On September 15, 2011 the Analysis and Research Division of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), released the U.S. Fire Statistics for 2010.
In total, structure fires resulted in 9.7 Billion dollars in property damage, as well as over 15,000 civilian fire injuries. Although these numbers represent an increase of less than one percent over last year, it raises significant questions towards building fire safety, prevention and awareness.
All over the world, facilities and workplaces have long provided resources and proactive programs to enhance building operations and security; unfortunately, these important programs –
rarely address the integral component of fire and life safety.
For example, high-rise buildings represent a significant challenge during fire emergencies for both occupants and responders. Internal building fire protection systems are heavily relied on and should be in top operating condition, tested and inspected as per law.
Please consider the below in your building’s Fire & Life Safety program;
Fire Safety Plans
The National Fire Code of Canada requires the implementation of a fire safety plan for most buildings and occupancies, and this is also supported by individual Provincial legislation. Fire Safety Plans provide fire safety and evacuation procedures for building occupants, landlords and property managers.
In addition to this vital information, these plans provide tactical information for responding emergency services. If the information is incorrect, outdated and not easily attainable, it may hinder emergency operations.
These plans are required by law to be reviewed and updated – at minimum – on an annual basis, and approved by the local fire services or authority having jurisdiction.
Under both Bill C45, and the Fire Code, failure to do so represents a significant liability. Sadly, these plans have a high frequency in being found outdated and / or not approved.
Fire and Evacuation Training
In support of Fire Safety Plans, building operations staff, security and building occupants must receive training on the procedures and achieve an awareness level of the preventative measures within the plan.
Typically, this training – if conducted at all – is most often conducted by the buildings property management team. This raises another liability question – specifically as to the qualifications – or the experience of who’s facilitating these training sessions.
In a 2010 survey of over 100 front line Toronto Fire Fighters, the number one complaint was the lack of knowledge of building supervisory staff. Firefighters arriving on scene at your building require a “trained and knowledgeable” representative from the property to assist arriving fire crews in providing critical information such as fire alarm status, fire panel operations, as well as occupant evacuation details, and building access information. This is requirement under the Ontario Fire Code.
Unfortunately, this dangerous training and knowledge oversight continues to cause delays during building responses and a rarely considered liability for most property managers. In
addition to the obvious public safety concerns, preventable delays in investigating fire alarms financially impact tenant and client operations.
Tests and Inspections of Building Fire Safety Systems
Fire systems test inspections are required by law and these inspections are
routinely carried out on an annual basis by most buildings. In addition to annual inspections, the Ontario Fire Code has a vast array of inspection and test requirements on a daily, weekly, monthly and bi-annual basis.
Facility owners and managers must be aware of these requirements and ensure their completion is documented, and in turn, tenants within these buildings need to do their due diligence and question whether these are being completed. Failing to do this, both are risking the reliability of your systems, and potentially impacting occupant safety – not to mention violating the code. Utilize a reputable Inspection service provider and ensure you do your due diligence.
Building Fire Extinguishers
Building fire extinguishers are required by code to be inspected on a monthly
basis. This inspection falls under the responsibility of the landlord, and is typically assigned to patrolling security guards or building operations personnel.
The inspection process is simple, yet crucial to ensure proper function when the
time is needed to use the extinguisher. Recently, NLS Group has identified a rather alarming trend within recently inspected GTA buildings, that the persons inspecting these extinguishers (and signing off on the inspections as a legal record) have never been trained on how to properly inspect these life safety devices. This not only represents a gap in required training, and the inspection process, it’s simply frightening from a corporate liability aspect.
Jason D. Reid is the founder and Principal of NLS Group, an innovative consultancy firm providing facility & workplace crisis management leadership and experience from both the private and public sector, utilizing the principles of emergency management in everyday business and facility operations for unprecedented due diligence, legal compliance and Return on Investment.