Commercial and residential high rise buildings have become a common sight in most cities throughout Ontario. Cities, such as Toronto where 30 percent of residential buildings are at least five storeys tall, have come to rely on taller structures to accommodate the increased demand for housing and office space. Occupants of high rise buildings should have an action plan in place in the event a fire breaks out in their building.
High rise fire safety in Ontario
The Ontario Ministry of Housing classifies all buildings that are at least seven storeys high as high buildings under its building code. High rise buildings are designed and equipped to offer maximum safety for occupants in the event of a fire. Some of the features contributing to making them safe places include:
- Interior stairwell shafts: The presence of fire-separated stairwells offer building occupants alternatives in the event smoke prevents them from using a stairway. Signs posted within stairwells direct people using them to the location of alternate stairwells and the floors on which they can access them.
- Standpipe system: High rise buildings must have a standpipe system to provide a source of water for firefighters on each floor.
- Fire alarms: Fire alarm systems are required in all high rise buildings.
- Construction and design: High rise structures are built using fire-resistant materials. Compartmental designs separate sections of a building to slow the spread of a fire from one portion of a building to another.
It is important for you to know the emergency plan for your apartment or office building. The plan should take into account the construction of the building and safety features, such as sprinkler systems, that are in place.
Being safe in a fire or emergency
Unless the fire is in your office or apartment, fire officials suggest staying where you are rather than attempting to leave the building. If you remain in your office or apartment, officials recommend the following:
- Call 911 to report the fire in case no one else reported it.
- Get to a room in your apartment or suite with a solid door.
- Do not lock any doors, or firefighters may not be able to get to you.
- Place a wet towel under doors to prevent smoke from coming into the room.
- If your apartment or office has a balcony, move to it.
- Listen for instructions from fire and emergency personnel and follow them.
If you must leave your office or apartment, do not use elevators. A power failure or service interruption is a common occurrence in a fire, and you could be trapped between floors when power to the elevator goes off. Instead, use the nearest stairwell, but before exiting your office or apartment, feel the door knob or handle to determine if it is hot. If it is, do not open the door.
Once in the hallway, you should stay as low to the floor as possible to remain below the smoke as you make your way to a stairwell. If smoke or fire prevents you from getting to a stairwell, return to your apartment or office to await firefighters. Whatever you do in the event of a fire, you should remain calm.
Property owner liability and personal injuries
Whether caused by a fire in your apartment or office building or by an accident, building owners could be liable for injuries suffered by occupants and visitors. The personal injury lawyers at Diamond & Diamond are ready to assist you with skilled representation and trusted advice. Don’t delay, contact our 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone nowabout your claim. Consultations are free, and we have offices located throughout Ontario.