Fire safety: Fire evacuation and outside assembly areas

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Special to Ontario Construction News

One of the most critical components of the fire safety plan for building operators, property managers and business owners is to implement the approved evacuation procedures. This will limit the risks to the occupants and allow for their quick and safe exit from the building in the event of a fire on the premises.

To provide further direction, the plan contains floor layout drawings which indicate the escape routes tailored to the specifics of the building. Building operators and management teams are to ensure that all occupants have adequate means of escape, and that sufficient emergency lighting is installed to illuminate the building exit routes.

Of course, the evacuation of occupants is hugely dependent on the building fire alarm alert system and its associated audible devices being fully operational. The approved plan does outline the fire code requirements to check, test, and inspect these fire systems daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly to ensure they are fully operational 24-7.

When an evacuation is underway, the elected supervisory personnel must have full knowledge of the assembly points at which all evacuating occupants will convene once they have exited the building. The outside assembly areas (also known as muster points) are strategically marked on the site plan drawings in the approved fire safety plan and may also be identified with outside signage.

The path leading to the assembly points is to be easily accessible, without obstructions, a safe distance away from the building, and must not impede the arriving first responders. It is not uncommon for a secondary assembly point to be designated on the property as an alternative.

For buildings with very large occupant loads and multiple exits, additional assembly points are designated. As evacuees gather at these muster points, the building supervisor or other designated emergency management personnel will be able to execute a roll-call. This will allow them to identify missing evacuees to the responding fire services arriving at the scene.

If there are any occupants with hearing/visual impairment, physical limitations or who are wheelchair bound, special evacuation procedures for each of these persons are outlined in the approved fire safety plan. Pre-planned arrangements are to be reviewed and updated at intervals of no greater than one month.

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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