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.
The Ontario Building Code defines “high-rise buildings” as those being seven storeys or more in height.
During a fire emergency, never attempt to leave a building by an elevator. Heat can activate elevator call buttons, sending the elevator to the fire floor, where dense smoke may interfere with the elevator’s light-sensitive eye and prevent the door from closing. Also, you may become trapped in the elevator if water from fire fighting operations creates a power failure. In addition, fire fighters require designated elevators to carry them and their equipment to the floor below the fire.
In reacting to a fire in a high building, you must decide on two options:
If you choose to leave the building:
If you cannot leave your apartment/office or have returned to it because of fire or heavy smoke:
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.
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.
High 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.
High 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. If you discover a fire, immediately activate a red manual pull station near a stairwell and leave the floor. This will identify the specific location at the lobby alarm panel to responding firefighters. Your fire alarm system is not connected to the Fire Services. You must always call 9-1-1. Make sure you give your name, the correct address and location of the fire.
High 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. If you encounter smoke while descending a stairwell, you can crossover to an alternate stairwell. Keep stairwell doors closed at all times to preserve the safety of these escape stairs.
High buildings 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.