Did you know 2020 saw the highest number of home fire-related deaths in almost 20 years with 114 home fire fatalities? We also saw a 65% increase in home fires, and a 333% increase in the number of home fire-related claims submitted to Allstate.
Those scary fire statistics and the current work-from-home world make 2021’s Fire Prevention Week more important than ever!
If you’re a condominium building owner or manager, fire prevention and fire code compliance should be on your mind throughout the entire year. Fire code compliance is not a final destination, it’s an ongoing journey. Once you achieve it, you still have to maintain it.
With that in mind, here are some of the things you should focus on during Fire Safety Week, and the 51 weeks after that.
Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety
The National Fire Protection Association’s theme for 2021’s Fire Safety Week is Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety, which is a perfectly concise way to express one of the most important parts of fire safety.
As the building manager/ owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your staff and residents:
- Know what smoke alarms and CO2 detectors sound like
- Know exactly what to do when they hear one
We have seen far too many condo managers assume that their staff and residents know what to do, without providing the proper level of training; and training is absolutely crucial.
Be Aware of Changing Regulations
The industry experts are always finding new techniques and technology, or new ways to keep your buildings safe.
For example, in the 80s, smoke alarms were battery-operated and they became part of the building code. Then, in the 90s, they were enforced by bylaws and the building code. A 40-year-old building likely has battery-operated smoke alarms and CO2 detectors. But a brand new building probably has a hardwired combination of CO2 detectors and smoke alarms.
The people moving in and out of your building rarely give these things a second thought. So, the journey really starts with you and building maintenance. It also starts with educating your staff and educating your residents on what they have, and what they need to do to maintain it.
A more recent change would include the ULC-S-1001-11 in the National Building and Fire Codes. We talk a lot about the S-1001 – Integrated Systems Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems these days, because it’s fairly new and very important. If you’re planning a new build or substantial update/upgrade, you need an S-1001 assessment to test your fire protection and life safety systems in an integrated fashion, on top of having each system (i.e. alarms, sprinklers, elevators) tested individually.
If you’re planning a new build or update, trust us, you will want to start preparing for the S-1001 as soon as possible. Click here to ask us how.
Make Safety a Part of Your Routine. Every Day.
I have never had a board of directors or a property manager call me and say, “We just got a notice of violation. We were expecting this.”
They are always caught off guard. They think (or assume) that their staff is doing things properly, carrying out regular inspections, and keeping complete records. But continuity can be hard to maintain as people move in and out of jobs.
It’s also important to think of your building as a living and breathing entity. Things will shift and move as the seasons change. You may find that temperature changes in the building will cause doors to jam, or systems to malfunction.
There is a lot of equipment in your building that only has to work for a few months out of the year. It might have worked last year, but it hasn’t been retested this year. If you check these things regularly, you can avoid finding out that they’re not working during an inspection… or even worse, during an emergency!
Remember: Compliance Leads to Cost-Savings
Of course, maintaining compliance 365 days a year isn’t free. However, non-compliance can be considerably more expensive!
If you receive a notice of violation, things will get particularly expensive because you didn’t plan for this. You also have to respond immediately. If it takes longer than the fire department deems reasonable, you could end up going to court.
If you go to court, the average building owner does not have the skills or the knowledge required to effectively make their own case. To have any shot at winning, your case needs to be prepared by a professional fire code consultant, which will cost you even more money.
Being found guilty is also a black mark on your building’s record, which could prompt the fire authorities to do more frequent inspections to ensure constant compliance. Or it could hurt you when you’re looking to sell the building.
As you can see, it pays to make fire safety part of your day-to-day operations. You need to train and educate every one of your residents and employees to make sure that they are clear on the part they will play. Also, make fire safety system training a key part of each new employee’s onboarding process, so you can ensure continuity and no little lapses or hiccups because of turnover.
If you have any questions about how to protect your building and stay compliant, please reach out to us at email@example.com or 1-800-281-8863.