The following information is a general guide for high-rise buildings. Since each building is unique, you should learn the approved “Fire Safety Plan” specifically designed for your building.

Owners: What services can Toronto Emergency Services provide for your building

The Ontario Building Code defines Residential “high-rise buildings” as those being seven storeys or more in height or more specifically the floor level of the highest storey of that major occupancy is more than 18 m above grade.

  • High-rise buildings are designed to be more fire-safe than an average single-family dwelling. Floors and ceilings are constructed with fire-resistant materials and are separated into fire compartments. The compartments act as barriers to resist fire from spreading. Floors, walls, and ceilings provide a barrier against the spread of fire, and suite doors must close automatically to protect openings.
  • High-rise buildings have interior fire-separated stairwell shafts. Signs should be posted within stairwells indicating which floor level you are on, and also identify the nearest crossover floors, if certain floors are not accessible. Keep stairwell doors closed at all times to preserve the safety of these escape stairs. Every floor has access to at least 2 separate exit stairways which provide a protected path to the exterior.
  • High-rise buildings contain a fire alarm system designed to alert occupants when activated. Types of fire alarm devices include smoke detectors, thermal detectors and sprinkler flow switches. A fire alarm system provides early warning to occupants of a fire condition.
  • Modern High-rise buildings often have a voice communication system, used by supervisory personnel to make announcements about fire location and conditions.
  • Some High-rise buildings have sprinkler systems to put water directly on the source of the fire. High-rise buildings also contain a standpipe system, that is an interior water supply system of fire hose cabinets on each floor for use by firefighters. Most buildings also have portable fire extinguishers in these cabinets.

Learn what to do if a fire happens in your building. This is the best way to protect yourself and those around you.

  • Talk to your landlord, superintendent or building manager.
  • Know the emergency procedures outlined in the building’s fire safety plan.
  • Create a home escape plan and practice it with everyone in your home.
  • Every fire is different. You must act quickly when you hear the alarm or discover a fire.
  • Remember, most people die from the smoke, not the fire.

High-rise buildings are designed to be fire-safe. But, because they may contain many people, and because of the building’s tremendous size, emergency response is challenging with significant potential for major incidents.

Due to equipment limitations, firefighters cannot rescue people from an outside balcony or window above the seventh floor. Also, a rooftop helicopter rescue is too dangerous. Firefighters must do interior firefighting and rescue tactics.

If there is a fire in your suite, it is not safe to stay inside! Stay away from poisonous smoke!

  • Everyone evacuate immediately.
  • Close, but don’t lock, all doors behind you.
  • Pull the red fire alarm pull station next to the stairwell on your floor and yell “fire”.
  • Leave the building using the nearest exit stairway.
  • Do not use the elevator.
  • Never go to the roof, smoke rises! Doors to the roof are locked and you could become trapped.
  • Call the fire department at 9-1-1 from a safe location. (Never assume this has been done).
  • Meet the firefighters when they arrive and tell them where the fire is.
  • Once out, stay out.
  • Do not go back into the building until the fire department tells you it’s safe.

Stay in your suite (if safe to do so) until you are rescued or until you are told to leave.

  1. If the fire is NOT in your suite, you are typically safe to remain there. Your suite walls, floors, and ceilings are composed of non-combustible construction and will protect you from smoke and fire.
  2. Keep smoke from entering your suite. Use duct tape to seal cracks around the door and place wet towels at the bottom. Seal vents or air ducts the same way. See a recommended “High-Rise Survival Kit” below.

If smoke does start to enter your suite (and you are unable to evacuate).

  1. Call the fire department at 9-1-1 and tell them where you are and then move to the balcony. Close the doors behind you.
  2. If you don’t have a balcony, go to the most smoke-free room, close the door and seal it with wide tape and towels. If necessary, open the window for fresh air. Show emergency personnel where you are by hanging a
    sheet from the window or balcony.
  3. Keep low to the floor where the air is cleaner.
  4. Listen for instructions from authorities.

The Toronto Fire Services recommends a high-rise survival kit for tenants of high buildings, readily available if they become trapped during a fire. You can purchase the following list of items for less than $50. Having these items available for emergency use may improve your chances of surviving a fire.

  • Wet towel – Place at the base of a door.
  • Duct tape – Tape over door and vent openings.
  • Foil wrap – Use to cover vent openings.
  • Whistle – Use to signal for help.
  • Flashlight – Use in case of power failure, smoke, or to signal for help.
  • Bright-coloured cloth – Hang up in a window, or on a balcony, to identify your location.
  • Ink marker – Use for messages on cloth, door or windows.
  • Cotton bedsheet – If smoke is heavy in your room, soak the bed sheet with water and make a tent near an open window.
  • Washcloth – Place the wet cloth over your mouth and nose to aid breathing in smoke-filled areas.
  • Fire safety plan – Have a copy of your building’s emergency procedures available.
  • Plastic pail with lid – Use for storing survival equipment. (Fill with water during a fire)

“Fire in your High-Rise” – Foldable Pamphlet Style

“Fire in your High-Rise” – Full Page Style