Fire precautions and procedures for the evacuation of the workplace are an integral part of every building’s fire safety plan. The plan provides instruction and training material for employees, visitors and anyone who may need assistance to escape in the event of a building emergency. Adequately trained staff such floor wardens or supervisory personnel must be in place to provide direction and assistance to all occupants. In small building or workplace, an evacuation will simply require that everyone react to the warning signal that follows the discovery of a fire. All occupants must make their way to a place of safety outside the building, alone or in groups, by the pre-defined means of egress. In large multi-storey office buildings, floor wardens ensure that building occupants of a specific floor area either evacuate the building to a designated assembly point, or are positioned in a safe location within the building. The floor wardens walk through their assigned areas when departing, looking for occupants who have not evacuated. Additional floor warden responsibilities are outlined in the fire safety plan, including what to do if they see fire and/or smoke, or encounter an occupant who is unable to evacuate the building. It is critical for all the floor wardens and supervisory personnel of the building to review the floor plan drawings in the fire safety plan, familiarizing themselves with the exit passageways, safe haven assembly areas and the sequence of operation of the fire alarm system in the building.
Although one may believe the design of a modern building includes satisfactory means of escape, and that these have passed inspection after construction, significant alterations or a conversion may have occurred over time. Conducting a risk assessment of the current layout or proposed changes will ensure that the escape routes remain adequate. This assessment may include reviewing the level of preparedness for a fire or other emergency, with consideration of the time available for occupants to escape. This period of time begins not when a fire starts or has been discovered, but after a general warning has been issued, received and understood by all occupants. It ends when the planned means of escape from the building becomes unsafe. In all possible scenarios, the available time should always be greater than the length of time required for everyone to evacuate. Regardless of the location of a fire, occupants must able to proceed safely along a recognizable escape route to the place of assembly outside the building.
Occupants with a wide range of physical and/or mental impairment can have difficulty getting out of a building, a fact that becomes all the more critical during an emergency. Legislation has been passed regarding the safety of occupants with special needs during an emergency, including references to the means of escape. Employers and building operators are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to their premises so that no employee is at a disadvantage. Disabled people must be able to leave the premises safely if there is a fire. Under the Fire Code, building operators must also ensure that their fire safety plan considers all occupants. Employees with special needs must be identified as part of the specified fire safety arrangements and evacuation procedures. It is also necessary to consider others who have access to the workplace, including contractors and visitors, who may also have special needs.
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.