Fire Safety at the B.C. Games

This content has been prepared by the BC Games Society in consultation with the Office of the Fire Commissioner of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

Introduction

The BC Games is a planned mass gathering that occurs every second year in different locations throughout British Columbia and involves upwards of 3600 athletes, coaches, officials and spectators from all over the province.

The purpose of this bulletin is to provide volunteers with general guidelines and points to consider when planning a BC Games to ensure the safety of all participants.

We strongly encourage volunteers to connect with their local government to develop a working relationship pre-Games and to ensure that all fire safety regulations have been considered and planned for.

Fire Safety at Large Community Hosted Events

Many communities throughout the province host events, such as sports tournaments that involve large numbers of participants and spectators. Some communities lack the facilities to properly accommodate vast numbers of people. Facilities are sometimes used that were not originally designed to accommodate the number of persons attending these events.

A community must be advised of the potential number of people who will be in attendance for the event so that community officials can assess their ability to host the games. At this point, planning for fire and life safety needs during the games must begin in cooperation with the local building and fire authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ).

It is recommended that communities, hosting large events, establish a plan to address fire safety and the temporary changes in use of the buildings and/or facilities. This should be completed in the early planning stages, and involve the AHJ.

From a fire safety perspective, there are primarily two functions which require attention at the planning stage; assembly and sleeping uses.

Procedure for Evaluation of Assembly Use

The concern with assembly areas is greater during the large event, when many activities occur indoors. The times of greatest concern, due to increased number of occupants, and the possibility of pyrotechnical performances, are during opening and closing ceremonies.

  • Ensure the AHJ is aware of buildings and /or facilities that are to be utilized for assembly events. A preliminary review will verify that approval for assembly use has been given by the AHJ.
  • Ensure that safety systems are maintained in operational condition as per the requirements of the British Columbia Fire Code (BCFC).
  • Determine the activities and the number of persons who will be in attendance. If the building has been approved for assembly use, regular fire safety maintenance must be up-to-date, and the proposed occupant load does not exceed the number established by the BCFC, the AHJ can consider the building acceptable for use.
  • Develop floor and seating plans in cooperation with the local fire department as part of the fire safety plan.

If the building has not been approved for assembly use, upgrading may be required. If the safety systems (such as fire alarm systems, adequate exiting, exit and emergency lighting.), are not installed or are not maintained in operational condition, installation and/or maintenance must be considered prior to being accepted for use.

The AHJ decides whether or not the building may be used and under what circumstances. For example, the ice surface of an arena is approved for bleacher seating only. Life safety may be reduced when the increased number, or placement of occupants, exceeds the existing life safety design features.

Sleeping Accommodation

The volume of participant’s at large community events has necessitated the use of schools, gymnasiums and other non-residential buildings to provide sleeping accommodation.

These non residential facilities used for sleeping accommodation may meet the basic requirements for residential occupancies if the facility provides life safety systems, such as fire alarm and smoke detection systems, emergency lighting, exit lighting, fire extinguishers and adequate exits.

  • All sleeping rooms in B.C. are required to be provided with working smoke alarms.
  • Owner/occupier must ensure that the required systems are maintained in operational condition.
  • Layouts used for sleeping accommodation must not restrict access to exits.
  • If the fire safety systems are deficient, the AHJ may require alternative solutions that are at least equivalent to the requirements, such as 24 hour fire/security watch, additional smoke alarms, etc).

Conflict with Security Measures

Problems arise when persons leave sleeping areas through exit doors after "lights out".

Exit doors may never be chained or otherwise locked, thereby impeding egress. Doors can be locked from the outside to prevent access. Security and fire safety organizers need to discuss these issues during planning in order to avert any potential problems.

Classroom Equipment

Desks and classroom equipment should be stored in classrooms not in use, to avoid conflicts with Code requirements, such as no storage in the following locations; hallways, access to exits, exits, and exit stair shafts.

Fire Safety Plans

Division B, Section 2.8 of the BCFC outlines requirements for assigning responsibility to ensure that buildings are used as designed, safety systems are operational, and that emergency procedures are in place.

In the case of a school, the school principal would normally be the "supervisor" for the fire safety plan. During the event, the school principal may not be present; therefore a separate fire safety plan is necessary. The fire safety plan must identify who is responsible.

The fire safety plan must be developed in cooperation with the local fire department and supervisory staff must understand the fire safety plan.

Those responsible for the building have a duty of care to ensure that every reasonable effort is taken to comply with the life safety requirements.

Occupant loads must be enforced during events in the same manner as they are in other assembly occupancies. A regular system of inspection must be conducted by supervisory staff.

The Fire Services Act and the regulations establish the minimum requirements for life and fire safety in buildings. Bylaws, policy or other requirements should not be repugnant or establish a lesser level of safety than that provided for by the Fire Services Act and the regulations.

Summary

The preceding discussion has touched on the main areas of concern from a fire safety perspective and focuses on the need to adhere closely to regulations presently in place.

The BC Building and Fire Code regulations have a degree of flexibility built in; however, any alternate solutions to the prescriptive Code requirements proposed by a building owner or owner’s authorised agent must be approved by the AHJ.

Inclusion of the AHJ in the planning stages of these events will help ensure the success of implementing fire and life safety regulations.

Updated September 2019