Fire safety regulations differ for businesses
Wednesday, Oct 05, 2016 06:00 am
For Okotoks businesses, fire safety is about more than just a smoke detector on the ceiling.
Commercial spaces in town follow different regulations depending on the building usage, occupancy, size and hours of operation.
“The building code and fire codes are so robust, there’s so many different types of occupants, and what each building is used for, what service they’re providing there,” said Okotoks fire chief Ken Thevenot. “It really depends on the type of occupancy.
While many retail or restaurant spaces would have a local alarm system, buildings more than 10,000 square feet or a high fire load – how combustible building materials, furnishings, and equipment are – must have a more elaborate system including alarms and sprinklers, he said.
Many smaller commercial spaces are not required to have smoke detectors or alarms at all, he said.
“Because nobody sleeps there,” said Thevenot. “Most of the fire deaths in Canada occur in a home because people are sleeping.”
Since most commercial spaces are only occupied during operating hours, when people are awake, he said emergencies are easily recognized and people can respond quickly.
The story is different for businesses attached to dwellings, such as buildings with retail above or below residences.
“They would have to have an interconnected fire alarm system, so that means there would be a smoke detector in the business area and one in the living quarters upstairs, and if either one of them were activated then they would both go off,” said Thevenot.
Smoke alarm and sprinkler systems in commercial spaces are monitored and tested regularly during annual inspections done by the fire department, he said. The fire department currently executes about 650 inspections per year, he said.
Deputy fire chief Pat MacIsaac said inspectors are primarily looking for proper pathways for people to exit buildings, the combustible load inside, door hardware and that all systems are in working order and up to code.
“When our inspectors go into an establishment it’s for occupant safety, to make sure if there was a fire to happen, are all the safeguards in place for the occupants to escape within good time?” said MacIsaac. “Is there good lighting, are the travel ways clear, do the doorways open properly, have the systems been tested, are the fire extinguishers current?”
He said smoke detectors and alarms must be tested annually by a certified technician, and some – like cooking systems in restaurants – twice per year.