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Private seniors’ residences of residential occupancy type

When you are the owner or manager of a private seniors’ residence, it means you are lodging clients who are more vulnerable than the general population. A high number of elderly persons or persons with diminishing abilities have perished in building fires.

This is why the new Regulation sets out special and more binding requirements than the initial requirements for private autonomous seniors’ residences subject to the certification process. As for the owners of private seniors’ residences lodging clients other than autonomous, they must comply with the requirements set out for health care occupancies.

The requirements for private autonomous seniors’ residences deal with:

  1. the fire detection and alarm systems and smoke alarms
  2. the presence of exit openings in the basement of a private seniors’ residence of single-family type
  3. the fire resistance of fire separations.

You may therefore have to carry out some work in order to comply with the new Regulation. Certain work must be completed within a short timeframe, while other may be spread over several years.

Summary of the requirements related to fire safety

In order to guide you, here is a summary of the main components of fire safety henceforth required, as well as the timeframes prescribed to meet these requirements.

Carbon monoxide alarm – to be performed before March 18, 2014

You must install a carbon monoxide alarm if your occupancy features a combustion appliance (among others, a gas range or a fireplace), or if any direct access exists between the house and an indoor parking garage. Select a device compliant with standard CAN/CSA-6.19 and equipped with an integrated alarm. Make sure to install it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Smoke alarm – to be performed before March 18, 2014

  • In an occupancy of single-family type or an occupancy comprising rooms not equipped with an alarm system and where less than 10 persons sleep, a smoke alarm must be installed in every sleeping room, in every corridors and inside any room which serves as a shared rest or activity area. The smoke alarms must be installed by permanent connections and be wired with one another so that the activation of one alarm will automatically cause all alarms within the occupancy to sound.
  • In the case of an occupancy with rooms where more than 10 persons sleep, a smoke alarm must be installed in every sleeping room in addition to the smoke detectors. The smoke alarms must be installed by permanent connections to an electrical circuit.
  • In the case of an occupancy including dwellings where more than 10 persons sleep, each dwelling unit must be equipped with at least one (1) alarm. It must be installed in the corridor giving access to the rooms, or between the rooms and the rest of the dwelling unit. In the case of 2-storey dwellings, an alarm is required at each storey. The smoke alarms must be installed by permanent connections to an electrical circuit and be linked with one another, so that the activation of an alarm will automatically cause all the alarms of the dwelling unit to sound.
  • Select an alarm type which is compliant with standard CAN/ULC-S531, and make sure to install it on or near the ceiling, in accordance with standard CAN/ULC-S553. The Regulation is mandatory in this regard.
  • Please note that any smoke alarm must be replaced 10 years after the date of manufacturing as indicated on its casing. If no such date is indicated, or if it has become illegible, the device must be replaced immediately.

Emergency lighting – to be performed before March 18, 2014

  • The exit staircases, means of egress and public corridors must be equipped with an emergency lighting system which can be maintained operative for at least 30 minutes during a failure or outage of the normal power source, and this, for all types of occupancies.
  • An upgrade to the emergency lighting system may be necessary to be in compliance with the requirements of the National Building Code (NBC) 1995, as amended for the province of Quebec. Check with an expert to make sure you are compliant.

Flame-spread rating – to be performed before March 18, 2014

  • In a residential occupancy for elderly persons which has been built or converted before May 25, 1984, the flame-spread rating of the interior finishes of walls and ceilings must be compliant with the NBC 1995, as amended for the province of Quebec. Check with an expert (e.g., an architect) to make sure you are compliant.

Exit door in the basement – to be performed before March 18, 2016

In a single-family type residential occupancy for the elderly, an exit door opening directly to the exterior from the basement must be installed if one or several rooms are laid out to accommodate the elderly.

Fire detection and alarm system – to be performed before March 18, 2016

These requirements do not apply to single-family type residential occupancies for the elderly.

  • A fire detection and alarm system must henceforth be installed in any building accommodating elderly persons where more than 10 persons sleep, even if this was not set out by the requirements in effect at the time of the construction or alteration of the building.
  • If the construction or alteration of the building dates from before November 7, 2000, you may have to upgrade the existing detection and alarm system in order to be in compliance with most of the requirements from the NBC 1995, as amended for the province of Quebec.
  • The connection to the fire department is now required even in the case of a single-signal type fire detection and alarm system.
  • Smoke detectors (in addition to smoke alarms) must now be installed in any room that is not part of a dwelling unit equipped with a fire detection and alarm system.
  • When an audible alarm needs to be added in a bedroom or a dwelling unit, it must be include a visual signal device having a power level of least 110 candela (cd).
  • In a dwelling unit, the acoustic pressure level of a fire alarm signal must be, near the entry door, of at least 85 decibels (dB), once the door is closed;
  • In a rooming house, the acoustic pressure level of an alarm signal must be of 75 decibels (dB).

Fire separations – to be performed before March 18, 2018

This requirement does not apply to single-family type residential occupancies for the elderly.

The building elements (walls and floors) can limit the propagation of a fire within a building. As per the new Regulation, some work may be necessary to improve the level of fire resistance of the suites (dwellings or rooms) or the floors, which must be a minimum of 30 minutes. Such work may, for example, include the installation of doors, the addition of gypsum board or the subdivision (compartmentalization) of certain spaces. It is recommended to consult an expert (e.g., an architect) to assess the nature of the work required and to schedule it so that it is completed within 5 years.

Other requirements

Do consider the standards of your municipality!

Your municipality could enact more stringent standards for the buildings located on its territory.

The building must be compliant with the standards in effect at the time of its construction and also with the requirements of the National Fire Code.

Furthermore, if your occupancy is equipped with an underground or aboveground multistorey garage, or if it comprises 5 aboveground storeys or more, some other requirements of the Regulation will apply to the building. Make sure you are in compliance with these. Become familiar with these requirements by referring to the pages entitled Maintenance and inspection of façades and Maintenance and inspection of multistorey garages..

The owners of private seniors’ residences must also make sure that they are in compliance with the provisions from the other chapters of the Safety Code: control of the hot water temperature [Fr], verification and maintenance of elevators [Fr], hoists [Fr], lifting devices for persons with disabilities [Fr], installation of antiflooding devices [Fr], etc.

Take further note that your municipality could enact more stringent standards for the buildings located on its territory. We advise to get informed in this regard.

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