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January 01, 2019

Ask Maria - Be fire safe

Some things to keep top of mind for condo fire safety

Maria Bartolotti

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Dear Maria; I am a new board member at my condo and I was thinking of bringing up a discussion on fire safety. What are some tips you can give on the topic?

Condominium buildings can present special fire safety concerns. When strictly enforced, local fire and construction codes can ensure that condos are designed to minimize the likelihood of a major conflagration.

Fire alarm systems in condominium buildings are required to be tested annually in accordance with Alberta Law. The reason these inspections are mandatory is regular testing and maintenance of your fire alarm systems — including alarms, smoke detectors, emergency lighting and sprinkler systems — is
because it saves lives in case of an emergency.

It’s also important to ensure that these devices are kept clear and accessible for maintenance and regular inspections both inside the individual units and the common property.

Do you know what to do if a fire starts in your condo? Here are some helpful tips that could save your life and others.

First and foremost—be prepared: Know your building and the emergency procedures that have been implemented for your condo’s fire safety plan. It is important to know where the nearest exits and stairwells are in the building as well as the fire alarms. Keep in mind that these locations may be inaccessible during a fire, so have an alternative escape plan. Establish a safe meeting place outside and away from the building. Assign a designated helper or point person for any individuals living in your unit that would require assistance to escape the fire. This could include, small children, elderly and/or disabled individuals and of course our furry friends.

If you hear the fire alarms sound: Act, but don’t panic! Check the doorknob/handle for heat, if it’s not hot, brace yourself against the door and open slowly. If you feel no air pressure or heat coming from the corridor begin your exit out of the unit and to the nearest exit. Close doors behind you and activate the fire alarm by using the pull stations. Use exit stairwells and leave the building immediately. When you are in a safe place, telephone the fire department; never assume this has been done. Know the correct address to the condo building and never use the elevators and or return to your unit until instructed to do so.

If you cannot exit the unit, close the door but leave it unlocked. Dial 911 and hang a sheet outside the window to get the firefighters attention. Use wet towels to seal any openings that the fire may make its way into the unit. Stay very close to the ground and place a wet rag over your mouth to lessen smoke inhalation. If you have a balcony, make your way to the balcony and close the door behind you, or move to a protected area in the room and wait for rescue. If you have a cell phone bring it with you.

Fire inspection access into units: At some point, you would have received notice from your condo manager that the Fire Inspection Company requires access into your unit during the annual fire inspection testing. Do NOT ignore this request. Part of the annual inspection is for the representative to check the smoke detectors, heat sensors and valves associated with the fire safety devices inside your unit. It’s also the representative’s responsibility to report any devices that have malfunctioned and need to be replaced or fixed.

Electrical sources: Avoid overloading your outlets with cords and replace any that are worn. Instead, use safety tested devices designed to protect your outlets, like surge protectors.

Combustibles and flammables:  Do not belong inside a unit, storage facility or the parking enclosure. These can cause the risk of fire.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fire safety in condominium buildings. Help do your part to ensure compliance with Safety codes, and protect yourself and others that live in close proximity to you.

Until Next Time… 

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