I went to a friend’s new condo for dinner recently. As we pulled up to the building, my husband said, “This is a beautiful building.”
I said, “Are you kidding me? There are people parked in the fire route. The vegetation is already blocking the fire department connection, and the annunciator is glowing.”
If you work in fire safety, you can never really turn that lens off when looking at a building. We’re never really off-duty, in that regard.
In this industry, we do something called a fire safety assessment where we walk the entire building looking for potential issues. But, I can tell you that most of us can’t help but look for these issues when we’re walking the halls of a condo for any reason, even if we’re on the way to a dinner party.
Fire code consultants look at the building’s fire safety systems with a critical eye to what the fire department would have to contend with if they arrived at that site in an emergency. So, the average person looks at a building and sees it completely differently than we do.
The Front of a Building
The Average Person Sees: A lovely facade with lush bushes in the front of the building.
We See: People parked in the fire lane. That is a constant battle we’re fighting. Most people will park out front in the fire lane because they’re, “Just running in for a second.” Well, emergencies don’t care how long you intend to stay.
As I mentioned earlier, we also see overgrown vegetation in the front of the building blocking the fire department connections, or those connections are not properly signed. In an emergency, your local fire department needs easy access to this, and they don’t have time to hunt for it.
The Average Person Sees: A modern lobby, with stylish furniture and fixtures.
We See: In a lot of modern condo buildings, we see the building’s annunciator, which could be glowing because it’s in trouble condition.
We also often see problems with the fire exits. I was actually just talking to a manager that told me people kept sneaking in the side door to their lobby. So, one of the security guards, unfortunately, tied it tight to close it. They may have addressed a security concern, but they’ve created a much bigger fire safety problem. Yes, you’re keeping people out, but you’re also trapping people in.
The Average Person Sees: Well-lit and lovely hallways, with a nice carpet.
We See: The carpet may look great, but is it actually a tripping hazard?
In far too many cases, a welcome mat has been added on top of the building carpeting, which is not allowed because they pose a trip hazard. It might look pretty, but someone could potentially trip on it, particularly in an emergency when the building has no power or lights… or even worse, the hallways are full of smoke.
We also see a lot of problems with hallway doors being propped open, not being properly maintained, or not closing/ latching properly. These doors are absolutely essential in preventing a fire or smoke from traveling to other parts of a building.
At the same time, a lot of residents prop their suite doors open. Some will prop them open because they burnt something on the stove and want to get the smell/ smoke out. But, suite doors should never be propped open. They’re your protection from the rest of the building in the event of a fire.
We also see a number of problems with “combustibles,” which refers to things being left in common areas like the hallways, stairwells, or inside the back door. This can include everything from shoes, bicycles, plants, or Christmas decorations. This can also include much larger things like scooters for people with mobility limitations. Most people don’t realize that something in a corridor with batteries or fuel creates a massive hazard and that’s not what this area is designed for.
You can’t see this during a casual walk down the halls, but we also see a lot of things being stored in electrical rooms, mechanical rooms, or sprinkler rooms. You might see stacks of paper records or materials that have been left behind by contractors. Building employees often don’t know where to store these items, but you should never store anything in these rooms.
These are only a few of the things we can find at first glance. However, your building could have any number of “hidden” fire code/fire safety issues. If you want to ensure that your building is safe and compliant, please feel free to reach out to email@example.com or 1-800-281-8863.