What Are The Fire Protection Standards For Buildings?

The standards most widely adopted are those published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02269. The NFPA ‘‘National Fire Codes’’ comprise several volumes containing numerous standards, updated annually. (These are also available separately.)

The standards are supplemented by the NFPA ‘‘Fire Protection Handbook,’’ which contains comprehensive and detailed discussion of fire problems and much valuable statistical and engineering data.

Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL), 333 Pfingsten Road, Northbrook, IL 60062, publishes testing laboratory approvals of devices and systems in its ‘‘Fire Protection Equipment List,’’ updated annually and by bimonthly supplements.

The publication outlines the tests that devices and systems must pass to be listed. The UL ‘‘Building Materials List’’ describes and lists building materials, ceiling-floor assemblies, wall and partition assemblies, beam and column protection, interior finish materials, and other pertinent data.

UL also publishes lists of ‘‘Accident Equipment,’’ ‘‘Electrical Equipment,’’ ‘‘Electrical Construction Materials,’’ ‘‘Hazardous Location Equipment,’’ ‘‘Gas and Oil Equipment,’’ and others. Separate standards for application to properties insured by the Factory Mutual System are published by the Factory Mutual Engineering Corporation (FM), Norwood, MA 02062. FM also publishes a list of devices and systems it has tested and approved.

The General Services Administration, acting for the federal government, has developed many requirements that must be considered, if applicable. Also, the federal government encourages cities to adopt some uniform code.

In addition, buildings must comply with provisions of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). (See Department of Justice final rules, Federal Register, 28 CFR Part 36, July 26, 1991; American National Standards Institute ‘‘Accessibility Standard,’’ ANSI A117.1; ‘‘ADA Compliance Guidebook,’’ Building Owners and Managers Association International, 1201 New York Ave., Washington, D.C. 20005.)

The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) sets standards for protecting the health and safety of nearly all employees. It is not necessary that a business be engaged in interstate commerce for the law to apply. OSHA defines employer as ‘‘a person engaged in a business affecting commerce who has employees, but does not include the United States or any State or political subdivision of a State.’’

An employer is required to ‘‘furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.’’ Employers are also required to ‘‘comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under the Act.’’

Building codes consist of a set of rules aimed at providing reasonable safety to the community, to occupants of buildings, and to the buildings themselves. The codes may adopt the standards mentioned previously and other standards concerned with fire protection by reference or adapt them to the specific requirements of the community.

In the absence of a municipal or state building code, designers may apply the provisions of the Uniform Building Code, promulgated by the International Conference of Building Officials, or other national model code.

Many states have codes for safety to life in commercial and industrial buildings, administered by the Department of Labor, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the State Education Department, or the Health Department. Some of these requirements are drastic and must always be considered.

Obtaining optimum protection for life and property can require consultation with the owner’s insurance carrier, municipal officials, and the fire department. If the situation is complicated enough, it can require consultation with a specialist in all phases of fire protection and prevention.

In theory, municipal building codes are designed for life safety and for protection of the public, whereas insurance-oriented codes (except for NFPA 101, ‘‘Life Safety Code’’) are designed to minimize property fire loss.

Since about 70% of any building code is concerned with fire protection, there are many circumstances that can best be resolved by a fire protection consultant.

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