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NFPA Today

141 Posts authored by: kristinbigda Employee

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Thanks for reading!

 

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

 

IT’S A BIG WORLD. LET’S PROTECT IT TOGETHER.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Have NFPA Technical Questions on NFPA 241?

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

 

Please visit https://www.nfpa.org/Codes-and-Standards/Resources/NFPA-Technical-questions for more information.  

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a wealth of information, guidelines, and resources for cleaning and disinfecting facilities in the community setting: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/cleaning-disinfection.html

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

IT’S A BIG WORLD. LET’S PROTECT IT TOGETHER.

 

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

 

Thanks for reading!

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

IT’S A BIG WORLD. LET’S PROTECT IT TOGETHER.

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

Thanks for reading!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

IT’S A BIG WORLD. LET’S PROTECT IT TOGETHER.

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

 

Thanks for reading!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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

 

schoolroom

 

Educational occupancies, defined in NFPA 1, Fire Code, as "an occupancy used for educational purposes through the twelfth grade by six or more persons for 4 or more hours per day or more than 12 hours per week" include preschools, elementary schools, high schools, and the like. Colleges and Universities fall under a different occupancy classification and, while might present some similar hazards, should not be protected as educational occupancies. Educational facilities are inspected frequently and kept under a close watch by code officials. The day to day activities of a school can be greatly impacted by a document such as the Fire Code. 

 

Furnishings and Decorations:

One area that inspectors and educational occupancies must play close attention to is furnishings, decorations, and interior finish. NFPA 1 provides the following requirements with respect to these materials:

 

  • Draperies, curtains, and other similar loosely hanging furnishings and decorations have to meet specific performance criteria from NFPA 701.Clothing and other personal supplies cannot be stored in the corridors unless the corridor is sprinklered, has a smoke detection system, or where the supplies are stored in metal lockers that do not interfere with the egress width.
  • Clothing hung on hooks along corridor walls or on racks in school lobbies greatly increases the combustible load and will generally allow flame to spread quickly.
  • Artwork and teaching materials can be attached to the walls but cannot exceed 20% of the wall area in a non-sprinklered building and cannot exceed 50% of the wall area if the building is fully sprinklered. Because the combustibility of the artwork cannot be effectively controlled, the quantity, in terms of the percentage of wall area covered, is regulated to avoid creating a continuous combustible surface that will spread flame across the room. It may be advantageous not only to limit the quantity of artwork displayed but also to avoid placing such materials near a room’s exit access doors.

 

Fire Drills

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

 

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

 

Security

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The intent is to not require fire department access roads to detached gazebos and ramadas, independent buildings associated with golf courses, parks, and similar uses such as restrooms or snack shops that are 400 ft2 (37 m2) or less in area, and detached equipment or storage buildings for commercial use that are 400 ft2 (37 m2) or less in area. Interestingly, the Fire Code Technical Committee addressed an issue regarding fire department access as their First Draft meeting last fall, leading to a revision which was voted into the First Draft of the next edition of the Code (you can view the First Draft Report here). Where the Code now states that sheds and other detached buildings having an area not exceeding 400 ft2 may be exempt from fire department road access, the Technical Committee made a change as follows: “(6) Sheds and other detached buildings, not classified as a residential occupancy, having an area not exceeding 400 ft2”.   The proposed change addresses "tiny homes" and similar structures, therefore requiring the application of Sections 18.2.3.1 through 18.2.3.2.2.1 in the Code that otherwise may have exempted these structures from fire department access roads. The growing trend of 'tiny homes', which are residential occupancies, can create a hazardous situation where homes are located close together or where multiple homes are located on a single property. By calling out small detached buildings that are also residential occupancies, this ensures that their fire department access not be compromised.

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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


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


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


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

 

Looking for additional information on this topic?


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


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


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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In Texas, the State Fire Marshal's Office has adopted the 2015 editions of both NFPA 101 and NFPA 1, with some noted exceptions. From their website, “The Life Safety Code® determines the design, construction and operation of occupied buildings. When other codes are utilized for building design elements, the standards of the Life Safety Code® prevail…. NFPA 1 is used by the State Fire Marshal’s Office staff when conducting inspections within their authority.”

 

Attendees Talking at NFPA Conference & Expo

 

Fortunately, inspectors from Texas don’t have to travel far to further their knowledge of the fire code and how to inspect for current code requirements as well as learn about upcoming, emerging code issues that will very soon be impacting the fire code community. Next week is NFPA’s flagship event, the Conference & Expo and is being held this year in San Antonio, TX. There will be over 130 educational sessions offered for the week along with other special events highlighting areas of fire protection, life safety, building construction and public education. To see the full details of the event (not too late to make last minute plans, regardless of where you are traveling from!), check out the Conference & Expo page.

 

If you plan to be at the event here is a list of some educational sessions (and their relationship to NFPA 1) that may be of interest to you as a fire inspector to further your knowledge about Fire Code related issues, use and enforcement. To see a full description of each session you can visit the Conference & Expo page or click on the individual links below.    

Hazardous Materials and Processes:

X09. NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code — Production Facility Compliance (NFPA 30 is second only to NFPA 101 with the number of sections extracted into NFPA 1. The Code extracts over 1400 sections from NFPA 30 including definitions, mandated provisions and explanatory Annex sections)

T68. When Uber Meets Octane: Fire Code Requirements for On-Demand Fueling (NFPA 1 added requirements for on-demand mobile fueling via a Tentative Interim Amendment to the 2018 edition of the Code?)

T69. Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) — Safety Considerations (NFPA 1 added a new chapter on additive manufacturing to the First Draft and will continue to discuss the topic throughout the remainder of the 2021 Code revision cycle)

W02. Flammable Refrigerants Regulations: Past, Present, and Future (Flammable refrigerants have been a topic of discussion by the technical committee for the last couple of Code revision cycles. The Code currently addresses these in Chapter 53.)

W16. NFPA 33 Spray Finishing Requirements — Practical Application from Autobody Shops to Yachts (Chapter 43 of NFPA 1 addresses operations involving the spray application of flammable and combustible materials and required compliance with NFPA 33. The Code extracts about 17 pages of material from NFPA 33 so it is important for fire inspectors to be aware of process that can occur in a number of different occupancies. )

 

W18. NFPA 30A and NFPA 58: Safe Refueling of Propane Autogas Vehicles (The Code extracts extensive requirements from both NFPA 30A and NFPA 58 that related to this topic.)

Fire Protection Systems:

T16. NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems — Test Your Knowledge (NFPA 1 extracts from NFPA 13 and requires fire inspectors to be familiar with automatic sprinkler system operation.)

X10. What’s Wrong with This Picture? Identifying Water-Based System Deficiencies (NFPA 25 is the governing document for the inspection of water-based fire protection systems and is also extracted into NFPA 1.)

X17. Sprinkler System FAQs and Q&A (See notes above.)

Building and Life Safety:

M06. Enforcing the Extraordinary: Codes, Standards, and Best Practices for the Entertainment Industry (The Fire Code addresses all occupancies and special uses. Various sections throughout the Code will be needed to ensure building and occupant safety for entertainment events.)

P09. NFPA 241—Setting the Standard for Safeguarding Construction Operations (Chapter 16 of the Code addresses safeguarding construction and demolition operations and extracts from NFPA 241.)

P10. ASHER: A Public Session on Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (NFPA 1 along with other model codes such as life safety and building codes will be addressing the balance of fire and life safety with security from non-fire events for years to come. Compliance with both NFPA 3000 as well as model codes will no doubt overlap and working together as a community is critical for occupant safety.)

T59. NFPA 3000™ (PS): Community Threat Assessment and Response Preparedness (See note above.)

W49. Fire and Life Safety for Large Festivals (Large festivals are likely classified as assembly occupancies and can present unique challenges to a fire inspectors. With festival season upon us, NFPA 1 and the inspector play a critical role in keeping people safe during these events.)

Other:

M14 - NFPA 1 - Requisitos de Ocupaciones Especiales (Special Occupancy Requirements) (NFPA 1 addresses occupancy specific provisions for fire protection systems, egress requirements, interior finish, and other processes and operations that can be found in many occupancies.)

M18. Consumer Fireworks — A Review of Recent Large-Scale Fire Tests (In August 2014, a TIA was issued in conjunction with a Standards Council decision to temporarily withdraw NFPA 1124 and end all NFPA standards development activities relating to the storage and retail sales of consumer fireworks. Since then, a 2017 edition of the standard was issued but without any provisions related to consumer fireworks in its scope.)

 

M19. A New Standard for Energy Storage Systems: NFPA 855 (NFPA 1 will extract from NFPA 855 if it is issued by the Standards Council this summer. Critical and necessary requirements for fire inspectors related to energy storage systems will be added to the 2021 edition.)

X16 - The NFPA® Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem (The Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem cannot function effectively without an effective regulatory environment, use of referenced codes and standards, and effective code compliance, all cogs where fire inspectors can play a critical role in the safety of buildings, occupants and responders.)

 

We want to hear from you. Are you planning to attend the Conference next week in San Antonio? If this is your first NFPA Conference & Expo, what are you looking forward to the most? What educational sessions do you believe will bring you the most value as a Fire Inspector? Check back in here after the Conference and let us know what you thought and how we can further help you do your job.

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Are you responsible for enforcing apartment buildings where residents want to use grills?  Have you been faced with landlords or condo associations who are seeking education on the risk of grills and cooking appliances?  Do you see office buildings with grilling/patio areas located too close to the building? Why does a Fire Code care about the occupant use of grills? NFPA 1 provides limitations for the use of grills, hibachi, and similar devices used for cooking and heating to ensure both the safety of occupants and protection of property.

 

grilling safety

For other than one- and two-family dwellings, no hibachi, grill, or other similar devices used for cooking, heating, or any other purpose is to be used or ignited on any balcony, under any overhanging portion, or within 10 ft (3 m) of any structure.  This keeps the ignition source a safe distance from the structure, such as an apartment building or dormitory, and away from exterior areas.  In addition, these grills/hibachi cannot be stored on balconies.  Where grills are stored on balconies, the probability is high they will be used there as well.

 

With regard to the application and enforcement of this provision in the Code, a frequently asked question to NFPA staff is whether electric grills are including in this provisions.  The answer is yes, they must follow the same rule as other fuel fired grills noted above.  In 2006 the Code read as follows:

10.11.7 For other than one- and two-family dwellings, no hibachi, gas-fired grill, charcoal grill, or other similar devices used for cooking, heating, or any other purpose, shall be used or kindled on any balcony or under any overhanging portion or within 10 ft (3 m) of any structure. Listed electric ranges, grills, or similar electrical apparatus shall be permitted.

 

However, the underlined sentence was removed in the 2009 edition and all subsequent editions.  From 2009 on, the requirement as stated in Section 10.11.6 is intended to include electric devices when enforcing this requirement. Listed equipment permanently installed in accordance with its listing, applicable codes and manufacturer’s instructions is permitted, however. 

 

We understand the challenges you may face in your role as a fire inspector when enforcing this provision.  The inspection of every balcony of every multifamily dwelling is an impractical enforcement task. Compliance through public education is more readily achievable. As an AHJ, you can provide written notification of these requirements to condominium associations, property management agencies, and others who are affected. When the potential danger posed by grills is understood, voluntary compliance is easier to obtain. Landlords can also include this prohibition in leases to ensure that tenants are aware of the restrictions. 

 

NFPA also offers safe grilling tips and other resources for grilling safety.  Here you will find a safe grilling tip sheet, grilling statistics infographic, a video with grilling safety tips, and also a video to show how to check your gas grill for leaks.  In addition, you can check out this recent blog highlighting other safety information regarding grilling. All important information for consumers and enforcers alike.  Who says grilling is only for the summer?  If you grill year-round you should stay safe year-round.

 

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Standpipe systems are fixed piping systems with associated equipment that transports water from a reliable water supply to designated areas of buildings. Such systems are typically provided in tall and large-area buildings. 

These systems can significantly improve the efficiency of manual fire-fighting operations by eliminating the need for long and cumbersome hose lays from fire apparatus to a fire. Even in buildings that are protected by automatic sprinklers, standpipe systems can play an important role in building fire safety by serving as a backup for, and complement to, sprinklers.standpipe

 

So, how does this impact you as a fire inspector? As an inspector utilizing NFPA 1 you need to know three things about standpipes when determining if a building and system is compliant with the Code:  (1) Where are standpipes required, (2) What type of system is required and (3) Has the system been properly inspected, tested, and maintained.

 

Where are standpipes required?

The Code required standpipe systems, designed and installed in accordance with NFPA 14, in new buildings that meet any of the following conditions:

(1) More than three stories above grade where the building is protected by an approved automatic sprinkler system,

(2) More than two stories above grade where the building is not protected by an approved automatic sprinkler system,

(3) More than 50 ft (15 m) above grade and containing intermediate stories or balconies

(4) More than one story below grade

(5) More than 20 ft (6.1 m) below grade

 

In addition, standpipes are required in high-rise buildings and some stage areas in assembly occupancies.  Some occupancies also mandate the presence of standpipes, such as detention and correctional occupancies, airport terminals and piers, at certain thresholds.  As a fire inspector, you will be utilizing a number of codes and standards when inspecting buildings.  You might find that the standpipe thresholds vary in the codes. NFPA 1 might mandate the presence of standpipes where NFPA 101 does not, for example.  This is because the scope of a fire code, life safety code, and building code differ.  When enforcing the provisions for standpipes, the most restrictive provisions of the applicable codes apply.

 

Did you know that there are instances where the AHJ can permit the removal of existing occupant-use hose lines? Where (1) NFPA 1 does not require their installation, (2) The current building code does not require their installation, AND (3) The AHJ determines that the occupant-use hose line will not be utilized by trained personnel or the fire department, existing occupant-use hose lines can be removed per the AHJ.  This was added to the Code to place emphasis on the preference for untrained building occupants to evacuate rather than attempt to extinguish a fire using hose lines.

 

What type of system is required?

In addition to the Code mandating where standpipes are required it will also specify what class of system is required for a particular installation.  Standpipe systems are designated as Class I, Class II, and Class III.  Note that sprinkler systems with hose connections are not necessarily considered to be standpipe systems. Such systems are often regarded simply as sprinkler systems. The design of a combined system is similar to any other Class I or Class III system, except that the water supply and pipe sizes may be larger to accommodate the added sprinkler system demand.  The process of designing a standpipe system begins with determining the intended use, that is, whether it is for (1) full-scale fire fighting, (2) first-aid fire fighting, or (3) both. These three uses correspond with the three classes of standpipe systems. Most aspects of system design, such as the required water supply, layout, and system components, are also affected or dictated by the class of system.

 

Let’s look at a Class I system, as an example:  A Class I system provides 2½ in. (65 mm) hose connections at designated locations in a building for use by the fire department. A Class I system is typically required in buildings that have more than three stories above or below grade because of the time and difficulty involved in laying hose from fire apparatus directly to remote floors.  For these reasons, Class I standpipes are the required system in high-rise buildings.

 

Requirements for inspection, testing, and maintenance of standpipes systems

Finally, a standpipe system installed as required by NFPA 1 must be properly maintained to provide at least the same level of performance and protection as designed.  Specific details for inspection, testing, and maintenance of the system are found in NFPA 25. The owner is responsible for maintaining the standpipe system and keeping it in good working condition.

 

Are you required to inspect buildings with standpipe systems?  What types of buildings in your jurisdiction have standpipe systems?  Have you sited compliance issues?  Are there any resources you find could help you do your job better when enforcing standpipe or other building systems?  Comment below and join the discussion!

 

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new york public library

 

Since the historic fire at Notre Dame this past Monday, I have found myself fascinated with the flood of analyses and photos and information about the fire, the building design and construction, its history and a global desire to rebuild.   I am confident that for the weeks and months to come we will continue to see and hear information as plans solidify and a community joins together to plan and prepare for moving forward with redeveloping and reimagining this global icon. 

 

A few days ago, a local Boston news website wrote an article about a local monument, Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and its recently completed fire protection upgrades.  The last sentence of the article resonated with me the most.  Chris Gedrich, an executive at Boston-based Suffolk Construction stated “We rely heavily on teamwork and partnerships . . . and a lot of pre-analysis of hazardous areas before we start to work.”  Designing, building, protecting and maintaining has to be a team event.  Those partnerships and shared conversations that are held up front set the stage for success among all those involved in such a unique large scale project that carries such a variety of goals and objectives held my numerous stakeholders.  When the Notre Dame community is ready to move forward following the fire, this quote will have to hold true to ensure a safe and resilient structure.  

 

You read in Robert Solomon’s post about the challenges of protecting historic buildings from fire and the codes that NFPA produces that address these challenges.  Both NFPA 909 and NFPA 914 are referenced in NFPA 1.  Inspectors and AHJs are provided the direction to comply with NFPA 914 when faced with historic buildings in their jurisdiction.  For buildings that display cultural resources, including museum or library collections, or spaces within other buildings used for such culturally significant purposes, inspectors have available to them NFPA 909.

 

What is so unique about NFPA 909 that also relates to the quote noted above from Mr. Gedrich is its emphasis on the planning process when preparing a protection plan for a cultural resource property. The governing body of these properties is responsible for developing and adopting a protection plan for the property.  In addition, a planning team must be identified in order to oversee the development of the protection plan.  The planning team collects all relevant information, standards and regulations to begin the development of a protection plan.  Chapter 5 of NFPA 909 provides the governing body of a cultural resource property with the framework to develop the protection plan.

 

Throughout NFPA 909, for the variety of culturally significant properties, is the common theme of teamwork, either during day to day protection of the property and even during construction and renovation projects.  Identified and agreed upon roles, responsibilities and documentation are a minimum to ensuring the adequate protection of such valuable and treasured property.

 

Whatever transpires with the future of Notre Dame or other communities around the world that may be reassessing the safety, security and resiliency of their own cultural and historical structures, one thing is for sure, it will involve teamwork, contributions and buy-in from all stakeholders involved in the process.  It will be an effort and undertaking with a global impact and with modern fire safety and technology in the spotlight.  I, for one, will be following along with the rebuilding of this icon every step of the way.  Will you?

 

Do you have any historical or cultural buildings in your jurisdiction?  What challenges do you face?  Comment below and join the discussion!

 

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