In February 2015, the report on the public enquiry of the fire commissioner concerning the fire that occurred on January 23, 2014, at the Résidence du Havre at L’Isle-Verte, which resulted in the death of thirty-two residents, was tabled1.

On February 25, 2015, taking notice of the first recommendation of the report, that is, the mandatory installation of sprinkler systems in all seniors’ residence, the government passed the DraftRegulation to amend the Safety Code 2 providing that all private seniors’ residences must be protected by a sprinkler system. On November 18, 2015, following a consultation period, the Regulation to amend the Safety Code 3 hereinafter, the “Regulation”) was passed.

These amendments to the Safety Code4 will come into force as fromDecember 2, 2020. They will result in a legal requirement to protect by a sprinkler system any building which houses a private seniors’ residence, constructed or altered in compliance with an applicable standard prior to the National Building Code of Canada 20105.

This sprinkler system will have to comply with the requirements of Section 3.2.5 of the National Building Code of Canada 2005 and be designed, constructed, installed and tested in accordance with Standard NFPA- 13 (Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems) or Standard NFPA- 13D (Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes) ), both issued by the National Fire Protection Association.

The two types of buildings which will be required to be equipped with sprinkler systems compliant with Standard NFPA- 13D, that is, whose water supply capacity is not less than 30 minutes, are the following:

  • a single-family type residential occupancy for the elderly
  • a residential board and care occupancy that lodges no more than nine persons and whose building consists of a dwelling unit having a building height of no more than two storeys

Each storey accessible to the persons lodged in the occupancy,except the second floor, will be required to be served by two means of egress, one of which leads directly to the exterior.

Buildings which, on February 25, 2015, were completely sprinklered by a system installed in accordance with the standard applicable on the year of construction are not required to be made compliant with Standards NFPA- 13 or NFPA- 13D.

Furthermore, the Regulation provides for three exceptions from the requirement to protect a building with a sprinkler system. These exceptions cover:

  • a building housing solely a residential occupancy for the elderly having a building height of one storey, a building area no more than 600 m2 and no more than 8 dwelling units, and in which no more than 16 persons lodge
  • a single-family type residential occupancy for the elderly,provided that each storey accessible to the persons lodged in the occupancy is served by two means of egress, one of which leads directly to the exterior
  • a residential board and care occupancy that lodges no more than nine persons and whose building consists of a dwelling unit having a building height of no more than two storeys, provided that each storey accessible to the persons lodged in the occupancy is served by two means of egress, one of which leads directly to the exterior and the other leads to another floor area and is separated from adjoining spaces by a fire separation

Furthermore, it is important to note that from March 18, 2016,all private seniors’ residences must be equipped with a fire alarm and detection system, except for a single-family type residential occupancy for the elderly and a residential board and care occupancy that lodges no more than nine persons and whose building consists of a dwelling unit having a building height of no more than two storeys.

On March 26 last, in the 2015-2016 Budget Speech, Minister Carlos Leitão announced the implementation of a financial support program for installing the required sprinkler systems6 through a subsidy to be paid to owners of seniors’ residences in order to help them repay loans taken out for upgrading the buildings. This financial support will be administered by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux.7.