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November 22, 2017

Bulletin 224: Smoke and Fire Controls in a Building

The means of egress depicted on the floor plan drawings of an approved fire safety plan (FSP) should be the first choice for evacuation by building occupants in the event of fire.

Although it’s a rarity that building fires occur in multiple locations at the same precise time, the possibility of spreading smoke may very well annunciate on the fire alarm detection systems of multiple zones. The leading danger associated with early stage fires is not flame, but the smoke and noxious gases produced by the fire which can leave the escape routes and exits obscured.

It is therefore vital to review the fire and life safety equipment listed in the audit summary of the approved fire safety plan (FSP) to verify the sequence of operation of smoke control devices. Fire dampers and any automatic or semi-automatic means of fire control in the building is a priority during tests, as their operation could very well prevent occupants from safely exiting the building in the event of a fire emergency.

It stands to reason that the fire code regulations direct so much attention to the safe means of occupant evacuation, maintaining clear paths of escape, ensuring there are a sufficient number of suitably protected exit ways, and emergency backup lighting to illuminate the building exit routes.

Without question, building occupants must know the location of all emergency exits and alternate paths to safety. The outside meeting areas must not hamper access by fire-responders and must allow fire wardens, supervisory staff and building managers to easily account for all of their occupants.

If there are any occupants with hearing or vision impairment, or persons who are physically limited, wheelchair bound, etc., special procedures are to be outlined within the approved FSP. Ultimately, the main goal is that when the fire alarm sounds, all occupants will immediately leave the building by proceeding in an orderly fashion to the nearest exit. In addition, should fire or smoke block an exit, occupants must know where to find the alternate exits.

All building fire safety plans must be updated at intervals no greater than 12 months. In the event major changes have been made to the premises, the fire safety plan must be updated and re-submitted to the City for re-acceptance and/or re-approval.

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