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124 Posts authored by: kristinbigda Employee

Today’s blog was written by 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!


Fire-resistance-rated assemblies play a vital role in fire safety. However, an assembly is only as good as its weakest point - the openings. How do you know if an opening in a fire-resistance-rated assembly is protected appropriately, or if the opening is even permitted?

 

Not all openings are created equal. Door openings, for example, usually can’t be avoided as they are needed for the movement of people and equipment throughout the building, and for security and privacy. Windows or transom openings, on the other hand, are not necessary for the building to function; they tend to be installed for aesthetics, environmental reasons, or other architectural purposes. To understand the requirements for opening protectives, it is required for one to first understand the difference between a fire-protection-rating and a fire-resistance-rating. Although often used interchangeably, they are different.

 

Most opening protectives (assemblies protecting openings in a fire-rated assembly) have a fire-protection-rating whereas the wall/floor/ceiling assembly has a fire-resistance-rating. There are some exceptions where an opening protective may also be fire-resistance rated, but it is not the majority. There are a number of tests that will result in a fire-protection-rating, such as NFPA 252 and NFPA 257. When a product has a fire-resistance-rating it has been tested to ASTM E119 or ANSI/UL 263. If the opening protective is being tested as a wall; it will be subject to the same fire test as the wall itself. NFPA 252, NFPA 257, and ASTM E119 all expose the test specimen to a fire-based on the standard time- temperature curve.

 

A big difference between the tests is the performance criteria. For products undergoing a test resulting in a fire-protection-rating, some amount of openings, specifically around the glazing, are permitted and there are no limitations on the amount of heat transferred from one side to the other. Products tested to ASTM E119 are held to different test criteria based on their performance needs. There can be no passage of flame or gases hot enough to ignite cotton waste on the unexposed side and the temperature on the unexposed side of the wall cannot increase more than 250OF above the original temperature.

 

To properly protect an opening in a fire-resistance-rated assembly, the proper fire-protection-rating is required. Section 12.7.6 of NFPA 1 addresses opening protectives in fire-rated assemblies. It should be carefully noted that this table DOES NOT require the fire-resistance-ratings. The fire-resistance-rating will be mandated somewhere else in the Code and Section 12.7.6 will provide the required fire-protection-rating of the opening based on that mandated fire-resistance-rating. Wherever the Code refers to a fire-protection-rated door assembly or fire door assembly, it is referring to the entire assembly. If any single component is not properly provided, installed, and functioning, the assembly is not a fire-protection-rated assembly. For example, if a listed fire door leaf and frame are installed with positive latch and hinges but the required self-closing device is omitted, the assembly cannot be considered a fire door assembly and is not considered to have any fire-protection-rating.

 

For example, a new exit stair enclosure that connects 2 stories would require a 1-hour fire-resistance-rating based on how the Code requires exits be protected. Table 12.7.6.2.2 provides the minimum fire-protection-rating of the openings in “Vertical shafts, including stairways, exits, and refuse chutes”. Based on the Code requirement for a 1-hour fire-resistance-rating, the table tells us that opening protectives must have a minimum 1 hour fire-protection-rating.

 

How does this impact a fire inspector? AHJs are responsible for confirming that openings have been properly inspected, tested, and maintained and met the provisions as referenced in NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives (also extracted into NFPA 1, Section 12.4). An inspection of an opening protective will determine if the proper opening has been installed; the proper fire-protection-rating being one of the first pieces of information that an inspector will look at on the label on the opening protective. The inspections themselves, required annually, may be done by a person also serving as a fire inspector, by a facility manager/facility staff, or by someone who is in a role specific to the inspection, testing and maintenance of openings.

 

NFPA offers a plethora of resources related to protecting and inspecting fire-rated opening protectives including training and online learning. A recent article in NFPA Journal highlights the importance of clearances and gaps around fire door installations, particularly in health care occupancies. It also addresses the connection between the maximum gaps permitted by NFPA 80 versus the criteria tested for by NFPA 252 and how proposed research and testing can further the knowledge on the performance of opening protectives and their impact on building and life safety. NFPA offers annotated handbooks on the 2010, 2013, and 2016 editions of NFPA 80 if you are in a role where you require  expanded knowledge of the standard, in addition to the application for fire-rated openings in NFPA 1.

 

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 #FireCodefridays blog? You can view past posts here.

The Fire Code is a comprehensive document for issues related to life safety from fire to building occupants, property protection, and enhanced emergency responder safety. In fact, there are 15 different items listed under the scope of the Code including but not limited to inspection of buildings, fire investigation, plans review, fire and life safety education, design, installation and maintenance of fire protection systems, storage and use of hazardous materials, conditions impacting fire fighter safety and the design and maintenance of egress systems. Together, the items addressed by the Code provide a single resource that can be utilized by a fire inspector during their day to day jobs.

 

 

Chapter 1 of the Code provides many of the ‘ground rules’ for the scope, application and enforcement of the Code. While Chapter 1 provides comprehensive provisions and direction on how the Code should be administered and enforced, these administrative procedures and requirements are frequently customized by the jurisdiction as part of the code adoption process. The remainder of the Code cannot be applied without first understanding the foundation set forth in the provisions of Chapter 1. For those familiar with some other NFPA codes and standards, Chapter 1 of NFPA 1 is quite a bit longer due to the scope of the Code and the responsibilities of a fire inspector.


One of those responsibilities with respect to the application of NFPA 1 is to issue permits. The Code requires a permit for more than 80 different types of operations and activities so a fire inspector must be aware of where and what activities are occurring in its jurisdiction that could affect fire and life safety. They are predicated upon compliance with the requirements of NFPA 1 and constitute written authority issued by the AHJ to maintain, store, use, or handle materials; to conduct processes that could produce conditions hazardous to life or property; or to install equipment used in connection with such activities. By requiring permits and approvals, the AHJ can ensure that the activities or operations are performed safely. In some jurisdictions, the AHJ may allow the permitting of some of these activities through other departments in the jurisdiction. As an example, the AHJ may allow all permits for new construction to be applied for and issued at the building department. In these circumstances, the AHJ still maintains the permit, plan review, and inspection authority granted in this Code.

 

Permits are sought via an application to the AHJ and may be accompanied by any data or information as required by the AHJ as well as the appropriate fee. AHJs have the responsibility to review all permit applications and issue permits as required. Where an application for a permit is rejected by the AHJ, the applicant is to be advised of the reasons for such rejection. The reasons for rejections should be detailed sufficiently so that the applicant can understand what actions are required to resubmit the permit application and potentially receive approval. Other permitting requirements include, but are not limited to the following (See also NFPA 1 Section 1.12 for all provisions related to permitting and approvals):

 

  • The AHJ may require an inspection prior to issuance of a permit
  • Permits issued under NFPA 1 can continue until revoked or for the period of time designated on the permit.
  • Permits are issued to one person or business only and only for the location or purpose described in the permit application.
  • Any change that affects any of the conditions of the permit requires a new or amended permit. 
  • Permit extensions may occur if the AHJ has been presented by the permittee an appropriate reason for failure to start or complete the work in the timeframe authorized by the original permit.
  • A copy of the permit must be posted or readily accessible at each place of operation and is subject to inspection as specified by the AHJ

 

Permit activities regulated under NFPA 1 may also be regulated by other government bodies. One example is the installation of underground petroleum storage tanks. In many jurisdictions, a separate environmental protection agency may be charged with responsibility to review the environmental factors of petroleum storage tank installations. The AHJ for NFPA 1 may wish to withhold fire code permit approval until confirmation is received that an approval from the environmental permitting body has also been received. The fire code inspector however, is not to be held responsible for enforcement of the regulations of other regulatory agencies unless specifically mandate to enforce those agencies’ regulations. Where additional permits, approvals, certificates, or licenses are required by these other organizations, they must be obtained by the applicant before work on the activity can begin. The fire inspector/AHJ serves an invaluable role in the permitting process. Many activities and operations cannot start or continue without issuance of a permit, and without an AHJ approval there is no permit. 

 

Those serving in a fire inspector role are required to meet the minimum professional qualifications established in NFPA 1031, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Inspector and Plan Examiner. One way to accomplish this is with a Certified Fire Inspector (CFI) certification. These programs were created back in 1998 in response from local jurisdictions for a certification program based on the competencies in NFPA 1031. Starting in NFPA 1, 2018 edition, compliance with NFPA 1031 is mandated for all fire inspectors and plans examiners. The NFPA CFI I and CFI II certification programs are one way to demonstrate compliance with this requirement, promote professionalism in the role of a fire inspector, help demonstrate and understanding of the application and use of codes and standards, and improve job performance. For more information on these programs and how to enroll, visit their page.

 

Thanks for reading, stay safe!

 

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

Today’s post is from NFPA staff, 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. Special thanks to Jen for her contribution!


For those of us who live in locations where the winter season means snow, ice, and cold; it can also mean seasonal fire and life safety hazards that can impact the responsibilities of building owners, facility managers, and fire inspectors.


NFPA 1 requires that the means of egress be maintained free of obstruction or impediments to ensure full instant use; and states that site administrators and staff are responsible for inspecting all egress areas to stairways, doors, and other exits to ensure that they are in proper condition. The annex further clarifies that this includes keeping the means of egress and all components clear of snow and ice. Drifting, plowed, or falling snow can make exterior doors difficult to open or make an exit impassible. Likewise, ice on exterior stairways and walkways can pose a significant life safety hazard.


In addition to blocking means of egress, snow can also impact fire department road access - reducing widths, blocking gates, or rendering roadways impenetrable. Fire department access roads, including gateways, need to remain unobstructed. NFPA 1 recognizes that this may be difficult in some areas with extreme snowfalls and that temporary alternative arrangements may need to be made, including temporary roadways as a result of snow accumulation. If it is anticipated that temporary alternate measures may be required, they should be coordinated in advance of snow events, whenever possible.


Winter conditions can prompt power outages which also correlate to increased carbon monoxide-related injuries and deaths. Carbon monoxide is responsible for tens of thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths annually in the United States, alone. Portable generators are a major contributor to carbon monoxide injuries and deaths, typically due to generators being operated in a garage, basement, or other indoor space. NFPA 1 states that generators never be operated inside a building, unless they are in a specifically designed generator room; and that they should be located at least 5 feet away from all building openings and air intakes with the exhaust directed away from the building.


Even in areas not prone to snow, cold temperatures have the ability to freeze piping for sprinkler systems or other water-based suppression systems. Frozen pipes are not only a concern for exterior piping, as piping within buildings in unconditioned spaces, near building openings, or in buildings with heating system impairments can also be subject to freezing. In accordance with NFPA 1, property owners are responsible for ensuring that all water-filled piping is maintained above 40˚F or provided with some other form of freeze protection. In areas that have the potential for freezing temperatures below the level that can be adequately protected by an allowable antifreeze solution, supplemental heat can be provided when temperatures fall below the level of the antifreeze solution. Other means of freeze protection for water-filled piping, including heated valve enclosures, heat tracing, insulation, or other methods are allowed by the applicable installation standards.


Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures can pose hazards to fire and life safety, but many of the hazards can be mitigated with a little preparation by building owners and facility managers; and enforced by those inspecting the property. Preparation and management of winter-related fire and life safety issues referenced in the Fire Code are critical to staying safe in the cold weather.


NFPA offers free resources on winter fire safety, as well as free infographics on a number of topics included winter fires and safe electrical practices. You can also find reports, data and statistics on winter related fire safety issues on www.nfpa.org.


Thanks for reading, stay safe!

 

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

It’s hard to believe it’s already time to reflect on the end of another year. As a Staff Liaison at NFPA, my role is to facilitate the development of NFPA 1 while ensuring the NFPA standards development process is followed and that we successfully revise our Code to best serve our end users. In addition, this process involves guiding the Technical Committee in addressing emerging issues and technologies related to their document and educating our stakeholders on the content contained in NFPA 1.

2018 was a busy year for the development of NFPA 1. We saw many important issues brought to the Committee; balancing building security and life safety, firefighter communications, energy storage systems, safety of portable generators, and many more. Early this year, NFPA staff and the Fire Code Technical Committee began the journey of developing the 2021 edition of the Code. This included the following activities:

  • Schedule update and customization – The 2021 revision cycle has been updated to reflect the challenges and needs of our technical committees, stakeholders as well as the staff involved in the developing a document that extracts from over 50 other NFPA standards and is over 750 pages in length. Changes to the schedule include:
    • Separating out the work on text owned by NFPA 1 versus the provisions extracted from NFPA 1. This will have an impact on the work by holding at least two meetings at both the First and Second Draft stages (we held two First Draft meetings in 2018.) This will allow for greater visibility of the work being done to extracted text for both our volunteers and the public.
    • Allowing for some additional time internally to process the changes both from NFPA 1 unique text as well as the extract updates. This includes pushing out the ballots and posting of the First Draft and Second Draft reports to maximize production time and product a higher quality end product.
  • Pre-First Draft Meeting – In May we held a Pre-First Draft meeting to address issues that arose early in the process and to plan ahead for the remainder of the revision cycle. At this meeting, five task groups were created to further review public inputs on topics such as life safety and security, standpipe provisions, portable generators, and emergency services communications. The Committee also developed draft actions on over 70 public inputs and reviewed emerging trends and technologies impacting the Code.
  • First-Draft Meeting #1 – In September we held the (first) First Draft meeting where the Committee acted on over 125 public inputs, developed 93 First Revisions and created 51 Committee Inputs. These actions account for future extract updates and the many emerging issues that will need to be addressed by the Fire Code this cycle. Six new task groups were formed to work on issues that arose during the meeting. These task groups will further evaluate topics such as photovoltaics, Monitor-it-Yourself (MIY) systems, energy storage systems, and portable generators.  
  • First Draft Meeting #2, extract review – In November was the second, First Draft meeting. At this meeting the Committee addressed only the review and updating of Code provisions that are extracted from other documents. At this meeting the Committee reviewed over 300 pages of updated text from 14 different NFPA codes and standards. The remainder will be reviewed and updated at the Second Draft.

There is such a large volume of information contained in this Code. The more we can educate our users the more we can help with the enforcement of the Code and the safety of buildings and their occupants. I am hopeful that you have found this blog as a successful way to communicate knowledge and information related to Code revisions, FAQs, current events and other seasonal related Code topics. (You can view all past Fire Code Friday blogs here!) In addition, the 2018 edition of the Fire Code Handbook was released earlier this year. This resource provides not only the Code text but commentary that provides explanations behind many of the Code provisions.

Looking ahead, 2019 will bring another busy year. It will be the second year of the revision cycle and the committee will hold at least two Second Draft meetings. We will continue our discussions on improving the Code development process for NFPA 1 to best serve our stakeholders, our inspectors, and the many staff involved in the production of the document. I look forward to continued advances in our work and the development of an NFPA 1 that will continue to serve as the go-to resource for fire inspectors.

In closing, thank you, all, for reading Fire Code Fridays. I hope you have benefitted from the information.  If you have suggestions, or feedback, or future topics you would like to see discussed please comment here. Let’s keep the discussion about the Fire Code and fire safety going in 2019.

Best wishes for a safe and happy New Year!

Kristin Bigda, P.E. NFPA 1 Staff Liaison

The winter is upon us. A major seasonal fire safety issue that impacts those of us in cold weather environments is the use of heating appliances, both in residential and non-residential type applications. The cold winter weather means a more frequent use of portable electric heaters (space heaters) and other heating equipment. Fire inspectors need to be aware of installation requirements, referenced standards applicable to these appliances and safe practices to help ensure fires caused by heating devices are kept to a minimum and buildings and occupants are protected.


NFPA 1 addresses heating appliances in Section 11.5. It primarily addresses the installation of liquid fuel-burning appliances as well as the accessories and control systems and the liquid fuel storage and supply systems related to these appliances, which includes industrial, commercial and residential type steam, hot water or warm air heating appliances. Portable electric heaters (space heaters) are covered in Section 11.5.3. Heat producing appliances such as clothes dryers, kerosene burners and oil stoves are also addressed.


The installation of most stationary liquid fuel-burning appliances must comply with NFPA 1 as well as NFPA 31, Standard for the Installation of Oil-Burning Equipment. NFPA 31 is a standard for the safe, efficient design and installation of heating appliances that use a liquid fuel, typically No. 2 heating oil, but also lighter fuels, such as kerosene and diesel fuel, and heavier fuels, such as No. 4 fuel oil. NFPA 31 applies to the installation of these systems in residential, commercial, and industrial occupancies.


The installation of gas-fired heating appliances must comply with NFPA 1 and NFPA 54, National Fuel Gas Code. The use of unvented, fuel-fired heaters is prohibited by NFPA 1 and NFPA 101 in numerous occupancies, unless they are approved units that comply with NFPA 54. The remainder of this Code section is extracted directly from the source document, NFA 31, and addresses acceptable liquid fuels permitted for these types of fuel burning appliances.

Other miscellaneous type heat producing appliances are also addressed here so it’s important as a user of the Code to review in its entirely all of Section 11.5 to not miss out on critical safety requirements:


Clothes dryers (Section 11.5.1.11)
shall be cleaned to maintain the lint trap and keep the mechanical and heating components free from excessive accumulations of lint. This is application to commercial type applications but is also good practice for residents in their individual dwelling units (not enforceable by NFPA 1).


Kerosene burners and oil stoves (Section 11.5.2).
Kerosene heaters must be listed and provided with appropriate safeguards. Kerosene stoves are self-contained, self-supporting, kerosene-burning ranges, room heaters, or water heaters not connected to chimneys but equipped with integral fuel supply tanks with a maximum capacity of 2 gal (7.6 L). Because these heaters are not connected to chimneys, they can be moved rather easily, although they generally are not considered portable. Each year, many serious fires result from the improper use of these heaters. Because of their mobility, these stoves pose a hazard when placed near combustible materials or where they can block a means of egress.


Portable Electric Heaters (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 be instructed to 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.

 

(And finally, we are merely days away from Christmas, and all of us, regardless of our role in the application of NFPA 1, should make sure that our chimneys are in good working condition for the arrival of the big guy. Section 11.5.4 requires all chimneys and similar devices be installed and maintained in accordance with NFPA 54 and NFPA 211. NFPA 211 contains many detailed requirements on the design, installation, and maintenance of chimneys, fireplaces, venting systems and solid fuel-burning appliances. But as a reminder, chimneys, fire places, and vents must be inspected at least once a year, and cleaned as necessary so as to not impair the structural or thermal performance. Compliance with NFPA 211 makes sure Santa stays safe, too.)

 

And, for additional information on heating safety, check out NFPA's Safety Tip Sheets.


Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays to all!

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 Live Q&A session guided users through where to find the requirements in the code for fire protection systems and how to navigate NFPA 1's chapter 13 and other occupancy specific requirements for fire protection systems. We also addressed how to locate provisions for standpipes, automatic sprinklers, fire pumps, fire extinguishers and fire alarms.
In my recent NFPA Live, I addressed this topic for members and received this follow-up question. I hope you find some value in it.
NFPA Live is an interactive video series in which members of NFPA staff address some of the most frequent topics they receive through theMember's Only Technical Questionservice. If you are currently an NFPA Member you canview the entire video by following this link.If you're not currently a member, join today!

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!

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

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!

 

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

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!

 

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

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!

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

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!

 

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

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!

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

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!

 

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

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!

 

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