Guelph Shared Housing Information
Guelph Shared Housing Information
Smoke Alarms
It is the law in Ontario to have working smoke alarms on every storey and outside all sleeping areas. The
law applies to single family, semi-detached, town homes and apartments (including basement apartments),
whether owner-occupied or rented. Rooming houses have specific regulations about smoke alarms or fire
alarm systems. In addition to smoke alarms within each unit or suite, apartment buildings and student
residences operated by the school may also have a building fire alarm system. Make sure the landlord,
administrator or superintendent identifies and explains the fire alarm and detection features in the building
and unit.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
The Ontario Building Code requires carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in new buildings that contain a fuel-fired
appliance. However, many existing buildings were constructed prior to this requirement and may not be
equipped with CO alarms. If the building has a fuel-fired (natural gas, oil, propane or wood) appliance, a CO
alarm should be installed. Check with the fire department or municipal office to determine if there are bylaws requiring CO alarms.
Fire Separations
Students often find accommodation in older homes that have been converted to apartments or rooming
houses. At the time of the conversion, a building permit should have been obtained to ensure that fire safety
features such as proper exits and fire separations between units are provided. Ask the owner if the property
complies with the Building Code and Fire Code and to explain the fire safety features.
It is important to consider how people will escape from a room or apartment in an emergency. Every room
or apartment requires adequate exits that will permit unobstructed escape from the building. Make sure to
ask the landlord or superintendent to identify all of the designated exits. All windows and doors should open
fully and easily. Stairways and hallways must not be used for storage as this can pose serious fire safety
hazards. Furniture and other obstacles can physically block exits and may fill hallways or stairways with
smoke if they catch fire. This practice must be strictly avoided.
Fire Escape Plans
In a fire emergency, everyone must know what to do and where to go. Large apartment buildings and
student residence buildings require a fire safety plan, which informs the occupants about emergency
procedures. Ask the building administrator or superintendent to explain the procedures in the fire safety
Smaller apartment buildings and houses that have been converted to apartments or lodging rooms may not
have a fire safety plan, however it’s a good idea to ensure there are two ways out of the unit. The alternate
way out can be a window that can be safely exited in an emergency.
Some property owners install bars on windows as a security measure. While this may seem appealing from
a security point of view, it can prevent students from escaping in an emergency situation. Security bars on
windows should be equipped with a quick-opening device on the inside so the bars can be removed quickly.
Electrical Safety
Many buildings offering lodging to students are older homes that may not have upgraded wiring.
Outlets in bathrooms or within one metre of the kitchen sink should be the Ground Fault Circuit
Interrupter (GFCI) type. Consider the number and location of electrical outlets in the room or
apartment. There should be enough outlets so that appliances such as lamps, computer equipment
and stereos can be operated without the use of extension cords. If extension cords can’t be avoided,
use multi-outlet power bars that are ULC listed and provide surge protection and a circuit breaker.
Make sure that electrical cords of any kind are not concealed under carpets or rugs where they can be
easily damaged. Avoid overloaded circuits and octopus wiring.
For more information:
Contact the administration offices of the college or university. They will frequently maintain a registry
of available accommodation for students. Call the local fire department to determine if the building has
been inspected for Fire Code compliance.
Electrical safety tips and information about common electrical hazards can be found at the Electrical
Safety Authority website at:
Fire safety tips and information can be found at the Office of the Fire Marshal website at:
Cooking is the number one cause of
home fires in Ontario. If the student’s
accommodation has cooking facilities,
there are some basic fire safety rules they
must follow to prevent cooking fires:
A stovetop fire can start in a flash,
so stay in the kitchen when
something is cooking on the
Keep all combustible items a safe
distance away from the stove.
This includes tea towels, wooden
or plastic spoons and paper
Keep a pot lid near the stove to
smother flames if a fire starts in a
Space Heaters
The central heating systems in older
accommodation is often
supplemented with space heaters. To
prevent heating fires:
Keep the space heater at least
one metre away from
anything that can burn, such
as paper, bedding, furniture
and curtains.
Turn off the space heater
before going out or going to
Social Gatherings
The use of candles is becoming more and
more popular, especially among young
people. To prevent candle fires:
Use tea lights or votive candles in
non-combustible containers as
they are generally a safer choice
than tapers.
Place the candles in a location
where they can’t be knocked over
or come in contact with
combustible items.
Blow out all candles before leaving
the room or going to bed.
Parties are as much a part of student
life as attending classes. While most
student parties are harmless fun, the
consumption of alcohol combined
with cooking or smoking can create a
serious fire risk. To minimize the risk
of fires during or after parties:
Avoid over-crowding. The more
people attending the party,
the easier it is to lose control
of the situation.
Encourage guests to smoke
outside. Consider putting up
no smoking signs that direct
guests to an outside smoking
Refrain from burning candles
during parties. They can
easily be knocked over or
ignite nearby combustibles,
Smoke alarms
Fires caused by smoking can be deadly.
Even if they don’t smoke themselves,
chances are the student will have friends
that do. To prevent smoking fires:
Encourage smokers to go outside.
Keep large, deep ashtrays on hand
that will reduce the risk of ashes
and cigarette butts falling onto
rugs or upholstery.
Allow ashes to cool completely
before disposing.
If a fire does occur, it is critical that
the dwelling have working smoke
alarms to alert occupants as soon as
The responsibility for smoke
alarm installation and
maintenance lies with the
homeowner or landlord,
however it is a good idea for
parents to provide their child
with a smoke alarm for his or
her bedroom.
It is against the law for tenants
to disable or tamper with a
smoke alarm.
If a smoke alarm activates due
to steam from the shower or
cooking on the stove, oven
or toaster, ask the landlord to
move the alarm to a different
location, or to install a smoke
alarm with a pause feature.
Fire Escape Planning
Electrical Equipment
Overloaded circuits and octopus wiring
are dangerous electrical hazards that can
be avoided. To prevent fires caused by
electrical equipment:
Use a ULC-listed power bar with a
circuit breaker and surge
protector to plug in computer and
stereo equipment.
Avoid the use of extension cords as
permanent wiring.
Make sure electrical cords are not
concealed under carpets or rugs
where they can be easily
When the smoke alarm sounds,
everyone must know what to do and
where to go. Encourage
students to develop a fire escape
plan, keeping the following in mind:
Know two ways out of every
room, if possible. The first
way out would be the door,
while the alternate escape
could be a window that can
be exited safely. Make sure
all designated escape routes
are accessible and free of
Leave the building as quickly as
possible. Once outside, don’t
re-enter the building for any
Call 9-1-1 from outside the
building using a cell phone or
neighbours’ phone.
For Additional Information contact the Guelph Fire
Department, Fire Prevention Division….519-763-8111
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