In the event of a fire, whether it occurs at the workplace or in the home, the priority is to ensure that everyone can quickly reach a place of safety. Putting out the fire is a secondary concern. The greatest danger from fire is the spread of flame, heat and smoke, so the main question is can the existing means of detection discover a fire and raise an alarm in time for all occupants to escape safely? If detection and advance warning systems are inadequate, or if the means of escape are limited, a fire can hinder evacuation and trap occupants in areas where they may be overcome by heat and smoke.
The first step in the assessment of fire safety is to ascertain who may be at risk in a fire, how they can best be warned and the easiest means of escape. The usual locations of occupants should be clearly identified. These include regular and occasional workstations, rooms used for meeting with customers, walk-in storage facilities, washrooms or other enclosed spaces, as well as isolated areas used by contractors or guests who may be unfamiliar with the workplace layout. Any fire detection system must be able to ascertain the outbreak of a fire promptly and accurately. To be effective, warnings must alert all occupants and allow time for complete evacuation before a fire makes escape routes unusable. In small offices, single-storey buildings where all occupants are near to visible exits, or in open-air workspaces at ground level, a fire is unlikely to cut off the means of escape. The fire can be easily and quickly detected by those present. A verbal warning or shout of “Fire!” may be all that is needed. In large or multi-storey premises, a fire alarm panel warning system with manually-operated pull stations must be present as per fire safety requirements. Instructions regarding required action when a warning is issued or escalated must be visibly posted throughout the building. If there are unoccupied areas where a fire could start and progress undiscovered to the extent that escape routes are affected, automatic fire detection systems are needed as per provincial codes. It is important to ensure staff and casual employees are trained on the operation of fire detection and warning systems, and how to respond to an emergency.
There are many factors that determine the timing of a fire evacuation, especially with regards to ensuring a speedy evacuation of all occupants from a high-rise building. For this reason, systematic fire evacuations of specific floors of high-rise structures are an important part of fire safety planning. In some cases, first responders may perform an initial evacuation of occupants two floors above and five floors below the fire floor. An evacuation could mean moving to a safe location within the building, or exiting the building at the ground floor. In some scenarios, occupants may be safer staying where they are. If the fire is confined to one floor, first responders may instruct occupants to move a few floors below the fire. The building’s fire safety plan indicates the evacuation procedures and lists the personnel designated to assist in a fire evacuation. The fire code clearly assigns responsibility for full implementation of the fire plan to the property operator and/or building owner, as they are ultimately responsible for occupant safety and evacuation.
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.