Fire safety: Ensuring an effective fire safety plan

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Special to Ontario Construction News

Although the preparation of fire safety planning for buildings may have undergone a shift in focus as a result of “work at home” policies and the introduction of new health protection measures, the fire code continues to stipulate that each building owner is ultimately responsible for carrying out the provisions for fire safety.

The fire code defines “owner” as any “person, firm or corporation controlling the property under consideration”. Consequently, the owner may be one or a combination of parties, including building management, maintenance staff and tenant groups. It is therefore critical to re-establish the assignment of returning employees as fire warden(s) and to provide additional training to reinforce their roles and responsibilities.

One of the main strategies of an approved fire safety plan is to ensure building occupants are able to leave the premises as quickly and safely as possible, should a fire emergency occur. It is equally critical to implement the scheduled maintenance requirements for the building fire safety systems, in order to keep them in full working order 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

These are listed in the fire safety plan and include fire alarm systems, sprinkler systems, and emergency lighting. The fire safety plan reflects the unique characteristics and classifications of the building, the occupant loads, means of egress floor plan evacuation schematics, emergency contacts, persons requiring assistance etc.

Whether it be building employees, customers or tenants, anyone who enters and occupies the facility has the expectation that fire safety planning measures have been fully implemented. The fire safety plan is one of the most important building manuals. It is to be readily available at all times, and copies are to be kept in the approved fire plan box at the premises entrance, secure location in the building, etc.

City fire services may require that an accepted fire safety plan, or parts thereof, be re-submitted if there are any changes to occupancy, use or standards, if the fire safety plan has not been kept current or up to date, or because the chief fire official judges that the current fire safety plan is no longer acceptable. The city fire officials are to be notified regarding any subsequent changes in the accepted fire safety plan. As described in the fire code, the building fire safety plan shall be reviewed as often as necessary, but at intervals not greater than twelve months, to ensure that it takes account of changes in the use and other characteristics of the building.

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. See www.firepoint.ca or call (905) 874-9400.

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