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Major fires in Metro Vancouver have been hitting the headlines for months. One of the most devastating fires was the 115-year-old Winter’s Hotel in Gastown. Fire safety is a critical aspect of building management that should never be underestimated or overlooked. Whether it’s a bustling commercial complex, an office space, or a residential building, the implementation of proper fire safety measures is of utmost importance. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of fire safety in commercial buildings and discuss recommendations for both commercial and residential spaces.

In British Columbia, there is a robust fire safety code for new building construction, but for many older buildings, fire suppression, and fire safety systems may not be in place or be of the highest standard. In addition, tenants and owners of businesses should have a robust fire safety plan that is communicated and practiced with all people who reside or work in the building.

We connected with Cesar Polanco Pumarol, Project Manager with Siemens Canada Limited
to discuss fire safety and prevention.

Cesar specializes in Fire Alarm Systems for commercial and residential applications and has acquired extensive knowledge and experience in the field of fire safety. With his background in Civil Engineering and a passion for ensuring public safety, he has been involved in designing fire alarm control panels and managing fire alarm projects. This experience has provided him with valuable insights into the critical role of fire safety in protecting lives and property. Cesar has provided us with a list of best practices.

Fire safety recommendations for commercial and residential buildings

1. Compliance with building codes and regulations

In both commercial and residential settings, it is crucial to adhere to local building codes and regulations related to fire safety. These codes, such as the BC Building Code and BC Fire Code, establish minimum requirements for constructing safe environments. They outline specific guidelines for fire protection systems based on the type of building, including low and high rises, townhouse complexes, strip malls, offices, and warehouses. It is essential to consult these codes and ensure compliance to guarantee adequate fire safety measures are in place.

2. Fire alarm systems

Commercial buildings typically require comprehensive fire alarm systems that include initiating and signalling devices. Initiating devices, such as smoke detectors, pull stations, tamper/flow switches, and supervisory modules, detect and alert occupants of a potential fire. Signaling devices, such as horns, speakers, and strobes, provide audible and visual alerts to ensure swift evacuation. Some buildings may also necessitate voice and paging systems for effective communication with firefighters during emergencies.

3. Special considerations for food businesses

Businesses involved in food preparation, particularly those with cooking and deep-frying operations, must adhere to specific regulations. These regulations often mandate the installation of fire suppression systems that can be supervised by a Fire Alarm Control Panel. Implementing such systems is crucial to prevent and control fires in areas prone to high fire risks.

4. Residential fire strategies

Residential fire safety is equally important, and every individual should take responsibility for their living space. Dwelling units, including detached homes and apartments within residential buildings, should be equipped with smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. It is the occupants’ responsibility to regularly test these devices, ideally once a month, to ensure they are in proper working condition. Additionally, having at least one small ABC fire extinguisher in each unit and familiarizing oneself with its operation is highly recommended. See more information on residential fire safety: Protecting your home inside and out.

According to Cesar, “It’s is always important to remember that any person should only use a fire extinguisher if they feel is safe and could help put out the fire, otherwise, the main step to always follow is to leave the building and initiate the fire alarm by pulling a pull station or calling 911 to report a fire emergency in case you are in a structure that doesn’t not have a Fire Alarm System. First and foremost, safety always comes first.”

Implementing a fire safety plan for your business

Remember, it’s essential to tailor the fire safety plan to your specific business and premises. Regularly review and update the plan to address any changes in your operations or facility layout. Conduct training sessions and fire drills to ensure employees are well-prepared in case of an emergency.

1. Emergency contact information
  • Provide a list of emergency phone numbers, including the local fire department and any other relevant emergency services.
  • Include the address of the nearest hospital or medical facility.
2. Evacuation procedures
  • Describe the evacuation routes specific to your business premises.
  • Clearly mark primary and secondary exit routes on a floor plan or map.
  • Assign responsibilities to designated employees who will assist in guiding others to safety during an evacuation.
  • Specify the assembly point outside the building where employees should gather after evacuation.
3. Fire prevention measures
  • Highlight general fire prevention practices, such as keeping work areas clean and free from clutter, properly storing flammable materials, and avoiding the use of unauthorized electrical devices.
  • Specify any additional fire prevention measures relevant to your business, such as specific procedures for handling hazardous materials.
  • If you have a kitchen in your office or commercial space, ensure there are adequate fire suppression measures put in place.
4. Fire alarm systems and equipment
  • Explain the types of fire alarm systems and equipment installed in your facility.
  • Instruct employees on the different alarm signals and their meanings.
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  • Provide guidance on how to operate fire alarm pull stations or any other relevant equipment.
5. Fire extinguishers
  • Identify the locations of fire extinguishers throughout the premises.
  • Provide instructions on how to use fire extinguishers effectively, including the PASS techniquePull the pin, Aim at the base of the fire, Squeeze the handle, Sweep from side to extinguisher instructions infographic
  • Encourage employees to only attempt to extinguish small fires if it is safe to do so and to prioritize their own safety and evacuation.
6. Training and drills
  • Outline the frequency and nature of fire safety training sessions for employees.
  • Explain the importance of participating in fire drills and how they help familiarize everyone with evacuation procedures.
  • unordered list item three
  • Establish a schedule for regular fire drills and indicate how they will be conducted.
7. Reporting and maintenance
  • Encourage employees to report any fire hazards or malfunctions of fire safety equipment promptly.
  • Specify who should be contacted for reporting and how to communicate such issues effectively.
  • Describe how regular inspections and maintenance of fire safety systems will be conducted.
8. Review and updates
  • Make sure you have several fire wardens assigned to assist people and help train new staff.
  • Ensure that the fire safety plan will be reviewed periodically and updated as needed./li>
  • Encourage employees to provide feedback or suggestions to improve the plan’s effectiveness.
9. Acknowledgment
  • Request that employees read and understand the fire safety plan.
  • Ask them to sign a document indicating their acknowledgment and commitment to follow the plan.

Practice your drills with staff regularly and identify those who may need help evacuating.
If you are on the 18th floor, does everyone has the physicality to make it out of the building safely?.

Fire safety is an essential aspect of building management that should never be overlooked. Adhering to local building codes and regulations, implementing comprehensive fire alarm systems in commercial buildings, and ensuring regular maintenance of fire safety devices in residential spaces are critical steps to protect lives and property. Everyone must prioritize fire safety and be proactive in mitigating fire risks. By taking these measures, we can create safer environments that minimize the devastating consequences of fire incidents.


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