Fire Safety Plans

It is important as an owner of a building, property, or business in Ontario that you are aware of your requirements under the Ontario Fire Code. One of these requirements is to ensure that you have an "approved" Fire Safety Plan for specific properties or occupancies.

Check out our guide The 10 Step Process for Preparing a Fire Safety Plan for additional information on creating a fire safety plan.

Fire Safety Plan Questions and Answers

What is a fire safety plan?

A fire safety plan is a detailed document designed to deal with all aspects of fire safety at a building or property. It is developed specific to each property and includes a wide range of information. It will help to ensure that all occupants and staff are aware of what actions to take in an emergency as well as spelling out the owners roles and responsibilities in general and in the event of an emergency. The Fire Safety Plan will also cover specific maintenance requirements of the buildings fire and life safety features.
The fire safety plan also includes vital information for the Fire Services in the event of an emergency response at the property. This would include floor plans, locations of shut offs and equipment, and contact names and numbers.

Who needs a fire safety plan?

 Amongst those occupancies that require a fire safety plan are buildings and premises which contain:
  • Assembly occupancies (such as schools, day cares, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, arenas, halls etc. with an occupant load over 30 persons)
  • Care or care and treatment occupancy
  • Residential occupancy with occupant load greater than 10 persons (normally calculated as 2 persons per bedroom)
  • Retirement home
  • Business and personal services occupancy where occupant load exceeds 300
  • Mercantile occupancy where occupant load exceeds 300 persons
  • High Hazard industrial occupancy where the occupant load exceeds 25
  • Medium Hazard industrial occupancy where the occupant load exceeds 100
  • Low Hazard industrial occupancy where the occupant load exceeds 30
  • Buildings of four or more stories including stories below grade
  • Rooming, Boarding and Lodging Homes
  • For a complete list refer to the Ontario Fire Code.

Can I write my own fire safety plan?

There are no specific requirements identifying who may develop and submit a fire safety plan. Many owners develop and submit their own fire safety plans while others chose to hire contractors to assist them with the process.  If you don't have experience in writing a fire safety plan or property management, we recommend that you hire a contractor for assistance.

Every building or business is unique and every plan is unique. Ensure that information including maintenance items is reflective of the conditions at your property. As the owner you are responsible to ensure its accuracy and for fully implementing the plan that you have submitted for approval.  St Catharines Fire Service is currently in the process of developing templates to assist owners of these smaller less complex facilities in writing their own plans.  Currently, our templates are limited but please contact the fire prevention office at 905-688-5601 ext 4224 to see if we have a template for your building.

What if my building is mixed use?

When it is determined that you have an occupancy that meets the criteria for requiring a fire safety plan the plan must be developed for the building. As an example this means that a small apartment building which would normally not require a plan would now need one because a portion of the building now includes a small restaurant with 40 seats.

Because of the complexity of these plans you may wish to consider hiring a professional with the preparation of these more complex plans. We are unable to provide templates for these situations although you may be able to incorporate elements from our templates.

Fire safety plans are required to incorporate all uses and occupancy types in the building, however it is often easiest to develop a general plan that includes the common elements shared by all occupants along with an appendix to address the specific hazards, maintenance and procedures related to the commercial tenant.

Who approves a fire safety plan?

All fire safety plans are required to be approved by the Chief Fire Official. The Chief Fire Official is Fire Chief in most municipalities however they have the authority to delegate this authority in writing. If your fire safety plan does not bear the signature of the Chief Fire Official it is not approved and as such you are in contravention of the Ontario Fire Code.

How do I obtain approval for a plan?

To receive approval for your fire safety plan you are required to submit it to the Fire Prevention Division of the St. Catharines Fire Services for review. This plan can be delivered to Fire Services Headquarters located at 64 Geneva Street or the fire prevention office located at 8 Academy Street, during normal business hours.

You may submit one copy initially for review and comment. However please note that a total of three copies are require for final approval. It is important to note that you will be advised of any areas of your plan that do not meet the minimum requirements of the St. Catharines Fire Service. Upon correcting these concerns the plan is to be resubmitted for further review. Reviews in excess of two are subject to fees in accordance with the applicable rates and fees for the City of St. Catharines.

Why do I need to submit 3 copies for approval?

One approved copy of the plan is maintained by the Fire Prevention Office as part of the permanent file in relation to your property or business. The second copy is kept on file in the district fire station closest to your property or business. This allows firefighters to review the plan as part of their ongoing training and preplanning for properties in their response areas. The final copy is returned to you for placement in the buildings fire safety plan box. It is suggested that you make additional copies of this plan for your own use.

How often do I need to develope a fire safety plan?

A fire safety plan is required to be maintained current to ensure that it reflects all conditions in the building. As such the Fire Code requires that you as an owner review the plan as often as necessary, but at intervals of not more than once every 12 months. This means that in addition to an annual review, the plan should be reviewed and updated whenever there has been a change in contacts, occupancies, building renovations or construction, or code changes that affect the plan. These changes are required to be submitted to the Chief Fire Official. If an owner fails to maintain a current fire safety plan the plan in place can be revoked and you could be required to develop a new plan for review and approval.

What is a fire safety plan box?

Once approved your fire safety plan is required to be located in an approved location at the building for use by firefighters in an emergency. In St Catharines this location is generally in a fire safety plan box located at the fire alarm panel or annunciator.  Where there is no fire alarm system the primary entrance used by the Fire Service is an acceptable location. The approved fire safety plan box in St Catharines is a box which is secured with a padlock and clearly identifies in contrasting letters on the outside the contents of the box "FIRE SAFETY PLAN". It is required to be located at a height which makes it easily accessible and constructed in fashion which prevents unauthorized access.
Fire Services does not accept the keys for the padlock however if you have an approved Fire Services keybox the key can be placed inside.  In an emergency we have the ability to cut the lock, so maintain a spare lock inside the box. Most fire equipment suppliers such as those that service fire alarms, or fire extinguishers as well as fire safety plan preparation companies can assist you in purchasing these boxes.

The plan is approved, now what?

The next step is to fully implement your approved plan. Under the Ontario Fire Code, approval of the plan is only a small component. The emergency procedures are required to be posted in the building. This may include posting the procedures for occupants at each exit or manual pull station if there is a fire alarm or at the elevator in a high-rise. Tenants in a residential property should be provided with a copy of the hazards in the building as well as their procedures in an emergency while staff are to be provided training on their roles and responsibilities.

Ensure that all maintenance requirements are preformed and all written records are maintained of all tests and corrective measure as outlined in the Fire Code.  Remember, A fire safety plan is a legal document that the owner is responsible to follow.

I am buying a building with a current fire safety plan, what should I do?

As previously mentioned the approved fire safety plan shall be reviewed whenever there is a change to the building.  This includes a change of ownership. Immediately upon taking possession, review your plan to ensure that the plan on site is located in the fire safety plan box and has an approval signature on the cover. Review the plan to ensure that you are aware of all your responsibilities and make any changes that are necessary. Submit these changes including emergency contact information to the fire prevention office for review. Remember as the new owner you are responsible to follow the procedures as outlined in the plan. Maintain a record of any changes made, the date submitted to fire prevention and the date the changes were approved for your records.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

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