Stop! We know what you’re thinking. That we’re going to corner you into buying our services by using fire safety laws as leverage. Don’t worry, we’re playing in your side of the court. Knowing what you’re legally responsible for when it comes to fire safety is all about education, and that’s what we’re here to do. Educate you on the legal requirements for fire safety.
The number one document governing fire safety practices in our province is the Ontario Fire Code (OFC). It outlines the minimum requirements of fire safety to make your building legal, or bring it “up to code”. You’ve probably heard about the OFC either from your chosen fire alarm contractor, your local fire department, or a fire chief that has visited your building. There is a lot, and we know, a lot to be mindful of when it comes to adhering to the code. So let’s break it down for you in simpler terms. As a property manager, what are you responsible for? Click here to download our comprehensive, one-page summary of Fire Safety Maintenance Duties and follow along.
From a testing and inspection perspective, there are a number of things that need to be done in intervals as little as daily to as long as every 15 years. Here’s a few examples (including, but not limited to):
- Daily — Check exit lights to make sure they’re not damaged and still illuminated.
- Weekly — Check that the dry pipe sprinkler system air pressure is being maintained.
- Monthly — Inspect all fire hose stations.
- Annually — Conduct a complete test of the fire alarm system by a qualified personnel.
- Every 6 years — Replace the extinguishing agent in dry chemical fire extinguishers.
The Fire Safety Plan
From an emergency planning perspective there are also a number of things to be aware of, but we’ll narrow it down to the top three for you. Let’s start with the basis of it all, the Fire Safety Plan (FSP), Subsection 2.8.2. of the OFC. The FSP is a comprehensive document that provides the emergency procedures to be followed in the event of a fire. It also includes a list of supervisory staff and their responsibilities, documents and diagrams of the building’s design with all fire alarm devices labeled, provisions and procedures for fire drills, maintenance duties and assigned tasks for building owners or chosen contractors on prescribed intervals (quite similar to our Fire Safety Maintenance Duties summary), and alternative safety measures in the event that any fire protection systems are shut down. The FSP is to remain on site, at all times, in a designated location approved by the fire department. It is also to be reviewed in intervals no greater than 12 months, or as necessary. If any changes are made to the building’s fire alarm system, or the physical building itself, the fire safety plan and appropriate documents are to be revised to reflect the changes.
The FSP must be distributed to the designated supervisory staff for their reference. Building owners and supervisory staff must be aware of their responsibilities as outlined in the FSP. Fire and life safety companies often offer Fire Warden Training for the supervisory staff. This can include a walk through of the buildings Fire Safety Plan, a Fire Drill, and additional education such as Fire Extinguisher training.
The Fire Drill
The Fire Drill, dun dun dun…The OFC outlines the requirements of a fire drill in Subsection 2.8.3. and we suggest you go through it thoroughly. However, there are a few things to consider when it comes to conducting fire drills. Depending on the nature of your building in terms of its occupancy type, the frequency of fire drills required within a 12-month period can vary. No matter what, there must be at least one fire drill over a 12-month period. You will also need consider whether you will be running the fire drill with only your supervisory staff or at a time where your building is at its usual operating occupancy. You will need to notify the chief fire official in advance, as well as your fire alarm and monitoring companies that you will be conducting a fire drill. Once the drill is over and you have consulted with your supervisory staff, the results are to be noted in the fire safety plan, OFC 220.127.116.11.(1). This record needs to be kept for at least 12 months after the fire drill, OFC 18.104.22.168.(2). Typical information to be recorded would include the following (but may not be limited to): the date, time, designated assistants, and comments which highlight what went well and what could be improved. Something worth keeping track of is how many people were evacuated and in what amount of time. It is good practice to create a benchmark for your fire drills so it becomes easier to measure inefficiencies when conducting future drills.
Keeping up with everything we mentioned above is a good start to making sure you’re adhering to the legal requirements for fire safety. How can you be completely sure that your building meets all requirements? Consult with your fire safety company and the local fire department.