With more people being home because of COVID we saw a significant increase in home fires and home fire fatalities. 2020 had the highest home fire related deaths in almost 20 years with 114 home fire fatalities, and an increase in home fires of over 65%. Allstate Insurance also reported that their home fire related claims were up over 333%. So far, only 12 days into 2021, this year is on track to be even worse for home fires. So how do you keep your buildings and your people safe?
This question is especially critical today with Ontario announcing further restriction coming into effect this week. Fire Safety is even more essential! Make sure your Fire Safety Plan is current and up to date. Have contingency plans in place for who completes your weekly, monthly, and quarterly checks in the event that the person doing this now is unable to do so. Over 50% of the fire code requirements are competed by your site staff, such as Fire Doors, Fire Separations, and storage management. Have a back-up plan for who will complete these tasks if the primary person is unable to do so and have them trained.
Train your staff and your residents on what to do in a fire emergency, including COVID safe evacuation and meeting place protocols. And most importantly, communicate! Communicate with your staff and your residents.
Fire Code training and communication are so important. 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 & training had a fire during COVID. 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. We are providing these and other Life Safety services to our clients, in a COVID safe manner, both virtually and on-site where necessary, even during lock down.
If you are a townhouse complex, remind your residents to check their smoke alarm and CO detectors. If you have common systems, all Life Safety system testing should be completed as scheduled, with COVID safety precautions in place where reasonable to do so. Where not feasible, or unsafe to do so – continue to document which devises or systems were unable to be tested and why. Now is the time to complete a Fire Compliance assessment, identify any gaps in your compliance and prepare for the next 3 months. If this seems overwhelming, contact an expert, we are here to help you to address any compliance gaps with your staff and contractors. We have seen cases of site supervisory staff, supers and security staff coming down with COVID, in these cases who was doing their 50% of your Fire Code Requirements that they were responsible for?
I want to share with you three tips
1. Ensure you are fully in compliance now. If you are great. If you are not sure, come up with and implement a compliance plan.
2. Make sure your supervisory staff are trained and have a back-up training plan, which may include virtual or recorded training.
3. Review your fire safety communication to your residents, your contractors and review all building fire code responsibilities.
Fire Code Compliance is about life safety. The bottom line is, the Fire Code is the law, it is so important, now more than ever, that we all remember our obligations under the fire code and maintain fire code compliance, maintain good records and established safety protocols; to keep people safe.
From the corporation, to the management, residents, professionals, and contractors; don’t let your building or people become one of the alarming home fire statistics! If you need help, reach out! We are here to Help!
Michele Farley, FCS Fire Consulting Services LTD.
President & Senior Fire Code Consultant
**The information in this article is general information and is current as of the date of publication, January 12, 2021. For information specific to your building or situation please reach out to your professionals or to FCS Fire Consulting Services directly.**