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145 Posts authored by: kristinbigda Employee


An outdated and stained floor covering requires update and replacement, a new office tenant requests a reconfigured office space, a new commercial stove and oven is needed for a cafeteria, or a hotel guest room is converted into extra storage space.  Buildings are always undergoing work to maintain their systems and features in good working conditions, and to reconfigure and upgrade their space.   


So, when work is being done to a building, how does the Life Safety Code apply?  

Prior to 2006, editions of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, required all modernizations, renovations, additions, and changes of occupancy, to the extent practicable, to comply with the requirements for new construction. Often, however, building rehabilitation is not undertaken because of the perception that unwanted or unwarranted upgrades will be forced on the building owner. Chapter 43, added in 2006, was written to encourage the adaptive reuse of compliant, existing structures. The former philosophy of “that which you do must meet new” is relaxed. Now, with the detailed provisions contained in Chapter 43, only those requirements necessary to achieve the intended level of life safety are mandated in lieu of requiring strict compliance with the requirements applicable to new buildings.  


Chapter 43 presents provisions based on a set of concepts including the following:

  1. During a rehabilitation project, a building must meet the base level of life safety required by the Code chapter applicable to the existing occupancy.
  2. The rehabilitation work must maintain or increase the level of Code compliance.
  3. Rehabilitation work in existing construction elements or building features is held to a lower standard than rehabilitation work in new elements or features.
  4. Upgrades are typically required only in the rehabilitation work areas, not throughout the entire occupancy or building.


What if my building requires corrective actions as a result of a Code deficiency?  

Let’s say you are planning to renovate an entire tenant space to in your existing office building. However, it is determined that your existing office building exceeds the maximum allowable travel distance.  The provisions of Chapter 43 are to be used once the existing building is brought into compliance with the appropriate occupancy chapter requirements applicable to that existing occupancy.  Work done to correct a deficiency is not subject to the provisions of Chapter 43.  Once your existing office building is compliant the additional planned work to the tenant space will use Chapter 43 to determine the provisions that apply to that work. Your existing office building undergoing the renovation is held, as a starting point, to the same requirements that apply to any other existing business occupancy building.  


Some of the occupancy chapters have requirements that supplement those of Chapter 43 and impose the requirements for new construction on existing buildings that are being rehabilitated, including those situations in which the use is changed to increase the occupant load. For example, mercantile occupancies are further subclassified as a Class A, Class B, or Class C mercantile occupancy, based on the floor area used for sales purposes.


After determining that Chapter 43 applies to the work in my building, what determines compliance with new or existing requirements?  

Establishing a level of Code compliance uses a stepped approach to mandate requirements. Minor levels of rehabilitation must meet minimal requirements; major rehabilitation projects must meet more significant requirements.


Chapter 43 defines seven categories of rehabilitation work: repair, renovation, modification, reconstruction, change of use, change of occupancy and addition. Understanding and properly defining these seven categories are a key concept of this chapter for achieving the objective of proportionality of work. That is, the more work that is proposed for the rehabilitation project, the more work that might be required by the Code in terms of upgrading existing conditions.  Incorrectly defining the category/categories of work on a rehabilitation project can result in over- or under-applying critical fire and life safety requirements from the Code to your building.


Identifying the category of work being performed will then determine the extent to which the Code is applied to that work.  Any building undergoing rehabilitation will comply with the requirements of the applicable existing occupancy chapter plus any additional requirements for the applicable new occupancy as called out specifically in Chapter 43.   


For example, a simple repair, such as replacing a few ceiling tiles in an office that were damaged due to a water leak, would be required to use like materials and result in an installation no less conforming than it was prior to the repair (existing).  Reconstruction work, such as gutting an entire floor in an existing hotel building to create hotel guest suites from individual guest rooms individual guest rooms, requires a more extensive and detailed application of Code requirements for the work being performed. Among other requirements, newly constructed elements, components, and systems are required to comply with the requirements of other Code sections applicable to new construction.


What are some other considerations when applying Chapter 43 to a rehabilitation project? 

  • Chapter 43, with the exception of the provisions for reconstruction, does not mandate improvements or set minimum acceptable standards for spaces that are not undergoing rehabilitation.  Incidental work in other areas of the building may be required depending on the extent of the work (for example, extending a fire alarm system may require upgrades to the fire alarm panel that are outside the original rehabilitation work area but are necessary as part of the project.)
  • A single work project may have more than one rehabilitation work category (for example, a reconstruction may also result in a change of occupancy) 
  • The provisions of Chapter 43 should not prevent the use of equivalent designs, systems or approaches if deemed acceptable by the AHJ. 
  • Work mandated by any accessibility, property, housing, or fire code; mandated by the existing building requirements of this Code; or mandated by any licensing rule or ordinance, are not required to conform to Chapter 43.
  • Construction, alteration and demolition operations that may accompany rehabilitation projects must comply with the provisions for NFPA 241.  Both new and existing occupancy chapters now contain pointers back to NFPA 241 for this work. 


Interested in learning more about the specifics of rehabilitation work categories and compliance options for applying the building rehabilitation requirements in NFPA 101 to real world examples?  This December we will be offering a 2-hour virtual, live training on this topic!  Be on the lookout in the NFPA catalog at soon for more details and registration information. 


And finally, if you found this article helpful, subscribe to the NFPA Network Newsletter for monthly, personalized content related to the world of fire, electrical, and building & life safety.


Thanks for reading, stay safe!


At NFPA, our technical experts receive many questions asking hazardous materials-related questions from fire inspectors, AHJs, and other stakeholders who are trying to better understand how to apply provisions related to storage, use and protection of hazardous materials.  Most commonly we get asked about how to determine the maximum allowable quantity (MAQ) of a hazardous material and how to properly protect a space containing them. Understanding how to properly protect areas with the storage, use or handling of hazardous materials benefits both life safety and property protection.


Inspectors, for one, are responsible for enforcing the safe storage and use of hazardous materials, which include aerosols, compressed gases, corrosives, explosives, flammable and combustible liquids and solids, toxic materials, oxidizers, and others.  But, whether an inspector, a designer, or a facility manager, the amount of content in NFPA 1, Fire Code

that you need to understand in order to safely apply it can be overwhelming.  There are several key terms that must be understood first before beginning to apply protection measures for hazardous materials:

1. Maximum Allowable Quantity (MAQ). The quantity of hazardous material permitted in a control area. While the term is referred to as "maximum", it really means that the material allowed is the maximum quantity per control area before requiring additional protection.  So, it’s not really a "maximum", rather a threshold before additional protection requirements kick in. 
2. Control Area. A building or portion of a building or outdoor area within which hazardous materials are allowed to be stored, dispensed, used, or handled in quantities not exceeding the maximum allowable quantities (MAQ). 
3. Protection Level. While not an officially defined term in the Code, this is where the quantity of hazardous materials in storage or use exceeds the MAQ for indoor control area the occupancy is required comply with additional protection requirements (referred to as Protection Level 1, 2, 3 or 4.)


Here are the first steps for a fire inspector, facility personnel or designer planning for the presence of these materials in their building.    
1.    Classify the hazardous material.  
2.    Determine the quantity of hazardous material to be used or stored.  
3.    If the quantity exceeds the occupancy specific MAQ for a single control area, one can either apply the provisions for the various protection levels or apply provisions for multiple control areas. (Note: If the protection requirements cannot be met, the amount of hazardous materials must be reduced to below the MAQ.)
4.    If the quantity does not exceed the MAQ for a single control area, no special construction features are required.  
To apply steps 3 and 4, one needs to know what is the permitted MAQ for the particular occupancy under consideration.  Table in NFPA 1 presents what can be termed the “general” MAQs. These are maximum quantities of hazardous materials that are considered to be appropriate for industrial, mercantile, or storage occupancies without the need for additional special protective measures. The information in this table is used to determine the MAQ for any given hazardous material listed, unless the MAQ for the specific occupancy (presented in a series of additional occupancy specific tables), is different. In that case, the MAQ in the occupancy-specific table applies.  


The values in the occupancy-specific MAQ tables noted above are, in many cases, less than the corresponding base MAQs or are designated as “NP” (not permitted).  This is deliberate and is based on a determination that the hazards posed by levels even at the base MAQs for certain materials in these occupancies is too great and requires additional protective measures if present.  For example, the protection measures for hazardous materials in a healthcare occupancy are likely more restrictive than other occupancies based on the characteristics of occupants in those facilities.  


The following steps should be followed when using this table to determine the MAQ:
1.    The category of the hazardous material should be determined, based on the classification of the material and the definitions within the Code. Without this basic information, the limits and protection features cannot be identified. All physical and health hazards associated with the hazardous material must be identified and classified so that each risk can be determined and the protection features or limits can be specified.
2.    The use of the hazardous material in a building must be understood so that appropriate limits can be established. These uses are generally categorized as storage, use-closed, and use-open. The storage category is designed for a hazardous material that is intended to enter a building in a container, cylinder, or tank and is not removed from the original container, cylinder, or tank in the storage room or control area. If the hazardous material is shipped to the site, stored, then shipped off-site, only the storage column of the table is used.
3.    If the material is used in a process, the process system must be reviewed to determine whether it is classified as use-closed or use-open. Where the process is determined to be closed-use Table requires that, under normal conditions, the hazardous material not be open to the atmosphere and be kept within a container, a pipe, or equipment that does not allow vapors to escape into the air.  These systems include closed piping systems, for example, where a large container of material is transferred through closed piping to smaller containers and sealed for shipping. If a process involves pouring or dispensing into an open vessel, open mixing, transferring, or processing of a hazardous material that is exposed to the atmosphere, the process is classified as open use.  Closed use and storage have very similar risks and are treated the same with respect to MAQ. Open use is considered the most hazardous and, therefore, is most restricted with respect to an MAQ.
4.    Apply the appropriate footnotes from the table.  Information in the footnotes may modify the values in the Table so this step cannot be overlooked. For example, the first footnote in the table contains an important limit and a major component in the proper use of the table.  The combination of quantity under use and storage cannot exceed the total amount allowed for storage alone.  This limit restricts the amount of hazardous materials on-site from increasing by simply stating that it is “in use”.  Another modification applies to quantities of hazardous materials that are permitted to be increased by 100% where the building is completed protected with an automatic sprinkler system.  The values taken directly from the table may be altered significantly once the footnotes are applied correctly.  


As a reminder, where the quantity of hazardous materials in storage or use exceeds the MAQ for indoor control areas, the occupancy must comply with the requirements for either Protection Level 1, Protection Level 2, Protection Level 3, or Protection Level 4.  (for additional details on Protection Levels see NFPA 1 Section 60.4.3)  


The unsafe and improper storage and use of hazardous materials can have disastrous impacts on life safety and property protection.  Whether designing buildings where hazardous materials will be present, managing facilities storing and using hazardous materials or inspecting properties for their compliance with hazardous materials requirements,  understanding the fundamental principles and approach to protecting these spaces will improve the safety of occupants and property in any occupancy where hazardous materials are present.  


If you found this article helpful, subscribe to the NFPA Network Newsletter for monthly, personalized content related to the world of fire, electrical, and building & life safety  

As schools plan to re-open their doors in the days and weeks ahead, school and local officials are working diligently to implement measures that help minimize exposure to and spread of COVID-19. While much emphasis has understandably been placed on these issues and concerns, it’s critical that adequate levels of fire and life safety continue to be maintained in the process.


NFPA’s new fact sheet, Building and Life Safety Issues for Safely Reopening Schools, provides fire and life safety considerations for schools as they prepare to re-open, including building modifications like door operability, classroom usage, seating arrangements, and partitions, as well egress management and storage of hand sanitizer and cleaning products. It’s important to note that many of these issues require review and input from the local AHJ, as all changes and modifications must be implemented in accordance with local codes and standards. This applies to fire drills, which are  briefly covered in this new resource; the blog I posted last week addresses school fire drill requirements in more detail, as outlined in NFPA 101, Life Safety Code.


Simply put, the risk of fires and other emergencies has not disappeared in the midst of the pandemic. It’s imperative that measures remain in place to adequately protect students, faculty and staff from these potential threats, even at a time when they’re not necessarily at the forefront of many people’s minds.


For the most up-to-date information from NFPA regarding fire and life safety in the midst of COVID-19, visit


It's back to school time. But, what back to school will look like in 2020 will be unlike anything in the past.  Currently, communities are facing unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic causing educators, administrators, public health officials and first responders to grapple over the safest decision for how the school year will operate.  Some schools may opt for a fully remote learning experience while other may welcome students back to school buildings in person, or possibly a combination of the two.  However, regardless of the details of the school day, when students are in the buildings, maintaining a healthy and safe environment cannot be overlooked.  This includes continuing to conduct fire drills, among other safety measures.  


Educational occupancies, defined in NFPA 1, Fire Code, and NFPA 101, Life Safety 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.  Colleges and Universities fall under a different occupancy classification and are also facing their own unique challenges due to COVID-19.  Here we will focus on the emergency egress drill requirements for those facilities classified as educational occupancies.  


Why are drills important?

Emergency egress and relocation drills are required as mandated specifically by the occupancy or as deemed necessary by the local AHJ (see Chapter 20 of NFPA 1 or Chapter 14 or 15 of NFPA 101).  The purpose of these drills is to educate the participants in the fire safety features of the building, the egress facilities available, and the procedures to be followed. Speed in emptying buildings or relocating occupants, while desirable, is not the only objective, nor is it regulated by the Codes. Students that are returning to school in-person this school year will likely see reconfigured classroom spaces, one way travel throughout the building, and a change in how some traditionally non-classroom space is being used, all due to the overwhelming number of health and safety restrictions in place due to COVID-19.  These changes to the building configuration make drilling students especially critical so that in the event of an emergency, students and staff alike are familiar with any changes to the building or their expected course of action for the emergency.  Regardless of what changes have been made to the building configuration, free and unobstructed egress must be maintained at all times.


When are drills required?

Generally, egress drills are required by the Code to be conducted at least once every month the educational facility is in session, and sometimes twice within the first 30 days, unless located in a climate with severe weather (cold, heat, etc).  All occupants of the building are required to participate in the drill and all emergency drill alarms are to be sounded on the fire alarm system so as to not confuse students and staff as to the required action.


Emergency egress training programs may be substituted on a one-for-one basis for as many as four of the required monthly emergency egress drills. The mixture of training programs and emergency egress drills might elicit student egress behavior that is superior to that instilled by drills alone. However, at least four egress drills need to be conducted prior to the first training program to ensure that the students have walked the egress route and demonstrated other behavior addressed by the emergency plan. The concept behind the requirement that emergency drills be conducted at the start of the school year is that training without the hands-on instruction accomplished by drilling does not guarantee that students will be familiar with the egress routes and able to interact with others during an emergency evacuation or relocation.


Do the codes address drills for non-fire events?

In addition to drilling students and staff on response to a fire emergency, non-fire events such as a targeted-violence event or a natural disaster also require drills.  The need to train and drill on multiple scenarios can put a strain on resources, time and patience.  Because of this, a new requirement for the 2021 editions of NFPA 1 and NFPA 101 will permit, if approved by the authority having jurisdiction, up to two of the required emergency egress drills to consist of alternative emergency drills for one or both of the following: 1. Targeted violence events 2. Natural hazard events.  Additionally, NFPA 1 also addresses frequency, conduct, environment, and documentation for drills.


Fire inspectors play an important role in regulating and managing drills in facilities throughout their jurisdiction, especially in schools.  Drills should always be designed and conducted in cooperation with the local authorities as the procedure and details of drills will vary jurisdiction by jurisdiction.  Factors such as occupant demographics and location may all impact the details of the drill.  Any concerns of those additional restrictions implemented due to COVID-19 safety mandates should be worked through with the local authorities.  Above all, fire drills must continue to be conducted, even as modifications around social distancing are established.


If you found this article helpful, subscribe to the NFPA Network Newsletter for monthly, personalized content related to the world of fire, electrical, and building & life safety




My family and I are here at home finishing up week 2 of our new routine of working at home together and parenting at home together.  We are navigating the challenges of balancing work calls and online meetings with children’s activities and education.  It is a new adventure for all of us. 


Just like the new routine many families are now facing day to day, the rapid onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and across the world has forced many fire safety professionals into a new routine, balancing a unique crisis many if not all of us have never faced.  Fire inspectors are facing a new way of enforcing code requirements and prioritizing what to enforce and what can be modified.  The purpose of the Fire Code is to prescribe minimum requirements necessary to establish a reasonable level of fire and life safety and property protection from the hazards created by fire, explosion, and dangerous conditions.  That being said, balancing a global pandemic is not a condition model codes were written to address.  As an industry of fire safety professionals, with our day to day lives focusing on saving lives and protecting buildings from fire, we are now faced with a situation where fire safety requirements may in fact be overwritten by those provisions necessary to save lives from the infection of a virus. 


So, how is the coronavirus pandemic impacting fire safety and enforcing the Fire Code?  As society responds, reacts, and adapts, many unique inspection challenges have arisen, with impacts on healthcare facilities and beyond:


Storage and use of alcohol-based hand-rub (ABHR) sanitizers and other storage issue: The use of ABHR products is regulated by fire and life safety codes.  A unique fire safety requirement, the Code recognizes the need for almost all occupancies to provide ABHR dispensers to prevent the spread of infectious diseases without compromising life safety.  To balance this need, requirements for the safe use of ABHR address location of the dispensers and places limits on how much of the solution can be in use and in storage so that the overall hazard of this potentially flammable solution remains low.  The hazard arises when the aggregate quantity of the solution exceeds the maximum quantities permitted by the Code.  There is much greater chance that during this time and especially once businesses start to reopen and welcome back employees and the public into their buildings that they could likely be using or storing excess quantities of alcohol-based hand sanitizers in areas without proper protection. 


Other storage issues may arise when facilities, likely hospitals, use areas in the building to store extra supplies (masks,

linens, PPE) that were not designed or protected for a storage use.  The Code requires areas of buildings with a level of hazard greater than what would normally be found in that occupancy to be protected either with fire rated separation or sprinklers, or sometimes even combination of both.  Where the building wasn’t designed for storage in certain areas, changing its use to storage could result in an unprotected space. 



Access to buildings to conduct routine inspection, testing and maintenance procedures. Due to the plethora of federal, state and local restrictions on business operations, many facilities have either closed down or limited their businesses to very few essential personnel.  Security has been put in place to limit building occupants.  Where routine inspection, testing and maintenance is required by the Code to be performed on building’s fire protection systems, along with deferring the critical services, inspectors and contractors are also facing challenges with accessing buildings to do their jobs if they are hired to do so. NFPA urges officials to ensure that fire protection and life safety systems be maintained in all commercial and residential buildings with multiple occupancies throughout this global pandemic in order to avoid exacerbating the current environment by compromising fire and life safety, and leaving buildings vulnerable to vandalism. Following are some recommendations to help do this:


Maintain safe egress facilities. As facilities seek to control who enters their buildings and how many people entire their building so that the crowds remain safe, the risk increases for blocked, locked, or obstructed egress from the building.  We were made aware of a situation in which a grocery store manager was locking exterior exit doors (other than the main entrance/exit) from their facility in order to reduce theft, as shoppers were attempting to overstock on grocery items and other supplies.  There are provisions in place in the Code to balance security and life safety issues in mercantile occupancies that were developed for this situation.  Facilities should not compromise the fundamental need to provide multiple egress routes that are under the occupants control when businesses are open. 


Enforce residential fire safety requirements.  Quarantining, social distancing, remote work, students at home from school and college… many people have found themselves spending more, if not all of their time in their residences.  The more time at home, the greater the risk of fires in the home.  The Code addresses many basic fire prevention issues that impact us in our homes such as the use of candles, space heaters, location of grills, electric safety (that new home office setup might have overcrowded electrical outlets or daisy chained power strips), and the installation and maintenance of required smoke alarms.  The person responsible for the property is responsible for complying with this Code. The AHJ should work with property owners, operators, and occupants in residential facilities such as apartment complexes and condos, to educate them on the requirements of this Code.  Understanding that fire department resources are extremely tight at this time, if management takes a proactive approach to fire safety, others in the organization will likely do the same, thus increasing the fire safety of the property.


NFPA is continuing to address these and other issues as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, so make sure to regularly check our website and online platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, for new information, resources and updates.


Thanks for reading!


Don't miss another #FireCodeFridays blog! Get notifications straight to your email inbox by subscribing here! And you can always follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA




On March 16, Boston became the first city in the nation to issue a stop (for two weeks) to its booming construction industry. Shortly after, similar measures were put into place in Pennsylvania, where on March 19, all construction operations were also ordered to stop.  In other cities such as New York and Chicago, construction activity has been modified but not stopped altogether, as certain construction practices are deemed ‘essential’ and are permitted.  Meanwhile, a “stay at home” order issued by California government does not apply to current construction projects there but some California cities have issued stricter provisions than those mandated by the state, such as San Francisco, where only construction on housing can continue as can construction on critical infrastructure.


Regardless of the varied levels of regulation in different states, the construction industry is feeling the impact of COVID-19, making guidance on safe practices for construction, alternation and demolition operations as relevant now as its ever been.  Whether it’s for new critical infrastructure such as healthcare facilities or permitted ongoing construction projects, proper safety measures cannot be shutdown or overlooked.  Major construction site fires have made headline news several times just in the last few months, causing millions in property damage and stopping projects in their tracks, and hundreds more have occurred beyond that.  As the industry continues to manage these fire events, invest in safety and bring awareness to these issues, simply looking past safe practices now will slow progress and put lives and projects at risk.


Model building and fire codes mandate structures undergoing construction, alteration, or demolition operations to comply with NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations. NFPA 241 provides measures for preventing or minimizing fire damage during construction, alteration, and demolition operations. (The fire department and other fire protection authorities also should be consulted for guidance.) It covers temporary construction, equipment, and storage, processes and hazards, utilities, fire protection, and safeguarding various operations, such as  construction and alterations, roofing, demolition, and underground operations.


Among other critical protection measures for construction site fire safety, NFPA 241 requires an overall construction or demolition fire safety program be developed.  A fire prevention program manager(FPPM), appointed by the owner, is required and will be responsible for the protection of the property from fire.  This person will be fully aware of and responsible for the information and procedures set forth in the fire safety program and has full authority to enforce them.  During this time, the FPPM should be aware of local shutdown requirements, if applicable, and how to safety manage the construction site while securing and removing equipment, materials, and personnel, as required by local jurisdiction, if construction is halted.


While NFPA 241 was not developed with the primary intent of being applied to the rapid shutdown of construction sites, such as what is happening in cities like Boston, it can offer safe guidance for maintaining safe construction sites during this unprecedented time.  Further guidance on the safe and recommended use of NFPA 241 during construction site shutdowns is being disseminated throughout the industry.  One local fire protection consulting firm has provided this guidance to its clients and stakeholders and could be useful to anyone concerned with construction site fire safety at this time.  


Have NFPA Technical Questions on NFPA 241?

We can help you with that! NFPA's Technical Questions Service provides NFPA members and public sector officials/AHJs with one-on-one help with their technical standards questions. Responses are provided by NFPA staff on an informal basis. The Technical Questions Service supports questions related to clarification of intent of codes and standards requirements, the technical basis of requirements, application of requirements, and general interpretations.


Please visit for more information.  


Finally, see this blog post for other ways NFPA is providing information, knowledge and tools.


At NFPA, we fully recognize that the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus is requiring professionals across multiple industries to function in ways that run counter to the norm, and that there needs to flexibility for these groups and organizations as they work to accommodate the demands of the current crisis. However, best practices should be applied when and where possible. When it comes to occupancies under construction, the requirements within NFPA 241 can be followed in the vast majority of instances without compromising efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

As incidents of the coronavirus have continued to climb in the U.S., you’d be hard-pressed to get through the past couple of weeks without hearing reports of its spread. All of this is understandably generating conversation and concern among all of us.


While no one knows what the true extent of the virus or its impact will be, it’s clear that everyone is thinking hard about ways to implement preventative measures for keeping safe.


At NFPA, we’ve recently heard that some facilities have begun propping fire doors open so that people don’t have to touch them to open them. While I can see the logic in terms of germ spread prevention, propping fire doors open presents significant hazards and risks in the event of a fire.


It is imperative that we not forfeit institutional elements of safety while working to address others. In this case, we need to balance the risk of the coronavirus against other real hazards that have the potential to harm multiple people in a very short window of time.


NFPA codes and standards such as NFPA 1, Fire Code, NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, and NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, govern the installation, inspection, testing and maintenance of fire doors.  Fire doors and other opening protectives such as shutters and windows must be operable at all times.  Operability of these systems includes opening, closing and latching.  Fire doors must be kept closed and latched or arranged to be automatic closing during the time of a fire.  In addition, blocking or wedging of doors in the open position is prohibited, as it violates the required operation and closing feature of the door. 


While it may seem more “convenient” or in this case, a safer option from the perspective of spreading germs, interfering with fire door operation can have grave consequences during a fire. In addition, allowing fire doors to be held open runs a risk of this becoming an accepted practice in the building for any number of situations. Building residents and staff should be taught code-compliant solutions and should not get into a habit of overriding fire safe practices.


Anything that could prevent the door from closing and latching properly during an emergency condition such as propping the door open with objects, taping the latch, using wood wedges or kick-down door stops, or overriding the closing device, is a violation of the standards. If they are to be effective, fire doors must be not only closed but also held closed. Building fires are capable of generating pressures sufficient to force fire doors open if they are not held closed with enough latching force, thereby rendering the doors incapable of protecting the opening in which they are installed and potentially allowing the fire to spread to an adjacent space and beyond the compartment of origin.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a wealth of information, guidelines, and resources for cleaning and disinfecting facilities in the community setting:


And, of course, as common sense dictates, wash your hands regularly, well and often!



So far, 2020 has seen several noteworthy high-rise building fires.  On Wednesday, January 29, a fire in a 25-story residential high-rise in Los Angeles left at least 11 people injured, one fatally. The fire was said to have begun on the 6th floor and spread to the 7th floor of the non-sprinklered building. Ironically, a fire that erupted on the 11th floor of the same building in 2013 displaced up to 150 residents and injured two people.  On January 14th, nearly two dozen people were hurt, two of them critically, following a fire on the 24th floor of a luxury high-rise building on the Upper East Side of New York City.  The fire started in an apartment's kitchen and spread through the entire floor. It was likely because the of an open door to the dwelling unit that the fire spread so rapidly throughout the floor. 


One required fire protection feature found in nearly all high-rise buildings is a standpipe system.  Standpipe systems are fixed piping systems with associated equipment that transports water from a reliable water supply to designated areas of buildings. These systems can significantly improve the efficiency of manual fire-fighting operations by eliminating the need for long and cumbersome hose lays from fire apparatus to a fire. Even in buildings that are protected by automatic sprinklers, standpipe systems can play an important role in building fire safety by serving as a backup for, and complement to, sprinklers.


Standpipes in high-rise buildings can serve to increase life safety, as well as property protection, because of the lengthy evacuation times associated with tall buildings. In many cases, emergency action plans advise occupants who are not in immediate danger of exposure to fire to remain within the building to allow responding fire service personnel better access to the standpipes within the exit stair enclosures (staged/partial evacuation). Use of standpipes at such times supplements the operation of the required automatic sprinkler system. 


The design and installation of standpipe systems shall be in accordance with not only Section 13.2 of NFPA 1 but also NFPA 14 which sets the minimum requirements for the installation of both standpipe and hose systems. All high-rise buildings are required to be protected throughout by a Class I standpipe system.  A Class I system provides 2½ in. (65 mm) hose connections at designated locations in a building for use by the fire department. A Class I system is typically required in buildings that have more than three stories above or below grade because of the time and difficulty involved in laying hose from fire apparatus directly to remote floors.  For these reasons, Class I standpipes are the required system in high-rise buildings. (Refer to NFPA 1 for other conditions where a standpipe may be required in other than a high-rise building.)


Also per NFPA 1, the AHJ is authorized to permit the removal of existing occupant use hose lines where all of the following conditions are met:

  1. This Code does not require their installation.
  2. The current building code does not require their installation.
  3. The AHJ determines that the occupant-use hose line will not be utilized by trained personnel or the fire department.


It is not the intent to permit the removal of portions of the existing standpipe system other than hose lines, and that such remaining system components be maintained and available for use by the fire department or other appropriate fire suppression personnel.  This is intended to explicitly allow the removal of nonrequired, occupant-use standpipe hose from buildings. Prior to the 2015 edition, some AHJs might have been wary of permitting the removal of occupant-use hose, lacking any Code language stating its removal was permitted. Provided that the hose is not required by NFPA 1 or the applicable building code, and no trained on-site fire suppression personnel would be expected to utilize it, the hose can be removed. It is preferable for untrained building occupants to evacuate rather than attempt to extinguish a fire using hose lines.


Like any other building fire protection system, standpipe systems must be properly maintained. NFPA 25 provides the specific details for inspection, testing and maintenance procedures, frequencies and documentation. The owner is responsible for maintaining the standpipe system and keeping it in good working condition.  The local AHJ is then responsible for confirming through the owner that they have done their job in maintaining the system in accordance with the appropriate procedures. 


Standpipe systems are critical for life safety, property protection and for efficient firefighter operations and their safety.  Fires in high-rise buildings will continue to occur, but ensuring these systems, when required, are present and functioning, can minimize the impact of these events.




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Special thanks to Val Ziavras, Fire Protection Engineer at NFPA and Staff Liaison to the Fire Code Technical Committee, for writing this week’s Fire Code Fridays blog. 


A recent viral video has been causing some serious problems in Massachusetts this week and is now gaining national attention. The so-called “outlet challenge” started as a TikTok video that “challenges” kids to partially plug a phone charger into an outlet and then slide a penny down the wall onto the exposed prongs. The result is flying sparks. Some of those sparks have actually caused fires. I’ve heard of at least three fires in Massachusetts, two of which were in schools caused by kids attempting the challenge. The Massachusetts State Fire Marshal issued an advisory on Tuesday to all fire department urging them to talk about the dangers related to this video in hopes of preventing more fires. As the advisory suggests, talking to kids and teens about the dangers of playing with electricity is critical.  An informed public, of all ages, is also a key component to the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem.  More from our public education team on this topic can be read about here!



While something like the “outlet challenge” isn’t specifically covered by a fire code, it’s a reminder to us all to never neglect the basics of electrical safety. As Staff Liaison to the Fire Code, one of the worst things is walking into a meeting or conference space and seeing the power strips plugged into each other (daisy chaining). It is usually done because the outlets are not convenient to where people are going to be sitting and more power is needed temporarily than what is permanently installed. However, daisy chaining is clearly prohibited by the Fire Code. For compliance, each power strip should be plugged into a permanently installed outlet.


Section 11.1 of NFPA 1 provides provisions for basic electrical safety. Topics addressed in this section include relocatable power taps, multiplug adapters, extension cords, and the building disconnect. The approval of new electrical installations or approval of modifications to an existing electrical system is a function typically performed by an electrical inspector or other building code enforcement official using the requirements of NFPA 70National Electrical Code.


Power strips are commonly used for computers, printers, and other electronics at workstations, offices, and dormitories, where additional electrical power receptacles are needed. During inspections, power taps that are plugged into other power taps (daisy-chained) should be removed, because such arrangement is prohibited. Relocatable power taps are for temporary use and should not take the place of permanently installed receptacles. In addition, power strips should not be connected to extension cords to extend their reach. Ideally, where extension cords are used for other than temporary purposes, additional permanent receptacles should be installed to accommodate the power strips.


While many would argue portable space heaters don’t necessarily fall under electrical safety, the hazards associated with them are also worth mentioning, especially during the winter months. Requirements for portable electric heaters can be found in Section 11.5.3. These devices are used in many locations, including a common used under desks in offices. Although placing a heater under a desk or table lessens the chance of the heater being easily overturned, the heater also can easily be forgotten. A heater that is left on for an extended time can overheat combustible materials that might also be stored under the desk or table. Managers of facilities that allow the use of electric space heaters should remind employees to shut them off at the end of the day and keep combustible material away from the heater.


In addition, because of the amount of electric current drawn by space heaters, electric heaters should be used only where they can be plugged directly into appropriate receptacles or extension cords of adequate current capacity. (See 11.1.5 for requirements addressing extension cords.) The AHJ is permitted to prohibit the use of space heaters where an undue danger to life or property exists. The AHJ can use past inspection findings, such as portable heaters that were left turned on and unattended, fire incidents, and other reasons to prohibit the use of such heaters.


Understanding basic electrical safety practices can be instrumental in preventing fires in residences, hotels, dormitories and offices, among other locations.  For additional information, check out NFPA's resources on electrical safety!



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Fire doesn’t take vacation over the holidays, it doesn’t care where we live, how we celebrate, or the new decade ahead.  In fact, it didn’t take long before fire made headlines news in 2020.  And just like the fire problem continuing to impact communities around the globe, we as fire safety professionals, fire inspectors, standards developers, educators, engineers, laborers, and members of the public, must continue to be impactful by investing in safety and reducing the worldwide burden of fire that seems all too prevalent today. 


The NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem is a framework that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. When they work together, the Ecosystem protects everyone. If any component is missing or broken, the Ecosystem can collapse, often resulting in tragedy.


Some level of fire code adoption and use will serve as a foundation for building and life safety and fire prevention in communities and touches each component (‘cog’) that is part of the ecosystem.  Those responsible for enforcing codes and performing inspections are likely familiar with NFPA 1, Fire Code


Let’s take a look at some fire events that have occurred just in the last couple of weeks, worldwide, that prove we in the fire safety community not only have a lot of work ahead of ourselves in 2020 and beyond, but also the importance of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem and having some type of fire prevention regulations (such as NFPA 1) in place throughout the world:


  • Australia is burning. It is in the midst of some of the most devastating and catastrophic wildfires in its history. They have killed at least 18 people, damaged over 1000 homes, stranded people in wildfire zones, killed hundreds of thousands of animals, and prompted mass evacuations of the largest scale. And they are not ending anytime soon. NFPA 1 touches briefly on the wildland fire problem in Chapter 17, requiring the planning, construction, maintenance, education, and management elements for the protection of life and property from wildfire to comply with NFPA 1144.  While no one component of the ecosystem may have failed, ensuring all 8 components are addressed will help communities better prepare, respond and recover from natural disasters such as wildfire.
  • On New Year’s Eve, a fire in Germany killed at least 30 animals, many endangered or protected species likely because of the illegal use of sky lanterns. Reports state that sky lanterns are prohibited in Germany.  They are also prohibited by NFPA. We must continue to educate the public on the dangers posed by fire, electrical and related hazards.
  • On December 27, firefighters from numerous communities helped fight a large fire at a historical residence in Concord, MA. The 3-million-dollar home was lost in the fire. Numerous issues with water supply as well as building construction contributed to the challenging firefighting efforts.  NFPA 1 addresses fire department access, water supply and hydrant design in Chapter 18.  Local government responsibility, investment in safety, code compliance, and emergency response are all components that impacted this event.
  • On December 21, 2019, six people and three animals were killed and over 13 injured in a fire at a three-story apartment complex in Las Vegas. The fire was reported to have started near a stove on a fire floor unit.  It was also reported that many of the units lacked heat, and residents were using the stoves as a heat source. There are reports of residents that a back exit door was bolted shut and lack of fire alarm.  City records also show that the building was subject to at least eight code enforcement complaints from 2016 to 2018.  NFPA 1 addresses safety requirements for residential occupancies, mandated by reference and extracted Code sections from NFPA 101, Life Safety Code. We must support effective code enforcement, investing in safety for all, and maintaining an effective regulatory body to support building and fire safety.
  • On the same day as the deadly Las Vegas fire, firefighters responded to a fire in Winnipeg, Canada, at a high-rise apartment complex under construction. Fires in buildings under construction continue to occur.  NFPA is investing in standards, such as NFPA 241, mandated by referenced in NFPA 1, that provide measures for preventing or minimizing fire damage to structures during construction, alteration, or demolition.


There are only some of the fire events that have impacted communities worldwide in the last couple of weeks.  We have a tough job ahead of us in 2020 and beyond.  As fire inspectors, you are on the front lines, working day in and day out ensuring buildings, events, communities, and other activities and processes comply with local regulations. We NEED you, we THANK you for what you do.


Let’s all commit to maintaining an effective regulatory environment, participate in the development and use of current codes, apply referenced standards, invest in safety, promote the development of skilled professionals, support code compliance, provide effective preparedness and response capabilities, and never let up on educating the public about the dangers posed by fire, electrical and related hazards.



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Does anyone else feel like 2019 is flying by, or is it just me?  Here we are the first day of November, fire inspectors have had a busy few months inspecting haunted houses, corn mazes, carnivals, and other seasonal events, the NFPA 1 Technical Committee has just about finished up their Second Draft work for the 2021 code development cycle, and we are ready to turn back the clocks (don’t forget that when you change your clocks, it's a good time to check your smoke alarm batteries to make sure they're working!)


This past week, the NFPA 1 Technical Committee met at NFPA headquarters and through teleconference to finish up their Second Draft work.  Most of the work this week focused on updating the extracted portions of the Code, with a few technical issues carrying over from the first, Second Draft meeting back in September.  One of those issues relates to two-way radio communication enhancement systems.  But before addressing some of the new issues facing the Committee on this topic, it’s important that inspectors and users of the Code are aware of how it got to where it is today in the 2018 edition.


The 2009 edition of NFPA 1 provided guidance on the design of two-way radio communication enhancement systems in Annex O. Annex O was deleted for the 2012 edition, because much of its criteria was incorporated into NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code at the time. For the 2012 edition of this Code, the mandatory reference to NFPA 72 was added to Section 11.10 for enforcement where the AHJ determines that a building requires such a system to facilitate fire department communications in the building. For the 2018 edition, the reference to NFPA 72 in Section 11.10.2 was replaced with a reference to NFPA 1221, Standard for the Installation, Maintenance and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems. The 2016 edition of NFPA 1221 added requirements regarding two-way communications enhancement systems from NFPA 72 into Section 9.6.


So, as it stands in the Code today, for all new and existing buildings, minimum radio signal strength for fire department communications must be maintained at a level determined by the AHJ.  Where required by the AHJ, two-way radio communication enhancement systems must comply with NFPA 1221, and where a two-way radio communication enhancement system is required and such system components, or equipment has a negative impact on the normal operations of the facility that its installed, the AHJ has the authority to accept an automatically activated responder system.


NFPA 1221 covers the installation, performance, operation, and maintenance of public emergency services communications systems and facilities.  It applies to communications systems that include, but are not limited to, dispatching systems, telephone systems, public reporting systems, and one-way and two-way radio systems that provide the following functions: (1) Communication between the public and emergency response agencies, (2) Communication within the emergency response agency under emergency and nonemergency conditions, and (3) Communication among emergency response agencies.


Section 9.6 of NFPA 1221 specifically addresses two-way radio communications enhancement systems.  It addresses system components, system degradation, approvals and permits, radio coverage, signal strength, radio frequencies, system monitoring, and documentation of technical criteria. 


This current code revision cycle, the Fire Code Technical Committee has discussion expanding the provisions to address minimum safety and performance requirements, that currently do not exist in other codes and standards, for two-way radio communication enhancement systems.  The First Draft Report shows expanded text that addresses how accepted installation practices have made their way through the industry via emerging technologies that did not exist years ago.  New language addresses listing and labeling, minimum signal strength into the building, equipment installation, and acceptance test procedures.  Further updates at the Second Draft meeting as discussed, but not formally voted on by the Committee, include updating the terminology and additional references to NFPA 1221.  These changes as discussed at the Second Draft meeting will be voted on by the Committee in the coming weeks and published in the Second Draft Report early next year.


 What challenges have you faced as an inspector when addressing these building systems?  How have you addressed the provisions in NFPA 1 that rely heavily on AHJ decision and approval with regard to two-way communication systems?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


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It's back to school time. Time for teachers open their classrooms for the new school year and welcome students back to classes. Soon artwork will cover the walls, student projects will be on display, and lockers will be overflowing with books and supplies. It is also a time for fire inspectors to walk the halls of schools, checking for fire code compliance, operable fire protection systems and maintained egress routes. 




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. Colleges and Universities fall under a different occupancy classification and, while might present some similar hazards, should not be protected as educational occupancies. Educational 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. 


Furnishings and Decorations:

One area that inspectors and 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.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.


Fire Drills

Emergency egress and relocation drills are required as mandated specifically by a particular occupancy in Chapter 20 or as deemed necessary by the local AHJ. Requirements for drills are extracted from NFPA 101 but are located in Chapter 10 in NFPA 1 under General Safety Requirements. Fire inspectors play an important role in regulating and managing drills in facilities throughout their jurisdiction, especially in schools. Drills should always be designed and conducted in cooperation with the local authorities as the procedure and details of drills will vary jurisdiction by jurisdiction. Factors such as occupant demographics and location may all impact the details of the drill.  


The purpose of emergency egress and relocation drills is to educate the participants in the fire safety features of the building, the egress facilities available, and the procedures to be followed.Speed in emptying buildings or relocating occupants, while desirable, is not the only objective. Prior to an evaluation of the performance of an emergency egress and relocation drill, an opportunity for instruction and practice should be provided. This educational opportunity should be presented in a nonthreatening manner, with consideration given to the prior knowledge, age, and ability of audience. Additionally, NFPA 1 also addresses frequency, conduct, environment, and documentation for drills.



Perhaps one of the biggest issues facing schools and communities today is maintaining the safety and security of students and staff from a hostile event or unwanted intruder. Chapter 14 of NFPA 1 extracts requirements from NFPA 101 about acceptable door locking arrangements. Inspectors should reference NFPA 101 specifically for new provisions on classroom door locking (see Chapters 14/15 of NFPA 101 and newly issued amendment to the Code that modifies the permitted door locking arrangements.)  NFPA offers several valuable resources for fire inspectors and AHJs faced with implementing security provisions in their communities. 


Don't miss another #FireCodeFridays blog! Get notifications straight to your email inbox by subscribing here! And you can always follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA


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Special thanks to Zack Fischer, one the interns spending a summer at the NFPA working in our Technical Services and Engineering divisions, for his contributions to this blog. Zack is studying for his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and is scheduled to graduate in May 2020.

Without access to the situation, fire departments couldn’t do their job very well. They need access to every inch of the facility needing care. The overall idea of “fire department access” is whether or not a fire apparatus is able to access a building or facility close enough to effectively use fire hose lines, fire hydrants, and any other connections.

Fire department access requirements may vary all across the United States. To be sure what your state or counties fire access rules are, check your local fire prevention division and/or NFPA’s Code Finder. In NFPA 1, fire department access is addressed in Chapter 18, and provisions exist to allow fire departments to efficiently combat fire, keeping buildings and people safe. On top of the rules set in place by NFPA 1, authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) may require additional fire protection requirements when necessary. They are also allowed to modify existing requirements in situations where standing requirements are onerous and impractical to meet.

Fire department access and fire department access roads must be providing as well as maintained in accordance with Section 18.2 of the Code. Regarding access to structures, the AHJ has the authority to require an access box(es) to be installed in an accessible location where access to or within a structure or area is difficult because of security. The access box(es) must be of an approved type listed in accordance with UL 1037, Standard for Antitheft Alarms and Devices. The AHJ also has the authority to require fire department access be provided to gated subdivisions or developments through the use of an approved device or system. The owner or occupant of a structure or area, with required fire department access must notify the AHJ when the access is modified in a manner that could prevent fire department access.

Fire department access roads must be up to code to provide effective firefighting and allowing for a quick response time. Before designing or determining compliance of the fire department access, the first step is to determine when and where the Code mandates these. (Check out this post to learn more about the design criteria and specifications required for fire department access roads.) In section 18.2.3, NFPA 1 requires approved fire department access roads be provided for every facility, building, or portion of a building constructed or relocated. Acceptable fire department access roads will consist of roadways, fire lanes, parking lot lanes, or a combination thereof. If any one of the following conditions exist, the AHJ may modify whether or not a fire department access road is required:

  1. One- and two-family dwellings protected by an approved automatic sprinkler system in accordance with Section 13.1 of NFPA 1
  2. Existing one- and two-family dwellings
  3. Private garages having an area not exceeding 400 ft2
  4. Carports having an area not exceeding 400 ft2
  5. Agricultural buildings having an area not exceeding 400 ft2
  6. Sheds and other detached buildings having an area not exceeding 400 ft2

The intent is to not require fire department access roads to detached gazebos and ramadas, independent buildings associated with golf courses, parks, and similar uses such as restrooms or snack shops that are 400 ft2 (37 m2) or less in area, and detached equipment or storage buildings for commercial use that are 400 ft2 (37 m2) or less in area. Interestingly, the Fire Code Technical Committee addressed an issue regarding fire department access as their First Draft meeting last fall, leading to a revision which was voted into the First Draft of the next edition of the Code (you can view the First Draft Report here). Where the Code now states that sheds and other detached buildings having an area not exceeding 400 ft2 may be exempt from fire department road access, the Technical Committee made a change as follows: “(6) Sheds and other detached buildings, not classified as a residential occupancy, having an area not exceeding 400 ft2”.   The proposed change addresses "tiny homes" and similar structures, therefore requiring the application of Sections through in the Code that otherwise may have exempted these structures from fire department access roads. The growing trend of 'tiny homes', which are residential occupancies, can create a hazardous situation where homes are located close together or where multiple homes are located on a single property. By calling out small detached buildings that are also residential occupancies, this ensures that their fire department access not be compromised.

In summary, almost every building is required to have one fire department access road. Some might even need additional ones if an AHJ says so. Many factors go into determining fire department access, from structure and road requirements to AHJ input. These factors are all listed in NFPA 1, and following these codes will provide safer living conditions and save lives!

As a fire inspector or AHJ enforcing NFPA 1, what issues have you seen with fire department access? Does the Code miss any scenarios that would beneficial to update or review to accommodate common compliance issues around fire department access? Comment below, we would like to hear from you!

Don't miss another #FireCodeFridays blog! Get notifications straight to your email inbox by subscribing here! And you can always follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA

The first part of this week’s post is written by Jen Sisco, Engineer in the NFPA Building and Life Safety Systems group and Staff Liaison to NFPA’s Fire Doors and Windows Technical Committee responsible for the development of NFPA 80 and NFPA 105. Thanks to Jen for sharing her knowledge of this important issue in the Fire Code!


Passive fire protection in buildings is a critical element for the protection of people and property within NFPA 1. The use of fire barriers, fire walls, and other fire rated assemblies play a vital role in the subdivision of buildings, protection of hazardous areas, and protection of means of egress. However, for these systems to function in a building there has to be allowances for openings for people, equipment, and other building systems.

An unprotected or improperly protected opening within a fire barrier or fire wall poses the risk of comprising the protection of the assembly. NFPA 1 requires that the installation and maintenance of all devices used to protect openings in walls, floors, and ceiling against the spread of fire and smoke comply with Section 12.4 and NFPA 80. Not only is it important to ensure that all openings are provided with appropriate opening protectives, but also to ensure that these assemblies are properly inspected and maintained.


The majority of the requirements in NFPA 1, 12.4 are extracted directly from NFPA 80. This section provides an overview of the inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) requirements for fire doors. NFPA 80 provides more comprehensive information relating to the ITM, as well as design and installation of 16 unique type of opening protectives, including fire doors, fire windows, glass block assemblies, fabric fire safety curtains, and fire dampers.

Selection of and proper installation of an appropriate fire door assembly or opening protective is important, but equally as important is the ongoing ITM of these assemblies. Since the 2007 edition of NFPA 80 (referenced by the 2009 edition of NFPA 1), all fire door assemblies require annual inspections. Fire dampers require inspection one year after installation and then every four years or every six years in buildings containing a hospital. As fire inspectors, it is important to understand your responsibility in the fire door (and fire damper inspection process). With many other building fire protection and life safety systems demanding inspection, testing and maintenance resources, it can be hard to juggle the ongoing inspection verification and compliance. But these common building systems that are used every day, cannot be ignored.

Building owners are responsible for ensuring that the fire door (and fire damper) assemblies in their building are properly maintained and part of an annual inspection program. This can be done by in-house personnel with an adequate level of knowledge and understanding of the systems or can be done by a third party vendor (a certified fire door inspector, for example). The fire door inspector conducts the inspections per the minimum criteria in NFPA 1 (and NFPA 80) and the fire inspector/AHJ verifies with buildings that their fire door assemblies are being inspected, testing and maintained as required.

Knowing now that doors are required to be inspected annually, how do you as the AHJ know if a door has been inspected? Records of all periodic testing is required to be maintained for at least three years and be available for review by the AHJ. New to the 2019 edition of NFPA 80, which will be referenced in the 2021 edition of NFPA 1, is the permitted use of inspection markings on the tags or stickers that are applied directly to the assembly documenting an inspection.


Looking for additional information on this topic?

To assist in the application of provisions relating to fire doors and other opening protectives, such as those extracted into NFPA 1, NFPA has released a new online training series, “NFPA 80 (2016) Balancing Safety and Security with Fire Doors, Dampers and Door Locking.” This series includes modules offering an NFPA 80 overview, and covers ITM for swinging fire doors, requirements for fire and smoke dampers, and a module on permissible door locking arrangement for all doors.

The educational bundle is designed to help facility managers, building owners, engineers, designers, and code officials deal with essential safety and security features in the buildings that they oversee.

The four module, four-hour, self-paced online fire doors, dampers and door locking training includes more than 30 videos with engineers and others explaining key points, as well as animations, case studies and a Q+A section.


Don't miss another #FireCodeFridays blog! Get notifications straight to your email inbox by subscribing here! And you can always follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA.

This week’s post comes from Alex Ing, Associate Engineer in NFPA’s Hazardous Chemicals and Materials group and Staff Liaison to NFPA’s Special Effects Technical Committee responsible for the development of NFPA 1126.   Thanks to Alex for sharing his knowledge of this important issue in the Fire Code!


What is the first image that pops into your head when you say “4th of July”? If you imagined a fireworks display you would not be alone. The 4th of July, is the pinnacle fireworks holiday in the United States with cities and towns all over the country putting on their own displays. As the holiday approaches not only does the firework community get extraordinarily busy, but those fire inspectors tasked with permitting and approving these displays also get busy. NFPA produces two standards covering the safe display of fireworks and pyrotechnics, NFPA 1123 Code for Fireworks Display 2018 Edition, and NFPA 1126 Standard for the Use of Pyrotechnics Before a Proximate Audience 2016 Edition.


The main difference between the two standards is distance from the audience watching. NFPA 1123 sets the appropriate display distance for fireworks and pyrotechnics, and NFPA 1126 provides requirements for displays using pyrotechnics at distances closer than those required in NFPA 1123. There is a difference between fireworks and pyrotechnics, based on the fact that manufacture of fireworks is dictated by federal regulation. While most of the celebrations going on this 4th of July will be in accordance to NFPA 1123 some will also be in accordance with NFPA 1126. Additionally, NFPA 1126 will also be used for pyrotechnic displays at concerts and other similar events.


One issue that has been arising lately in the NFPA 1126 world has been the use of pyrotechnic effect simulation equipment. What pyrotechnic effect simulation equipment is, is equipment that is uses a chemical mixture, heat source, and the introduction of oxygen to initiate or maintain combustion and is used to produce visible or audible effects by combustion, deflagration, or detonation. The most common form that pyrotechnic effect simulation equipment takes are machines that imitate gerbs, the pyrotechnics that produce a spray of sparks in of a predictable duration, height, and diameter. These new simulation equipment, will take a chemical mixture (typically a metal mixture) heat it up, and then use a blower to produce a shower of sparks similar to gerbs. Traditional gerbs on the other hand contain a propellant in the mixture which will instead ignite the pyrotechnic material inside and propel it. Both of these pieces of equipment are considered pyrotechnic devices and fall under the scope of NFPA 1126. (see TIA- 16-1, TIA Log #1317) Therefore it is necessary that anytime pyrotechnic effect simulation equipment is used it follows all the same requirements as any other pyrotechnic devices under NFPA 1126. The 2021 Edition of NFPA 1126 will include more requirements specific to pyrotechnic effect simulation equipment such as requiring specific fuel based fire extinguishers, however for the 2016 edition there are no specific requirements for these devices.


Both NFPA 1123 and NFPA 1126 are referenced by NFPA 1 in Chapter 65.  Chapter 65 contains general provisions for regulating the storage, use, and manufacture of explosives, display fireworks, and pyrotechnical before a proximate audience; flame effects before a proximate audience; fireworks manufacturing; and model and high power rocketry.  This chapter covers the wide range of hazards, like those described above and addressed by NFPA 1126, and associated with the use of materials that potentially can have disastrous consequences if not applied and enforced properly. Adoption of NFPA 1 your jurisdiction also mandates compliance with NFPA’s suite of pyrotechnic documents all referenced in Chapter 65 unless amended locally by your jurisdiction. 


Do you have events in your jurisdiction where pyrotechnics will be used?  Comment below and share your stories of Code enforcement or compliance issues. 


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