Although an approved fire safety plan contains the ingredients for compliance with the fire code, communication is the key to conducting a successful evacuation from a building. Information on steps to follow during a fire emergency must be distributed at multiple levels, from the owner of the premises, through property managers, general staff, tenants and finally to visitors. It may seem like a huge undertaking, but in most cases much of the information is already present in the building’s fire safety plan. Subsequent updates can take various forms, whether via bulletins from the human resources department or announcements at regularly held health and safety meetings. Changes to the fire safety plan itself can be easily scanned to a JPEG or PDF format without the need to create a new text document. Many building management teams prefer to prepare and hand out regular newsletters, or to send reminder emails with attached instructions on fire safety and evacuation routines. Keep in mind that reliance on multiple channels increases the likelihood that occupants will remain fully informed regarding emergency procedures, and allows for various methods of feedback. This feedback is essential as it may contain new information on particulars for a department, floor warden and supervisory personnel, or occupants who have special needs that may affect their ability to evacuate.
Any returned input can be aligned with the required fire drills and training sessions, by which property management teams provide details to fire wardens and supervisory staff on their responsibilities and roles during a fire emergency. Generally, designated fire wardens are personnel available during business hours who are responsible for communicating the need to evacuate, and then checking offices, washrooms and meeting spaces before being the last person to exit an area. They can be issued evacuation drawings that will help them to move occupants to safe areas. They may also be given the task of ensuring that fire doors are closed when exiting, and diverting evacuees away from any areas which may present a threat. For buildings with large occupancies, additional personnel are assigned to assist during evacuations and are provided with extra training regarding alternative escape routes in case the primary evacuation routes become impassible. Any visitors entering a building must be accounted for following a fire evacuation, and may need additional assistance when exiting. Building operators normally require that all visitors and contractors sign in when entering the building. In the event of an evacuation, visitors must head for safe haven areas outlined on the site plan drawing approved with the fire safety plan by the fire department. Supervisory staff will refer to the sign-in list to ensure that visitors have left the building. It is an important requirement of the fire code that an updated copy of the fire safety plan is kept in the lock box of the main lobby entrance. The fire safety plan must be reviewed by building management at intervals of no greater than 12 months. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that the plan continues to accurately reflect the current building layout, fire protection and life safety systems, staffing levels and assignments, emergency contact information, and use of the building. It is necessary to communicate with the fire department in written form regarding any structural modifications to the building, updates to the fire system and changes of ownership. Where there have been major permanent changes, the fire department may subsequently request that the updated plan be re-submitted for their approval.
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.