Fire safety: Evaluating building fire drills

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Special to Ontario Construction News

The proactive approach to formulating the response to a fire emergency is to develop the readiness measures before a fire occurs. Whether for a workplace or residential occupancy as listed in the Emergency Planning section 2.8 of the fire code, it is mandatory that the elected building supervisory personnel be trained on their roles and responsibilities.

Learning the evacuation procedures as described in the approved fire safety plan will build their knowledge, assist them with the implementation of fire safety measures, and ensure readiness to deal with an emergency evacuation if the need arises. When followed by the fire code requirement to conduct fire drills, both building management and supervisory staff will be able to evaluate the effectiveness of the drill, identify strong points and address any shortcomings.

The approved fire safety plan outlines specific operating features for the fire alarm system installed in the building. As the programming of fire panels may vary between building classifications, it is necessary to become familiar with the behaviour of the fire alarm system audible tones. For example, upon activation of a single-stage fire alarm panel by an initiating or detection device, the fire alarm audible and visual devices will be engaged throughout the entire building.

In addition, the fire alarm control panel will transmit a fire alarm signal to the off-site monitoring company which in turn notifies the city fire services. All occupants are to leave by the nearest exit and proceed to the designated safe haven area outside the building.

For buildings with a two-stage fire alarm system, a fire detection device will activate the audible and visual devices at an intermittent 1st stage alert rate throughout the building. The fire panel transmits a fire signal to the off-site monitoring company which in turn contacts city fire services. After five  minutes, if the alarm has not been acknowledged or if a pull station is keyed or activated, the alarm system will escalate into second stage evacuation mode. In the second stage, temporal audible and visual signals are activated throughout the entire building.

An emergency voice paging system may also be present, which contains functions for All Call on all floors and All Call Minus for manual selection of a particular floor. Speakers are located throughout the building on every floor, and microphones are available for the attending city fire services to make verbal announcements to the occupants.

 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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