Even in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, many regular safety inspections in condos must continue. These inspections are required under the Fire Code and other legislation.
Sometimes inspections are required to be conducted in low-traffic common areas such as roofs, boiler rooms and other mechanical rooms. Other times the devices that require attention and inspection are within the units, for example, smoke alarms. Residents must allow access to perform and document this basic safety test. “In-suite” device inspections also ensure common smoke alarms are present and working, which are necessary for everyone’s collective safety.
What if a resident refuses access to their unit due to COVID-19? What if a resident is quarantined in their suite after out-of-country travel?
It is vital that smoke alarms be tested and function as required. Jason Reid, of National Life Safety Group, who conducts regular Fire Code inspections in condominiums, has devised a unique approach that allows the inspection to continue even when denied access to the suite directly.
According to Jason, “If access has been denied during an inspection for ‘safety’ reasons, then the technician has been directed to document this refusal of access and ‘stand in the hallway … watch/witness/listen for the resident to press the smoke alarm test button to confirm that it works. The technician can actually hear the horn/speaker from the hallway and confirm that it functions. The access issue regarding this suite is documented and the comments / findings are captured within a usable report for the [condo corporation]. The [corporation] then has the basic information in their [yearly] report and the evidence required to follow-up on access issues.”
The following should be considered by managers and boards regarding their residential fire safety program:
1) Compliance is mandatory: Fire Code compliance has not been suspended in Ontario. As such, all aspects of the Fire Code and system test requirements are still required to be completed. Life safety system inspections should not be delayed.
2) Document everything: Documentation of all tests and inspections must be maintained at the building for a period of two years. The condo corporation is responsible to retain evidence of compliance and proof of tests and inspections must be maintained at the building for inspection by the Fire Services.
3) Communication is key: Ensure that resident communications are provided well in advance of the inspection which outline the safety procedures and precautions being taken and educate the residents of the importance of testing the “in-suite” devices.
4) Engage your fire alarm/sprinkler inspection company: Ensure that the annual inspection report they provide clearly identifies any access issues. Review your annual test and inspection report in detail once received and specifically address access issues.
If it important that you engage your service provider, legal counsel, and/or the relevant authorities so that you have a better understanding as to what steps are required to be taken should you encounter any access issues that are not able to be resolved.
For more on general issues related to access to suites see our blog post: https://www.lashcondolaw.com/condominium-corporations-right-to-enter-unit-a-recent-case/
Disclaimer: This blog post is a short summary of a complex legal matter. Always obtain legal advice from your corporation’s lawyers.