In the event critical fire and life safety systems are temporarily out of service, the fire department requires building operators to implement fire watch procedures. The term “fire watch” describes the situation whereby a pre-designated person or persons have the sole responsibility to be on the lookout for fires in a specific area. A fire watch must be established when any portion of a fire protection system in a building is temporarily shut down for any reason. This includes planned maintenance or periodic inspections when it is anticipated that the system will be shut down for more than four hours. In occupied buildings under renovation where a fire protection system is not operational, a fire watch must be established. The Fire Code requires that buildings equipped with fire alarm systems and sprinkler systems must be monitored at all times. Therefore, in the event any safety systems are off-line for any reason whatsoever, a fire watch through the use of fire watch personnel is to be implemented immediately. During a fire watch, a responsible occupant, employee or contracted security guard actively looks for evidence of smoke, fire, and in-room smoke detector alarms. If smoke or fire is seen, they must declare a building emergency and contact the Fire Department. The fire watch is only intended as a short-term alternative to permit continued occupancy of the building. The Fire Department requires immediate action by the building owner, business operator or management firm in arranging for corrective measures to be taken on any system which is temporarily out of service. The building owner, business operator or management firm is fully responsible to assign and instruct personnel, maintain the fire watch, and to contact a repair company to fix 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. The alternate measures required during a temporary shutdown of the building’s fire protection and life safety equipment are to be listed within the Fire Department approved fire safety plan
The elected fire watch personnel are to contact the Fire Department at the start and end of the each fire watch interval, or shift change. In most cases, the fire watch personnel patrolling the area are equipped with cellular telephone, a flashlight and a list of special needs persons requiring assistance. The fire watch must be continuous (24 hours/day, 7 days/week) until the fire protection system is repaired and online, in addition to keeping written logs, indicating the date, time and alarm status. They must undersign their daily log report. Signage is also posted throughout the common areas of the building indicating that the fire protection system is temporarily out of order and to display the emergency evacuation procedures as outlined within the approved fire safety plan. At the first sign of any fire or smoke within the building, the fire watch personnel must immediately notify the Fire Department and meet the first responder at main entrance of the building. In preparation for a fire emergency in the building, it is critical for the fire watch personnel to be familiar with fire alarm system sequence of operation and the procedures for sounding an alarm. A sufficient cross-section of personnel must be familiar with the extinguishing equipment in case it is required at any time. To ensure all areas are adequately covered, the list of personnel and patrol shifts involved in the fire watch is to be established well in advance and outlined in the fire safety plan.
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.