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Do Commercial Buildings in Canada Require Third Party Fire Alarm Monitoring or Sprinkler System Monitoring?

commerical building fire alarm monitoringOne of the most common questions we’re asked on a day-to-day basis, both from our existing customers and potential new customers is whether or not their commercial building has a requirement to have fire alarm monitoring or fire sprinkler alarm monitoring.  The answer to this is a fairly straightforward answer, however the question of whether or not you should have fire alarm monitoring is more complex.  To start, let’s look at the simple answer as to whether or not a commercial building in Canada requires fire alarm monitoring or fire sprinkler alarm monitoring:

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Is There a Requirement?

The Answer to this is a definitive yes.  Building Codes and Fire Codes set the minimum requirements for building safety standards, and included in these codes is the requirement for fire alarm monitoring and fire sprinkler alarm monitoring.  While each province may have its own unique codes and standards, we shall use Ontario’s Building Code as an example.  For fire alarm monitoring and fire sprinkler alarm monitoring, the Ontario Building Code states the following in section 3.2.4.8:

(1)  If a fire alarm system is required to be installed and a single stage system is provided, the system shall be designed to notify the fire department in conformance with Sentence (4) that an alarm signal has been initiated in,

(a)          a Group A occupancy having an occupant load more than 300,

(b)          a Group B occupancy,

(c)           a Group F, Division 1 occupancy,

(d)          a building regulated by the provisions of Subsection 3.2.6., or

(e)          a building containing interconnected floor space required to conform to Articles 3.2.8.3. to 3.2.8.11.

        (2)  A fire alarm system that includes waterflow indicating devices shall be designed to notify the fire department, in conformance with Sentence (4), that an alarm has been initiated.

        (3)  If a fire alarm system is required to be installed and a 2 stage system is provided, the system shall be designed to notify the fire department, in conformance with Sentence (4), that an alert signal has been initiated.

 

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For Clarity, Occupancy Types are classified as:

 

GroupDivisionDescription of Major Occupancies
A1Assembly occupancies intended for the production and viewing of the performing arts
A2Assembly occupancies not elsewhere classified in Group A
A3Assembly occupancies of the arena type
A4Assembly occupancies in which occupants are gathered in the open air
B1Detention occupancies
B2Care and treatment occupancies
B3Care occupancies
CResidential occupancies
DBusiness and personal services occupancies
EMercantile occupancies
F1High hazard industrial occupancies
F2Medium hazard industrial occupancies
F3Low hazard industrial occupancies

 

So, if your building falls into one of the listed categories (A, B or F) or contains a fire alarm connected to a sprinkler system, your building has a requirement to have fire alarm monitoring and fire sprinkler monitoring that meets the standards in CAN/ULC-S561.  If you are unsure about your building’s classification type, you can consult with your local fire prevention officer.  National Building Codes and National Fire Codes, and other provincial fire codes will contain similar requirements.

Further, the requirement for monitoring which confirms to 3.2.4.8 is referenced for sprinklers throughout the Building Code, such as section 3.2.2.18:

3.2.2.18. Automatic Sprinkler System Required

(1) If an automatic sprinkler system is required by Articles 3.2.2.20. to 3.2.2.83., the system shall conform to the requirements of Articles 3.2.4.8. to 3.2.4.10. and 3.2.5.13.

References such as those abovefor monitoring for sprinkler systems are also found in other ‘sprinkler-type’ sections such as 3.2.2.17, 3.2.8.7, 3.3.1.4 (5), 3.16.1.6 (7), 9.10.8.2, and 9.10.9.15, .  If you hav e a sprinkler system in your commercial property, it must have monitoring.

This makes the answer about whether or not fire alarm monitoring and fire sprinkler monitoring is required very straight forward:  reference the relevant code, and if it says you need it, you need it.  What’s more complex is whether not you should have fire alarm monitoring and fire sprinkler system monitoring if you do not fall into one of these categories.

Should You Have Fire Alarm Monitoring or Fire Sprinkler System Monitoring?

Some buildings have a requirement to have a fire alarm system installed, but do not fall into the category of requiring fire alarm monitoring or fire sprinkler system monitoring.  A decision must then be made by those responsible for life safety in these buildings as to whether or not fire alarm monitoring should be implemented.  As we know, without a fire alarm monitoring system installed, a fire alarm system alone cannot alert the local fire department of a potential fire on site.  One must consider in this circumstance who, then, is responsible for notifying the fire department in the event of a fire alarm in your facility?  If it is a low-rise apartment building, is it a superintendent tenant?  What if they’re not on site? Do you rely on tenants to call 9-1-1?  If it is your office building, who calls if the building is unoccupied?  What happens to your business if there’s an actual fire, and records, paperwork, computers (and ultimately productivity) is lost, when that loss could have been mitigated by a fire alarm monitoring system?

Fire doubles in size every minute after the first four minutes of a fire. With this in mind, it is therefore extremely important to have early intervention from the fire department in the event of a fire to reduce the potential for loss of property and life and having fire alarm monitoring is one way to ensure that the fire department is notified immediately on fire alarm activation.

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Our suggestion to the question of “should I have fire alarm monitoring?” will always be “yes”. Our thought that “fire cannot be mitigated without a call” and our partnership with OPEN ACCESS™ (whose motto is “Saving Time Saves Lives” reinforces the idea that we think the fire department should know about a fire alarm through a fire alarm monitoring system as quickly as possible.  If there’s no requirement in your building to have fire alarm monitoring, we encourage you to look into the service which can cost just a couple of dollars per day, and that’s a small price to pay for a  significant improvement in the life safety in your building, to help protect the people and property in it.

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