Fire safety: The importance of maintaining an accurate fire safety plan

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Special to Ontario Construction News

The moment the fire alarm system has been activated, it is of the utmost importance that all elected building supervisory team personnel react immediately and carry out their roles and responsibilities. Based on whether the fire alarm panel is a single or two stage system, the approved fire safety plan establishes specific evacuation procedures for the supervisory personnel, the current occupants of the building, and those persons requiring assistance during a fire emergency. The plan outlines the chain of command, starting with responsibilities of the building owner, and trickling down to the property operator, floor wardens etc.

The evacuation procedures specified in the plan are far from static, and are enhanced each time that a fire drill is conducted in the building. As cumbersome as fire drills may seem to some, they identify problematic areas that require further improvement. It is critical to create effective methods of communication between the building supervisory team and the evacuees at the time the drills are conducted.

As described in the approved fire safety plan, it is the responsibility of building owner, management team and/or the business operator to set the fire evacuation procedures in motion. This ensures readiness to deal with an emergency evacuation when the need arises.

Fire code regulations do identify the importance of ensuring a clear path to provide all occupants with adequate means of escape and maintaining the emergency lighting to illuminate the building’s exit routes. The outside assembly areas (also known as muster points) are strategically marked on the site plan drawings. As evacuees gather at these muster points, the building supervisor or other designated emergency management personnel will be able to execute a roll-call and identify missing evacuees to the city fire services arriving at the scene. If there are any occupants with hearing/visual impairment, physical limitations or who are wheelchair bound, special procedures for each of these persons are outlined in the approved fire safety plan.

It is a fire code requirement to keep the fire safety plan contents and floor layout drawings up to date at all times. This ensures the plan continues to accurately reflect the current building layout, the placement of the fire and life safety equipment, the current list of persons requiring assistance, emergency contact/phone information, etc. Advanced updates, such as structural modifications, extensive changes to floor layouts, renovations, fire safety system upgrades and building ownership transfers, etc. may warrant possible re-submission of the plan to the city fire services.

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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