Although it is difficult to predict whether a building will ever have a serious or life-threatening fire, it is essential that fire safety procedures be planned for in any event. Within the building code, fire safety is defined as the objective to reduce the probability that a person in or adjacent to a building will be exposed to an unacceptable fire hazard as a result of the design and construction of the building. In simpler terms, fire safety aims to reduce the potential for personal harm as a result of fire in a building. The fire code outlines the building classifications which are required have a valid fire safety plan in place. Each safety plan is a customized manual of the building, containing sections that outline evacuation procedures, fire drills, fire watch, and alternative measures for dealing with fire. A fire safety plan also describes requirements for occupants with hearing or vision impairment, or who are physically limited, wheelchair bound, etc. There are specific procedures to alert and assist with the evacuation of each special needs occupants from the building. The fire safety plan is also a critical manual for assisting and guiding the first responders who attend the building, if a fire emergency arises
All building fire safety plans must be updated at intervals no great than 12 months. In the event major changes have been made to the premises, the fire safety plan must be re-submitted to the local fire department for approval. The fire code does require that once a fire emergency is underway, there must be a safe means of evacuation for building occupants. This of course means that clear paths of escape are to be present at all times, with sufficient emergency lighting and signage to guide the evacuees to the exit ways. This will help occupants to leave the building without injury or being trapped. Occupants must be made aware of the location of all emergency exits and alternate paths to safety: exit routes are to be clearly marked, unobstructed and never locked. If an emergency exit must prevent access from the exterior for security reasons, it should be equipped with an alarmed panic hardware type latch so that it can be opened from the inside without requiring that it be unlocked first. In these cases, signage must be posted that to indicate it is an “emergency exit only” along with an alert that an alarm will sound upon opening of the door. Doors which are magnetically locked are released upon activation of the fire alarm system pull station located by each exit door. In buildings with units that are often renovated due to changing tenants and use, it is critical for building operators continually assess all exit door pathways. Floor plan drawings must show which doors provide clear passage to the outside, and signs should be posted on the remaining doors to indicate they are not exits. An example of a door that is not an exit to the outside would be a door opening to a stairwell leading only to the building roof. The objective is to ensure that occupants can safely exit the building without becoming trapped or overcome by smoke. The fire alarm system, public address system, or other means of alerting occupants must be in working condition at all times, meaning 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. When the fire alarm sounds, or a fire or other emergency is otherwise announced, all occupants should immediately exit the building by proceeding in an orderly fashion to the nearest exit. If fire or smoke blocks this exit, occupants should be able to proceed to an alternate exit route.
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.