One of the questions most frequently asked by building occupants of residential complexes and commercial structures is who is actually responsible for safety in the building. Is it the security guards, the owners of the building, the property managers, or the engineers who built it? Primarily, the person responsible for the safety of building occupants is the owner of the structure who must provide a safe environment for the occupants who use the premise. This can be a major task for owners who have several buildings under their control. For this reason, they often seek the assistance of property management firms to take on this responsibility under contract on their behalf. The owner of the building must ensure their chosen management firm has trained personnel who are familiar with day-to-day building operations, well-versed in fire code requirements and able to implement current regulations to keep the occupants safe. Tenants are paying rent to occupy space, and therefore landlords and/or their elected property management agents are accountable to ensure safety comes first. By the same token, tenants and other users of the building have their respective responsibilities as well. Business owners who rent a space in the building are responsible for cascading the safety information to their subordinates and clients. Everyone using the building should adhere to the fire safety standards established by property management personnel.
On the other side of the coin, building owners and property management firms wonder how they can even keep track of all the smoke alarms within their tenant spaces. In recent times, more attention has been brought to the mandatory operational requirements of these devices within tenant spaces. At best, devices might be tested annually when private suites are evaluated during the yearly audits as per the fire code. This begs the question of who carries the liability of these devices for the rest of the year. The huge variable in fire risk is always what the tenants decide to do in the privacy of their own space. Smoke alarms can be easily disconnected from their power source by either electrical breakers or the removal of the battery. In addition, occupants usually take it for granted that the fire safety system and fire-fighting appliances located in common areas are up to code and in full working order at all times. Tenants are paying rent to occupy space, therefore landlords and/or their elected property management agent(s) are ultimately accountable for safety. In the face of these huge liabilities, building owners and their contracted property management firms are realizing the need for better communication with their tenants. This may take the form of safety bulletins and questionnaires dispersed to the tenants on a monthly or quarterly basis. It is not uncommon for some building operators to issue their tenants the pertinent sections of the building fire safety plan, or to post these on a web site. Education accompanied by follow ups throughout the year can lead to much greater awareness of safety measures. Equally important is the need to alert tenants of the serious consequences of tampering with the life safety device(s) located within their space, and the criminal nature of such actions. The landlord must take all necessary steps and precautions to ensure his tenants are safe and well-prepared for any crisis.
This article was contributed by Firepoint Inc, serving the GTA since 1997, developing fire department approved fire safety plans for newly constructed and existing buildings. Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, the bulletin publishers and authors do not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current and shall not be liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the bulletin information. Bulletin reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the written consent of Firepoint Inc. Copyright 2021 – All Rights Reserved. See www.firepoint.ca or call 905-874-9400.