Multi-unit residential and commercial building fire safety services Q&A with Tim Lindsay of the Vancouver Island Fire Protection Association
Ten on the 10th
Published July 10, 2020
Citified's Ten on the 10th is a monthly question-and-answer segment connecting our readers with the insight and knowledge of Victoria's top real-estate and business professionals.
July's Ten on the 10th features Tim Lindsay, Treasurer of the Vancouver Island Fire Protection Association, a non-profit society made of up commercial fire safety equipment designers, installers and servicers.
Asking the questions is Ross Marshall, Senior Vice President of the Victoria offices of commercial real-estate brokerage CBRE. As a leader in facilitating large-scale commercial real-estate transactions throughout the Capital Region – which include apartment complexes, industrial retail and office properties, and land/development opportunities – Ross and his team are at the forefront of market-leading real-estate transactions on Vancouver Island.
Would you like to be featured as part of a future Ten on the 10th Q&A? We'd love to hear from you.
What is the Vancouver Island Fire Protection Association?
The Vancouver Island Fire Protection Association, or VIFPA, is a recently registered non-profit society comprised of companies that design, engineer, sell, install, verify and service life safety equipment on Vancouver Island.
Working closely with the Vancouver Island Fire Departments, Fire Inspectors and other Authorities having jurisdiction; our purpose is to foster a consistent level of fire safety that complies with the British Columbia Fire Code, among all our members, ensuring that safety is not just a word, but a code of conduct.
Our goals are to educate and inform industry stakeholders, including electricians & installers; service technicians; engineers; building owners, property managers, and agents; building, electrical, plumbing, & fire inspectors, and any other Authority Having Jurisdiction on the statutes, standards, legislation and fire codes that govern life safety responsibilities within the province of British Columbia, with a particular focus on Vancouver Island.
What are some recent changes to the BC Fire Code?
The current BC Fire Code (2018) was adopted on December 10 2018. This edition of the code references new editions of the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC) standards that establish the acceptable procedures that are expected to be followed by service providers. The new editions of ULC standards contain detailed requirements of testing procedures and subsequent report documents that need to be retained in the fire safety plan.
Can you tell us more about Fire Safety Plans, and why many buildings don’t have them?
Every building that is required to have a fire alarm system is required to have a fire safety plan. This plan is an important record of not only testing and maintenance events, but establishes emergency procedures and expectations that are necessary in an emergency event. An example of the importance of up to date information might be a detailed list of occupants that require special assistance with evacuation, such as people confined to a wheelchair. Buildings constructed before Fire Safety Plans were required may not have them in place, but they are a requirement in British Columbia.
Can you cite legal cases that may impact our local building industry?
There have been two unprecedented legal cases in Canada within the last two years. One in Toronto where York Fire was fined in excess of $65,000 and forbidden to perform service to life safety equipment for two years, and another in Calgary where Premium Fire has been charged with not complying with the Alberta Fire Code, but this case has not been heard by the courts as yet. The interesting parts of this case is that some employees of Premium Fire were charged for non-compliance, but also a number of building owners have been charged for non-compliance with the fire code. Two employees have already pleaded guilty and were fined approximately $5,000 each, and a Denny’s Restaurant operator also pleaded guilty in court and fined for non-compliance of the fire code because they hired Premium Fire to service their life safety equipment.
These two cases are game changers in Canada. The eventual outcome of the Premium Fire case could have a dramatic effect of how service to life safety equipment is performed in Canada. Once the case is completed, fire service companies should be more inclined to be precise in performing their procedures in accordance with fire codes.
Why have fire inspection costs increased, and why are some fire inspections less costly than others?
Some fire service companies have not trained their employees to service life safety equipment in accordance with the current fire code. Some companies have made the appropriate changes in order to meet the current fire code, but that takes more time, which results in higher costs. A simple example of one of the new requirements of the current code is that whoever tests a smoke alarm shall vacuum it and record the event. If a fire alarm company is not dragging around a vacuum cleaner with them, the fire code is not being complied with. The building owner should expect to pay a higher fee if their smoke alarms are being vacuumed.
Newer buildings with addressable fire alarm panels are much more complex than older conventional panels. The wiring that connects the fire alarm devices requires much more testing for “the effects of wiring shorts” if the service provider is to meet the intent of the ULC standards.
What is the association doing to encourage owners to contact the association?
Our association is new, and we are just getting started with the education process. We have a website, but this web page is just being constructed. We hope to have more information uploaded in the near future.
How can strata corporations and property managers receive information from the association?
If a strata corporation, building owner, or agent is in need of information they can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Where is the fire safety industry going?
The industry should become more aware of the testing and reporting requirements expected of them. The fire prevention officers in various municipalities will hopefully become more aware of the details contained within the standards and insist that the standards be adhered to.
What do you think is required for the industry to see the changes that need to happen?
Our association would like to see the BC Fire Code and ULC codes available to everyone at no cost online. Only recently has there been access to these codes but only in the form of read only documents and only after registering.Insurance companies and fire prevention officers are going to be encouraged to have a closer look at the monthly and annual service requirements and then hopefully more service companies and building owners will feel comfortable with performing to the required full compliance.
What are the most important take-aways that building owners and their agents should be aware of?
The owner or the owner’s authorized agent are ultimately responsible for carrying out the provisions of the BC Fire Code, and that records of all tests, inspections and maintenance preformed on a fire safety system must be kept onsite for examination by the authority having jurisdiction. Building owners may face substantial penalties for non-compliance of Fire Codes, even if they have hired a service company to maintain, test, and inspect their life safety systems if the service does not meet the legislated standards. C
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- Would you like to be featured as part of a future Ten on the 10th Q&A? We'd love to hear from you
- View CBRE Victoria's website here
- View VIFPA's website here
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