Fire Safety in Condos - Ever Evolving
These are all great questions! The Fire Code is ever evolving, and with it, Fire Code requirements in your Condo. The reason? To keep people safe! Industry experts are always finding new techniques and technology, or new ways to keep your buildings safe. Unfortunately, these changes are often born out of tragedy. Experts examine Fire Emergencies, what caused them, what went wrong and what could have been done to prevent them. If there is already a section in the Fire Code to prevent that type of emergency, education, inspections, and enforcement on that section of the Fire Code often increases, for example many of you may have noticed an uptick in Part 7 – Smoke Control over the last several years. If there is not yet a section in the Fire Code to prevent this type of emergency then it is often workshopped by a committee of industry experts, tested, and likely implemented into the Fire Code in the next Code change cycle.
We know these changes can see like a lot, but the evolution of the Fire Code over even just the last 30 years is incredible! You may not know, Smoke Alarms, the most basic Fire Safety equipment by today’s standard and one of the most effective in saving lives, wasn’t a requirement 30 years ago. In the 80s, smoke alarms were battery-operated, and they became part of the building code. Then, in the 90s, they were enforced by bylaws and the building code. A 40-year-old building likely has battery-operated smoke alarms and CO detectors. But a brand-new building probably has a hardwired combination of CO detectors and smoke alarms. Regardless of which type your condo has, Smoke Alarms and CO detectors are now law and mandated by both the Building Code and the Fire Code. The lives that have been saved by this standard alone is innumerable.
Technology has also evolved which can make managing and maintaining your Condo’s Fire Code responsibilities easier. There are now electronic solutions and apps available to help with record maintenance, check reminders and are a convenient way to keep everything in one place. Staff and resident training is also being offered virtually, and can be recorded to be used as a refresher or as a training tool for new staff or resident onboarding.
Effective training is one of your best defenses in a Fire Emergency. A couple of months ago, one of the buildings where our team had recently conducted a fire code compliance, fire safety plan, and fire drill review & virtual training, had a fire. The manager stated after that the staff were prepared, the staff, residents and building performed effectively and even though a full evacuation was undertaken, the manager was proud to say it was conducted in a “COVID compliant manner” and everything went well. This proves that with training and communication, all staff and residents knew what to do and did so safely and well.
In the last year and a half, with more people home, and trying new activities like cooking, we have seen a substantial increase in home fires and fire fatalities. Provincewide, 114 people died in fires last year, up 35 per cent from a 10-year average beforehand and nearly double from 2019. These are figures that we have not seen in a long time and are very troubling.
Within the next couple of years, we expect to see an increase in Fire Safety Education, building inspections and enforcement of the Fire Code across the province. The causes of these fires, prevention measures that could have been taken, and outcomes will be studied and will affect the continued evolution of the Fire Code through changes and additions.
Since smoke alarms were made mandatory, Ontario’s death rate from fires has fallen dramatically, plunging from 30.9 deaths per million people in 1980 to 4.6 deaths per million in 2019. As you can see, the evolution of the Fire Code truly does keep people safe and saves lives!
Michele Farley, FCS Fire Consulting Services Ltd.