shared accommodation but does not include a residential care building, a motel or a residential part of a school, health-care building or detention centre.



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