Environmental Health and Safety

Environmental Health and Safety

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Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I have to leave the building when the fire alarm sounds?
Yes. It is University policy, and required that you leave the building when the fire alarm is ringing. The only exception to this is during a scheduled test, in which case, notices are posted at the building entrance at least 24 hours in advance. Always assume an alarm is the real thing and you'll greatly increase your chances in the event of an actual fire. Remember, fire alarm systems exist for your protection.
Can the corridor be used for temporary storage?
No. Storage in corridors is not permitted under any circumstances. Storage within the corridor and exiting system is strictly prohibited by the Ontario Fire Code, and any such storage reported to Fire Prevention will result in a Violation Notice being issued. In addition, Occupational Health & Safety Committees are obligated to report any storage found in corridors or exits. For more information,.
I have been propping my lab door open for years. Why should I keep it closed?
Laboratory doors are generally self-closing (in buildings constructed under a relatively recent Building Code). This serves to protect all the occupants of the building, in that fire, smoke, and toxic gases from an incident within a lab cannot enter freely into the corridor system, provided that the door is closed. This keeps the means of egress safe and passable for all other occupants, allowing them to escape unharmed. By propping a lab door open, this safety feature is effectively defeated, and all occupants are put at risk. It is unrealistic to assume that in the event of a fire, you will have time to 'unprop' the door. Don't put your own convenience ahead of the safety of your colleagues... Don't prop that door.
How do I know if a fire alarm is a drill or a test?
As stated in the first answer, unless you have seen a posted testing notice, treat all fire alarms as if they are real. Drills are carried out as part of a legislative requirement, and evacuation times are kept on record. As with any other fire alarm, you are required to leave the building for a drill.
Why shouldn't I just dial 911 if I discover a fire?
If you discover a fire, your first action should be to pull the alarm. All our alarms are centrally monitored, 911 is automatically notified, and security is dispatched whenever any alarm sounds. As soon as you activate an alarm, a signal is automatically sent to the Emergency Report Centre, 911 dispatch is notified immediately and provided with all required information, Campus Security vehicle and Environmental Health and Safety are dispatched to the scene. The familiarity with buildings that our own emergency response personnel posses, together with building master keys, allow us to significantly reduce the time needed to locate a fire or verify a false alarm. This minimizes loss in an actual fire, or minimizes lost time if no fire is present.

If, instead of pulling the alarm, you call 911 (9-911 on Campus), it will cause the following difficulties:

  • other occupants will not be warned of the fire (fire alarm not sounding)
  • the Fire Department will not be met by our response team, which they are expecting
  • lack of familiarity with the building will cause an undue delay in locating the problem area
  • lack of keys may dictate forced entry by the Fire Department into some areas

So remember, if you find a fire, pull the alarm. After leaving the building, give the Security supervisor any additional information. We can use any info you can provide.

Why are there no smoke detectors in my office area? Am I safe?
Fire alarm systems are installed according to the requirements of the current Building Code at the time of construction. The Building Code takes a number of factors into consideration when determining the need for automatic fire detection. Smoke detectors are not required in office areas, since people in this type of occupancy are assumed to be alert and awake, and would therefore be able to actually smell smoke before it would be detected automatically. Based on this reasoning, smoke detection in offices would be redundant, and would merely add to maintenance requirements, while offering no benefit to life safety.
Shouldn't I have a fire extinguisher in my computer lab?
No. The Ontario Fire Code determines the requirements for the installation of fire extinguishers based on hazard. Computer equipment is not recognized as a significant hazard under this Code, and as such, no fire extinguishers are required. As a rule, computer equipment failure generates an acrid brown smoke, which is easily detected by people in the area, long before any flame is visible. Rather than using an extinguisher on this type of equipment (which could very well damage adjacent components), unplugging it will remove the source of ignition. Remember, if you smell smoke from your computer, the safest thing to do is simply unplug it!
I'm concerned about damage to my equipment if sprinklers are activated. Can they be removed?
No. This would decrease the existing level of fire safety, and would degrade the 'sprinklered' classification of the floor area. First, we should clarify the operation of 'wet sprinklers', which is commonly misunderstood. Each sprinkler head within a system like this is an independent unit, and is independently triggered based on the presence of heat at its own location. As such, the operation of one sprinkler head via excessive heat will not cause adjacent heads to discharge, and water flow is limited to the immediate vicinity of a fire. Effectively, this suppresses the damage due to fire, and most often provides complete extinguishment under low hazard conditions. The damage caused by a sprinkler discharge is logically minimal when compared to that of an unsuppressed fire of a magnitude that would otherwise trigger a sprinkler head. Also worth noting, is the fact that sprinkler head failure is very rare - the estimated failure rate for any given sprinkler head is one in three to four million. Putting this into perspective, this would translate to approximately two failures within the entire city of Kingston, in one year. Incidents of fires are hundreds of times more prevalent. Because of these statistics, the insurance industry supports full sprinkler installation in buildings, including computer server locations.
What's the penalty for pulling a false alarm?
Pulling a false alarm is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Activating the fire alarm as a 'prank' can result not only in expulsion from the University, but a criminal record as well. When the alarm is activated, the responding fire crew is unavailable for calls elsewhere; the extra delay for response in an emergency elsewhere could cost a life.
I live in residence, and my smoke alarm is peeping intermittently. What should I do?
Contact your residence Don office. You can also submit a Maintenance Request Order (MRO) to our Facilities Control Centre (FCC), either online or at your front desk. Remember, if the battery is removed from your smoke alarm, you're not protected.
Where are the fire alarm pull stations located?
Fire alarm pull stations are installed at each exit from your floor area. It is actually impossible to leave your floor without passing one. This means that if you discover a fire, you can activate the alarm as you evacuate.