Fire Emergency Systems in High-Rise Buildings

When it comes to fire safety, high-rise buildings must be specially equipped to prevent a disaster from occurring. 

Without proper fire emergency systems in your high-rise building, a minor incident could rapidly escalate into a major tragedy. To protect your building and ensure the safety of occupants, strict guidelines must be followed by building staff.  Regular inspections are an absolute must to ensure these guidelines are being followed, keeping your building safe. 

Here are the most common requirements for fire emergency systems in high-rise buildings: 

  • Elevators are to be controlled by a keyed switch 
  • A designated firefighter’s elevator must be present in the building 
  • Smoke shaft, exhaust system and/or windows must act as means of ventilation from each floor area to outdoors 
  • Sprinklers must be installed throughout the building; see this post for sprinkler valve inspection requirements
  • In the event that any of the fire alarm and sprinkler systems are off-line for any reason whatsoever, or there is the presence of Hot Works being performed, a Fire Watch inspection program is to be implemented immediately; see this post for fire watch program requirements
  • Interior finish materials must have areas that require limits on smoke developed classification and flame-spread rating 
  • Fire rated doors; see this post for fire rated door inspection requirements
  • Interior doors/building exits/exit routes must 
      • Have a “clear width” of 832mm/32in or otherwise specified under jurisdiction 
      • Have a latch/push bar for a quick exit 
      • Be easily released upon activation of the fire alarm, ie. with magnets 
      • Be clearly marked with a minimum of 2 exits per building 
  • Signage 
      • Must include both tactile and Braille characters and should indicate accessible exit routes on all floors, rooms and staircases 
      • Exit routes should be clearly marked and be free of obstruction 
  • A central alarm and control facility (CACF) must be present in the building 
  • Accessible notification systems such as audible alarms, visual alarms (i.e. strobe lights) or a combination of both 
  • Emergency equipment must have electrical feeders equipped with fire protection 
  • Emergency power must be available to operate emergency lighting, fire alarm, voice communication systems and elevators; see this post for emergency power inspection requirements
  • Building evacuation procedures including provisions for persons requiring assistance (PRA’s) who cannot independently exit via the stairwell 

Don’t forget to also follow these ongoing maintenance requirements: 

  • Firefighters’ elevator must be identifiable as per the National Building Code of Canada 
  • Windows and panels used for ventilation of floor areas & vents to vestibules must be kept unobstructed 
      • Windows and panels must open without the use of keys 
      • Vents to vestibules which open manually must be kept operable 

Make sure these are in working order every 3 months during your quarterly inspections: 

      • Door-opening devices 
      • Key-operated switches 
      • Doors in means of egress (path of exit travel) 
      • Smoke control equipment 

Every 6 months
, you should also inspect elevator shafts used to vent smoke in order to ensure the elevators will return to street level and stay inoperative when you activate your fire alarm system. 

During annual inspections, be sure to check: 

      • Closures of outside openings at the top of smoke shafts open: 
          • Manually from the exterior of the building 
          • As heat and smoke are detected in the shaft 
          • When a closure opens between the smoke shaft and a floor area 
      • Controls for air-handling systems used for ventilation in order to ensure air is exhausted to the outside of the building in the event of a fire, as per the building code 
      • Fans which move air in 2 or more storeys stop upon activation of a switch at a central control facility 
      • Doors to vestibules controlled by a device connected to a central control facility close on signal if they are normally held open by mechanical means 

Electronic inspection software like Tap Report makes it easier for you to perform these required routine inspections and keep track of Fire Emergency Systems in your building. 

Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997
Ontario Fire Code: O. Reg. 213/07: FIRE CODE
Building Code Act, 1992, S.O. 1992, c. 23 
Ontario Building Code: O. Reg. 332/12: BUILDING CODE 
National Fire Code of Canada 2015 
National Building Code 2015 
Planning for Safety