By: Gail Cote, RCM, Hamilton Office
From the WB Condo Connection, Volume 9, Issue 3
This fall, one of my Corporations experienced a major fire. Due to the proper training and preparations undertaken by the building’s superintendent, a unit owner’s life was saved.
Phil Crosskey’s actions in the first critical moments of this life-threatening situation received high praise from the Fire Department. His thorough review of the building’s Fire Safety Plan allowed him to assist the fire department with their duties and act as an asset to their service.
“Every condominium building is required to have a ‘Fire Safety Plan,’ which must be approved by the Fire Department.”
When considering the fire safety of residents in a condominium corporation, it is imperative to always err on the side of caution and ensure that all bases are covered. Every condominium building is required to have a ‘Fire Safety Plan,’ which must be approved by the Fire Department. The plan should be prepared by a reputable engineer in compliance with the Fire Code. The approved plan must be kept in a ‘fire box’ at the front entrance of the building, and be updated with the fire department annually.
Yearly updates to the fire plan are to ensure that all building contact information is up to date, which assists the fire department in conducting their work in a timely, methodical fashion. Keys to enter the building should be secured in a fireman’s lockbox in the front entrance.
Fire Safety Plans should be reviewed by the Board annually to ensure everyone is clear on the protocols in place. New Board members should be provided with a copy of the plan to review so that questions may be addressed long before a potential fire occurs. Any discussions relating to the Fire Safety Plan should be recorded in the Board meeting minutes so that Directors can easily refer to prior conversations to refresh their memory.
A good practice is to include a general review in a Corporation newsletter once a year outlining what residents should do in the event of a fire. Yearly inquiries on whether unit occupant health or physical situations have changed, therefore rendering them in need of assistance in the event of an evacuation, is also required. Residents should be reminded that if a fire occurs, elevators become inoperable. Completed and updated ‘Residents Requiring Assistance’ forms are vital tools for emergency response crews in the event of a building crisis. These forms should be kept in the fire box and be made part of the Fire Plan.
Monthly inspections of the fire safety systems should be undertaken by a licensed contractor. Many times corporations bestow this responsibility onto their Superintendents, which is not a preferred practice. Although a cost is incurred for all components to be checked by a professional, the liability is passed to the contractor, who will ensure that all Fire Code requirements have been met.
Annual inspections of the fire safety systems are also mandatory, and once completed to the fire safety contractor’s satisfaction, the corporation is issued a ‘certificate’ of completion that must be kept on site with the fire plan. The requirement of the corporation is to keep the last 2 years’ worth of certificates and deficiency reports on site with the Fire Plan. If the Fire Department arrives for a ‘surprise inspection’ and these documents are not available, an Order of Compliance will be issued naming the Board President as responsible. If compliance is not met, the fine is levied on the Board President.
A yearly fire drill with owners should be held and can coincide with the annual inspection. On site staff should be trained in how to respond to fires, and be provided with a copy of the Fire Plan and emergency contacts. It is imperative that training occurs with all parties that will respond to a fire emergency on the Corporation’s behalf. These persons will generally respond to the emergency before the fire department arrive at the building. Their actions potentially reduce the severity of the situation and save lives; it is important they are given the tools to address such critical, time sensitive situations.
Boards can contact local Fire Departments and request a member of the fire department to attend a meeting to provide them with basic information on their responsibilities, as well as tips that can be communicated to unit owners.
Your building’s Fire Safety Plan is a lifesaving tool. Once again, a big thank you goes to Phil Crosskey for his quick response that day. Well done Phil!