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August 22, 2018

Bulletin 232 – Building Fire Watch


The fire code requires that buildings equipped with fire alarm systems are to be fully operational at all times. However, a building manager can be faced with a fire alarm panel repair whereby the system must be temporarily disabled for a scheduled period of time. This results in all the fire and smoke sensors, manual pull stations and audibles being off line while the maintenance work is being completed. In such cases, a “fire watch” is to be implemented immediately to ensure the safety of the building occupants should a fire emergency arise. In simple terms, a fire watch is to be implemented in the event of temporary failure of the alarm system or where activities require the interruption of any fire detection, suppression or alarm system components. Elected building personnel or a contracted security guard actively looks for evidence of smoke and fire. If smoke or fire is found, they contact the city fire services to inform them of the emergency within the building. For the most part, public corridors, stairwells, service utility rooms and common areas are patrolled. Typically, residential suites are not accessed but residents are served notice that the fire systems are offline.

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It is critical for the watch personnel performing the patrol to be equipped with a working cellular telephone, a flashlight and list of special needs persons requiring assistance. Fire watch personnel are to keep a diligent lookout for fires in the areas affected, and normally do not perform any other duties. Buildings are to be patrolled at least once per hour on a 24-hour basis until the fire alarm and or fire protection system has been restored to normal operating condition. While the fire systems are offline, “hot work” restrictions are enforced which prevent service trade providers from performing any work or repairs that generate heat or sparks. Additional signage is to be posted throughout the common areas of the building indicating that the fire protection system is temporarily out of order, and to reiterate the emergency evacuation procedures. The approved fire safety plan describes in detail the entire step-by-step implementation of the fire watch.


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