Earlier today, we received the tragic news that 3 children have died as a result of a fire in a townhouse in Brampton. This sobering news comes on the heels of another recent fire in the GTA on Wednesday night, which took the lives of two people in Toronto’s west end.
Unspeakable tragedies like these have a way of unifying communities and bringing us all together to grieve the incomprehensible losses. Through all of the thoughts and prayers and tears, we all also have a lot of questions. “How could this happen?” And more importantly, “How can we make sure this never happens again?”
Murray Johnson has dedicated his career to helping condominium owners prevent these tragedies. For the last 13 years, he has been the Vice President of Client Operations at Crossbridge Condominium Services Ltd, overseeing the fire safety of over 400 condo buildings, and over 100,000 individual suites. He is also the President of the Canadian Condominium Institute – Toronto and Area Chapter.
We recently sat down with Murray to discuss the recent tragedies, and what condominium building owners/ boards can do to prevent these tragedies.
Building Fire Safety into Your Every-Day Operations
Murray’s mission is to help condo building owners look beyond inspections, and beyond compliance, to make fire safety a part of their everyday routines. One example he uses involves fire doors. Tragically, fire door failure has been cited as the main reason that an early January fire in New York took the lives of 17 people, including 8 children.
Murray feels that there is no need to wait for a yearly inspection (or an incident) to reveal an issue with fire doors. Why not train your cleaning staff to perform quick and weekly inspections while they’re cleaning?
“If you delegate, you can do it once a week. There might be 500 or 600 fire-rated doors. Do they all close and latch under their own weight? If my manager had to inspect those by themselves, they wouldn’t be doing anything else because they would have to start over as soon as they were done,” said Murray.
“But the cleaners are on every floor and they’re there anyway. They can check every stairwell door, and every chute-room door, and every coverage chute door… It may take them an extra 5 minutes per floor, and now you’re fire code compliant.”
He added that building these policies and procedures into your regular operations shows inspectors that your building takes fire safety seriously and that you’re proactive.
“If you can show the fire department that you have proactive processes like that, then they view you as a best practice condominium… You may not get the same inspector next year, but their notes will be there. And that inspector will walk into your building with the understanding that this is a best practices building, and that means a lot.”
Making the Business Case For Safety
Keeping Up With Changes to The Fire Code
Most condominium owners and board members don’t have the time to keep up with upcoming changes to the fire code. Murray says that he is glad he has a strong working relationship with FCS, which enables him to stay ahead of upcoming changes.
“That’s why I keep in touch with Michele all the time. We’ll chat for 45 minutes or an hour. And, as a result of that, I’m finding out what’s coming up, what’s new, or what the latest pushes are in each municipality,” said Murray.
“I can then disseminate that information out to all of my managers and adjust the training we’re doing.”
Emergencies have no regard for timing. They do not care how long it’s been since your last inspection. The best way to mitigate the impact of a fire will always be to control everything that you’re able to control.
You can control how aware your staff is of the risks, and you can control how well trained they are in their roles in prevention. And you can choose to make investing in fire safety your building’s top priority, even if the benefits are often unseen.
“Who wins when you do things like that? The condo board wins because they’re compliant. And during an emergency, every person that’s alive and gets out safely wins,” said Murray.
We would like to thank Murray for generously taking the time to sit down with us. We look forward to tapping into his experience and wisdom for another blog in the near future.
“Murray and I both feel strongly that there is no such thing as being overprepared when it comes to fire safety,” said Michele Farley, Owner of FCS Fire Consulting.
“It’s more important than ever to make sure your building is safe and compliant. We’re seeing a record number of people working from home. This means that we all need to do our part to make sure that everyone is safe, and all of the building’s life safety systems are fully functional.”
Do You Have Questions About Fire Safety or Compliance?
FCS offers consulting services and solutions for common and unique fire code challenges faced by property owners and managers. We stay on top of the finer points of the fire code so you don’t have to.
If you have any questions or concerns about your building’s life safety systems, please feel free to reach out to email@example.com or 1-800-281-8863.