In order to minimize risks in occupied buildings, it is essential to plan for emergency evacuations and to conduct regular fire drills. Evacuation exercises are particularly important for residential facilities, high-rise buildings, patient treatment facilities and day-care centres. The required frequencies of fire drill evacuation exercises are outlined in the Ontario Fire Code Section 2.8, and are also listed in each building’s approved fire safety plan. Fire safety planning works best when you establish a committee of members from the building, which should include representatives from each floor. It is necessary to appoint a building emergency management coordinator and floor wardens. For larger buildings, consideration should be given to designating more than one warden per floor. Always choose alternates for each position to cover absences. It is important to ensure that signs indicating evacuation routes are posted in frequently travelled areas of the building and are clearly visible. In addition, special attention must be given to the evacuation procedures for occupants with special needs.
Fire drills should involve all occupants, as everyone should leave the building when the fire alarm sounds. It is critical for building personnel and floor wardens to be familiar with the fire alarm sequence, including the first and second stage alarms, their associated audible signals, and the duties to be carried out at each point in a fire emergency. Emphasis should be placed on a safe and orderly evacuation, rather than speed. Occupants should close but not lock doors as they leave their room or office. If there are concerns regarding confidential papers or other materials, the evacuation plan should include securing articles in a lockable filing cabinet or desk. All building evacuees should congregate at a pre-determined location away from the building, as indicated on the site drawing in the approved fire safety plan. It must be stressed to all occupants that the elevators must never be used during a fire emergency. Floor wardens must attempt to keep their group together, and conduct a “head count” at the congregation area to ensure that all evacuees have left the building. Everyone must stay well clear of the fire department entrance, access routes, fire hydrants and safety equipment. This will help to prevent obstructions and delayed responses to the emergency. All activities during the fire drill are to be logged into an approved up-to-date fire safety plan, which is either kept in the lock box of the main lobby entrance or with the front desk security personnel.
As required to comply with fire code regulations, fire safety plan are to 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 safety 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. 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 to occupants can take various forms, such as bulletins from the human resources department or the health and safety personnel.
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.