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118 Posts authored by: kristinbigda Employee

Every year I am amazed as how early in the season I see Christmas decorations for sale. This year I saw several locations displaying Christmas trees for sale as early as November 15. Like consumers, fire inspectors are also facing holiday issues long before the actual holiday date, sometimes months in advance. Retail stores, restaurants, and businesses are all jumping on board the holiday season earlier and earlier each year it seems. This requires diligence in ensuring that egress paths are maintained, proper protection is provided for storage and display of merchandise, cooking equipment is being properly cleaned and maintained, cooking is done safely in residences, and fire protection systems are all in good working condition.

Between 2011-2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 200 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 6 deaths, 16 injuries, and $14.8 million in direct property damage annually. Although Christmas tree fires are not common, when they do occur, they are much more likely to be deadly than most other fires. On average, one out of every 32 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 143 reported home fires. (See NFPA’s report “Home Structure Fires Involving Christmas Trees”, issued in November 2017) 

NFPA 1 addresses both artificial trees and natural cut trees in all occupancies under Section 10.13 for Combustible Vegetation. Natural Christmas trees, by their nature, are initially fire retardant. The problem arises when they have been cut and packaged without access to water for extended periods of time. The fire danger of Christmas trees and similar vegetation increases when the bottom end of the tree is not freshly cut and immediately placed in water when purchased. Other concerns include the length of time Christmas trees are on display (as noted above, retail stores often set up outdoor displays of natural trees for purchase before Thanksgiving.)  

The species of tree and the rate of moisture loss are important factors in determining the extent of moisture loss. Of the various types of evergreen trees available, the Noble fir retains its moisture longer than other species. The best preventive measures include using a freshly harvested tree, cutting the butt or bottom end immediately before placing it in water, and checking the water level frequently to ensure that the tree water container is filled. The person responsible for the display should check the tree periodically. When needles shed easily, the tree should be removed or replaced, since trees dry from the inside out. 

Artificial Christmas trees come in all shapes and sizes.  They even come pre-lit. In September 2016, UL published a white paper about reducing the fire risk of pre-lit trees.  This publication addresses the research that led to the development of performance testing criteria for pre-lit artificial trees.  It is a valuable resource for consumers and code officials when evaluating the safety of these type of holiday trees. With regards to artificial vegetation, the Code is concerned with its fire retardance (heat release rate or other fire performance criteria) which should be displayed on a label or identification from the manufacturer, ignition sources, and electrical components.

The requirements for artificial and natural cut Christmas trees in NFPA 1 are summarized as follows:

  • Allowances for natural Christmas trees are specified by occupancy and found in Table 10.13.1.1.
    • Note: Christmas trees are prohibited or limited in their placement in occupancies that pose special problems due to the capabilities of occupants, occupant or management control, or the number of occupants. Some exceptions permit live, balled trees, if maintained, and trees in locations where automatic sprinkler systems are installed.
  • Artificial Christmas trees must be labeled or otherwise identified or certified by the manufacturer as being fire retardant. (10.13.3.1)
    • The fire retardance is demonstrated by each individual decorative vegetation item, including any decorative lighting, in an approved manner.
  • Christmas trees cannot obstruct corridors, exit ways, or other means of egress. (10.13.4)
  • Only listed electrical lights and wiring can be used on natural or artificial Christmas trees. (10.13.5)
  • Do not locate open flames such as from candles, lanterns, and heaters on or near Christmas trees. (10.13.7)

 

  • Where a natural cut tree is permitted, the bottom end of the trunk must be cut off with a straight fresh cut at least 1⁄2 in. (13 mm) above the end prior to placing the tree in a stand to allow the tree to absorb water. (10.13.9.1)
  • The tree is to be placed in a suitable stand with water and the water level must be maintained above the fresh cut and checked at least once daily. (10.13.9.3)
  • The tree is to be removed from the building immediately upon evidence of dryness. (10.13.9.4)
  • A method to check for dryness is to grasp a tree branch with a reasonably firm pressure and pull your hand to you, allowing the branch to slip through your grasp. If the needles fall off readily, the tree does not have adequate moisture content and should be removed.

 

 

In addition to the Code requirements, NFPA also provides a valuable resource page dedicated to Christmas tree and decoration fires. 

Have you had any trouble enforcing provisions for Christmas trees? What challenges do you face with Code enforcement during the holiday season?

Thank for reading, stay safe!

Please visit www.nfpa.org/1 to view the free access version of NFPA 1 2018 edition and nfpa.org/doc## to view other standards referenced in this post. Follow along on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. Looking for an older #FireCodefridays blog? You can view past posts here.

Americans are working hard this week at home and at restaurants to prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday. According to the National Restaurant Association, almost one in 10 (9 percent) of adults plan to eat their Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant. And, in addition, 4 percent of those planning a holiday meal at home intend to purchase it from a restaurant. On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and notoriously one of the biggest shopping days of the year, research by the National Restaurant Association indicates that 72 percent of the 43 percent of adults that head out shopping that day intend to visit either a full- or quick-service restaurant while they are out. That’s a lot of commercial cooking equipment being put to use just this week alone!

 

NFPA 1, Chapter 50, addresses the design, installation, operation, inspection, and maintenance of all public and private commercial cooking equipment and, new to 2018, mobile and temporary cooking operations. Compliance with Chapter 50 and NFPA 96, Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations, is required for this equipment and operations. 

 

This week, I caught up with the Staff Liaison for NFPA 96 and Fire Protection Engineer at NFPA, Jacqueline Wilmot, to learn more about the latest requirements from the 2017 edition of NFPA 96, referenced by NFPA 1. Here are Jacqueline’s responses:

 

Can you tell us about the scope and purpose of NFPA 96?

Jacqueline: The requirements in NFPA 96 provide the minimum fire safety requirements, both preventative and operation, related to the design, installation, operation, inspection, and maintenance of all public and private cooking operations. Often people forget that NFPA 96 applies to residential cooking equipment if it is being used for commercial cooking operations. Although NFPA 96 doesn’t define “commercial cooking operations” some examples of residential equipment being used for commercial cooking include nursing homes or college dormitories that have cooking procedures that produce grease-laden vapors. 

 

The overall goal of NFPA 96 is to reduce the potential fire hazard of cooking operations, irrespective of the type of cooking equipment used and whether it is used in public or private facilities. Once users of NFPA 96 can identify the purpose of the document, it becomes more clear that the type of cooking appliance does not dictate if an exhaust system or extinguishment system is required, as both of these decisions depend on whether or not the cooking process itself will produce grease-laden vapors.

 

Were there any major changes in NFPA 96, 2017 edition?

Jacqueline: The 2017 edition adds Normative Annex B on mobile and temporary cooking operations. The normative annex is written in mandatory language but is not intended to be enforced unless specifically adopted by a jurisdiction or is applied on a voluntary basis. This annex includes requirements not limited to clearance, hoods, ducts, terminations, fire extinguishing systems, carbon monoxide detectors, location, training, generators, LP-gas, as well as procedures for the use, inspection, testing, and maintenance of equipment.

 

Another big change to the 2017 edition was to require the frequency of how often training is to be provided for new employees and existing employees on the use of portable fire extinguishers and the manual actuation of the fire extinguishing system. The 2017 edition of NFPA 96 requires the management of the commercial cooking operation to provide instruction to new employees on hiring and to all employees annually. Industry experience revealed that many commercial cooking operations employees have not been instructed or have forgotten their training, resulting in inappropriate response to a fire. Providing instructions at regular intervals after initial instruction will reduce the likelihood of inappropriate response.

 

Are there any major changes planned for the 2021 edition?

Jacqueline: A majority of the discussion during the 2 day First Draft Technical Committee Meeting was on Chapter 10, Fire-Extinguishing Equipment and Normative Annex B, Mobile or Temporary Cooking Operations.  When it comes to Chapter 10, the Technical Committee would prefer to use language consistent with NFPA 17A, Standard for Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems. Additional provisions to clarify the shutoff device requirements of manual resetting prior to fuel or power being restored were discussed and also the location of manual actuation devices were reviewed. The conversation about Normative Annex B was around the idea to move the language from the annex to the body of the standard.

 

What are some of the major issues that restaurant owners should be managing and AHJs enforcing to help make sure facilities stay safe through the holiday season?

Jacqueline: NFPA 96 puts a lot of weight on owners to carry through the provisions of the standard. The owner is responsible for cooking equipment, hoods, ducts, fans, fire-extinguishing equipment and special effluent or energy control equipment installed in their facility be maintained to ensure the entire system works properly and provides the appropriate level of protection. In addition, the owner is responsible for the inspection, testing, maintenance, and cleanliness of the ventilation control and fire protection of the commercial cooking operation, provided that this responsibility has not been transferred in written form to a management company, tenant, or other party.

 

How does an owner manage all of this? Here are some simple tips for owners and enforcers to share with facilities in their jurisdiction:

 

Clearance. Section 4.2 of NFPA 96 states where enclosures are not required, hoods, grease removal devices, exhaust fans, and ducts are required to have a minimum clearance of 18 inches to combustible material, 3 inches to limited-combustible material, and 0 inches to noncombustible material. These clearances apply in the ongoing operational life of the system, so move those boxes on top of a hood or directly against the side of it!

 

Train your employees on how to use the extinguishing equipment. All employees should know the location of these manual pull stations as well as how and when to operate them.

 

Inspect, Test and Maintain Your Equipment. Fire inspectors are responsible for verifying inspections, testing and maintenance procedures and frequencies have been met.  Although conducting inspections for grease buildup and fire extinguishing systems at specified intervals are typically contracted out (and always completed by person(s) acceptable to the AHJ), there are several items that can be inspected on a daily basis by restaurant employees through a training program in which you develop and have your manager enforce. Have employees routinely look out for normal wear and tear of equipment (i.e. broken seals, missing screws, exposed wires). All employees should start their routine with inspecting the equipment to ensure it was properly cleaned from the previous night (or shift), confirm that if the equipment requires a fire extinguishing system, the nozzles are clear and not clogged with grease. Many restaurants utilize heaters to keep the food hot after it’s been cooked; make sure employees know to check that are no flammable materials on top of or near the heaters. Before starting the fryer, employees should check to make sure the oil level isn’t too low because if the heating coil is exposed above or close to the oil surface, residue and oil can catch fire. These are all very simple, yet effective steps in the fire protection program of your facility that do not require hiring and outside contractor to perform the work.

 

Clean. Since 1 in every 5 of the fires had a failure to clean as a factor contributing to its ignition, cleaning seems like an easy and obvious solution to mitigate fire risks. Since 1 in every 5 of the fires cited in Evart’s report had a failure to clean as a factor contributing to its ignition, cleaning seems like an easy and obvious solution to mitigate fire risks.

 

Special thanks to Jacqueline for all of this great information that will help owners and enforcers make sure everyone working with commercial cooking equipment to prepare food for others and those enjoying a meal out can stay safe this holiday season!

 

Have you conducted fire inspections on facilities with commercial cooking equipment?  What issues have arose with enforcing NFPA 1 in these spaces?

 

Thank you for reading, stay safe, and Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Please visit www.nfpa.org/1 to view the free access version of NFPA 1 2018 edition and nfpa.org/doc## to view other standards referenced in this post.  Follow along on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. Looking for an older #FireCodefridays blog? You can view past posts here.

 

This week, shoppers will line up hours before the stores open, often in the middle of the night, to be the first in line for sales and bargains.  Crowds rush the store as the doors open.  "Black Friday", the gateway to the holiday shopping season, happens this week.  However, the fun and festivities of the holiday season don't come without risks, especially on this day. 

 

Back in 2008, a Wal-mart worker was killed on Black Friday after being trampled as the stampede of customers plowed through the store front doors.  Four additional people were injured from the rush of the crowd.  Since then, numerous injuries and even fatalities have been recorded as associated with activity from Black Friday.

 

 

NFPA 1, Fire Code, plays an important role in ensuring that facilities have in place the necessary measures to keep employees and shoppers safe, especially on the days with the heaviest crowds.  The hazards associated with Black Friday are plentiful.  First, egress can be obstructed by high demand merchandise and seasonal displays.  The number of occupants in the building could quickly exceed the available egress capacity.  Egress paths can become clogged with abandoned merchandise and shopping carts that shoppers leave behind.  Check-out areas may be blocked off or clogged such that they cannot be used for egress.  Exits, other than the main entrance/exit may be blocked or obstructed by merchandise, boxes and supplies.  Crowds gathered at the entrance door can block egress for those inside the building. 

 

The following provisions from the Code help businesses and enforcers address some of the hazards and risks associated with Black Friday and holiday shopping:

  • Means of egress shall be continuously maintained free of all obstructions or impediments to full instant use in the case of fire or other emergency.  This includes exit access, exits and exit discharge which may be outside of the building.
  • No furnishings, decorations, or other objects shall obstruct exits or their access thereto, egress therefrom, or visibility thereof.
  • Every door opening and every principal entrance that is required to serve as an exit shall be designed and  constructed so that the path of egress travel is obvious and direct.
  • Door leaves shall be arranged to be opened readily from the egress side whenever the building is occupied.
  • The total capacity of the means of egress shall be sufficient for the occupant load thereof.
  • Storage of combustible materials shall be orderly. (this includes ensuring that fire protection systems are not obstructed)
  • Means of egress shall be marked (including exits and paths to get to the exits.)

 

Large retail stores and malls are generally classified as mercantile occupancies, however, on days like Black Friday, have characteristics much like that of an assembly occupancy: large crowds entering and egressing, threats of crowd crush, crowds unfamiliar with their surroundings the building's fire protection and egress systems, etc.  Assembly occupancies require the presence of crowd managers to assist with orderly evacuation and to ensure that all occupants can leave the venue successfully in emergency and non-emergency events.  They are trained to understand safety and security hazards that can endanger the public assembly, understand crowd management techniques, understand methods of evacuation and movement, and more.  At least one trained crowd manager must be provided in all assembly occupancies.  Where the occupant load exceeds 250, additional trained crowd managers or supervisors shall be provided at a ratio of 1 crowd manger or supervisor for every 250 occupants.

 

While crowd managers are not formally required for mercantile occupancies, it may be prudent for businesses to employ a model such as this to help with crowd control on days like Black Friday.  This can only help to make sure that both their employees and occupants are kept safe upon entering and leaving the building.   Additionally, OSHA has published a resource, "Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers" and states that it "encourages employers to adopt effective safety and health management systems to identify and eliminate work-related hazards, including those caused by large crowds at retail sales events."  Crowd management planning is at the top of the recommendations provided by OSHA. 

 

If you partake in Black Friday shopping, have fun but stay safe!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Chatting with representatives from the college and university community last week reminded me of another topic I often get questions about and that is regarding the application of NFPA 1 to laboratories on college campuses.


First, laboratories must be assigned a proper occupancy classification. In NFPA 1 there is no separate occupancy classification for a lab, rather they fall under one of the occupancy classifications as defined in Chapter 6 (and Chapter 3). From NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, we are given some guidance on how to classify a laboratory as follows:

 

Educational facilities that do not meet the definition of an educational occupancy…shall comply with the following requirements:
(1) Instructional building — business occupancy
(2) Classrooms under 50 persons — business occupancy
(3) Classrooms, 50 persons and over — assembly occupancy
(4) Laboratories, instructional — business occupancy
(5) Laboratories, noninstructional — industrial occupancy

 

Colleges and universities may have multiple types of laboratories on campus, those used for instructional purposes, where classes are held for example, and those would be classified as a business occupancy. This classification is based upon the presence of more people, a more classroom-like arrangement of lab stations used for instruction and learning, and usually less quantities, if any, of hazardous materials or chemicals. Noninstructional labs are classified as industrial occupancies for their characteristics of having a relatively low occupant load, the likely presence of more laboratory equipment and/or sophisticated, industrial-type equipment and may also contain hazardous materials and chemicals. Instructional labs may go by a variety of names on college such as makerspaces, innovation space or research labs. Regardless of what they are referred to, the use of the laboratory should be carefully considered so that it can be assigned the correct occupancy and protected accordingly.


In addition to the occupancy-specific requirements, NFPA 1 also has a separate chapter for laboratories using chemicals. Chapter 26 requires the handling or storage of chemicals in laboratory buildings, laboratory units, and laboratory work areas whether located above or below grade to comply with the provisions in that chapter. The construction and protection of new laboratories shall also comply with NFPA 45, Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals. The purpose of this standard is to provide basic requirements for the protection of life and property through prevention and control of fires and explosions involving the use of chemicals in laboratory-scale operations. Its requirements are designed to control hazards and protect personnel from the toxic, corrosive, or other harmful effects of chemicals to which personnel might be exposed as a result of fire or explosion and to achieve a comprehensive laboratory fire prevention and protection program to prevent injury or death to occupants and emergency response personnel. Due to the special nature of laboratories using chemicals, NFPA 45 modifies and supplements existing codes and standards so as to apply more specifically to buildings or portions of buildings devoted to laboratory-scale operations.

 

New in the 2015 edition of NFPA 45, referenced by NFPA 1 2018, the scope was expanded to also apply to all educational laboratory units and instructional laboratory units where chemicals with health hazards, flammability hazards or instability hazards are being used (see NFPA 704 and NFPA 45 Section 1.1.2 for the specific application). Instructional laboratories are those under the direct supervision of an instructor that are used for the purposes of instruction for students beyond the twelfth grade, thus college instructional laboratories would require compliance with Chapter 26 (educational laboratories address those for use by below the twelfth grade and not applicable to a college/university setting.) Before Chapter 26 is applied it should be carefully reviewed for its application which is addressed in the 26.1 section of the Code.

 

Chapter 12 of NFPA 45 addresses those requirements specific to instructional laboratory operations. By reference to NFPA 45 through NFPA 1 Chapter 26, requirements for instructor responsibilities, chemical storage and handling, performance of experiments or demonstrations, fire rated construction and fire protection systems are applicable to instructional laboratories.

 

In addition to the reference to NFPA 45 for laboratories using chemicals, NFPA 1 requires fire prevention, maintenance and emergency plans to be established. Laboratory buildings, laboratory units, and laboratory work areas need to have clearly developed plans for fire prevention, maintenance, and emergency procedures. The guidance of the development of these plans and procedures can also be found in NFPA 45. Permits are required for construction, alteration or operation of laboratories per Section 26.3 and 1.12.

 

Do you work with colleges and universities with laboratories on campus? What issues have arose with enforcing the fire code in these spaces?

 

Thank you for reading, stay safe!

 

Please visit www.nfpa.org/1 to view the free access version of NFPA 1 2018 edition and nfpa.org/doc## to view other standards referenced in this post. Follow along on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. Looking for an older #FireCodefridays blog? You can view past posts here.

Earlier this week I was in San Antonio, Texas to present at the Center for Campus Fire Safety’s Campus Fire Safety Forum about NFPA’s new standard, NFPA 3000, and its impact on the college and university community.

During my brief stay in the city, I couldn’t help but notice that there were electric scooters everywhere, randomly scattered throughout the city blocks and the many residents and tourists using them. This was the first time I had seen them in action. A quick google search showed that companies have brought these scooters to cities large and small throughout the United States, even in Quincy, MA, the location of NFPA Headquarters.

I had so many questions: Where are they permitted? Do they drive on the street or the sidewalk? Do they provide information to riders to not block fire lanes, fire hydrants, and building’s exit discharge routes? How do they charge?

The main business model of the companies bringing these scooters to cities is all app-based. Users create a profile with the company’s app and have access to the location of the scooters around cities. The app and a barcode will unlock the scooter and provide access, and same for drop off. There are no specific pick up or drop off locations, riders can zip around and pick up scooters and drop them off pretty much anywhere. At the end of the day, those that have been contracted by the company are paid by the scooter to pick up scooters that need charging, charge them at their residence, and return them throughout the city the next morning. From a technology and business perspective, this model is captivating to me. From a fire safety perspective, there a few considerations to make sure all those involved stay safe:

  • Charging the scooters. People who have signed up to “juice” the scooters, as one company refers to it, purchase chargers for the scooters and then get paid to charge them overnight. As people try to maximize profit, it could result in unsafe electrical practices. NFPA 1, Section 11.1 addresses electrical safety.
    • Relocatable power taps might be used to add extra capacity to the receptacle, however, they must be connected directly to a permanently installed receptacle. “Daisy-chaining” the power taps is not permitted, and should not be done to plug in multiple scooters.
    • Extension cords must also be plugged directly into an approved receptacle, power tap or multiplug adapter and can only serve one portable appliance.
  • Fire Department Access. This past fall, Baltimore, MD made the news for construction of a new bike lane network which was argued by the fire department to make some streets too narrow for fire apparatus access. The City Council voted to repeal a portion of the city’s fire code and replaced it with more flexible guidelines for street clearances. My understanding is, in San Antonio, scooters can be used on the sidewalk or the street, whatever is deemed to be safest by the scooter rider. Like bicycles use, what additional considerations are needed in cities to accommodate scooters? Could their use impede fire department access?
    • NFPA 1, Section 18.2 addresses fire department access. It requires fire department access roads be provided for every facility, building, or portion of a building constructed or relocated. The required width and clearance of the access cannot be obstructed in any way, including the parking of vehicles. It would be a good practices for scooter riders to be aware of fire department access and not drop off scooters in fire lanes and other access areas.
  • Means of Egress. An occupant’s means of egress from a building includes exit access travel, the exit and then the exit discharge. Exit discharge takes occupants from their exit to the public way (usually outside the building.) Scooters may be piling up near building’s exterior doors or in a path of exit discharge unknown to the rider.
    • NFPA 1, Section 14.4.1 requires means of egress be continuously maintained free of all obstructions or impediments to full instant use in the case of fire or other emergency.
  • Batteries. Just a couple weeks ago, one scooter manufacturer announced they had to remove 2,000 scooters from their fleet in Los Angeles due to the threat of the batteries catching fire. Lithium-ion battery fires are something that many industries continue to address and the electric scooters are no different. Lithium-ion battery fires are unique and cannot and should not be extinguished by an untrained consumer. They can cause problems for fire fighters as well. Chapter 52 of NFPA 1 is constantly evolving to address larger type energy storage systems and the storage of batteries.

Is the risk of fires and impaired fire safety with electric scooters all that high? Not terribly, but there is a risk. Are their practices that must be considered in order to operate a safe business for riders, chargers, AHJs and city officials so that fire safety does not become even greater of a risk? Absolutely.

Does your city have dockless, electric scooters? How is your jurisdiction managing them? Have you seen any issues that have impacted fire safety such as fire department access?

Thank you for reading, stay safe!

Please visit www.nfpa.org/1 to view the free access version of NFPA 1 2018 edition. Follow along on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. Looking for an older #FireCodefriday blog? You can view past posts here.

A few weeks ago I was visiting my alma mater, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and got to check out a brand new building that had just opened on campus the week before. As I entered the front of the building I noticed a sign welcoming visitors/residents/students to the “makerspace”. I know this is not a new concept but the word as well as the concept seem to be growing in popularity. Since then I feel like I have heard about makerspaces (also referred to as “hackerspaces”) in office building, at colleges and universities, and even in K-12 schools. Perhaps its is an existing concept but used more recently to market facility designs as collaborative, modern, innovative and entrepreneurial.


So, what exactly is a makerspace?


A quick search online finds one definition of makerspace to be “a place in which people with shared interests, especially in computing or technology, can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment and knowledge”. The development of makerspaces grew from the maker culture which leans heavily on the idea that learning is done through doing (ironically the WPI motto of theory and practice is very much in line with the maker culture). Whether for employees, students, researchers or scientists, these spaces promote collaboration with a hands-on experience in an inspiring and innovative environment. And they are popping up all around us!

 

How does NFPA 1 apply to a makerspace?


When I saw this makerspace in person I asked myself, “how would the Code apply to such a unique space?” (I am not sure that’s the first question on everyone’s mind, but it was on mine.) From a Fire Code perspective there are a number of things to consider. First, what is the occupancy classification of the space.? Chapter 6 of NFPA 1 addresses occupancy classification. A makerspace could fall under a few options: industrial, assembly or educational occupancies are the ones that come to mind. Further understanding of how the space is used (Is it instructional or industrial? Will there be any hazardous materials present as part of laboratory type work or experiments?); if it is part of a larger overall space (Is it incidental to an industrial use to an assembly area or office building, for example?); and what occupants will be present there (K-12, more than 50, college level, for example) will help to classify the occupancy of the space appropriately.


Let’s talk more about the building at WPI that I referenced above.

There are many different types of spaces included in the building. Prototyping lab, multiple active learning classrooms (group learning, moveable furnishings), teaching laboratory (including a robotics lab and the makerspace), a gallery, a video recording suite, counter service food vendors, and a multi-story dormitory on the upper levels. Phew, that’s a lot. It most certainly was designed as a dormitory since that is the predominant occupancy in the building and then the final occupancy of the first two levels is dependent on a further analysis of how the space is used and occupied. The makerspace is part of the teaching laboratory and open to most of the floor. The Code guides users to business occupancies for instructional type laboratories. But, if part of a larger ‘gallery’ space or on a floor which may also include multiple college classrooms of 50 or more people the designer may have included the makerspace into the assembly occupancy space, and applied the Code as necessary. Occupancy classification determines how the remainder of the Code is applicable as much of the codes provisions for life safety, egress design, and fire protection systems are occupancy dependent.


Besides occupancy classification, other provisions of NFPA 1 unique to makerspaces include, but are not limited to, the following:
• Chapter 26 for laboratories using chemicals. Where the makerspace includes laboratory facilities that use chemicals the handling and storage of such chemicals would comply with Chapter 26 which mandates compliance with NFPFA 45.
• Chapter 60 for hazardous materials. Where the makerspace contains high hazard contents, it and its contents must comply with Chapter 60 of NFPA 1 and any additional requirements specific to the materials from Chapters 61 through 75.
• Chapter 20 for occupancy-specific provisions related to interior finish, furnishings and contents and operating features.
• Chapter 13 for occupancy-specific provisions related to fire protection systems.
• Section 14.8 for capacity of the means of egress. Egress design and occupant load calculations should make sure to carefully understand how the makerspace is used so that the correct number of people present in the space can be estimated.


Makerspaces are only going to become more and more popular in new building design and even as existing buildings modernize their space. Today we seem to put a lot more emphasis on collaboration, innovation, openness and sharing, all of which are supported by the makerspace model. If your jurisdiction is responsible for enforcing the Code or reviewing new makerspace designs, I hope you will find this discussion helpful in your work ahead.


Thank you for reading, stay safe!


Please visit www.nfpa.org/1 to view the free access version of NFPA 1 2018 edition. Follow along on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. Looking for an older #FireCodefriday blog? You can view past posts here.

It seems inevitable at this time of the year that several news stories pop up about a haunted house business or a home or building being converted into a makeshift haunted house being shut down due to safety concerns. Haunted houses are a common form of entertainment over these next couple of weeks. They come in many forms, whether it’s a standalone seasonal building that operates as a haunted house or a building such as a church, a community center, or a school that creates a haunted house, maybe for a town event, a fundraiser, or a feature to a festival. Large or small, permanent or temporary, professional or amateur, haunted houses and the like are everywhere, especially in buildings not originally designed to accommodate such a use. Without the proper knowledge and understanding of the codes that apply, haunted houses can be a safety nightmare.

Per NFPA 1, Fire Code, a haunted house is considered a special amusement building.  By definition, a special amusement building is "a building that is temporary, permanent, or mobile and contains a device or system that conveys passengers or provides a walkway along, around, or over a course in any direction as a form of amusement arranged so that the egress path is not readily apparent due to visual or audio distractions or an intentionally confounded egress path, or is not readily available due to the mode of conveyance through the building or structure."  A special amusement building is an assembly occupancy regardless of occupant load.  Buildings designed as assembly occupancies have a head start on those that aren’t, but try to accommodate a haunted house type attraction. A big risk, and often why many of these attractions are shut down, is because they are located in a structure that was not designed with a haunted house use in mind and they do not understand the type of occupancy and hazards associated with that occupancy that have been created. The Code is not against haunted houses and there is no ill intent when they are shut down. Ultimately, it’s for the safety of those attending and those that work at these facilities and the responsibility of those inspecting the Fire Code to ensure that a horrific fire event is prevented.

Haunted houses use special effects, scenery, props, and audio and visual distractions that may cause egress paths to become not obvious.  In haunted houses in particular, the presence of combustible materials and special scenery can also contribute to the fuel load should a fire occur.  Because of this, the Code requirements are purposely strict to in hopes of avoiding a potentially disastrous fire event.

Code provisions for special amusement buildings are found in Section 20.1.4 of NFPA 1.  The Code requirements for haunted houses are summarized below:

  • Haunted houses must apply the provisions for assembly occupancies in addition to the provisions of Section 20.1.4.
  • Automatic sprinklers are required for all haunted houses.  If the haunted house is considered moveable or portable, an approved temporary means is permitted to be used for water supply.
  • Smoke detection is required throughout the haunted house where the nature it operates in reduced lighting and the actuation of any smoke detection device must sound an alarm at a constantly attended location on the premises.
  • Actuation of sprinklers or any suppression systems, smoke detection system (having a cross zoning capability) must provide an increase in illumination of the means of egress and termination of other confusing visuals or sounds.
  • Exit marking and floor proximity exit signs are required.  Where designs are such that the egress path is not apparent, additional directional exit marking is required.
  • Interior wall and ceiling finish materials must be Class A throughout.
  • Per Section 10.8.1, emergency action plans are required.

Other requirements, not specific just to haunted houses or special amusement buildings, may also apply:

  • Permits (see Section 1.12)
  • Seasonal buildings (see Section 10.12)
  • Special outdoor events, fairs and carnivals (see Section 10.14) 

As we move into the Halloween and haunted house season, it’s easy to get caught up in the fun and overlook the safety issues that may arise.  Through the provisions in NFPA 1, which can assist fire code officials and inspectors enforce safe haunted houses, and NFPA's halloween resources for consumers, everyone can stay safe this season.

Thank you for reading, stay safe!

Please visit www.nfpa.org/1 to view the free access version of NFPA 1 2018 edition. Follow along on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. Looking for an older #FireCodefriday blog? You can view past posts here.

Hello – Happy Friday!  Today’s topic comes to you from Val Ziavras, a Fire Protection Engineer at NFPA.  Special thanks to Val for her contribution to this blog and discussing one of the many subjects addressed in the Fire Code.

 

This week is Fire Prevention Week (FPW) and the campaign is “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with FPW, check out the FPW webpage and last week’s Fire Code Friday for some additional information.  In honor of FPW, we are going to focus on home fire safety issues in the Fire Code again this week, more specifically the provisions for smoke alarms. 

 

The “Listen,” portion of the campaign is to remind people to listen for the sound of the smoke alarm.  Today, residences are filled with furnishings and contents made mostly of plastics and synthetic materials and responding quickly to the sound of the smoke alarm is more important than ever.  A resident may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds.  Flashover can happen much faster than it used to.  For a look at how much faster, check out this side by side comparison of modern room furnishings and 1970s room furnishings. 

Smoke Alarm

 

The smoke alarm requirements in the Fire Code are primary extracted from two source documents, NFPA 101 (The Life Safety Code) and NFPA 72 (The National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code).  NFPA 101 is going to regulate where smoke alarms are required while NFPA 72 is going to regulate how they are installed.  Section 13.7.2 of the Code addresses the occupancy specific requirements for fire alarm and smoke alarms. Typically, smoke alarms are required where we expect to find occupants sleeping.  For example, Section 13.7.2.13.1 of the Code requires smoke alarms or a smoke detection system in new and existing one- and two-family dwellings.  Section 13.7.2.13.1.1 requires that smoke alarms be installed in all sleeping rooms, outside of each separate sleeping area, in the immediate vicinity of the sleeping rooms, and on each level of the dwelling unit, including basements.  Other occupancies that also require smoke alarms in some capacity per NFPA 1 are day care homes, lodging or rooming houses, hotels and dormitories, apartment buildings, board and care facilities. (See Section 13.7.2 for the specific conditions for each occupancy.)

 

Section 13.7.1.8 of the Fire Code contains general installation criteria for smoke alarms including requirements for the interconnection of smoke alarms in new construction and more specific requirements for where smoke alarms should be installed.  Interconnecting smoke alarms is important because it helps ensure that occupants can hear the alarm even if doors are closed or if the smoke alarm that operates is on a different level. 

 

While the Life Safety Code will tell you what rooms/areas need smoke alarms, NFPA 72 provides additional guidance on installation criteria and identifies an area of exclusion.  The area of exclusion includes a 10 ft. radial distance from a stationary or fixed cooking appliance, think stoves.  Any smoke alarm installed between 10 ft. and 20 ft. from a stationary or fixed cooking appliance needs to be equipped with an alarm-silencing means or use photoelectric detection.  The Code does outline some exceptions for situations where a smoke alarm that uses photoelectric detection can be installed closer than 10 ft., but not less than 6 ft.  In addition to cooking appliances, the Code also specifies a minimum distance from a door to a bathroom containing a shower or tub.  Unless the smoke alarm is specifically listed for close proximity to such an area, a distance of at least 36 inches should be provided.  The Code specifically outlines an area of exclusion to minimize the chance of nuisance alarms.  By reducing the number of nuisance alarms, building occupants are less likely to remove or disable a smoke alarm that is there to protect them.

 

Fire inspectors play a critical role in educating the public about smoke alarms and their importance.  Whether through generic home inspections, public education efforts, or design and review work, those that enforce the Code can have a big impact on home fire safety.

 

With Fire Prevention Week drawing to a close, everyone can remember to take steps to better protect themselves and the public.  Test smoke alarms and make sure they are less than 10 years old.  Working smoke alarms will provide early notification of a fire.  Also, be sure to create a home fire escape plan!  Knowing two ways out of every room in the event of an emergency is important.

 

Thanks for reading, Happy Friday!

 

Please visit www.nfpa.org/1 to view the free access version of NFPA 1 2018 edition.  Follow along on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA.  Looking for an older #FireCodefriday blog?  You can view past posts here.

Hello – Happy Friday!  Today’s topic comes to you from Val Ziavras, a Fire Protection Engineer at NFPA.  Special thanks to Val for her contribution to this blog and discussing one of the many subjects addressed in the Fire Code.

 

With Fire Prevention Week (FPW) right around the corner, October 7-13, what better time than now to talk about home fire escape plans and means of escape requirements for dwelling units?  For those of you who aren’t familiar with FPW, the main goal is to educate the public on how to stay safe during a fire.  While many of us in the fire protection field, immediately check for sprinklers and look for a second way out when we enter a building, that isn’t always the case for the rest of world. One goal of FPW is to get people thinking about what they should do in the event of a fire.  It has been an NFPA sponsored event since 1922.  President Calvin Coolidge made FPW a national observance in 1925, making it the longest-running public health observance in the United States. 

 

This year the campaign is “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.”  The “Learn” portion of the campaign is focused on encouraging everyone to learn two ways out of every room and making sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily and are free of clutter.  A great place to start is in your own home!  The best way to do it? Create a home fire escape plan.

 

So by now, you may be wondering what this has to do with the Fire Code, well ultimately NFPA 1 (and NFPA 101 as well as the building code) are going to regulate the number of means of egress, or in this case the number of means of escape.  Means of escape usually applies to dwelling units while means of egress applies to all other buildings.  A person’s means of escape is going to happen within their own dwelling unit (example: an apartment) but their means of egress is going to happen as soon as they leave the front door and enter the common hallway.  The concept behind both means of egress and means of escape is similar: they should provide a reliable and unobstructed way out.  However, the requirements for means of escape are not as stringent as for the means of egress.  Like many topics, NFPA 1 defers to a source document and extracts requirements. In this case, provisions are extracted directly from NFPA 101. 

 

Most houses have at least two doors, but what if a person were trapped in the bedroom and a fire was blocking the only door to that room? How would they escape? These are exactly the sort of questions we want to be asking ourselves, our families, and the people we work with and educate, when developing a home’s fire escape plan.

 

NFPA 1, Section 20.11.1 requires all new and existing one- and two-family dwellings comply not only with Section 20.11 but also NFPA 101, which requires every sleeping room and every living area in dwellings or dwelling units of two rooms or more have not less than one primary means of escape and one secondary means of escape.  The primary means of escape can be a door, stairway, or ramp providing a means of unobstructed travel to the outside of the dwelling unit at street or the finished ground level. The image below is taken from the Life Safety Code Handbook and shows a floor plan with the primary means of escape and secondary means of escape identified for every room. 

 


Section 24.2.2.3 of NFPA 101 outlines what can serve as a secondary means of escape.  The secondary means of escape could be:

  • Another door, stair, passageway, or hall that provides a way to get out that is independent of the primary means of escape
  • Passage through an adjacent non-lockable space that is independent of the primary means of escape
  • An outside window or door that meets certain size and operational requirements
  • A bulkhead meeting certain size requirements
  • Ladders or steps that meet certain requirements

In addition, NFPA 1 requires that, where approved on secondary means of escape, security bars, grates, grilles, or similar devices be equipped with approved release mechanisms that are releasable from the inside without the use of a tool, a key, special knowledge, or force greater than that which it takes for normal operation of the door or window. This ensures that the common practice of installing supplemental devices for the purpose of security do not impair the operation of a door or window for escape purposes.  This Section is important to the Fire Code and for fire inspectors performing inspections on multi-family units, hotel/dormitories, apartment buildings where this practice may be more common.  

 

As enforcers of the Code, it is important to enforce the provisions of the Code that will ensure a safe means of escape be provided during a fire or other emergency.  Part of enforcing this important Code topic also means using times like Fire Prevention week to educate people about making AND practicing a home fire escape plan, maintain their means of escape, and the overall importance of fire safety.  Be sure to check out next week’s blog which will feature another Fire Prevention Week theme and discuss requirements for testing smoke alarms.

 

Thanks for reading, Happy Friday!

 

Please visit www.nfpa.org/1 to view the free access version of NFPA 1 2018 edition.  Follow along on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA.  Looking for an older #FireCodefriday blog?  You can view past posts here.

Last week I was in Fort Lauderdale staffing the NFPA 1 First Draft meeting.  We spent two full days addressing 125 public inputs, generating revisions to the Code and discussing newly proposed ideas.  In those two days we addressed topics ranging from valet trash services to repair garages for alternative fuel vehicles, to cannabis, artificial vegetation, extension cords, portable generators, energy storage systems, and PV systems.  And that is just the beginning.  One of the reasons I enjoy working with this Code as much as I do is the wide variety of topics that it addresses. A fire code is far reaching, and impacts us on a daily basis. I am constantly learning something new, and how important this code is to fire inspectors.

 

Of that variety of safety issues that the Code addresses, corn (crop) mazes is one of them. When I first opened NFPA 1 I had no idea it addressed anything as specific as crop mazes, but even corn mazes require diligent preparation and understanding of the Fire Code and its application to these seasonal attractions.
 
One might not think of a corn maze as somewhere with a great fire safety risk.  However, crop mazes pose unique fire safety problems due to their configuration (confusing paths and lack of marked egress) and the inherent combustibility of the maze materials (drying corn stalks.)

 

Corn Maze - fire code

 

NFPA 1 addresses a number of requirements pertaining to these crop mazes.  Some of the biggest concerns are communication of regulations and instructions to both employees and visitors and making sure there is a way to make announcements to visitors should an emergency occur.  It is also important to reduce the likelihood for a fire to occur by keeping potential ignition sources, such as open flames, pyrotechnics, smoking materials, and special effects at a safe distance from the maze.

 

Section 10.14.11 of the Code contains the following provisions related to crop mazes:

  • The owner/operator is required to advise all employees of the fire and life safety regulations as well as provide safety instructions to the visitors and patrons of a crop maze prior to their entrance to the maze.
  • The owner/operator must contact the local fire department and provide them with the opportunity to prepare a pre-plan of the maze prior to the start of seasonal operations.
  • A minimum of two employees shall be on duty to monitor a crop maze during hours of operation and at least one of the employees shall be located on an elevated platform a minimum of 10 ft above the maze.
  • Motorized vehicles shall not be parked within 75 ft of a crop maze and a fuel break of a minimum of 20 ft wide shall be cleared between a crop maze and any vehicles or vegetation outside the maze.
  • A public address system is required to make announcements during an emergency.
  • The entrance and exit from the maze cannot be blocked or obstructed anytime the maze is open to and occupied by the public.
  • No more than 200 persons per acre can occupy the maze at one time.
  • No open-flame devices are permitted within the boundaries of the maze, including no smoking.

 

Do you have crop mazes in your jurisdiction? Have you inspected corn mazes for compliance with NFPA 1?  What are the common deficiencies you see in your jurisdiction?  The requirements from NFPA 1 will help ensure we all stay safe and have fun while enjoying these outdoor attractions this season.

 

Check out these other blogs related to seasonal attractions you may find in your jurisdiction:


Haunted Houses
Combustible Vegetation

Special Outdoor Events

 

Thanks for reading.  Stay safe and Happy Friday!

 

Please visit www.nfpa.org/1 to view the free access version of NFPA 1 2018 edition.  Follow along on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA.  Looking for an older #FireCodefriday blog?  You can view past posts here.

 

A couple weeks ago, I was in Minneapolis attending the second week of Technical Committee meetings for NFPA 101 and NFPA 5000 working on the development of the 2021 edition of the Codes. I found out that week that I was scheduled to leave Minneapolis one day before the start of the state fair, and was disappointed to miss it. It’s one of the largest, by attendance, in the United States and this year broke its own attendance record with 2,046,533 attendees. Twenty-seven new foods were introduced at the fair. That’s a lot of concession stands feeding a lot of people!


NFPA 1, Fire Code, Section 10.14 provides requirements for special outdoor events, carnivals and fairs. Concession booths are a popular attraction and also a particular concern at fairs if not designed and setup safely. Many contain flammable liquids, commercial cooking equipment, and are producing grease laden vapors. Often times concession stands are crammed into one small pedestrian area, concentrating the potential hazard into a confined, high-traffic zone.

 

Overall, the AHJ is permitted to regulate all outdoor events such as carnivals and fairs as it pertains to access for emergency vehicles, access to fire protection equipment, placement of stands and concession booths, and exhibits, as well as the control of hazardous conditions dangerous to life and property. The AHJ plays an important role in reviewing the layout of the event; where concessions and vendors can be located, making sure proper egress is maintained, and keeping the necessary access for fire department vehicles available in case of an emergency.

NFPA 1 specifically addresses the protection of concession stands with the following requirements:

 

  • 10.14.5 A minimum of one portable fire extinguisher be provided for each concession stand where required by the AHJ.
  • 10.14.8 Concession stands utilized for cooking shall have a minimum of 10 ft (3 m) of clearance on two sides and must not be located within 10 ft (3 m) of amusement rides or devices.
  • 50.2.1.9: Cooking equipment used in fixed, mobile, or temporary concessions, such as trucks, buses, trailers, pavilions, tents, or any form of roofed enclosure, shall comply with NFPA 96
  • New Section 50.7 mandates requirements for mobile and temporary cooking operations, defined as “Any cooking apparatus or equipment operated on a one-time basis, interim basis, or for less than 90 days in the same location, other than at a fixed location, building, or structure that has been inspected and permitted under another section of this Code, regulation, or statute.”
  • Additional guidance is provided in Section 10.14 for electrical equipment, communications, power sources, and life safety evaluations for fairs and carnivals.

 

Other Code requirements for consideration at fairs and carnivals: maintaining acceptable fire department access and water supply as required (18.2, 18.3); completion of a life safety evaluation where ordered by the AHJ (10.14.3); standby generators and power systems that may be used to power attractions and facilities (11.7); special amusement buildings such as mirror mazes and haunted houses (20.1.4); and permitting (1.12)


By following the necessary precautions in NFPA 1, carnivals and fairs can continue to be a fun and memorable event for everyone.


What Code enforcement issues related to fairs and carnivals have you faced while reviewing and enforcing these event details in your jurisdiction?


Thank you for reading. Stay safe!


(To view the 2018 edition of NFPA 1 visit www.nfpa.org/1 . You can also view all past #FireCodefridays here. Follow along on twitter @KristinB_NFPA for further Fire Code news and fire safety stories)

Summer is a busy time at NFPA.  This year, the Building and Life Safety Systems Department has been preparing for and staffing NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, First Draft meetings in Minneapolis; I am off to another week of NFPA 101 meetings this Sunday.  In addition, the Fire Code Technical Committee will hold their First Draft meeting this September working towards the development of the 2021 edition. 

 

While I am preparing in the office, a lot of students are preparing to head back to college, maybe on their way for the first time and have lots of preparation to do themselves including the ever-important shopping for dorm room décor; posters, strings of lights, wall hangings, and new furniture.  It’s important to understand the fire safety requirements that colleges and universities must abide by and the various roles that students, building managers as well as fire inspectors play in enforcing these regulations and keeping students safe.

 

campus safety

 

Here I will discuss the requirements specific to dormitories, where it’s most common for violations to occur related to furnishings and decorations.  However, it is important to remember that college campuses contain a number of different occupancies such as business, assembly, and even industrial and the requirements for those occupancies may vary. Generally, the occupancies that do regulate furnishings and contents involve occupants who are non-ambulatory, who are otherwise restrained or detained, or who are asleep, such as dormitories.

 

      NFPA 1 regulates furnishings and contents in dormitories in Section 20.8.  The requirements are primarily extracted from NFPA 101 and are as follows: 

  • New curtains and other similar loosely hanging furnishings and decorations must meet the flame propagation performance criteria from Test Method 1 or Test Method 2 of NFPA 701.  Hanging thin tapestries is a common decoration in dormitories. The testing requirements of NFPA 701 measure the level of hazard posed by draperies and other loosely hanging fabrics and films.
  • Newly introduced upholstered furniture must be tested to ASTM E1537 and demonstrate limited heat release rates (a single furniture item cannot have a peak rate of heat release more than 80kW).  This is not applicable to furniture in a fully sprinklered dormitory!
  • Newly introduced mattresses must be tested to ASTM E1590 or ASTM F1085 and meet the applicable performance criteria.  This is not applicable to mattresses in a fully sprinklered dormitory!
  • Furnishings and decorations of a highly flammable material cannot be used.
  • Bulletin boards, posters, and paper attached directly to the wall cannot exceed 20 percent of the aggregate wall area to which they are applied.  This is applicable to inside dorm rooms as well as in the corridors and common areas.  Bulletin boards, posters, and paper attached directly to a wall can behave similarly to interior finish materials with the potential for spreading flame. The 20 percent criterion helps ensure that there are not sufficient expanses of such materials, for which classification is unfeasible and unenforceable, that could spread flame more quickly than would occur with wall finish materials complying with applicable interior finish requirements.

 

While not part of the Code sections on furnishings and decorations, other Code provisions should be considered when regulating and enforcing this issue in dormitories.  Decorations should never be placed on any fire protection equipment such as sprinklers or alarms as residents must not render any portable or fixed fire extinguishing system or device or any warning system or device inoperative or inaccessible.  Candles are another hazard, on their own, and when used carelessly around furnishings and decorations.  Section 10.10.2 of the Code gives the AHJ the authority to prohibit their use wherever such use is deemed to be hazardous.

 

Enforcers of the Code must be aware of the provisions relating to furnishings and contents when inspecting dormitories.  However, some Code issues, such as regulating decorations or other parts of a person’s residence, can be difficult to enforce regularly. Utilizing campus safety personnel and residential staff can assist with spreading the word about fire safety. Educating dorm residents about fire safety is a critical part of their overall safety while living in dorms.  Colleges should establish best practices for how students and residents in dormitories are educated on fire safety requirements and responsibilities including any limitations on furnishings and decorations, the presence of fire safety equipment and roles and responsibilities for emergency drills and evacuation procedures.

 

What Code enforcement issues related to furnishings and decorations have you faced while inspecting buildings at a college/university? 

 

Thank you for reading.  Stay safe!

 

(To view the 2018 edition of NFPA 1 visit www.nfpa.org/1 .  You can also view all past #FireCodefridays here. Follow along on twitter @KristinB_NFPA for further Fire Code news and fire safety stories)

 

This week I was in Nashville, TN attending the SES Annual Conference. I am grateful for the opportunity to have attended this conference and network with other professionals who use and develop standards like those developed by NFPA. And I had the opportunity to go to the Grand Ole Opry! (When in Rome.)


Also this week, a fire occurred in Atlanta, GA that is directly related to a unique issue addressed by the Fire Code. The fire began in a large pile of old tires located adjacent to a vacant apartment building and eventually spread to the building as well. It was reported that the vacant building had been serving as an, “illegal dumping ground for hundreds of tires”. Reports also suggest that the fire was intentionally set.


NFPA 1, Chapter 33, addresses the outside storage of tires including new and existing outside storage piles of tires and altered tire material, as well as emergency response planning, fire control measures, site access, and signs and security for these areas; it is applicable to facilities with outdoor tire pile storage of more than 500 tires. At this threshold there becomes the potential for large-scale events, such as the 1999 Westley tire fire in California where a lightning strike ignited a tire pile, which contained an estimated 7 million scrap tires. The fire burned for 30 days and significantly impacted the environment due to the runoff of pyrolitic oil and contaminated fire-fighting water. The cost of the fire to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was $3.5 million. If a fire were to occur at outdoor storage of tire piles not more than 500 tires, such as those at a typical retail store, standard fire-fighting guidelines should effectively extinguish the fire in most cases.


The tire fire in Atlanta, while on a much smaller scale (even perhaps below the 500 tire threshold), is still representative of the hazardous conditions that non-compliant tire storage can create. Chapter 33 of the Code addresses these hazards by containing the following requirements:


• Layout of fire department access roads to allow for effective fire-fighting operations and site access. The minimum exposure separation distance for tire storage is based on both the exposed face dimension and the pile height of the tires. It ensures adequate fire department access as well as fuel breaks between the tire piles to prevent fire spread.
• Separation of yard storage facilities from hazardous exposures and structures.
• Prohibition of ignition sources within the tire area. This includes smoking, cutting and welding, heating devices, open fires and/or proximity to power lines.
• Measures to provide for surface water drainage and protection of pyrolitic oil runoff. (Pyrolitic oil in the tires is burned off when the stored tire pile is allowed to burn. But one the pile begins to smolder or suppressed, the tires melt and release pyrolitic oil).
• Limitations on the location of storage piles (no wetlands, flood plains, canyons, etc.)
• Pile storage arrangement
o New tire storage – limited in volume to 125,000 ft2 and no greater than 10 ft in height, 50 ft in width and 250 ft in length.
o Existing piles – must meet the criteria for new piles within 5 years of adoption of the Code but until then they are limited to 250,000 ft2 and must not exceed 20 ft in height, 50 ft in width and 250 ft in length.
• Development, maintenance and use of an Emergency Response Plan.
• Presence of manual fire-fighting equipment.

 

This fire occurred at a vacant building, which has been accumulating old tires on the property. Section 10.12 of NFPA 1 also requires every person owning or having charge or control of any vacant building or premises to remove all combustible storage, waste, refuse and vegetation and secure the building or premises to prohibit entry by unauthorized persons. Compliance with this section could have prevented the accumulation of old tires on the property. The tire fire in Atlanta shows the important role that both the fire inspectors and building owners play in ensuring compliance with the Code.

 

Have you had to enforce tire storage facilities in your jurisdiction? What challenges have you faced?

 

Thanks for reading, stay safe!

 

Please visit www.nfpa.org/1 to view the free access version of NFPA 1 2018 edition. Follow along on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. Looking for an older #FireCodefriday blog? You can view past posts here.

The NFPA 101 and NFPA 5000 core chapter Technical Committees just finished up their first week of First Draft meetings in Minneapolis, MN. It was a busy week with multiple meetings, lots of discussion and many beneficial code changes that resulted from hours of work contributed by NFPA staff and volunteers. While these meetings were for our Life Safety Code and building code, some of the discussions that arose crossed into the work of the Fire Code, and I was happy to contribute to those discussions.

One topic that arose during discussion related to a building owner’s responsibility to provide technical documentation about products in their building, specifically, existing opening protectives and glazing products, in order for the AHJ to verify compliance. That had me thinking about the provisions in NFPA 1 that specifically state the owner and occupant responsibilities related to the Fire Code.

Users of the Code would go to Chapter 10 for provisions related to a variety of topics; fire drills, emergency action plans, open fires, seasonal buildings, outdoor events, outdoor storage and even children’s play structures. However, at the front of Chapter 10 (Section 10.2) are provisions for the owner and occupant responsibilities, as follows:

  • The owner, operator, or occupant is be responsible for compliance with NFPA 1.

 

  • They must notify the AHJ prior to a change of occupancy as specified in 4.5.7 and 10.3.4 of NFPA 1.
  • The AHJ is be permitted to require the owner, operator, or occupant to provide tests or test reports, without expense to the AHJ, as proof of compliance with the intent of this Code.
  • The owner, operator, or occupant of a building that is deemed unsafe by the AHJ must abate, through corrective action approved by the AHJ, the condition causing the building to be unsafe either by repair, rehabilitation, demolition, or other corrective action approved by the AHJ.
  • Any person in control of a building or premises must keep records of all maintenance, inspections, and testing of fire protection systems, fire alarm systems, smoke control systems, emergency evacuation and relocation drills, emergency action plans, emergency power, elevators, and other equipment as required by the AHJ.
  • All records required to be kept are to be maintained until their useful life has been served, as required by law, or as required by the AHJ.

As stated in 10.2.1 of the Code, the person responsible for the property is responsible for complying with this Code. The AHJ should work with property owners, operators, and occupants to educate them on the requirements of this Code. This cooperation can help correct violations and prevent the need to issue citations when inspections are conducted. If a violation notice is issued as a result of an inspection, the responsible party should ensure that the violations are corrected as soon as possible after the notice is received. 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 and reducing violations.

If the AHJ is not confident of Code compliance (e.g., where a fire protection system is in questionable working order, or a particular interior finish or opening protective lacks documentation of Code compliance), Section 10.2.3 permits the AHJ to require the property owner to conduct the necessary testing or to produce test reports showing that the system or materials in question comply with the Code. The AHJ can require receipt of the documentation on testing and maintenance of fire protection systems after such work has been performed. The cost of such tests or reports is the responsibility of the property owner or agent.

As AHJs, how do you work with building owners or others responsible for properties to help ensure compliance with NFPA 1?

Almost time to board my flight back to Boston. Looking forward to coming back to Minneapolis in a few weeks to continue the work in NFPA 101 and NFPA 5000. I am confident I will learn something about NFPA 1, too.

Thanks for reading, stay safe.

Today’s post is from NFPA staff member, Jennifer Sisco. Jen is a Fire Protection Engineer in the Building and Life Safety Department where she serves as Staff Liaison to multiple NFPA Technical Committees, including Smoke Management systems responsible for the development of NFPA 92. Special thanks to Jen for her contribution!

 

 

This Friday Code Friday is all about Smoke Control Systems. Unfortunately, they will not help you when the smoke from your campfire keeps changing in your direction, but they are important building fire protection systems which have unique testing and inspection requirements.


Section 11.8 of the Code addresses smoke control systems. It should be noted that Section 11.8 does not require smoke control systems but mandates that, where such systems are installed for Code compliance, an approved maintenance and testing program must be provided to ensure operational integrity. A smoke control system dedicated to emergency use only will not be subject to dialed use, and therefore, maintenance and testing of smoke control systems are necessary.


Per Section 11.8, newly installed smoke-control systems are required to be inspected by the AHJ and tested in accordance with the criteria established in the approved design documents, NFPA 92, Standard for Smoke Control Systems, and NFPA 204, Standard for Smoke and Heat Venting. NFPA 92 applies to the design, installation, acceptance testing, operation, and ongoing periodic testing of smoke control systems. It incorporates methods for applying engineering calculations and reference models to provide a designer with the tools to develop smoke control system designs. NFPA 204 applies to the design of venting systems for the emergency venting of products of combustion from fires in buildings. NFPA 1, 2018 edition, references NFPA 92 2015 edition and NFPA 204, 2015 edition. The smoke control system’s performance objectives and acceptance criteria should be approved by the AHJ prior to its installation. In some cases, the code mandating the system specifies the performance objectives. For example, in accordance with NFPA 101®, atria require an engineering analysis to demonstrate that smoke will be managed for the time necessary to evacuate the building.


In addition to the initial inspection and testing, smoke control systems are required to be operationally tested on an approved schedule, per NFPA 1, Section 11.8.2.1; which NFPA 92, Section 8.6 clarifies is annually for dedicated systems, and semi-annually for non-dedicated systems.


Smoke control systems fall into one or two categories, as outlined in NFPA 92, Section 4.2: Smoke Containment Systems or Smoke Management Systems. Smoke containment systems are designed to either contain smoke to a given zone or keep smoke from entering a given zone through the use of differential pressure. Examples of these systems include zoned smoke control, and pressurization systems for stairwells, elevators, vestibules, or smoke refuge areas. Smoke management systems are designed to maintain tenable conditions, set forth in the design, for large-volume spaces through the use of both natural and mechanical ventilation and air movement. Examples of these systems include atrium and mall smoke control systems.


Smoke control systems can include many components including: initiating devices, fans, dampers, vents, controls, smoke barriers, fire stopping, doors, and windows. Each of these components is required to be inspected, tested, and maintained as part of the smoke control system. Therefore, it is important to understand the individual components of a given system. It is the responsibility of the owner/occupant to retain records pertaining to inspection, testing, and maintenance of the systems per NFPA 1, Section 10.2.5.


Smoke control systems are a significant part of life safety, and therefore any time that a system is impaired for more than four hours, the authority having jurisdiction is required to be notified. The AHJ has the authority to require the building to be evacuated or provided with an approved fire watch for the duration of the impairment per NFPA 1, Sections 11.8.4 and 11.8.5.

 

Thanks, again, to Jen for contributing to this blog. And thanks to all for reading, stay safe!

 

(To view the 2018 edition of NFPA 1 visit www.nfpa.org/1 . You can also view all past #FireCodefridays here. Follow along on twitter @KristinB_NFPA for further Fire Code news and fire safety stories)

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