The maintenance of fire and life safety is an integral part of every building management team’s responsibilities. This is closely followed by the full implementation of the approved fire safety plan. For residential, commercial or industrial buildings, the objective is to reduce the risk to occupants and to limit the fire impact overall. Each fire safety plan may have very different contents when one considers a building’s classification, e.g. office, residential, or a warehouse storage facility for hazardous materials. The building’s construction, including whether the structure has steel-reinforcements, concrete or is framed in wood is also outlined, as well as the number and main activities on each floor. The plan must take into account the existence of any precautionary measures and security operations of the building to minimize the time required to evacuate occupants when a fire alarm system has been activated. Special needs persons requiring assistance must be listed in the approved fire safety plan, including those with reduced mobility, a speech, hearing or visual impairment, or a cognitive limitation.
Descriptions of the building’s fire alert detection systems and their periodic maintenance requirements are provided in each fire safety plan, along with procedures to follow in the event this equipment is out of service. The fire code does require that fire alarm and sprinkler systems, or procedural alternatives, are fully operational at all times. Therefore, in the event that the automatic fire systems are off-line for any reason whatsoever, a fire watch must be implemented immediately. In other words, whenever critical fire and life safety equipment in a building is temporarily out of service, building operators are to commence fire watch procedures. The term “fire watch” means that pre-designated person(s) have the sole responsibility to be on the lookout for fires in a specific area. For example, this applies when it is anticipated that the fire system will be shut down for more than four hours. During a fire watch, an elected occupant, employee or contracted security guard actively looks for evidence of smoke and fire as they walk the entire building area. If smoke or fire is seen, they must declare a building emergency and contact the fire department immediately. The fire watch is only intended as a short-term alternative to permit continued occupancy of the building. In unoccupied buildings under renovation where a fire protection system is not operational, a fire watch must also be established. The building owner, business operator or management firm is fully responsible to assign and instruct personnel, maintain the fire watch, and to contact a service company to repair the fire protection system(s). All building occupants are to be notified in writing that the fire protection systems in the building are not functional and that a fire watch has been instituted until repairs have been made. As contained in the approved fire safety plan, signage must be clearly posted throughout the common areas of the building indicating the equipment which is off line and the procedures to be followed in the event an emergency arises. The alternate measures required during a temporary shutdown of the building’s fire protection and life safety equipment must be listed within the approved fire safety plan. The plan includes log sheets for documenting contact with the fire department at the start and end of the each fire watch interval or shift change. Until the particular fire protection system is back on line, it is critical that the fire watch personnel maintain a written log of the fire watch, indicating the date, time and alarm status.
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.