When are they required, and what should they include?
NFPA Journal, July/August 2010
The general requirements for emergency plans and when such plans are required have changed over the last few code cycles. The general requirements for an emergency plan are contained in Section 4.8 of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code® , which states that an emergency plan is necessary when required by Chapters 11 through 42 or "where required by action of the authority having jurisdiction."
The second statement leaves it open for the local authority having jurisdiction to implement requirements for when an emergency plan is required. Some jurisdictions also require that the fire plans be reviewed and approved by the local authority.
But let’s review when Chapters 11 through 42 require an emergency plan. The requirements will be found in the X.7 Section, "Operating Features," of each occupancy chapter and in Chapter 11 where specified for special structures. All occupancies, except those listed below, require an emergency plan in accordance with Section 4.8 of the Life Safety Code.
Chapters 18 and 19 on new and existing health care occupancies, Chapters 20 and 21 on new and existing ambulatory health care occupancies, Chapters 22 and 23 on new and existing detention and correctional occupancies, and Chapters 32 and 33 on new and existing board and care occupancies all require emergency plans. However, these occupancies do not reference Section 4.8; rather, they provide information on what must be contained in the emergency plan. Of course, the items listed in Section 4.8 can be included in the plan.
Chapters 28 and 29, which address hotels and dormitories, also require an emergency plan, in accordance with Section 4.8. In addition, they require that emergency instructions be posted for guests. Emergency plans for new and existing mercantile occupancies are only required in high-rise buildings.
Chapters 40 and 42, which address industrial and storage occupancies, do not require an emergency plan. Nor do one- and two-family dwellings. But we know that public education promoting escape plans with meeting places is an important part of fire safety for residents of homes.
Chapter 26 on lodging and rooming houses does not require an emergency plan, either. As these occupancies are often similar to one- and two-family dwellings, however, an escape plan is important.
When a plan is required, what should it include? According to Section 4.8, it should include procedures for reporting of emergencies; a description of occupant and staff response to emergencies; evacuation procedures appropriate to the building, its occupancy, and potential emergencies; appropriateness of the use of elevators; the design and conduct of fire drills; the type and coverage of building fire protection systems; and other items required by the authority having jurisdiction.
In addition, Section 188.8.131.52 requires emergency plans to be submitted to the authority having jurisdiction for review, and Section 184.108.40.206 requires that emergency plans be reviewed and updated as required by the authority having jurisdiction.
Emergency plans are important documents, and they should not just be filed away. The plans must be active, living documents that everyone understands and is trained to follow and implement as appropriate should an emergency occur.
Chip Carson, P.E., is president of Carson Associates, Inc., a fire engineering and code consultancy. He is a former member of NFPA's Board of Directors.