IMPORTANT CHANGES TO FIRE CODE INSPECTIONS AND COMPLIANCE OBLIGATIONS
Starting in the last half of 2018, following several high-rise fires, Toronto Fire Services increased inspections in high-rise buildings (7 stories and higher) for Ontario Fire Code, Part 7 – Smoke Control Inspection and Testing Compliance. Many 905 municipalities have joined Toronto Fire Services in this zero-tolerance approach to Fire Code compliance inspections. It is important to note that municipal fire services have not previously enforced the Part 7 smoke control requirements; therefore, it would not be unusual for a building to not have Part 7 records. These new enforcement practices impose inescapable requirements and costs on condominium corporations.
Part 7 of the Ontario Fire Code (OFC) explicitly requires that a building-specific smoke control Inspection and testing document containing a smoke control equipment list and associated inspection and testing requirements (protocol) be attached to the fire safety plan with a copy readily available to the fire services inspectors. As Part 7 has not historically been an enforcement priority, many sites do not have the required inspection and testing protocol in place. For newer corporations, some, but not all, developers have provided the protocol. If your corporation does not have an engineer-signed inspection and testing protocol in place, it MUST obtain one. Crossbridge has canvassed multiple service providers including fire inspection companies, engineering firms and Fire Code consultants, and has determined that the price for this customized document/protocol typically ranges between $5,500 and $8,500 depending on the complexities of the building systems.
Part 7 inspection and testing also requires that the mechanical components must be witnessed as operational during an alarm activation. Because one of the smoke control tests requires that pressure tests of stairwells be conducted, it is imperative that the building HVAC technician be present in the event of a failed mechanical operation. Failed mechanical operations can be corrected immediately allowing the Part 7 testing to continue. Part 7 - Smoke Control Inspection and Testing must be done quarterly and is not included in normal fire inspection contracts. The mandatory quarterly inspections should be budgeted in the range of $1,500 - $2,500 depending on the complexity of the building smoke control systems. Please note that only qualified technicians are permitted to conduct or facilitate the Part 7 smoke control quarterly testing.
Boards of directors and managers need to understand that the consequences of a failure to comply with Part 7 and all other areas of the OFC are potentially severe. The OFC addresses fundamental life safety issues. Fire Services generally issue a Notice of Violation (NOV) for anything found non-compliant with the Fire Code. These NOVs typically name the condominium corporation, directors, managers and management firms. Fines for first offences can be as high as $150,000 and subsequent offences can have fines as high as $1.5 million.
Because a Notice of Violation means that life-saving equipment is non-functioning, Crossbridge managers will address any non-compliant violation as an emergency, subject to the emergency clause in the management agreement. This means that if the Part 7 smoke control test document/protocol is not in place the manager will arrange for one to be developed immediately. If no Part 7 quarterly testing has occurred in the past, the manager will arrange for this important inspection and test process to take place immediately. Based on the above estimates, one-time costs could range from $5,500 to $8,500 for the inspection and testing protocol, and the ongoing annual costs for quarterly Part 7 inspection could range from $1,500 to $2,500 for every corporation.
Crossbridge managers have several standard operating procedures (SOPs), and numerous support and reference documents available to them to ensure our client condominiums remain safe and Code compliant.