Improving fire safety for vulnerable Ontarians
Mandatory sprinklers are one of a series of amendments to the building and fire codes that came into force on January 1, 2014. The timeline for compliance will be phased in over several years and will depend on the size and type of facility. These amendments are a direct result of recommendations made in a report by the Ontario Fire Marshall’s Technical Advisory Committee (“the TAC”) to improve fire safety for vulnerable Ontarians.
The TAC included representatives from a range of stakeholders and sectors, such as the Ontario Long Term Care Association, Ministry of Community and Social Services, Ontario Agencies Supporting Individuals with Special Needs, Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority, and Community Living Ontario. Kevin McCann, Manager, Technical Services at Housing York Inc. and our representative on TAC, describes the experience as “extremely interesting… [and after being] shown information that went back over 30 years about deaths of seniors in fires with care facilities… it was apparent there were some shortcomings that needed to be addressed.”
The TAC proposed the recommendations after consulting with experts in the fields of building construction, fire safety and care facility operation. The recommendations include:
- more consistency in legislative definitions
- enhanced fire safety measures (e.g., inspections and training) and a new Registry of Vulnerable Occupancies
- upgrades and retrofits to building safety systems.
The amendments to the fire and building codes are legislated and must be implemented at sites defined as “care occupancies” (e.g., group homes and supportive housing where residents need care for cognitive and physical disabilities and require assistance to vacate), “care and treatment occupancies” (e.g., long-term care homes, municipal homes for the aged and charitable homes) and “licensed retirement homes” (e.g., homes for seniors who may require assistance with daily living).
The requirements are being phased in gradually and the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management is offering assistance to organizations and training. Mandatory training for facility owners or operators of care occupancies and Chief Fire Officials will launch in April and much be completed within three years. Following the launch of this course, an option course for supervisory staff will also be offered. For more details about compliance and training requirements, visit the Office of the Fire Marshal’s website: www.bit.ly/1hILgwj.