Fire Safety Planning for a Seniors Residential Care Facility

Fire Safety Planning for a Seniors Residential Care Facility                                                          

April 1, 2015

The purpose of this information bulletin is to provide care facility owners/operators with an easy to follow checklist to assist them in meeting the fire safety planning requirements of the BC Fire Code. The goal is to prevent fires in buildings that provide care to seniors, reducing the risk to life and property.

This bulletin only covers the following provincial fire code requirement. Specifically:

  • BC Fire Code, Division B, Section 2.8 requires that a fire safety plan be prepared for care occupancies.

The owner, or the owner’s authorized agent, is responsible for carrying out the provisions of the BC Fire Code, which includes establishing a fire safety plan to ensure that:

  • Fire hazards will be controlled.
  • Emergency responders will be notified of a fire emergency.
  • Emergency responders will not be delayed in carrying out their duties.
  • Firefighting operations will be managed effectively, without unnecessary delays.
  • Designated supervisory staff will be appointed and organized to respond to fire emergencies.
  • Instructions including schematic diagrams describing the type, location and operation of building fire emergency systems will be established.
  • Building facilities, systems, equipment and devices will be properly inspected and maintained.

The fire safety plan not only reflects the unique characteristics of the building, but also considers the available firefighting infrastructure. For this reason, the fire safety plan must be prepared by the owner or owner’s authorized agent in cooperation with the local fire department and other applicable regulatory authorities.

It is important that the owner, or owners authorized agent, know they are responsible to:

  • Ensure they are also in compliance with laws and regulations applicable within British Columbia and the local jurisdiction and
  • Consult the local fire department and other regulatory authorities such as the local health authority, British Columbia Safety Authority and WorkSafeBC.

Fire safety planning and risk management assessments of the site are essential to prepare for and manage fire hazards. Planning and assessment will identify and lead to methods and processes that will minimize or contain potential fire hazards. All site safety activities should be coordinated through the planning and assessment process.

BC Fire Code provisions form part of the fire safety plan and are applied depending on the circumstances at the site, such as the size and use of the building, etc.

At a minimum, a fire safety plan should include the following information:

1.       Emergency procedures and information needed to plan for an emergency:

  • Who is the designate and backup person responsible to sound the fire alarm (horn)?
  • Who is the designate and backup person responsible to notify the fire department (9-1-1)?
  • Is instruction given to site personnel on the procedure to follow when an alarm is sounded?
  • Are exit routes clearly visible within the site and on all floors?
  • Is the muster point (or meeting place) known by all site personnel?
  • Is there a list of on-site personnel, and is it updated and current? (Can everybody on site be accounted for?)
  • Are there assigned personnel to meet the fire department upon arrival and give information, such as the location of the fire, persons that are unable to evacuate, or injured person(s)?
  • Are there persons assigned as site fire wardens?
  • Are there personnel directed and trained to confine or control the fire?

2.       Training of site personnel on evacuation procedures:

  • Is site orientation provided?
  • Are regular site fire safety meetings a part of regular safety meetings?
  • Are simulated fire drills conducted when applicable and warranted?
  • Are there adequate personnel available to carry out evacuation procedures?
  • Are there special provisions or persons assign for evacuating persons that require assistance?

3.       Assigned site personnel must be responsible to carry out fire safety duties such as:

  • Controlling combustibles on the site and around the building(s).
  • General site housekeeping.
  • Removing garbage/waste material and other combustibles on a regular basis.
  • Maintaining separation of combustibles from open flame devices.
  • Maintaining clear unobstructed access route(s) for fire department apparatus and to fire hydrants.
  • Maintaining exits from every floor.
  • Separating access routes from materials stored on-site, combustibles, etc.
  • Parking of vehicles or delivery trucks should not obstruct fire department access to the site and any adjacent buildings (off-site parking should be considered).

4.      Firefighting Services – Hydrant, Siamese connection, sprinkler, access route:

  • Are firefighter access routes to the building provided?
  • Are firefighting services (standpipes, hydrants) maintained and accessible?
  • Do drawings provided to the fire department upon arrival show the location of firefighting systems?
  • Is the site address sign (when required by local bylaw) visible and legible to emergency crews from the street?

5.       Fire Extinguishers:

  • Is there sufficient quantity and type on-site? Such as:
    • 2-A:10-B:C on movable equipment?
    • 4-A:40-B:C in all other locations?
    • Have they been serviced within the last year?
    • Are they provided at or near fuel fired equipment?
    • Are they mounted with proper signage at exit locations within the required travel distance?
    • Are they adjacent to any hot works operations (e.g. cutting torch, welding, torching, etc.)?

6.       Hot Works Operations:

  • Is the area clear of flammable and combustible materials?
  • Is a fire watch assigned during a hot works operation and for 60 minutes after its completion?
  • Is there a final inspection of the hot works area 4 hours after completion?
  • Are the hot works in the proximity of combustible or flammable materials?
  • Have provisions been made for protection of combustible or flammable materials by using a non-combustible/ thermal barrier or other means?
  • Is the work being performed by trained or certified personnel?
  • Is a fire extinguisher present at all times? Such as:
    • 2-A:10-B:C on movable equipment?
    • 4-A:40-B:C in all other locations?
  • Is proper ventilation provided as required?
  • Are the hot tar pots, for any on-site roofing replacement operations, provided with fire extinguishers, supervised by trained personnel, and located away from combustible materials?

7.       Flammable and Combustible Storage:

  • Are flammable and combustible liquids properly stored, handled and used in and around the building?
  • Are non-petroleum based compressed gases properly stored, handled and used in and around the building?
  • Is the storage area separated from combustible material by 3 metres?
  • Is the storage area locked and vented?
  • Is the storage area protected from vehicular/ industrial motorized traffic?
  • Do containers and/or storage areas have proper signage/placards in place?
  • Is there a current/ updated list of dangerous goods on-site, such as the material safety data sheets (MSDS), as per the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)?
  • Are portable extinguishers provided in close proximity to storage and work areas, such as:
    • 2-A:10-B:C on movable equipment?
    • 4-A:40-B:C in all other locations?
  • Is the storage area away from egress and access routes?

8.       Electrical Installations and Petroleum Gases:

9.       Security:

  • What type of on-site security is provided: e.g. locked gate, monitored alarm and/or CCTV, 24 hour or nightly walk around?
  • Do security personnel have knowledge of, and understand, their expected role described in the site’s fire safety plan?
  • Can the fire department effectively communicate with the security personnel during an emergency?
  • Do security personnel have access (keys) to locked areas?

    9.1 Contact Personnel:
     
  • Is there a list of names and telephone numbers of persons to be contacted during and after normal operating hours or in the event of an emergency?
  • Are the contact personnel able to respond in a timely fashion?
  • What is their estimated response time?

10.   Building Diagrams:

  • Are diagrams available on-site? These diagrams should indicate:
    • Layout of each floor area
    • Muster point(s)
    • Location of nearest hydrant(s)
    • Location of fire protection equipment
    • Exit paths, and
    • Service rooms

The fire safety plan must be reviewed at least annually, and updated whenever changes occur, such as new staff or new floor layout. The plan that is developed for a building is used to maintain and protect the building and its occupants. It’s very important that all supervisory staff remain familiar with the plan so they are aware of how it pertains to their responsibilities. The fire safety plan must be retained on site for review by the fire department, supervisory staff, personnel, and other applicable regulatory authorities.

Even though the BC Fire Code does not regulate the format of a fire safety plan, some local fire departments like the fire safety plans in their jurisdiction to be uniform. The Fire Prevention Officers’ Association of British Columbia (FPOABC) website provides an example of a format that may provide useful information that will help you when developing your fire safety plan in cooperation with the local fire department. Although the Office of the Fire Commissioner is not responsible for the content on non-government websites, the link to the FPOABC fire safety plan documentation is provided.

It may also be beneficial to owners to obtain the services of a consultant who specializes in fire safety planning and risk management assessments. This consultant would oversee the fire safety plan’s development and implementation. This is especially useful to owners who have neither the time nor the expertise to develop their own plan as well as when a fire department isn’t available to them.