Fire Prevention FAQs
- Do I have to leave the building when the fire alarm sounds?
- Can the corridor be used for temporary storage?
- I want to report someone smoking in the building. Who do I call?
- I have been propping my lab door open for years. Why should I keep it closed?
- How do I know if a fire alarm is a drill or a test?
- Why shouldn’t I just dial 911 if I discover a fire?
- Why are there no smoke detectors in my office area? Am I safe?
- Shouldn’t I have a fire extinguisher in my computer lab?
- I’m concerned about damage to my equipment if sprinklers are activated. Can they be removed?
- What’s the penalty for pulling a false alarm?
- I live in residence, and my smoke alarm is peeping intermittently. What should I do?
- Where are the fire alarm pull stations located?
Yes. It is University procedure, 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.
No. Storage in corridors is not permitted under any circumstances. Storage within the coridor 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, click here.
Contrary to common opinion, Fire prevention is not in charge of enforcing the University’s ‘No Smoking’ policy. If you wish to report an offense of this nature, please contact Campus Police at Local 82323.
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.
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.
If you discover a fire, your first action should be to pull the alarm. Because the University has 100 buildings with fire alarm systems, all our alarms are centrally monitored, 911 is automatically notified, and our own emergency response team is dispatched whenever any alarm sounds.
As soon as you activate an alarm, a signal is automatically sent to the Emergency Control Centre (Campus Police), 911 dispatch is notified immediately and provided with all required information, and a Campus Police vehicle and U of T Fire Prevention are dispatched o the scene. The familiarity with buildings that our own emergency response personnel posess, 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. If you have a chance to phone after you have safely left the building, call Local 82222 to give additional information. We can use any info you can provide. See ‘Procedures – Fire Emergency‘ for additional information.
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.
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!
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 unsupressed 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 Toronto, 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.
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.
Contact your residence Porter’s office for a replacement battery and install it as soon as possible. Remember, if the battery is removed from your smoke alarm, you’re not protected.