Many Buildings under the Provincial/National Fire Codes are required to have a fire safety plan prepared and submitted to the authority having jurisdiction for review or approval. Each plan is tailored to the individual building or complex based upon the occupancy, tenants and types of life safety equipment in the building. Each plan includes a brief description of all life safety equipment, human resources, administrative duties, emergency procedures, floor plan layouts, maintenance procedures, fire prevention, fire extinguishment, notifying the Fire Department when life safety systems in the building are shut down and instructions to be posted.
The Provincial/National sets the minimum standards required to be met by building owners. Not all buildings require Fire Safety Plans as per the Fire Code, however building occupants require guidance on evacuation procedures regardless of the type or size of building. In Ontario, the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) requires that all workplaces (regardless of the size or the number of employees) provide staff with emergency evacuation procedures (only part of the emergency planning requirement under Section 4.2).
Buildings Requiring Fire Safety Plans
The Ontario Fire Code (Section 2.8 – Emergency Planning) requires a fire safety plan to be prepared for:
- Group A (assembly) occupancies
- Group B (care, care and treatment and detection) occupancies,
- Group C (residential) occupancies (occupant load exceeding 10),
- Retirement homes,
- Group D & E (business, personal service and mercantile) occupancies (occupant load exceeding 300)
- Group F – Division 1 (high hazard industrial) occupancies (occupant load exceeding 25),
- Group F – Division 2 (medium hazard industrial) occupancies (occupant load exceeding 100),
- Group F – Division 3 (low hazard industrial occupancies (occupant load exceeding 300),
- Buildings containing 4 or more storeys (including below grade),
- Outdoor tire storage yards,
- Buildings containing flammable and combustible liquids exceeding 500 L or 250 L of Class I liquids,
- Laboratories where flammable or combustible liquids are used or handled,
- Boarding, lodging or rooming houses (regulated by section 9.3),
- Buildings used as a convalescent home or children’s custodial home providing sleeping accommodations for more than 3 persons,
- Recreational camps regulated under the Health & Protection and Promotion Act,
*Other Provincial and National Fire Codes vary slightly.
Fire Safety Plan Contents
All Fire Safety Plans are required to include the following information:
- A description of fire protection equipment,
- A contact list and description of supervisory staff (including appointment, organization and instruction,
- Emergency procedures to be used in case of fire,
- Schematic diagrams depicting fire protection equipment locations,
- Procedures for holding fire drills appropriate to the building,
- Control of fire hazards in the building,
- Maintenance of building facilities provided for the safety of occupants,
- Alternative measures for the shut down of fire protection equipment,
- Spill procedures (applicable to specific buildings only).
Fire Safety Plan Approval Process
Once prepared, a Fire Safety Plan is required to be submitted to the Authority Having Jurisdiction (municipal Fire Department) for review or approval.
Training Supervisory Staff
The Ontario and National Fire Codes state, “Supervisory staff shall be instructed in the fire emergency procedures as described in the fire safety plan before they are given any responsibility for fire safety.” Training must be provided to both “supervisory staff” (i.e. Fire Wardens & building staff) and building occupants in order to ensure all persons are aware of and understand what they are required to do in case of an emergency.
Emergency Fire Evacuation Drills
The number of fire evacuation drills required to be conducted for a building may vary based upon the provincial requirement and the type of building. It is important for supervisory staff and building occupants to participate in fire drills in order to practice the procedures which they have been trained on. In Ontario, fire drills are required to be held as follows:
- Group B occupancies & day-care centres – once a month,
- Schools attended by children – three (3) times in each fall and spring semester,
- Buildings defined as high-rise (under 3.2.6. of the Ontario Building Code) – once every three (3) months,
- Laboratories (regulated under Section 4.12 of the OFC) – once every six (6) months,
- All occupancies other than those listed above – once in each 12 month period.
You can refer to the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal Communiqués fire drill guidelines: Here
A copy of all fire drill records are required to be retained for a minimum of 12 months.
Implementing your Fire Safety Plan
Storing the Plan
Plans are required to be kept in a location approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (municipal Fire Department). Generally plans are stored in a location readily accessible to the Fire Department (i.e. at or near main annunciator panel or CACF room). An additional copy should always be stored in a management office location. Some municipalities (i.e. City of Mississauga and Toronto ) require the installation of Fire Safety Plan boxes. Typically these boxes are installed at the primary Fire Department access within a defined distance from the entrance.
You can find the Toronto Fire Safety Plan Box and Key Box Bylaw Requirements: Here
Identifying Fire Warden Teams and Team Members (Commercial & Industrial facilities)
Prior to conducting training on emergency fire evacuation procedures, tenants should identify and list the appropriate team members (where applicable). It is important to ensure that all roles on the Fire Warden Teams for each tenant unit are fulfilled. Each tenant is responsible for proving the Building Owner (or Property Management Company working on behalf of the building owner) with a list of team members and keeping and up to date list, adding team members where required.
Identifying Persons Requiring Assistance
There are many types of health conditions and impairments that may affect an person’s ability to safely evacuate the building, including those who:
- Require the use of wheelchairs, walkers, crutches or cane,
- Have temporary conditions (i.e. recovery after surgery, breaks or sprains, etc.),
- Have vision and/or hearing impairments,
- Are pregnant (women),
- Have breathing problems (i.e. asthma, etc.),
- Have arthritis,
- Have hidden disabilities (i.e. epilepsy, etc.).
It is important to identify such persons in advance of an emergency and retain an up to date list, providing a copy to the Building Owner. Generally, this list is required to be readily available to the Fire Department during an emergency.
Each person deemed to be “Supervisory Staff” as well as building occupants are required to receive or have access to a copy of the relevant pages from the Fire Safety Plan for review.
Maintenance of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems
It is important to keep accurate records of any testing conducted and all records including the currently and immediately preceding report but no less than a minimum of two (2) years.
Persons who perform the tests or inspections or a person who repairs, replaces, alters or services fire alarm systems, fire extinguishers, commercial cooking suppression systems, sprinkler and standpipe systems, fire hydrants and any other systems requiring expertise are required to be properly trained, qualified and be a certified company or person(s) acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction in Ontario person(s) conducting the annual inspection/tests of the fire alarm system are required to have a CFAA designation.
Fire Safety Plans are required to be reviewed at least annually to ensure that all information contained within is up to date and applicable. Where changes have occurred, the plan is required to be updated accordingly.