BC FIRE CODE COMPLIANCE
The 2018 BC Fire Code Legislation was adopted by the BC Government on December 10, 2018. This new code has in turn mandated the CAN/ULC-S536-13 Standard for the Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems, and the CAN/ULC Standard for the Testing and Inspection of Smoke Alarms.
These new standards impact Building Owners, Property Managers, and Fire Alarm Service Companies that provide the testing and reporting in order to comply with these regulations and standards. All buildings that contain Fire Alarm Systems and Smoke Alarms are required to comply with the BC Fire Code. There are no exceptions.
Building Owner Responsibility
The BC Fire Code identifies that the building owner is responsible for compliance with the BC Fire Code. The building owner (or his agent) shall ensure the procedures and documentation of those procedures shall be carried out in order to ensure the safety of the occupants. Division C 126.96.36.199 Responsibility 1) Unless otherwise specified, the owner or the owner’s authorized agent shall be responsible for carrying out the provisions of this Code.
Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)
Buildings are constructed in accordance with the BC Building Code under the jurisdiction of the local building codes. Once a building is deemed to be suitable for occupancy, ongoing maintenance and Fire Code compliance is overseen by the local fire department. The local fire department is the Authority Having Jurisdiction for existing buildings.
General BC Fire Code Requirements
Building Owners and Property Managers delegate fire alarm service to individuals or contractors dedicated to providing various levels of fire alarm testing.
Monthly testing of fire alarm systems mandated by code can be performed by any person. They must be knowledgeable and trained to perform a monthly test of the system while the system operating on standby power, and shall keep a record on site of such tests for review by the AHJ.
Annual Fire Alarm Inspection
Annual Fire Alarm Testing and Inspection shall be performed by a contractor that is deemed to be knowledgeable of the procedures and requirements and acceptable to the Authority Having Jurisdiction. 188.8.131.52 Inspection and Testing 1) Fire Alarm Systems shall be inspected and tested in conformance with CAN/ULC-S536, “Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems.”
Fire Safety Plan
Fire Safety Plans for buildings with a fire alarm system are a requirement of the BC Fire Code. These plans shall include a detailed description of the fire alarm system operating system, silencing and resetting instructions, sequence of operation of ancillary equipment controlled by the fire alarm system, service provider, offsite monitoring, fire warden and all contact information along with information regarding occupants that require physical assistance during an emergency. Fire Safety Plans shall also include site drawings showing egress routes, manual pull stations, fire extinguishers along with fire alarm inspection reports for the previous two years.
2018 BC Fire Code Changes and Challenges
The recently adopted BC Fire Code presents new challenges as well as drawing attention to existing procedures and reporting requirements in order to successfully comply with provincial regulations and national Underwriters Laboratory Standards.
It is now mandatory to vacuum all residential smoke alarms as well as having tests completed with the 120 volt supply being disconnected and operating only on the backup battery if applicable.
The new reporting requirements contain additional columns that record all output devices including the operation of ancillary controls such as fan shutdowns, damper operation, smoke control fans, door magnets, closures and locks. There is also a renewed focus on recording tests on passive devices connected to the fire alarm system. End of line resistors require open circuit, short circuit, and ground fault indication. Isolation modules that protect the activation circuits in the new addressable systems require short testing and recording to ensure the operation of automatic detection as well as manual devices that activate alarms. Duct smoke detectors require the confirmation of appropriate airflow within the air ducts with a manometer reading noted within the inspection report.
The Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC) has also recently clarified that the “One Man Walk-Test” feature incorporated with most newer fire alarm panels is not acceptable within Canada, meaning that a technician is required to be positioned at the fire alarm panel and/or annunciator in order to validate appropriate zone activation.
Recent Court Cases
In February of 2019, York Fire Protection of Toronto was fined in court $65,000 and forbidden to perform fire alarm inspections for two years for not performing inspections in compliance with the Ontario Fire Code. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/fire-protection-services-companies-conviction-fines-ontario-fire-code-violations-1.5006451
“Fire and life safety systems are required in buildings to protect both the occupants and responding fire fighters. Companies and people that intentionally do not test and maintain these systems place both occupants and responding fire fighters at risk,” Jessop said in the release. Toronto Fire Services is monitoring all fire protection companies that are hired by owners to protect buildings across the city, he added.
In late July 2019, Premium Fire Protection of Calgary has been charged with non-compliance of the Alberta Fire Code. This case is due in court in September 2019. This case also charges employees of the company but more importantly also charges some building owners that hired the service company to perform the testing and inspecting of the buildings. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/fire-code-violations-charges-premium-protection-calgary-1.5228924
“It’s the first time, as far as we’re aware, that these types of charges have been laid in the province of Alberta for the operation of a company in this manner,” city prosecutor Paul Frank said during a media briefing Monday. Several large retail stores that hired the company to install safety systems were handed 15 fines under the provincial act.
What this means to Building Owners and Property Managers
Cantec has been working and communicating with local Fire Departments in order to establish confidence regarding policies, testing procedures and report documentation for life safety equipment inspections. We have also been instrumental in establishing an association with other service providers in the Greater Victoria Area in hopes of increasing awareness of the requirements and regulations that affect our trade.
The required procedures will take more time to perform and ultimately will result in higher costs to the building owners. We have no choice but to perform accordingly to ensure the safety of the occupants and comply with the regulations that govern our industry.
Some buildings are more technologically advanced than others. Older buildings with relatively simple technology will not be as affected as the newer buildings with a higher degree of complexity.
We are attempting to provide revised budget pricing that will allow the necessary time and resources to complete the inspections. There will be cases where the budgeting for time may fall short of the estimated time for completion. We will do everything we can to ensure that the buildings, owners, and occupants are protected in accordance with the requirements mandated.
Please be patient with regards to scheduling annual inspections. There will be adjustments in the schedules compared to last year due to the added workload and time required on site. Thank you for your understanding.
Respectfully submitted by Management and Staff of Cantec Fire Alarms Ltd.