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Fire Code Amendments
Updated: March 19, 2018 

There are a number of proposed Fire Code Amendments stemming out of the Ministry of Community Services and Correctional Services that will impact many buildings and sections will affect Ontario’s hotels. ORHMA has summarized these changes. We urge you to be in touch with your local fire department inspector for further information on compliance. 

Proposed Fire Code Changes  
  • Exterior Wall Assemblies- Cladding and Cladding Systems
  • Combustible Cladding- furniture in corridors and lobbies
  • Firefighters’ Elevator Out of Service Notification Requirements 
  • Inspection and testing of fire department pumper connection lines for hose standpipe systems
  • Mandating sealed, long-life (10-year) battery-operated smoke alarms 

Proposed Fire Code Changes to  Exterior Wall Assemblies, Cladding and Cladding Systems 
On June 14, 2017, a fire broke out in a non-sprinklered, 24 storey residential building (Grenfell Tower) in London, United Kingdom. The fire accelerated along the building’s exterior cladding, spreading to all exterior building faces and ultimately resulted in the deaths of 71 residents. While a number of different factors contributed to the fatal outcome of this incident, the presence of combustible cladding played a crucial role. 

In response to this incident, the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM) is undertaking a review of cladding requirements for buildings in Ontario to assess whether or not high rise buildings with similar combustible cladding might exist here in Ontario. Based on the evolution of requirements under the Building Code and the stringent cladding requirements currently in place, it has been concluded that combustible cladding on high rise buildings is not likely to be a widespread issue in Ontario, and may only be present on a very small number of buildings that either pre-date the Building Code or that did not follow the applicable building permit process to conform with the Building Code.

Review the Proposed Fire Code Changes to  Exterior Wall Assemblies, Cladding and Cladding Systems here. 

Proposed Fire Code Changes for Combustible Cladding- furniture in corridors and lobbies
In recent years, questions concerning the placement of combustible furniture in corridors and lobbies within a means of egress have been raised by fire services, building owners and occupants following the occurrence of two tragic fatal fires. In both instances, the fires involved the ignition of upholstered furniture located in a corridor of a multi-unit residential building and resulted in multiple deaths. 

The primary concern associated with fires involving upholstered furniture is the combustion of polyurethane foam, which is typically used as the padding material. Polyurethane foam is a readily ignitable material that releases heat at a rapid rate and produces copious amounts of smoke and toxic gases. 
Currently, Sentence 2.4.1.1.(2) of the Fire Code regulates placement of combustible materials in a means of egress by prohibiting accumulation: 
2.4.1.1.(2) Combustible materials shall not be accumulated in any part of an elevator shaft, ventilation shaft, means of egress, service room or service space, unless the location, room or space is designed for those materials.

Review the Proposed Fire Code Changes for Combustible Cladding –Furniture in Corridors and Lobbies here. 

Proposed Fire Code Changes to Firefighters’ Elevator Out of Service Notification Requirements 
The topic of elevator availability, or perceived lack of availability, has been covered in a variety of mainstream media in recent months. 

To respond to emerging concerns associated with elevator availability and the lack of data on the topic, the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), in partnership with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (MGCS) and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MMA), engaged Retired Superior Court Justice Douglas Cunningham to author an independent study, with support from Deloitte’s Public Sector Strategy team. Release of the study’s findings is pending. 

The elevator sector touches a broad set of stakeholders across the province. One of the many stakeholders includes First Responders, including firefighters, paramedics, and police, who are responsible for addressing emergencies in a timely and efficient manner. Lack of elevator access, as may occur when elevators are out of service, can be a significant barrier to the ability of First Responders to quickly respond to and address an emergency, potentially introducing health and safety risks for residents. 

In response to this concern, the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (MCSCS) reviewed what changes if any could be made to the Ontario Fire Code to strengthen requirements. While the options to address the broader elevator availability problem under the Ontario Fire Code are limited, revisions to Subsection 7.2.2. Elevators and Subsection 1.1.1. General are under consideration. 

The Fire Code changes being proposed are to require owners to notify the fire department, building occupants and supervisory staff when a firefighters’ elevator is not operating for more than 24 hours.

Review the Proposed Fire Code Changes to Firefighters’ Elevator Out of Service Notification Requirements here. 


Proposed Fire Code Changes to inspection and testing of fire department pumper connection lines for hose standpipe systems

The Office of the Fire Marshall and Emergency Management (OFMEM) has become aware of the following two issues affecting standpipe systems that, in separate instances, have resulted in a lack of water supply for firefighting operations: 
  • Mechanical failure of pipes from rust due to age; and 
  • Blockages in the system due to debris. 

Recent fire incidents involving standpipe system failure have highlighted how this type of failure can compromise fire response efforts and potentially place the safety of both firefighters and the public at risk. 

The proposed updates to the Ontario Fire Code are intended to: 
  • Enhance safety to both the public and firefighters by ensuring that standpipe systems in buildings of all occupancy types are proactively tested to avoid failure during fire incidents. 
  • More closely align requirements in the Ontario Fire Code with the National Fire Code 
  • Provide clarity to the provisions for standpipe systems so that the Ontario Fire Code can be consistently applied across Ontario. 

Review the Proposed Fire Code Changes to inspection and testing of fire department pumper connection lines for hose standpipe systems here. 


Proposed Fire Code Changes to Mandating sealed, long-life (10-year) battery-operated smoke alarms
Currently, the Ontario Fire Code (OFC) requires a smoke alarm on every level of a dwelling and the device is required to be either hardwired or battery-operated where permitted. Whereas a hardwired smoke alarm is powered electrically, a battery-operated smoke alarm can only function if there is a working battery. The concern of a ‘dead battery’ or ‘missing a battery’ can be addressed by imposing sealed (non-removable and non-replaceable) long-life battery requirements for battery-operated smoke alarms. Sealing a battery prevents it from being removed for any reason, whether accidental or intentional. A long-life (10-year) battery can provide power until the end-of-life of the smoke alarm which typically is 10-years. 

Although the National Fire Code has yet to adopt sealed, long-life battery requirements for battery-operated smoke alarms, an increasing number of states and territories throughout the United States and Australia have moved in this direction. 
It is being proposed that the Ontario Fire Code (OFC) be amended to require sealed long-life smoke alarms where battery-operated smoke alarms are permitted to be used. The new requirement would only apply where smoke alarms are being replaced under Subsection 6.3.3. after having reached end of life, or where new smoke alarms are being installed under either Section 2.13 or Part 9. Existing battery operated smoke alarms would continue to remain in use until they need to be replaced. This approach is intended to minimize the impact on building owners, smoke alarm manufacturers and retailers.

Review the proposed fire code changes to mandating sealed, long-life (10-year) battery-operated smoke alarms here.