Implementing fire prevention without full consideration of all inter-related factors may prevent a suitable or sufficient emergency response to a building fire. Most fire prevention activities are directed to events that occur before the fire emergency actually starts or during the first few minutes afterwards. Therefore, fire codes require provision of early detection devices and alerting systems. Fire safety legislation also includes engineering specifications to be incorporated into the design of a structure or sub-structure to limit the growth and spread of a fire, control of smoke and, in some cases, automatic or semi-automatic means of fire control such as fire suppression or sprinkler systems. Provincial fire codes do require that once a fire emergency is underway there must be a safe means of evacuation for building occupants. Building management must maintain clear paths of escape, a sufficient number of suitably protected exit ways, emergency lighting, and signage. If a rapidly spreading fire occurs, all the occupants must be able to get out of the building without injury and without being trapped by the fire. Occupants must know the location of all emergency exits and alternate paths to safety. These routes are to be clearly marked, unobstructed and never locked. If an emergency exit must prevent access from the exterior for security reasons, it should be equipped with an alarmed “panic hardware” type latch so that it can be opened from the inside without requiring that it be unlocked first. In these cases, signage must be posted that states “Emergency Exit Only – Alarm Will Sound”. Fire doors, which are magnetically locked, are to be released upon activation of the fire alarm system and/or fire pull station located by the exit door. If there are doors that could be mistaken for passage to the outside, signage is to be posted on the door stating “Not An Exit”. Records of past experience indicate that during a fire emergency occupants have often made their way to stairwells leading to the roof, only to find the doors locked, where they experienced panic and became trapped. Panic of occupants in the early stages of a fire evacuation can result in a high number of casualties.
If there are any occupants with hearing or vision impairment, or those who are physically limited, wheelchair bound, etc., special procedures are required to be in place to alert and assist with their evacuation from the building. A fire alarm system, public address system, or other means of alerting occupants must be in working condition. When the fire alarm sounds or a fire or other emergency is otherwise announced, all occupants should immediately exit the building by proceeding in an orderly fashion to the nearest exit. If fire or smoke blocks this exit, occupants should be able to proceed to an alternate exit. The first priority is to ensure that occupants safely exit the building without becoming trapped or overcome by smoke. A pre-designated meeting area(s) should be established well away from the building. This meeting area must not hamper access by fire fighters and must allow premise supervisors/managers to easily account for all of their occupants. The fire code legislation outlines the various types of building occupancies required to have a validated fire safety plan. This is a customized manual which outlines occupant evacuation procedures, but most importantly is designed as a guide for the fire fighters who attend the building if a fire emergency arises. All building fire safety plans must be updated at intervals no great than 12 months. In the event major changes have been made to the premises, the fire safety plan must be re-submitted to the local fire department for approval. (B131)
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.