Does Your Condo Have Fire Watch?

Does Your Condo Have Fire Watch?

Fire watch is an essential component of any building’s risk management strategy. When a facility’s fire detection and suppression system suffers outages or malfunctions, fire marshals can order an evacuation. Facility owners and managers often face complex liability issues when fire safety systems are inoperative for more than 24 hours.


Even something seemingly unrelated – like an electrical panel replacement – could render a fire system inoperative. When an existing fire safety system goes down for any reason, fire watch guards are the recommended solution, and are often the most cost-effective option as well. It is important to keep in mind that specialized training and familiarity with fire codes are required for individuals conducting fire watch. Organizations cannot simply reassign staff to this role – dedicated, trained fire watch guards are required by law.


Despite their legal requirement, many folks – even those living in condominiums and apartment complexes – are unaware of fire watch guards and their essential role in risk management. It’s worth looking at a recent, real-world example to understand how critical fire watch is


“The unit was being renovated…”


Earlier this month, an apartment fire broke out in Oakland, California. A three-member construction crew was renovating one of the apartments in a four-unit complex at the time of the fire. All three workers were rushed to the hospital, and one remains in critical condition at the time of this article’s writing.


Fire department officials responded quickly, containing the fire to one unit in the complex and extinguishing the flames before damage became extensive. The cause of the fire is not yet known, though chemical cleaning agents in the unit have been linked to the spread of the flames.


Rather than being alerted by the building’s fire detection system, fire department personnel have credited their quick response to a security guard on site. Having observed smoke coming from the affected unit, the security guard notified emergency responders and even risked personnel injury to assist the construction crew in escaping the flames.


Your Building Needs a Fire Watch Partner 


The response time in this instance was remarkable. The guard on site made all the difference for those affected: contacting authorities and responding before the fire was able to spread. This is the essential – and legally required – service that fire watch guards provide.


This example demonstrates how fire presents a constant risk for those living in condos or apartments. It is unclear what the status of the building’s detection system was at the time of the fire, but something as innocuous as a home renovation in an empty unit was enough to threaten the entire building once the fire broke out.


Fire watch guards are required when a fire safety system is inoperative, and when “hot work” is being conducted on-site. Hot work could include welding, torching, or any use of an open flame. Details from the Oakland fire are still emerging, but given the fact that a renovation was taking place, hot work may have been a contributing factor.


This is why it is absolutely essential for residential complexes to partner with a reliable, local, fire watch guard service. If construction work is being done on-site, or if fire detection systems are rendered inoperable for any reason, residents’ lives and property could be jeopardized very quickly.


fire watch guard inspecting a condo's fire extinguisher


Contact The Guard Alliance for Fire Watch Guards


We highly recommend that HOAs and property management companies partner with a reliable fire watch guard service before guards are required on site. If guards are needed in a hurry, decision-makers may struggle to find a local service that can provide coverage. Residents should review their HOA governing documents to ensure there is a preexisting relationship with a fire watch service, and be prepared to contact that service if:


  • Electrical work is being done that would render fire safety systems inactive
  • Your building’s fire detection and suppression systems suffer an outage
  • Construction is taking place in your unit or an adjacent one
  • “Hot Work” is being done anywhere on the premises


The Guard Alliance Inc is a fire watch and security guard company that provides coverage in communities across the United States. We are proud to be one of the fastest-growing and most reliable fire watch services in the country, providing much-needed oversight for “hot work” and for facilities that lack proper fire safety systems. Contact us online to explore fire watch options today.


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