December 15, 2023 - Blog Post

Fire Safety on Exclusive-use Property

Your Condo Corporation takes Fire Safety seriously!  You know your Fire Code responsibilities, you have a Fire Safety Plan (if required); you include your Fire Safety information in your resident welcome package, include Fire Safety reminders in your regular newsletter, and annual reminders with your AGM package.   So, when it comes to Fire Safety, youre covered, right?

Youre doing great, but in many condos, especially townhouse communities where the Corporation has less Fire Code responsibilities, we find that exclusive-use common elements are left out.  Why?  In communities that have Life Safety Systems and require a Fire Safety Plan, the Fire Code (which does not differentiate rental buildings from condo buildings), assumes that these elements are part of the unit or part of the building structure so the responsibility can seem blurry for condos.  In communities without shared life safety systems, like most townhouses, a Fire Safety Pan is often not required and the requirements for exclusive-use common elements can be forgotten.

Why is this important?

Exclusive-use common elements can pose one of the highest fire risks.  Both balconies and designated storage areas are designed for specific use, when they are not used as designed, they can pose a risk, and when they are not monitored and maintained regularly, this risk increases.

For example, balconies and patios are a great way for residents to extend their living space and enjoy fresh air in a private area.  However, these areas are often used for extra storage, which they are not designed for.   The increased combustible load, or stuff, creates an increased fire risk.

Another example is storage lockers in underground garages or townhouse garages.  These areas are designed for storage, or parking and storage. However, they are only designed to hold a certain amount of stuff, and certain items.   When there is too much stuff, or if prohibited items are stored, this creates an increased fire risk.

Another important consideration is that even though these areas may not be specifically outlined in your Fire Safety Plan, or your community may not require a Fire Safety Plan, they do still fall within the Fire Code requirements. This means that they can be listed as a deficiency during a Fire Department Inspection, which can mean fines.

What Can You Do?

Its important to include all exclusive-use common elements in your communitys fire code compliance plan, whether you require a Fire Safety Plan and wheher they are specifically outlined in your Fire Safety Plan or not.

Clear policies on the use of these elements, include:

• Safe uses and prohibited uses.

• Safe items to store and prohibited items.

• Storage guidelines, for how much stuff can be stored and keeping it organized.  Include pictures for easy reference.

Have a plan for when these areas are to be inspected, and by whom.  Communicate these policies to your residents frequently.  If you have storage lockers, consider posting signage with the guidelines in the area.  If youre not sure if your plan reflects these elements accurately or not, reach out to your experts, we are here to help!

Michele Farley
FCS Fire Consulting Services Ltd.

Tag(s): be prepared || CCI Huronia || Communication with Condo Owners || Condo Education || Condominium Education || duties of condominium corporations || Emergency Preparedness || Exclusive-use Common Elements || fire safety compliance || fire safety in condos || fire safety plan