Fire safety in Ontario is governed by the Fire Code O. Reg. 213/07, which is a regulation made under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997. The Fire Code establishes minimum requirements for fire safety in buildings and facilities, including condominiums.
Unless specified otherwise, the Fire Code puts responsibility on the “owner” to carry out the provisions of the Code. The definition of “owner” includes “…a corporation having control over any portion of a building or property under consideration and includes the persons in the building or property.”
As such, a condominium corporation that exercises control over its property, would be considered an owner for the purposes of the Fire Code and responsible for carrying out its provisions, unless specified otherwise.
The Fire Code establishes minimum requirements that are binding on certain types of buildings when it comes to emergency planning, including any condominium with residential occupancy where the occupant load exceeds 10. If your condominium meets this criteria, then you are required to prepare and implement a fire safety plan for your building. The fire safety plan must be approved by the Chief Fire Official and include (amongst other requirements) some of the following:
- emergency procedures to be followed in a fire (i.e. sounding the fire alarm; notifying the fire department; evacuating occupants, including special provisions for persons requiring assistance during a building evacuation, etc.);
- appointing and organizing supervisory staff to carry out fire safety duties that will include the condominium manager, the superintendent, onsite security staff, and cleaning staff;
- outline the requirements for training of supervisory staff and instructing other occupants in their responsibilities for fire safety;
- holding of fire drills for both supervisory staff and residents; and
- providing a detailed list of system test and inspection requirements for daily, weekly, monthly and annual code compliance.
The fire safety plan, including building floor plans must be reviewed at least every 12 months and must be revised to account for any changes in the use or other characteristics of the onsite staff, and building, such as ongoing /completed renovations or system upgrades.
Building supervisory staff must be available on notification of a fire emergency to fulfill their obligations under the fire safety plan. This means building staff are to be trained on the building fire safety plan, and the building “owner” should maintain that training documentation for a period of 2 years. Fire drills for supervisory staff must be held at least every 3 months in a high building (as defined in section 3.2.6 of Division B of the Ontario Building Code) and a record of every fire drill needs to be prepared and is recommended to be kept onsite for a period of 2 years (although the Fire Code only provides for 12 month retention) . In addition to these quarterly fire drills, high buildings are required to also conduct annual fire drills with residents and the same documentation is required.
Supervisory staff are not required to be in a building on a continual basis, unless the building is considered a “hotel establishment” that is greater than 3 storeys in building height or having a total area greater than 4000 m². In this case, the supervisory staff must be on duty whenever the building is occupied.
It is interesting to note that the definition of “hotel establishment” under the Fire Code, includes “a building containing a hotel and all subsidiary occupancies that are operated in connection with the hotel and includes all connected or adjacent buildings that are operated in connection with the hotel.”
A “hotel” is further defined under the Fire Code as including “floor areas, a floor area or part of a floor area containing four or more suites that provide sleeping accommodation for the travelling public or for recreational purposes.”
Based on these definitions, a condominium which contains four or more suites occupied as short-term rentals would be considered a hotel and/or hotel establishment under the Fire Code and could be required to meet additional requirements, such as those imposed on supervisory staff above.
There are also additional requirements for buildings considered “hotel establishments” when it comes to posting fire emergency procedures in the building. Unlike residential condominiums with occupancy loads greater than 10, which are required to post a copy of their fire emergency procedures on each floor area of the building, hotel establishments are required to post the following: (i) one copy of their fire safety plan (approved by the Chief Fire Official) in the main reception area; (ii) one copy of their fire emergency procedures on each floor area of the building; and (iii) a copy of their building’s emergency procedures, location of exits and fire safety rules on the inside of the egress doors of each guest suite. Guest suites are defined as a single room or a series of rooms of complementary use providing sleeping accommodation for the travelling public or for recreational purposes in a hotel.
“The Fire Safety Plan for a building lays out the who, what and why of fire safety for a high-rise building.” Says Jason Reid, Senior Advisor for National Life Safety Group. “Condo Corporations are already required to communicate to residents regarding their own roles and responsibilities and emergency procedures so that residents may make informed decisions in the event of an emergency. This communication, typically issued annually to the residents, is supported by the completion of an annual Fire Drill in which they may take part in. A major concern exists in a building where “short term renters” are occupying suites without knowledge of the emergency procedures – approved for that specific building. In fact, it may negatively impact others living on the floor, due to the uniformed action or inaction of that short term renter – in the event of a fire.” Jason Reid specializes in Fire & Emergency Management with a strong focus on High-rise buildings in Ontario.
As such, condominium corporations whose governing documents permit short-term rentals or who have short-term rentals operating within their building, should ensure that they are compliant with the emergency planning requirements of the Ontario Fire Code. Failure to comply with any provision of the Fire Code is an offence under Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 and penalties could be imposed on the Corporation and individual directors.
Fire Code Compliance Workshop October 23rd, 2019 6:00-8:30 pm. in Mississauga. Opportunity for board members and managers to be part of a simulated high-rise evacuation and experience smoke conditions. Participants receive certificates of training completion. Limited spots available so sign up soon! Click here for more information. Click here to register.