Fire safety: Planning for a building evacuation

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Special to Ontario Construction News

When fire emergencies occur, the main objective is for the occupants to evacuate the building in a timely and orderly manner. Equally important is to limit the confusion and possible panic experienced by the building evacuees. To assist the building management team, operators and owners, the approved fire safety plan does outline the building supervisory personnel key roles and responsibilities in the event a fire evacuation is necessary.

The fire safety plan is an official set of documents and diagrams which details the evacuation procedures, and is the sum of various critical sections. These pertain to the training requirements for the elected or volunteer fire or floor wardens, so as to heighten their awareness about fire hazards in their building.

In addition, the plan contents clearly describe the regular checks to confirm building exit pathways are unobstructed, fire extinguishers are fully pressurized, and exit fixtures are illuminated. The daily, weekly, monthly and yearly fire equipment maintenance, test and inspection requirements are also contained in the approved fire safety plan.

It stands to reason that the fire code directs so much attention toward the safe means of egress for occupants, maintaining clear paths of escape from the building, and emergency backup lighting which illuminates the exit routes. It also emphasises that evacuees are to gather at outside assembly areas (also known as muster areas), and not hamper access by the arriving city fire services. The muster areas are indicated on the site property diagram within the fire safety plan.

It is to be noted that all building fire safety plans must be reviewed at intervals no greater than 12 months. Updates may include but are not limited to the emergency contacts of the building and persons requiring assistance during an evacuation, etc. It is advisable to check with the local Authority Having Jurisdiction whether a re-submission of the fire safety is required. For example, when major construction has taken place, the building ownership was transferred, the fire system has undergone retrofit, or the plan has reached the stage of aging where sections are outdated.

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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