Fire prevention in condominiums: regulations and practices for the administrator


Emma Potter

In the condominium context, the management of fire safety represents a crucial and unavoidable aspect to guarantee the protection of the life, health and property of tenants.

The condominium administrator plays a fundamental role in this context, having the responsibility of ensuring not only the correct maintenance of the common systems, but also the building compliance to current regulations regarding fire prevention.

With the evolution of technologies and the increase in safety needs, fire regulations have undergone important updates, which have introduced new procedures and specific obligations for condominium administrators.

In this article, we will explore the regulatory framework relating to fire safety in condominiums, highlighting the administrator's responsibilities and the legal implications he or she faces in the event of non-compliance.

The regulatory framework of fire safety in condominiums

Italian legislation regarding the prevention and management of fires in condominium buildings is complex and constantly evolving. The starting point is Ministerial Decree no. 246 of 1987, which introduced the first specific fire safety regulations for buildings intended for residential use.

However, the greater awareness of fire risks has made a series of regulatory updates necessary, culminating in Ministerial Decree no. 30 of 2019. The latter made significant “Modifications and additions” to the original decree, introducing the Fire-fighting Certified Activity Start Report (SCIA). as a tool to certify the compliance of buildings with fire prevention regulations.

This regulatory evolution has increased the responsibilities of the condominium administrator, who must now ensure that the building is not only equipped with adequate fire prevention and management systembut also that it is in compliance with the latest legislative provisions, including the issue or renewal of Fire Prevention Certificate (CPI) or the presentation of the fire SCIA, depending on the specific cases.

The Certified Fire Prevention Activity Report (SCIA) and the Fire Prevention Certificate (CPI)

In recent years, Italian legislation has undergone important changes to simplify and make more efficient the management of fire safety in buildings, including condominium ones. One of the most significant innovations was the introduction of Fire-fighting Certified Activity Start Report (SCIA)..

The fire SCIA represents a declaration, made by the owner of the business or by the condominium administrator through a qualified technician, which certifies the compliance of the building with current regulations regarding fire prevention. This tool has the advantage of not requiring a preventive check by the Fire Brigade, who can however carry out subsequent checks.

At the same time, the Fire Prevention Certificate (CPI) continues to be a fundamental document for qualified high fire risk activities. Unlike the SCIA, the CPI requires a direct control and on-site verification by the Fire Brigade before its release, ensuring an additional level of safety and compliance.

The obligation to submit the fire SCIA or the renewal of the CPI depends on specific criteria, such as the characteristics of the building and the nature of the activity carried out inside it. The condominium administrator must therefore always be updated on the latest legislative provisions and the procedures to follow to ensure full compliance of the building with fire prevention regulations.

The importance of the fire SCIA in condominiums

Fire SCIA plays a crucial role in managing fire safety in condominiums. This procedure is mandatory for buildings that have specific technical or dimensional characteristics, as defined in Annex 1 of Presidential Decree 151/2011.

For example, the presentation of the fire SCIA is necessary for condominiums with afire prevention height exceeding 24 metresfor those equipped with a generator with a power equal to or greater than 500 kW, or for buildings that include garages or car parks with a covered area exceeding 300 m2.

The responsibility for verifying the need to present the fire SCIA and proceeding with its compilation and presentation falls on the condominium administrator. This obligation underlines the importance of careful and conscious management of aspects related to fire safety, ensuring that all preventive and emergency measures are adequately implemented and maintained over time.

Furthermore, the fire SCIA not only confirms the compliance of the building with current regulations, but also acts as a prevention tool, since it implies a periodic review and evaluation of the state of the systems and the security measures adopted. This process helps maintain high safety standards for tenants and prevent risk situations that could compromise people's safety and the integrity of the property.

The responsibilities of the condominium administrator in fire prevention

The condominium administrator plays a fundamental role in managing the fire safety of the building, having the task of ensuring that all regulations and procedures are respected.

Among his main responsibilities are:

  1. Verification of the fire-fighting SCIA: The administrator must check that the fire SCIA has been submitted and is still valid. In the event of structural changes or changes in the intended use of the spaces that could affect the fire risk classification, it must be updated or renewed.
  2. Maintenance of systems: Is responsible for the ordinary and extraordinary maintenance of fire prevention systems, including fire extinguishers, fire hydrants, emergency lighting and signs. This involves periodically checking their state of efficiency and their replacement or repair in case of malfunctions.
  3. Training and information: Must organize training sessions for tenants on evacuation procedures and the use of fire extinguishers, as well as ensuring that safety information is clear, up-to-date and easily accessible to all tenants.
  4. Regulatory compliance: The administrator must keep up to date with the latest legislative changes regarding fire prevention and adapt the building's safety policies and practices accordingly.

Failure to comply with these responsibilities not only exposes the administrator to legal risks, including civil liability for damages resulting from any accidents, but may also result in criminal sanctions. Furthermore, negligent management of fire safety can seriously compromise the safety of tenants, with potentially disastrous consequences.

How is the “fire height” of a building calculated?

L'fire height of a building is a technical parameter used in fire safety regulations to classify buildings according to their fire risk, directly influencing prevention and intervention strategies. However, the precise definition and method of calculating “fire height” may vary depending on specific national or local regulations. Generally, some common principles are considered to determine this measurement:

  • Measurement Point: Fire height is typically measured from the external surface of the ground to the floor level of the last floor that is habitable or usable for activities that may present a fire risk. Non-habitable attics or technical structures located on the roof are not always considered, unless they are used spaces that could influence the fire risk of the building.
  • Consideration of Ground Level: The measurement must take into account variations in the ground level around the building. In the presence of significant slopes or differences in height, the highest point or a weighted average could be taken as reference, as specified by the applicable legislation.
  • Inclusion of Relevant Structures: In some cases, regulations may require the measurement to include heights of structures relevant to fire safety, such as towers or architectural elements that significantly extend the overall height of the building and could impact evacuation or rescue operations.

It is important to consult the specific fire regulations of your country or region for an exact definition and instructions for calculating the “fire height”.

This parameter is fundamental to determine the mandatory safety measures, evacuation procedures and specific safety equipment that must be implemented in relation to the height of the building and the associated potential fire risk.

Here is an example classification based on “fire height”:

  • Low buildings: up to 12 meters fire height.
    This category generally includes small residential buildings, for which basic alarm systems and standard prevention measures are required.
  • Medium Buildings: from 12 to 24 meters of fire prevention height.
    Buildings in this range require more stringent fire safety measures, including well-signposted escape routes and correct behavior in emergency situations, clearly communicated to residents.
  • Tall Buildings: from 24 to 54 meters of fire prevention height.
    For buildings in this category, detailed planning of evacuation procedures in the event of an emergency is required, which must be published and made visible, in addition to risk assessment by specialized companies.
  • Skyscrapers: from 54 to 80 meters fire height.
    These buildings require the installation of manual signaling and fire alarm systems, in addition to the requirements required for the lower categories.
  • Super Skyscrapers: over 80 meters of fire prevention height.
    For buildings of this imposing stature, additional management measures are necessary in case of emergency, in addition to those already foreseen for the other categories.

This classification serves to guide condominium administrators and building safety managers in the implementation of appropriate fire safety measures, which must be proportionate to the potential risk associated with the height of the building. The specific rules and requirements for each height category may include details on safety infrastructure, evacuation plans, occupant training and other preventive and intervention measures.

For accurate and up-to-date information, it is essential to consult current local and national fire safety regulations.