Fire safety for condo complexes

Today Living Group fire safety tips

Guest post by Kelly Davis of Crown Fire

High-density living means planning is important

Living in a condominium has lots of advantages: You get the pride of ownership and permanency of a house, but with a lot less work. Exterior maintenance and security are taken care of by the condo association, and, especially in Toronto condos, there are lots of amenities that can expand your living space without having to worry about a large property.

But as with any living space, it’s important to ensure that your condominium – both your individual unit and the complex as a whole – is up-to-date when it comes to fire safety and fire codes.

How can you ensure that your condo has what it needs in terms of fire safety procedures, plans and devices?

Knowledge of the sources of fire

As with fires in single-family, detached homes, the #1 source of fire in a condo unit is the kitchen – more than 70% of fires in the home start in the kitchen, typically from attended cooking. Around 5% of fires start in the bedroom, and 4% begin in entrance/exit areas. Significantly, as many as 10% of fires are attributed to ‘arson’ – however, ‘arson’ in this context refers not just to fires set deliberately by criminals but also to accidental fires caused by children playing with matches or lighters.

Understanding where fires are most likely to start is the first step in knowing what to do to prevent (and manage) them.

Ensure you have a fire safety plan in place

Successful fire safety starts with having a plan in place so that you’re prepared when a fire occurs. Without one, a condo building could quickly turn into chaos with panicking residents.

Your fire safety plan should include:

  • Exit routes from each unit to the outside
  • More than one route should be indicated, in case fire, smoke or debris block the primary route
  • A clearly defined safe zone to which people should go once they are outside the building
  • How to use the on-premise fire safety equipment (both within the individual unit and in the hallways or common areas)

And of course, a fire safety plan is only effective if it’s communicated to residents and management.

Fire safety equipment

Every condo unit and building in Ontario is required to have certain safety equipment and systems. Here’s what residents and condo management boards should ensure is in their complex.

Smoke detectors

The law requires that every bedroom, hallway that connects to a bedroom, and every level in a condo unit has smoke detectors. These can save the life of anyone sleeping when a fire occurs.

The condo association should regularly inspect all the smoke detectors to ensure they work correctly. (If you hear a consistent beep from your smoke detector, don’t try to turn it off – just install a new battery.)

Fire alarms

While smoke detectors are effective for each condo unit, a more significant alarm system is required for the common areas and condo complex as a whole. The condo association should ensure there are adequate fire alarms installed which can be heard thoughout the building/complex so that if a fire starts in one unit, residents in all parts of the building are alerted promptly and can safely evacuate.

Sprinkler systems in hallways

Sprinkler systems can be an effective source of protection: They help prevent fires from spreading throughout a building, and can in some cases completely extinguish a fire. The condo association should be regularly inspecting and maintaining the sprinklers.

(Contrary to what you’ve seen in the movies, sprinkler systems aren’t always water-based. Water-based sprinkler systems can be great in hallways, but there are other substances that are more effective for areas with a lot of electrical equipment.)

The more you know

The more knowledge every tenant and condo board member has about their fire safety plan – and the equipment and services involved – the more likely they are to be prepared for a fire.

Do you know what your condo’s fire safety plan is?