NFPA 1: Standardized Fire Service Elevator Keys, #FireCodefridays

Blog Post created by kristinbigda Employee on Mar 31, 2017

Its the last day of March, and some of New England is forecast to get up to 8" of snow this weekend (luckily not where I live!) so maybe its best if I first reference this post about clearance around fire hydrants.  Who knew we would be thinking about shoveling on March 31?


But, let's not think about snow!  Today, I wanted to feature a topic from NFPA 1, Fire Code, that falls under the portion of the Code's scope of access requirements for fire department operations. Elevators are an essential means for the fire service to access areas of a building during a fire.  They can be especially important during fires in high-rise buildings.  Per the Code, all new elevators are required to conform to the Fire Fighters Emergency Operations requirements of ASME A17.1/CSA B44, Safety Code for Elevators and Escalator which includes a provision that elevators must be equipped to operate with a standardized fire service access key.  These keys provide access to the elevators so that the fire service is able to take control of the recalled elevators during an emergency and manually control them to move to the necessary floors for tactical needs.


Photos from the NFPA 101, Life Safety Code Handbook show both an elevator lobby emergency operations key switch and an elevator car emergency operations key switch


In addition to the requirement for number of elevator cars, protection of elevator machine rooms, and elevator testing which are extracted from NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, NFPA 1 provides its own provisions for standardized fire service elevator keys.  The requirements of 11.3.6 mandate the standardization of fire service elevator keys to reduce the number of keys necessary for accessing elevators in an emergency. All new elevators must be equipped to use standard keys as approved by the AHJ, and all existing elevators with fire fighters’ emergency operations must be retrofitted to use standard keys within 1 year of the adoption of the Code by the jurisdiction.


Where the physical limitations of existing elevators do not permit such retrofit, the Code permits the installation of access boxes opened by standard fire department keys for the housing of nonstandard elevator keys. The access box must be compatible with an existing rapid-entry access box system in use in the jurisdiction and approved by the AHJ.  The front cover of the access box is required to be permanently labeled with the words "Fire Department Use Only - Elevator Keys" and must be mounted at each elevator bank at the lobby nearest to the lowest level of fire department access at a location also approved by the AHJ.  In buildings with two or more elevator banks, a single access box may be permitted if the banks are separated by not more than 30 ft (9140 mm).  If they are separated by a distance greater than that, additional access boxes are needed.


Where an access box is required and provided it is important that it be used only for its purpose to store elevator keys.  Contents of the access box are limited to the keys only.  Other items relevant to emergency planning or elevator access should only be stored in the access box where authorized by the AHJ. This prevents the access box from being used for any other purpose other than storing the keys.  Extra materials can hinder the fire department's ability to quickly and efficiently access to the keys and may increase the risk that the keys go missing from the access box.


Thanks for reading and Happy Friday!  Stay safe!


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