Gregory Harrington

#101Wednesdays: Allegedly neglected fire protection systems contribute to another Oakland tragedy

Blog Post created by Gregory Harrington Employee on Mar 29, 2017

I’m back this week with another installment of #101Wednesdays after spending last week in Las Vegas teaching NFPA’s Life Safety Code Essentials seminar. The news of another multiple-fatality fire in Oakland, CA that greeted me at work Monday reinforced why teaching the Code is so personally rewarding: the more people who understand and can properly apply and enforce its requirements, the less likely we are to see incidents like the one that occurred Monday morning. (See my post from January about the Oakland 'Ghost Ship' fire that killed 36 people.)

 

On Day 1 of the seminar, I talk about the importance of inspecting, testing, and maintaining building fire protection and life safety systems. According to news reports, four individuals died in a fire in a “transitional housing” building that housed about 80 recovering drug addicts and former homeless people. Days before the fire, city officials cited the owner for numerous deficiencies including the lack of portable fire extinguishers, missing smoke alarms, and non-functioning fire alarm and automatic sprinkler systems. The deficiencies were ordered to be corrected immediately. They apparently were not, however, soon enough, and four residents paid with their lives.

 

Maintenance of life safety systems is clearly addressed by subsection 4.6.12 in the 2015 edition of NFPA 101:

 

4.6.12 Maintenance, Inspection, and Testing.

4.6.12.1 Whenever or wherever any device, equipment, system,

condition, arrangement, level of protection, fire-resistive

construction, or any other feature is required for compliance

with the provisions of this Code, such device, equipment, system,

condition, arrangement, level of protection, fire-resistive

construction, or other feature shall thereafter be continuously

maintained. Maintenance shall be provided in accordance

with applicable NFPA requirements or requirements developed

as part of a performance-based design, or as directed by

the authority having jurisdiction.

4.6.12.2 No existing life safety feature shall be removed or reduced

where such feature is a requirement for new construction.

4.6.12.3* Existing life safety features obvious to the public, if not

required by the Code, shall be either maintained or removed.

4.6.12.4 Any device, equipment, system, condition, arrangement,

level of protection, fire-resistive construction, or any

other feature requiring periodic testing, inspection, or operation

to ensure its maintenance shall be tested, inspected, or

operated as specified elsewhere in this Code or as directed by

the authority having jurisdiction.

4.6.12.5 Maintenance, inspection, and testing shall be performed

under the supervision of a responsible person who shall

ensure that testing, inspection, and maintenance are made at

specified intervals in accordance with applicable NFPA standards

or as directed by the authority having jurisdiction.

 

In the case of automatic sprinklers and fire alarm systems, the applicable NFPA requirements are NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, and NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. By following the inspection, testing, and maintenance requirements contained in these standards, impairments and other conditions that would adversely affect the system’s performance can be promptly corrected, ensuring they will provide the needed level of protection. This, of course, costs money. Delinquent building owners who choose to ignore these mandatory, minimum safety requirements need to be dealt with through the courts. Failure to do so will result in future tragedies like the one in Oakland this week.

 

Thanks for reading. Until next time, stay safe.

 

Got an idea for a topic for a future #101Wednesdays? Post it in the comments below – I’d love to hear your suggestions!

 

Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to www.nfpa.org/101 and click on “Free access to the 2015 edition of NFPA 101.”

 

Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH

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