Topic: Code Enforcement

Exit doors

The Basics of Swinging-Type Egress Door Operation

Door assemblies serve multiple purposes that relate to the comfort and safety of building occupants. They provide protection from weather, reduction of noises from adjoining areas, prevent trespassing by unauthorized persons and slow or stop the spread of fire and smoke. While seemingly so commonplace, door assemblies can become an impediment to occupants if they are locked or inoperable.  Doors within a means of egress include those non-fire-rated, fire-rated and smoke-resisting door assemblies. None of these will perform properly if left open during a fire. There are many examples of fires where fatalities resulted because of doors that were left open. There are also examples of fires where lives were saved because a door leaf was closed. Unfortunately, there are those fires in which door openings needed for escape were blocked or locked, resulting in devastating losses. Just this week, an eight-alarm fire in Queens, New York City, displaced 240 residents and injured people, including 16 firefighters. The fire was reported to start in a unit on the top floor.  An occupant fleeing the building left the door open to the apartment unit, causing the fire to spread into the hallway and to other areas of the building.    To help ensure safe door operation during an emergency, considerations must be given to the type of door, width of opening and door leaves, door swing direction, encroachment, the force required to operate the door, and the locking and latching devices. Here we will focus on those fundamental operational features only for side-hinged or pivoted-swinging type egress doors as these include the majority of doors an occupant will likely face while egressing a building. Other door types may be permitted in lieu of swinging doors but these will be addressed separately.   Minimum Width Door openings must be of sufficient width to ensure that enough people can pass through the openings quickly and safely during egress. Too narrow of an opening, or not enough total available capacity can create bottlenecks, and obstruct the flow of occupants leaving as they move towards a safer area.   Minimum door width is prescribed as (1) clear width, (2) egress capacity width, or (3) leaf width and when a specific minimum width is required by the Code, the specific width will be refenced. Specifying a door leaf width (the width of the door leaf, not the opening) is the least common case, and more often a minimum clear width or egress capacity width is mandated. Door width measurements might be used in calculating egress capacity or in determining if a minimum door width requirement is met. Depending on the purpose for which the door width measurement is used, the allowable encroachments on opening width vary.   Measuring egress capacity width for a new door leaf that opens 90 degrees (Credit: NFPA 101 Handbook, 2021 edition)   Measuring egress capacity width for a new door leaf that opens 90 degrees (Credit: NFPA 101 Handbook, 2021 edition) Clear width of a door opening is used for meeting minimum door-opening requirements, not for determining egress capacity. In some cases this minimum clear width value is based on the need for occupants traveling in a wheelchair to be able to move the wheelchair through the door opening. The egress capacity width, used to determine how many occupants can be credited with passing through the opening safely, will be less than the actual door leaf width because deductions in width are made for certain encroachments that extends into the door opening. Note: This describes the types of various door width measurements, but users should reference Section 7.2.1.2 of NFPA 101 for further details about how to obtain these measurements in both new and existing conditions. Door Swing Direction Door leaves are required to swing in the direction of egress travel only if any one of the following three conditions exist:   The door serves a room or area with an occupant load of 50 or more,   The door assembly is used in an exit enclosure,  The door opening services a high-hazard contents area.    These three conditions address situations where it is undesirable for an occupant to take time to pull the door open in the direction they are moving from. This could be due to the higher number of occupants, or where conditions exist that could require instant and immediate access to the path of egress travel due to extreme fire or explosion risk.   Ideally, all door leaves in a means of egress would swing in the direction of egress travel. However, because of operational concerns, there are cases where door leaf swing in the direction of egress travel is not desirable. For example, a classroom door leaf that swings into a corridor serving as an exit access for several classrooms might open against another door leaf or against the flow of people and possibly restrict the width available as corridor exit access. The Code recognizes this danger and permits the classroom/corridor door leaf from a room with an occupant load of fewer than 50 persons to swing against the direction of egress travel.  Encroachment To minimize the risk of a door restricting the width available of other egress components, the Code establishes maximum encroachment allowances. During its swing, any door leaf in a means of egress is required to leave not less than one-half of the required width of where it is opening. When the door is fully open, is cannot project more than 7 in (180 mm) into the required width of the aisle, corridor, passage or landing unless the door is equipped with a proper self-closing device and swinging in the direction of egress travel. These two conditions help to ensure that the door leaf does not become an obstruction in the egress path onto which it opens which could reduce capacity and delay egress travel. There are no encroachment limitations for a door opening that provides access to a stair in an existing building. Door leaves capable of swinging a full 180 degrees have a greater utility than door leaves capable of swinging only 90 degrees. The 180-degree-swinging door leaf can be fully opened into a corridor without significant intrusion on corridor width. The 90-degree-swinging door leaf, however, might have to open into an unusually wide corridor, be set into an alcove, or otherwise be recessed so as not to exceed the maximum encroachment. Door leaf swing into a corridor (Credit: NFPA 101 Handbook, 2021 edition)   Door leaf encroachment on landing in new building. (Credit: NFPA 101 Handbook, 2021 edition) Unlatching Force  Several movements are necessary to move a door leaf from its closed to its fully open position. The force needed to unlatch the door assembly cannot exceed 15 lbf (67 N) for hardware that may push pull or slide and 28 in.-lbf for hardware that requires rotation. Additional limits are placed on the force to start the door leaf in motion and on the force necessary to move the door leaf to its required open position. Consideration must be made for persons with severe mobility impairment, such as someone using a wheelchair, who might find it difficult or impossible to exert excessive force to unlatch the door and put it in motion. Additional scenarios may render others incapable of exerting larger forces, so values as high as 50 lbf which were recognized in earlier editions of the Life Safety Code, are now only acceptable for existing installations.     Locking and Latching Doors within an occupant’s means of egress cannot be locked beyond their control but must also be designed to accommodate building’s and occupant needs for security.  If done incorrectly, door locking and latching can become a severe impediment to free and safe egress. The details and permissions for door locking and door latching are extensive, and must not be overlooked. We will address this subject in its entirety in a future blog (stay tuned!)    In conclusion, leaving a building or moving within a building to a point of safety in the event of an emergency is almost guaranteed to include using doors to get there. Proper door operation is critical to occupants being afforded a safe and efficient means of egress. Adequate door opening width, correct door swing direction, minimal encroachment, and appropriate opening and unlatching forces, combined, will work together to provide occupants with reliable and safe door operation.  (Note: Additional details and requirements related to door operation can be found in NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, Section 7.2.1.)
Katy, TX building under construction fire

NFPA Addresses Building Under Construction Fires with New Fire Prevention Program Manager Online Training and Webinar Panel on April 15

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) launched a new Fire Prevention Program Manager Online Training Series today to help the building industry understand and adopt the strategies defined in NFPA 241 Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operation. The topic will also be discussed by a panel of industry experts during an Addressing Fire Safety Challenges During Construction webinar on April 15. Fire Prevention Program Manager Online Training Series In recent weeks, massive building under construction fires have occurred in Las Vegas, NV, Dallas, TX, and Everett, WA, underscoring NFPA research which shows an average of 3,840 fires in structures under construction and 2,580 fires in structures under major renovation per year. Building under construction fires cause an average of four civilian deaths, 49 civilian injuries, and $304 million in direct property damage annually, while fires in buildings undergoing major renovation cause an average of eight civilian deaths, 52 civilian injuries, and $104 million in direct property damage annually. “This new online learning, centered around NFPA 241, was developed in the spirit of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, which emphasizes the importance of applying referenced standards, investing in safety, and a skilled workforce,” NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley said.  Although NFPA 241 calls for a fire prevention program manager, credentials for the role are virtually non-existent in the market today. To help construction company leaders, building owners, job site supervisors, code officials, fire marshals, facility managers, and fire protection engineers have the skills needed to ensure the safety of buildings under construction, NFPA developed the new five-hour, five-part online learning series, assessment, and digital badge based on the anticipated job performance requirements (JPRs) for fire prevention program managers proposed for the next edition of NFPA 241. The training covers general fire protection awareness for all people on construction sites and the role of fire prevention program managers on a construction project with an emphasis on: Building safety and fire protection systems Hazard protection Inspections, permits and procedures The NFPA online training series is intended for fire prevention program managers who are new to the role and is designed to help learn how to actively manage a fire prevention program for a typical construction project.  Addressing Fire Safety Challenges During Construction Webinar The NFPA webinar scheduled for April 15 will feature a panel of industry experts discussing key considerations for construction site fire safety, including fire risks and the role of the fire prevention program manager, with time allotted for a robust Q&A session. Webinar panelists providing perspective on the topic include: Jim Begley, PE, FSFPE, CFM, TERPconsulting, principal Matthew Bourque, PE, WS Development, director of Fire Protection and Construction Operations Dick Davis, PE, FM Global, AVP, senior engineering technical specialist Nicholas Dawe, division chief/fire marshal, Cobb County (GA) Fire and Emergency Services
Sprinkler pipe

Sprinkler System Basics: Types of Sprinkler Systems

When designing a sprinkler system one of the first decisions a designer has to make is what type of sprinkler system should be installed. Types of sprinkler systems permissible by NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, are wet, dry, preaction, and deluge. Other types of extinguishing systems, such as clean agent or water mist, are addressed by other standards. When selecting the appropriate sprinkler system type it is important to first understand the differences between the systems and then to understand how these differences can be beneficial, or detrimental, under certain conditions. Selecting the wrong system type can be costly. Wet Pipe Systems Wet pipe sprinkler systems are the most common. In this system the sprinkler piping is constantly filled with water. When the temperature at the ceiling gets hot enough the glass bulb or fusible link in a sprinkler will break. Since the system is already filled with water, water is free to flow out of that sprinkler head. Contrary to what Hollywood would have you think, not all sprinkler heads will operate at once in this type of system. The temperature around that specific sprinkler head needs to be high enough to break the glass bulb or fusible link that is holding water back. Once that happens, water will immediately start flowing from only that head. Wet pipe sprinkler systems are the most reliable and cost effective. Therefore, they should be the first type considered when selecting a sprinkler system. However, there are times when a wet pipe sprinkler system may not be appropriate. One of the major factors in determining if a wet pipe system can be used is the temperature of the space to be protected. Will all areas of the building where the sprinkler piping is located be conditioned to at least 40OF (4OC) or greater?  If the answer is yes, then there is no risk for the water in the piping to freeze and a wet system is the preferred method. However, if the answer is no, an additional study may need to be done to determine if an engineer can prove that although the temperature could drop below 40OF (4OC) it will never drop low enough for the water to freeze. If the temperature of the space cannot be guaranteed to eliminate the risk of freezing water, then a different system type should be chosen. Dry Pipe Systems Dry pipe systems are very similar to wet pipe systems with one major difference. The pipe is not constantly filled with water. Instead, the water is held behind a dry pipe valve usually some distance away from where the sprinklers are located. Like a wet pipe system, when the temperature at the ceiling becomes hot enough, the glass bulb or fusible link of the sprinkler breaks. However, in this case, water isn’t immediately available because the pipe is not water filled. Instead, air is released from the now open sprinkler head. This creates a drop in pressure causing the dry pipe valve to open and water to fill the system. Water will then flow from the open sprinkler head. Since there is a delay between sprinkler operation and water flow, the size of dry pipe systems is limited. The size limitation is intended to minimize the amount of time water delivery is delayed. A dry pipe system is a great option for unconditioned spaces, or locations where the temperature of the space cannot be guaranteed to be high enough to prevent water in the system from freezing. It is important to note that a least the portion of the building where the water comes in and the dry pipe valve is located will need to have temperatures hot enough to prevent freezing. Preaction Systems Of all the sprinkler system types perhaps the most complicated is the preaction system. There are three different types of preaction systems, a non-interlock system, a single interlock system, and a double interlock system. The main difference between preaction systems and wet and dry pipe systems is that a specific event (or events) must happen before water is released into the system. This might sound similar to a dry pipe system, but the differences lie in what event triggers the release of the water: For a non-interlock system: the operation of detection devices OR automatic sprinklers For a single interlock system: the operation of detection devices For a double interlock system: the operation of detection devices AND automatic sprinklers To better explain how these types of systems work, we’ll walk through an example using a room that is protected with sprinklers fed from a preaction system. In addition to sprinklers, the room has complete automatic heat detection. Typically, the detection system, will have a lower temperature rating than the sprinklers. This will help ensure that the detection system activates before a sprinkler head operates. In this case, heat detectors that have a rating of 135OF will serve as our detection system, and the sprinklers will have a temperature rating of 165OF. In a non-fire event, such as accidental damage to a sprinkler head that results in the glass bulb breaking, the system would fill with water in a non-interlock system, and water would flow from the broken sprinkler head. The same situation in a single interlock preaction system would not result in waterflow because the broken glass bulb will not trigger the system to be filled with water. Only the operation of detection devices will result in a water filled system for a single interlock system. In the same room, the non-interlock and single interlock systems operate very similarly if there was a fire event. The heat detectors should activate first since they have a lower temperature rating. For both a non-interlock and a single interlock system, the activation of the heat detectors would result in the system filling with water. Then, if the temperature continues to rise, a sprinkler will operate. Since the “event”, heat detection, has already happened, the system is filled with water, and we would expect it to act like a traditional wet pipe system. In this same situation, a double-interlock system will not fill with water upon the activation of the heat detection. Instead, the system will only fill with water after the activation of the heat detection system and the operation of a sprinkler head. Therefore, a delay in water delivery similar to what is seen for dry pipe systems will occur. For this reason, double interlock preaction systems have similar size restrictions as dry pipe systems, whereas non-interlock and single interlock are just limited to 1000 sprinkler heads per preaction valve. Additional considerations, other than temperature, may lead to the selection of another type of permitted sprinkler system. In some cases, there may be a desire to minimize the risk of water damage or to prevent the accidental filling of the system. In these cases, a single or double interlock system may be the preferred option. A single interlock system may be beneficial in museums, computer rooms, or similar settings where water damage is a concern. This would eliminate the risk of accidental water flow if a sprinkler head was damaged. Although NFPA 13 does not specifically prohibit the use of double interlock systems in these types of spaces, the double interlock preaction system was not developed for these situations. It was intended for use in freezer storage warehouses, or in similar situations where the accidental presence of water in the piping system will lead to expensive remediation. It is important to consider the delay in water delivery that occurs with a double interlock preaction system before selecting that system type. If it is used in a museum or similar type of environment, the delay in water delivery would allow the fire to continue to grow which could result in additional sprinklers opening. In turn, this could increase the water damage and result in a larger portion of the building being involved. Deluge systems are similar to preaction systems in that they use another type of detection for operation. However, the biggest difference is that deluge systems use open sprinklers or nozzles. Instead of getting water flow from individual heads that have operated, once water fills the system, water will flow from every sprinkler head. Much like a preaction system, a deluge valve will keep water from filling the system until the operation of another type of detection system, such as smoke detection. Once that detection system is activated, water not only fills the system but flows from the open sprinklers or nozzles. Another consideration in the selection of the type of sprinkler system is the level of hazard being protected. If protecting an area of very high hazard, such as aircraft hangers, a deluge system may be the most suitable. Each system type has its own unique benefits. It is important to consider the pros and cons of each system type when selecting which sprinkler system is appropriate for your specific environment. An entire building may be protected with a combination of systems. For example, one of the more common designs in the Northeast is to protect the portions of the building that are conditioned with a wet pipe system and to use dry pipe systems in the attic and other unconditioned areas. Combining different types of systems for full building protection allows the designer to consider each unique environment and apply the most appropriate system type to that space without sacrificing what is best for other areas of the building.
NFPA 70E blog banner

A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: Why appointing an authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) can be a challenging task

NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® is a safe work practice standard. So, although electrical installation (National Electrical Code®) and maintenance (NFPA 70B) play a role, the procedures necessary to do either are not within the NFPA 70E scope. The required electrical safety program should cover them as well as the NFPA 70E requirements. What users need to know is the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) for electrical safety, although NFPA 70E has been around for fifty years. NFPA 70E, in a nutshell, requires that an employer protect employees from electrical hazards regardless of the task they are performing. Consider why a standard would tell you that an AHJ should be the CEO, safety officer, human resource person, or department manager? They may not be qualified at your facility so why would a standard assign them as an AHJ? Do you want a standard to require that electrical inspections be conducted by a minimum 15-year master electrician with at least 25 years of experience installing and maintaining the specific equipment to be inspected? It is probable that no one at your facility has those qualifications. You have the safety requirements in the standard. So, what does it take for someone to know what they are enforcing? Common sense helps when assigning an AHJ for determining compliance with NFPA 70E requirements. An employee could be injured if you do not. Ask yourself, should the AHJ responsible for written procedures have used the procedures and operated the equipment covered by the procedure? Should the AHJ responsible for inspecting an in-house electrical installation know the NEC and manufacturer’s requirements for that type of installation? Can an employee be ‘the AHJ’ for their own work? Should the AHJ for a lockout program not only know the requirements but know what type of equipment requires lockout? Should the AHJ responsible for field audits know the procedures an employee should be following? Does one person at your facility have all this knowledge? You get the point. Do you permit unqualified employees to run the human resource department, act as CEO, handle finances, or design new products? Did a standard tell you who was qualified and what qualifications were necessary for those positions? You have assigned qualified employees to perform many tasks within your facility, the same applies for qualified electrical safety AHJs. I am often asked who should be considered an AHJ and what qualifications they should have. I believe the AHJ should be whoever you determine is qualified to fill that role. Their title does not matter. The person may be more important than the job position when looking for an AHJ. As many of my blogs point out, assigning an individual AHJ for all the requirements in NFPA 70E will often be a mistake. Their qualifications should be whatever you deem necessary. Consider this: do you want an “official AHJ” to inspect your in-house electrical installations? Then you should invite the local electrical inspector (legislated AHJ) to do inspections before you power up installed equipment. Does it take an electrical engineer to determine the compliance for what you ask? Then they should be an electrical engineer. Will only a master electrician be able to determine if an employee is following the documented safe work practices? Then they should be a master electrician. If no one is qualified to inspect personal protective equipment (PPE), you need to determine what would make someone qualified before assigning the job.  The legislated electrical inspector plays a major role in complying with the NEC. The appointed AHJ for other standards, such as NFPA 70E, is just as important. In the end, however, a trusted, competent person must oversee each requirement. Remember that when you assign any AHJ. Next time: The 2024 edition of NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code® (NEC®)? Subscribe to the NFPA Network to stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.
Metro award winners

Metro Chiefs Announce Chief of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Honorees

The Metropolitan “Metro” Fire Chiefs Association, a section of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) ushered in some changes this year as they considered their two illustrious awards - Fire Chief of the Year and Lifetime Achievement. For the first time in Metro Chief’s 56-year history, a female officer has been named Fire Chief of the Year. Mary Cameli, Chief of the Mesa Fire and Medical Department in Arizona earned this distinction based on her accomplishments locally, regionally, and nationally. Chief Mike Duyck (ret.) of the Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue (TVF&R) earned the Lifetime Achievement Award for his 33 years of service and leadership. The award was renamed this year to the Russell E. Sanders Lifetime Achievement Award in honor of Russ Sanders, the longtime Metro Chiefs Executive Secretary and an NFPA employee who will retire later this year. Chief Cameli has been a member of the Mesa (AZ) Fire and Medical Department (MFMD) since 1983, serving in every rank within the department before assuming her current role in 2016. Recognized as the Mesa Woman of the Year in 2020, Cameli has earned accolades in her community, throughout Arizona, and across the country for spearheading the MFMD program which is regarded as a ‘Gold Standard” example of Integrated Community Health Care. MFMD service delivery elements, and the research and data generated as part of a significant federal Health and Human Services grant, have been shared widely throughout the fire service and medical community to impart important lessons learned. MFMD provides its own separate 9-1-1 communications and dispatch center for their community, as well as their automatic aid partners. Chief Cameli credits her labor/management team for the development and success of a critical public safety tax initiative for both police and fire. A past President of the Arizona Fire Chiefs Association (AFCA), Cameli currently serves as Vice Chair of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) Executive Board. She is also Vice President of the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE) Board and Co-Chairs the IAFC Women Chiefs Council. Mike Duyck ended his long career in the fire service as Fire Chief/Chief Executive Officer of TVF&R, Oregon’s largest fire district with a service area covering eleven cities and portions of four counties over 390 square miles. Chief Duyck was responsible for leading more than 630 firefighters and support staff who provide progressive fire, emergency medical, and specialty rescue services to approximately 535,000 citizens. He joined TVF&R in 1989 and became fire chief in 2010 after serving in all ranks of emergency services as well as fleet services, human resources, logistics, emergency management, and government affairs. In addition to being Past President of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, Duyck is a past President of the Western Fire Chiefs Association and served on the IAFC Board of Directors. He currently serves as Chair of Oregon’s State Interoperability Executive Council and is a member of the Department of Homeland Security Executive Committee for the Public Safety Advisory Committee for FirstNet. Chief Duyck is also involved in local, state, and national initiatives addressing firefighter safety and survival, emergency communications dispatch, interoperability, mobile healthcare, fire and EMS service innovation and technology, intergovernmental affairs, government efficiency, and economic development. He is an Oregon-certified Paramedic who has completed the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer (EFO) Program and has been designated as a Center for Public Safety Excellence Chief Fire Officer (CFO). The Metropolitan Fire Chiefs (Metro) Association brings together fire chiefs from large metropolitan fire departments to share information and focus on major issues effecting policy changes in the U.S. and abroad. Its members belong to the IAFC and NFPA and are the fire chiefs of jurisdictions with minimum staffing of 350 fully paid career firefighters.

Strengthening the safety net: a healthy insurance market will help us Outthink Wildfire

A new policy brief by NFPA highlights insurance as a key component required for all of us to collectively Outthink Wildfire™ and eliminate the loss of communities to wildfire in 30 years. NFPA’s recent launch of a bold policy initiative, Outthink Wildfire™, describes five areas we must address to end the wildfire destruction of communities by 2050: making existing homes ignition-resistant; building new structures to safer standards; equipping our fire service with training and protective gear; managing the nation’s fire-prone landscapes; and educating the public on risk reduction. A healthy insurance marketplace is vital to achieving these actions. Property insurance is the primary and largest financial safety net for recovering from disaster-caused property damage, including wildfires. Some 70 million home insurance policies are in force across the country. When wildfires destroy hundreds, even thousands, of homes, the payout of these policies is key to rebuilding communities and reducing the demand on taxpayer-supported disaster relief. Yet many Americans don’t carry enough insurance to allow them to recover after a wildfire. Recent disasters have also meant rising insurance rates in some cases, and denial of insurance coverage for high-risk properties in others. Until the nation’s high-risk areas have many more communities with mitigated homes and safer newly built structures, there is still a significant risk of repeating the multi-billion dollar property losses we have seen in recent wildfire disasters. That’s why people need to understand how important it is to carry enough property insurance to cover their potential losses, and to support the tenets of Outthink Wildfire. To keep insurance affordable, available, and able to help people recover from wildfire disasters, people must take risk reduction steps on private property, and local and state governments must enforce sound land use and construction standards for buildings in high-risk areas. Read NFPA’s latest policy statement on insurance to understand more and visit the Outthink Wildfire webpage to see how these and other actions will go a long way to helping end the loss and suffering of wildfire disasters.
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