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May 4, 2019

Bulletin 241 – Safe means of occupant evacuation

Whether for a commercial or residential high-rise, public assembly or industrial building, fire safety planning is the top priority for the building management and business owners alike. Where applicable, they must prepare their on-site supervisory staff in case a fire situation occurs on the premise. One of the first steps is to review the fire evacuation procedures which are described in the approved fire safety plan. These can be discussed with building volunteers who have extended interest in accepting and carrying out the roles and responsibilities of being supervisory personnel to assist with the evacuation of building occupants. In some cases, these procedures may need to be customized, as will the roles and responsibilities of the supervisory staff, depending on the building classification or the nature of business being conducted. These customized changes in the fire safety plan are to be submitted to the city for examination and acceptance prior to implementation.

Building management must maintain clear paths of escape, a sufficient number of suitably protected exit ways, emergency lighting, exit fixtures and signage. If a rapidly-spreading fire occurs, all occupants must be able to leave the building without injury and without being trapped by the fire. All emergency exits and alternate paths to safety are to be easily recognizable for occupants and visitors. Escape routes are to be well-marked, unobstructed and never locked. If an emergency exit must prevent access from the exterior for security reasons, regulations specify installation of an alarmed “panic hardware” latch so that it can be opened from the inside without requiring that it be unlocked first. On these doors, applicable signage is to be posted stating “Emergency Exit Only – Alarm Will Sound”. Fire doors which are magnetically locked are to be released upon activation of the fire alarm system and/or activation of a fire pull station located by the exit door. If there are doors that could be mistaken for passage to the outside, exit fixtures are to be covered or removed, and signage is to be posted on the door which states “Not An Exit”. As the emergency evacuation is underway, it is vital that the evacuees are directed to the outside assembly area or pre-designated meeting area(s) to allow the supervisory staff to easily account for all of their occupants. These outside gathering areas are indicated in the approved fire safety plan.


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