It's back to school time. Time for teachers to prepare their classrooms for the upcoming school year and welcome students back to classes. Where does the summer go? Soon artwork will cover the walls, student projects will be on display, and lockers will be overflowing with books and supplies.
Educational occupancies, defined in NFPA 1, Fire Code, as "an occupancy used for educational purposes through the twelfth grade by six or more persons for 4 or more hours per day or more than 12 hours per week" include preschools, elementary schools, high schools, and the like. These facilities are inspected frequently and kept under a close watch by code officials. The day to day activities of a school can be greatly impacted by a document such as the Fire Code.
One area that educational occupancies must play close attention to is furnishings, decorations, and interior finish. NFPA 1 provides the following requirements with respect to these materials:
- Draperies, curtains, and other similar loosely hanging furnishings and decorations have to meet specific performance criteria from NFPA 701, Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films.
- Clothing and other personal supplies cannot be stored in the corridors unless the corridor is sprinklered, has a smoke detection system, or where the supplies are stored in metal lockers that do not interfere with the egress width. Clothing hung on hooks along corridor walls or on racks in school lobbies greatly increases the combustible load and will generally allow flame to spread quickly.
- Artwork and teaching materials can be attached to the walls but cannot exceed 20% of the wall area in a non-sprinklered building and cannot exceed 50% of the wall area if the building is fully sprinklered. Because the combustibility of the artwork cannot be effectively controlled, the quantity, in terms of the percentage of wall area covered, is regulated to avoid creating a continuous combustible surface that will spread flame across the room. It may be advantageous not only to limit the quantity of artwork displayed but also to avoid placing such materials near a room’s exit access doors.
(Requirements noted above are extracted into NFPA 1 from NFPA 101, Life Safety Code)
Enjoy the last official weekend of summer, and stay safe. I look forward to discussing more seasonal Fire Code issues in the coming weeks.
And, check out these past Fire Code Friday posts for guidance on how to stay safe and help others stay safe this Labor Day weekend!