Tall Condos and Fire - Do Residents Know What To Do?

By: Jagdeep Singh

Tall Condos and Fire - Do Residents Know What To Do?

Tags: Home, Alarm, Safety, Condo, Toronto, Fire, GTA, Hazard

The thought of fire in our home is not something we want to think about, but it is a possibility that can occur when we least expect it. Part of prudent home ownership is to be prepared. In a regular house, a bungalow, a 2-storey structure, we all know that in case of a fire we must leave the building and go out in the open. But what is to be done when you are 70 or 80 floors up in the air. 

Toronto has seen a boom in tall apartment building. Rightfully so, as land gets expensive and limited, it is smart to maximize its use through vertical condominium neighbourhoods. I believe that compared to other species, humans are using way too many resources as it is; especially more so in North America or the so called first world countries. 

Economic reasons, land shortage or whatever may be the reason, recent condo buildings in Toronto have dramatically increased in height. I remember few years ago there was a huge uproar about the "tall" Minto Midtown condominium project near Yonge and Eglinton. At under 50 floors, that was nothing. Here are some of the tall projects that are coming up in Toronto. 

So, what are you supposed to do when you are high up in a Toronto condominium apartment tower and there is fire in the building. Know your building's fire safety plan, says Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg. 

"The general rule and general advice we give our high-rise residents: when the fire alarm goes off ... as long as there is no hazard in your suite — so there is no smoke, no flames, you're not at risk in your suite — you're best to stay there. We call that protect in place."

Every high-rise residential building in the province, in accordance with the Ontario Building Code, must be the result of "non-combustible construction," Pegg said. "It means the actual design and construction of high rise residential buildings are built out of materials that don't burn," he told CBC Toronto.

In addition, Toronto Fire maintains a comprehensive list of each residential high rise in the city and inspects each one no less than once every year. Pegg said each high rise also has a fire safety plan, and residents can ask their landlord or property manager any questions they may have.

If you do stay, Pegg says:
1.   Keep the door closed.
2.   Stay awake and stay vigilant.
3.   Listen for any messages broadcast by the building and fire crews.
But if you live in a single-family home or a low-rise building — meaning six stories or fewer — and you hear the fire alarm, get out of the building, Pegg said.

Toronto Fire also has a specialized high-rise unit, which Pegg calls "necessary in a city like Toronto."

At the end of the day, just like in your own home, it is your responsibility to ensure that you and your family is up to date on the steps that are required in case there is a fire. Discarded cigarettes is given as one of the top causes for fire. So please be careful, know your fire escape plan, and stay safe. 

Additional Resources: Ontario Association of Architects (OAA), in partnership with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has also put out a 38 page PDF document authored by Ken Richardson Fire Technologies Inc. This publication can be accessed here, at the Government of Canada Publications website

Comments by Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg have been taken from this CBC article. Though effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the contents, the reader is advised to verify the information independently. This post may contain information that is privileged, confidential and exempt from disclosure under applicable law. The reader is not allowed to reproduce it in any medium without the author’s prior written permission. Jagdeep Singh is a broker with Century 21 Heritage Group Ltd., brokerage (416) 798-7133 which is independently owned and operated. This message is not intended to solicit parties currently under contract.