Don’t overlook these fire safety inspections
In light of recent tragedies such as Grenfell Tower, and even some closer to home, fire safety has become a huge topic of conversation in the housing sector. We know from the most recent statistics released by the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management in Ontario that 48 per cent of the reported fires over a five-year period happened in residential settings. Housing providers know just how important it is to stay up-to-date with fire codes, inspections and the like.
Fire safety compliance is a huge job involving multiple checklists and procedures, and it’s crucial for housing providers to tick off all of their boxes when it comes to keeping their buildings safe and secure.
ONPHA spoke with Robert Clark, Building System Coordinator at the Ottawa Community Housing Corporation, about some of the most commonly overlooked inspections. Housing providers should be sure that these are accounted for in their fire safety plan.
- Five year Standpipe inspection. This inspection is required to be done by a Fire Life Safety vendor, to ensure the Standpipe System is free of obstructions. It will confirm to the building owner and AHJ that in the event of a fire, Fire Protection water will be available throughout the buildings Standpipe System.
- Hose cabinet valve inspection. A Fire Life Safety vendor needs to complete this inspection to ensure proper operation of Standpipe cabinet valves.
- Fire door inspections. These monthly inspections are a critical part of fire protection that will help stop the spread of fire and smoke. Be sure to keep an inventory of all of the fire doors in the building, and inspect each for things such as: issues with the door latch, gaps around the jam, holes or other damage in the Fire Door, missing screws or knobs, proper installation and operation of the door closure, etc.
- Weekly interconnected smoke alarm inspections. Ensure that there is AC voltage present at the detector by inspecting the “Power On” LED. From time to time, dust will gather in the alarm and it will need to be carefully removed. Keep track of how old your smoke alarms are and make a note of when they will need replacing (they typically last up to 10 years).
Fire safety does not only centre on the housing provider and maintenance staff. Tenants must also be well-informed on the subject and clear on their own roles in fire prevention. Not every precaution is obvious, and in the bustle of daily activities it can be all too easy to form dangerous habits without considering the potential risks.
Below are some of the most common issues that tenants may need reminding of when it comes to fire safety compliance. Housing providers should be on the lookout for these in their buildings, and post accessible reminders to help keep fire safety top of mind for everyone.
- Never force cartons, coat hangers or bundles of paper down the garbage chute. A blocked chute is a recipe for disaster. It can be tempting to try to squeeze everything down, but tenants should be aware of the risks in doing this. Instead, if the chute is full they should be instructed to take the items down to the garbage and recycle rooms/areas for proper disposal.
- Keep hallways, stairwells, passageways and exits clear of obstructions. While it may be convenient to leave a stroller, scooter, bicycle or the like sitting in the hallway even “just for a moment”, these obstructions can create a huge problem should the building need to be suddenly evacuated.
- On laundry day, always clean out the clothes dryer lint collector before and after each use. Not only is this good fire safety practice, but it’s also good etiquette – no one likes to open the dryer to find another tenant’s lint still inside!
- Maintain three feet between space heaters and combustible material. Especially in smaller units, this can be a challenge. However, it’s important for living spaces to be arranged in such a way that combustible materials such as fabrics from curtains or furniture are a safe distance away from heaters so there is no risk of them overheating and catching fire.
- Combustible materials must not be stored in underground parking garages. For buildings with underground parking, tenants need to be aware that storing items such as tires are a fire hazard.
Have a question about fire safety? Contact ONPHA Member Support at 1-800-97-6660 x115 or firstname.lastname@example.org.