TORONTO, July 18, 2011 /CNW/ – Shocking news that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has proposed a 10 per cent budget cut to Toronto’s Fire Department has raised alarms over 16 per cent service reductions that would significantly impact emergency response times and put both lives and property at greater risk.

Commercial real estate owners and managers will now be under increasing pressure from their boards and their tenants to adequately prepare for emergencies and consider business continuity plans and strategies. Those most impacted will be large landlords of public and private spaces such as shopping centres, office towers, industrial manufacturing facilities, not to mention government-owned buildings that house and employ millions across the country.

According to veteran fire and life safety expert Jason Reid, head of the National Life Safety (NLS) Group who advise major property owners and managers, this means businesses will have to be far better trained. “There is no question that the proposed service cuts could significantly impact public safety and business operations; more than ever businesses will need to prepare robust fire prevention and medical response programs to take action until fire, paramedics and police arrive onto the scene,” says Reid. “Toronto Fire resources are already stretched and if businesses do not take the initiative to prepare, this could significantly impact their bottom line and their tenants.”

According to NLS Group, delays in fire response times will lead to escalated risks of fire damage to properties and will result in higher property insurance rates and legal liability. Reid believes this decision could set a dangerous precedent that resonates in cities across Canada and businesses will have to ensure they have done their due diligence. “The onus is now clearly on the private sector to help better protect their employees and physical assets. They will need to increasingly prepare or face dire consequences and costly interruptions to business operations and productivity. I can tell you that our phones have been ringing off the hook since the news of cuts to Toronto Fire became public.”

Reid says, “We need to close this dangerous fire and life safety gap. That’s why my firm focuses exclusively on working with businesses to develop comprehensive building emergency plans, train private sector first responders and reduce the impact of these emergencies. Properly trained security and life safety staff who understand fire, paramedic and police expectations can speed up the investigative process and lead to a seamless procedure that saves time, lives and prevents further property damage.”

Paul Moffatt, an Associate at NLS Group and retired Toronto Fire Service Platoon Chief says, “It’s crucial that all Canadian businesses maintain up-to-date knowledge of fire safety practices so that they can effectively partner with local Fire officials”. Moffatt adds, “Businesses must work hand in hand with government and share in the responsibility of fire prevention strategies to reduce hazards, protect the public and workplaces that provide their livelihood.”

With the City of Toronto facing a $774 million budget shortfall next year, it has been reported that roughly 300 firefighters (22 trucks) could be impacted to satisfy The City’s budget cut target. According to a Toronto Fire Services 2010 report, the commercial real estate industry alone is responsible for over 1000 Nuisance Fire alarms per year. These alarms are caused by a triggered fire system due to neglect or malfunction and often require building evacuations that can seriously impact business operations. Reid says these emergency incidents cause an average of 30 minute business disruptions, costing tenants time and money. Fewer trucks and staff on Toronto streets that slow response times will not only impact public safety but compromise protection of billion dollar real estate assets.

About National Life Safety (NLS) Group:

NLS Group offers programs specifically designed to address already existing fire response challenges, by bridging the gap between public emergency services and private sector building personnel. Their programs dramatically improve occupant safety, reduced lost productivity and operational business disruptions.

NLS Group is a team of facility fire safety and crisis management experts established to ensure greater public safety. We uniquely achieve this by utilizing leadership and experience from both the private, and public sector, utilizing the principles of emergency management in everyday business and facility operations. For more resources and information please visit www.nationallifesafetygroup.ca