Evacuation priorities drive B.C. code proposal

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A proposed change to British Columbia’s fire code aligns with evacuation priorities for building occupants with mobility or vision impairment. It would eliminate the current requirement for signage instructing building occupants not to use the elevator in the case of a fire.

Code drafters suggest the prohibition notices now mandated in the elevator lobbies of every building in the province could cause dangerous delays for some people trying to get to safety. “For persons with sensory or physical limitations, the elevator may be the most practical and quickest way to evacuate the building,” states the proposed code change, now posted on the B.C. government website.

Building owners/managers are already required to establish and document evacuation procedures in their Fire Safety Plans and communicate them to occupants. If adopted, the amendment would bring the B.C. fire code into harmony with the model national fire code, which does not call for the signage.

Other proposed fire code changes are meant to dispel what’s termed “some confusion” about when upgrades to emergency lighting, fire suppression systems, smoke and fire alarms are required in existing buildings. New language clarifies that life-safety system upgrades to comply with the current code will only be required in the case of a major building renovation or new addition, provided existing equipment complies with the version of the code that was in force at the time of installation. Replacements for existing equipment at the end of its life cycle must also comply with the current code.

Details of these amendments are also posted on the B.C. government’s website and are open for public comment until February 28.

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