Canadian Underwriter

Fire sprinkler installation projects in retirement homes, supportive housing, eligible for new Ontario government funding

August 19, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter

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Three years after the Ontario government mandated automatic sprinklers in retirement homes and other facilities housing vulnerable people within five years, the province’s community and social services ministry announced Thursday it will provide $6.5 million to more than 130 facilities to improve fire safety.

fire sprinkler“Across Ontario, more than 130 facilities from over 40 agencies will receive funding to improve fire safety this year,” the ministry stated in a press release. The types of projects eligible for the funding include sprinkler system installation, fire alarm system upgrades and installation of fire doors and separations.

On May 9, 2013, the Ontario government filed two regulations – 150/13, which amends the Fire Code and 151/13, which amends the Building Code.

The province will “require the retrofit of automatic sprinklers in all vulnerable occupancies, which include care occupancies (e.g. group homes and supportive housing where residents need care for cognitive or physical disabilities and require assistance to evacuate), care and treatment occupancies (e.g. long-term care homes – formerly known as nursing homes, municipal homes for the aged and charitable homes) and licensed retirement homes (i.e. homes for seniors who may require assistance with daily living),” wrote Tadeusz (Ted) Wieclawek, then Ontario’s fire marshal and chief of emergency management, in a letter dated Feb. 12, 2014.

While the deadline to install automatic sprinklers was Jan. 1, 2019, the deadline to install self closers and voice communications, as of early 2014, was Jan. 1, 2016. At the time the deadline to install smoke alarms in individual sleeping rooms was March 1, 2014 and the deadline to install fire alarm monitoring and emergency lighting was Jan. 1, 2015.

“These new requirements represent the single biggest improvement in public fire safety since the requirement for mandatory smoke alarms,” Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs president Matt Pegg stated in a May 9, 2013 release.

In September, 2012, a private members bill – Bill 54, the Fire Protection and Prevention Amendment Act (Retrofitting of Retirement Homes with Automatic Sprinklers) – passed second reading. However, the legislature was prorogued on the recommendation of Dalton McGuinty – then premier leading a Liberal minority government – before Bill 54 could be passed into law.

Bill 54 was tabled by NDP MPP Paul Miller, who told Canadian Underwriter in 2012 that there had been six deaths since he had introduced a similar bill in 2010.

In 2014, Wieclawek wrote that “most private and government funded group homes and supportive housing captured under the new rules will have up to five years to install sprinklers,” while “licensed long-term care homes, such as nursing homes, will have an 11-year phase-in period to be completed by 2025.”

Long-term care homes “are already subject to a stricter set of fire safety requirements than those required in care occupancies and licensed retirement homes,” Wieclawek wrote at the time. “In addition to the minimum staffing requirements to carry out evacuations in a fire emergency, physical barriers to fire (such as walls with a certain fire endurance), fire alarms, fire exits and emergency lighting, these long-term care homes are also required to have enhanced fire alarm monitoring and detection, and zone separations (pre-determined areas where residents are assisted to as part of a phased evacuation). The requirement for sprinklers builds on these existing strict requirements.”