City council approves motion providing all emergency services with condo building access

Nov 6 2019, 10:38 pm

UPDATE at 8:40 pm: City council on Wednesday evening passed the motion requesting city staff to develop a plan that provides all emergency services with emergency access to multi-family buildings.


Currently within Vancouver, only fire and rescue have the ability to access multi-family residential buildings, during an event of an emergency at the property, by retrieving a door key through a lockbox.

But a city councillor is hoping to expand this emergency access capability, without causing extra damage, to the Vancouver Police Department and paramedics.

In her motion, city councillor Melissa De Genova is proposing to provide police officers and paramedics with the same level of access as firefighters.

“There have been emergency situations in the City of Vancouver where paramedics and police have required access to buildings,” reads her motion.

“British Columbia Ambulance Service (BCAS) and the Vancouver Police Department both respond to a variety of situations, examples include: emergency mental health issues, suicide attempts, domestic violence, serious medical emergencies requiring medical attention and transport to hospital. Response time and the ability of emergency services to access multi-residential buildings can greatly affect and be a determining factor in the outcome of emergency calls.”

high rise fire

Fire in a residential tower on Beach Avenue in downtown Vancouver’s West End. (Vancouver Fire Chief Darrell Reid / Twitter)

De Genova cites the City of Richmond’s voluntary building access program as an example of a possible solution, with RCMP able to access multi-family residential buildings by using a Bluetooth-enabled lockbox that uses a smartphone to open the box where keys or key fobs can be stored.

If city council approves the motion, city staff would be instructed to explore options to increase and/or require new multi-family residential buildings to grant access to all emergency services in emergency circumstances. A report to city council with possible recommendations would be required no later than the end of 2021.

With multi-family buildings, especially tall towers, increasingly being added to the urbanscape, there have been growing calls in recent years for improved access for emergency services and abandoning the practice of skipping superstitious floor numbers, such as 13 and any number with “4.”

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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