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BCC Ruling No. 96-30-513

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #96-30-513

IN THE MATTER OF Subsection 24(1) of the Building Code Act, 1992.

AND IN THE MATTER OF Article 3.2.4.19. of the Revised Regulation of Ontario 1990, Regulation 61, as amended by O.Regs. 400/91, 158/93, 160/93, 383/94 and 20/95 (the "Building Code").

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by Mr. Peter R. Thompson, Director of Facilities Management, Ottawa Civic Hospital, Ottawa for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Les Batson, Chief Building Official, City of Ottawa, concerning whether providing strobe lights in the Intensive Care Unit, Operating Rooms and Post Anaesthesia Care Units to visually indicate the activation of the fire alarm system in lieu of audible devices provides sufficiency of compliance with the requirements in Article 3.2.4.19. of the Building Code at the Ottawa Civic Hospital, Building #4, Level 2 and 3, 1053 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. Peter R. Thompson
Director of Facilities Management
Ottawa Civic Hospital

RESPONDENT

Mr. Les Batson
Chief Building Official
City of Ottawa

PANEL

Mr. Roy Philippe, Chair
Ms. Lesia Beznaczuk
Mr. Demir Delen

PLACE

Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF RULING

June 14, 1996

APPEARANCES

Mr. Peter Thompson, Director of Facilities Management
Mr. Charles Montgomery, Fire Prevention &
Disaster Planning Officer
AND
Dr. Roy McIntyre Head, I.C.U.
Ottawa Civic Hospital
For the Applicant

Mr. Chris Freeman
AND
Mr. Neil Dillon
City of Ottawa
For the Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Peter Thompson, Director of Facilities Management, Ottawa Civic Hospital is the holder of a permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to renovate the Post Anaesthesia Care Unit at the Ottawa Civic Hospital, Building #4, Level 2 and 3, 1053 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario.

  1. Description of Constrution

The Ottawa Civic Hospital is a 700 bed tertiary/quaternary care teaching hospital which provides specialty care in Neurosurgery, Vascular Surgery, Cardiac Care and disease of the Endocrine systems.

The hospital recently completed a renovation to the Post Anaesthesia Care Unit, which included an upgrade to the Fire Alarm System.

  1. Dispute

The dispute between the Applicant and Respondent concerns sufficiency of compliance with the technical requirements of Article 3.2.4.19. of the Building Code. At issue is whether strobe lights may be provided in the Intensive Care Unit, Operating Rooms and Post Anaesthesia Care Units to visually indicate the activation of the fire alarm system in lieu of audible devices such as bells or chimes.

  1. Provision of the Building Code

Article 3.2.4.19. Audibility of Alarm Signals

Audible signal appliances forming part of a required fire alarm system shall be installed in a building so that alert signals, alarm signals and voice messages can be heard intelligibly throughout the floor area in which they are installed.

If a fire alarm system is required, audible signal appliances shall be located in a service space referred to in Sentence 3.2.1.1.(7) and shall be connected to the fire alarm system.

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that the population of patients that are served by the hospital, includes cerebral aneurism repairs, cerebral tumour surgery, aggressive head and neck surgery (usually cancer related), high risk vascular surgery etc.

The Applicant submitted that common to all of these problems is the very real risk of post operative haemorrhage and/or stroke - the risk of which is directly affected by the patient's blood pressure, particularly intra-cranial blood pressure.

The Applicant submitted that when the new fire alarm sounds, the natural startle reflex of the patient causes an immediate rise in blood pressure, resulting in a situation in which the upgraded fire alarm system designed to make the environment safer, actually presents a very real life safety risk.

The Applicant submitted that speaker volumes have been lowered as a trial, however, the hospital has been unable to reach a satisfactory situation.

The Applicant appealed to the Building Code Commission for their endorsement of their proposal to substitute strobe lights in lieu of bells/chimes in the areas affected which include, Operating Rooms, Post Anaesthesia Care Units and Intensive Care Unit areas. Bells and chimes will remain in support areas where they do not pose a hazard to the patient population.

The Applicant proposed to situate the strobe lights throughout the affected areas. Audible warning devices would be provided at the nursing stations. The nose level of the devices would be to an effective level agreed upon with the City of Ottawa building department.

  1. Chief Building Official's Position

The Respondent submitted that Sentence 3.2.4.4.(2) of the Building Code requires an alarm signal to sound upon the activation of the second stage of the manual pull station of the fire alarm system. Sentence 3.2.4.19.(1) of the Building Code requires alarm signals to be heard intelligibly throughout the floor area in which the signal devices are located.

The Respondent further submitted that while they understand the concerns raised, the municipality does not have the authority to allow the audible devices (i.e. bells/chimes) to be disconnected from the fire alarm system.

  1. Commission Ruling:

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that providing strobe lights conforming to U.L.C. S526-M87 in the Intensive Care Unit, Operating Rooms and Post Anaesthesia Care Units to visually indicate the activation of the fire alarm system in lieu of audible signalling devices provides sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.2.4.19. of the Building Code.

  1. Reasons:

i. The audible signals will be sounded at continually staffed locations.

ii. Staff working in these areas are trained to recognize the fire alarm visual signals and take appropriate action for the safety of the patients.

iii. Evidence indicated that an audible signal could have a detrimental impact on the health of patients at the subject locations.

Dated at Toronto, this 14th day, in the month of June, in the year 1996, for application number 1996-30.

Roy Philippe

Lesia Beznaczuk

Demir Delen