AUTHOR: Robin Zevotek

Cut Christmas trees

Is that the best place for a Christmas Tree?

It’s the time of year when we’ll start to see Christmas Trees pop up all around. The colorful ornaments and bright lights add flare to almost any room and remind us that the New Year is just around the corner. As a fire inspector, this time of year adds a whole new twist. Christmas Trees, although festive also poses a very dangerous fire hazard. The thin needles spaced just far enough apart are easily ignitable and can lead to rapid fire growth. Christmas Tree fires quickly releases a large amount of energy, placing them among the higher hazards when it comes to contents and furnishings. Natural Cut Christmas Trees can be a more severe hazard than artificial trees, especially when they go without water for even a short period of time. With such a severe fire hazard, it’s no surprise NFPA 1 Fire Code puts limits on both natural cut and artificial Christmas Trees just like it does for mattresses and upholstered furniture. Considerations for natural cut Christmas trees When placed inside a building, natural cut trees are required to be fresh cut ½” (13mm) above the end and immediately placed in water, with the water level monitored to ensure it is always above the level of the cut. So how often do you water your Christmas Tree? The answer is as much as necessary to keep the water level constantly above the cut. If the tree shows any signs of dryness, such as brittle needles that easily come off, the tree must be removed. Trees must be located away from heating vents or other heating equipment which may cause the tree to dry out. If fire retardant treatment is applied to natural cut trees it must meet both Test Method 1 and Test Method 2 of ASTM E3082, Standard Test Methods for Determining the Effectiveness of Fire-Retardant Treatments for Natural Christmas Trees. Method 1 involves the use of a detached branch where Method 2 utilizes the whole Christmas Tree to test the effectiveness of the applied fire-retardant treatment. Even with these provisions natural cut trees are prohibited from in Assembly, Board and Care, Detention and Correctional, Dormitories, Educational and Hotel occupancies. Without automatic fire sprinkler protection, trees are only permitted inside the unit of an apartment building, in an industrial occupancy and in one/two family dwellings. If the building is protected by automatic fire sprinklers additional occupancies can display natural cut trees, and less restrictions are in place if the tree roots are dug up and balled to help the tree survive. Check out the table below from NFPA 1 (2021ed) for the list of permitted locations. Considerations for artificial Christmas trees Artificial Christmas Trees also present a fire hazard like natural cut trees as they have thin needles spaced to allow rapid fire growth. Combine that hazard with the high energy release rates of synthetic materials and it warrants special provisions in both NFPA 1 and NFPA 101. Artificial trees must meet test method 1 or test method 2 from NFPA 701, which addresses the flame propagation of textiles, with the goal of limiting flame spread to limit fire growth; or a maximum heat release rate of 100kW when tested to NFPA 289 with a 20kW ignition source, where limiting the heat release rate limits the impact that adding an artificial tree will have on the fire hazard of the contents and furnishings. General considerations Regardless of the type of Christmas tree, natural cut, balled or artificial, they cannot be placed such that they obstruct corridors, exit ways, or means of egress.  Additionally, any electrical equipment used must be listed for its application. In all cases no candles or open flames are permitted on any type of Christmas tree. Inspecting and enforcing these items for all Christmas Trees goes a long way to reduce fire hazard they present. Summary During the holiday season Christmas Trees can add additional fire hazards to building contents and furnishings not present year around. Codes/Standards aide to minimize this hazard while allowing for festive holiday decorations, however their ability to reduce the fire hazard is dire directly related to the knowledge of those inspecting to and enforcing those codes/standards. For more information about how to prevent Christmas Tree fires and steps you can take to stay fire safe during the holidays check out these NFPA resources: Christmas tree safety tips Christmas tree safety video – Put a freeze on Winter Fires Deck the halls with fire safety video

A level of Safety – NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend The 1st University of Maryland/NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem Symposium, in College Park, Maryland, U.S.A, where fire and life safety experts from across the globe gathered to discuss the principals of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™ and its application to address today’s fire safety issues. For those of you who are not familiar with the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™, it 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.” In other words, it identifies the items NFPA feels contribute to achieving the expected level of safety when it comes to fire and electrical hazards. Each component is depicted as a cog, each of which connect to form a circle. Over the two day symposium attendees reviewed case studies on the Ghost Ship Warehouse fire in Oakland, CA (2016); the Grenfell Tower Fire in London, UK (2017); and the Camp Fire, Butt County, CA (2018); and also discussed emerging issues involving residential fires; the safe use of alternative energy; and how to think about fire safety when using new building materials. Each topic was evaluated through the lens of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™.  In many of the case studies multiple components of the ecosystem failed or lacked effectiveness. When discussing the emerging issues, no single component would solve the challenge presented. This seemed to lend to the idea that all the cogs must be working together to ensure the expected level of safety, so what happens if just one isn’t operating at peak performance? Does the ecosystem still provide a level of safety because the cogs remain connected? One example that came up several times was the need to mandate automatic fire sprinkler systems in all new and existing high-rise buildings. According to research done by NFPA, fire Sprinklers have been shown to be an extremely effective of increasing life safety with an 89% reduction in fire deaths in properties with automatic fire sprinklers as compared to those without. So, sprinklers would certainly make an impact on reducing deaths in fires. NFPA 1 Fire Code requires automatic fire sprinklers systems in all new high-rise building and all existing high-rise buildings within 12 years of the code becoming law. Mandating compliance with the most recent edition of this code through legislation falls under government responsibility cog. If the government responsibility cog was effective, this incorporation of NFPA 101 Life Safety Code would be one way they could create laws which prioritizes public safety needs.  However, as is sometimes the case a local government also could incorporate into law a modified NFPA 101 Life Safety Code, one which doesn’t mandate sprinklers in all high-rise buildings, specifically existing buildings. In the second case, one could argue that this cog would not be functioning at its optimal potential. How does this impact the level of safety in existing high-rise buildings? There are many examples of major fires in non-sprinklered or partially sprinklered high-rise buildings including the One Meridian Plaza fire (1991), the Cook County Administration Building fire in Chicago (2003), the Marco Polo Apartment Building Fire in Hawaii (2017) and the Twin Parks Northwest fire in New York City (2022). In all these cases a review of the fire concluded fire sprinklers could have made an impact, however all had multiple challenges; One Meridian Plaza had issues with water supply in the standpipe system; the Cook County Administration Building had locked doors preventing reentry on the floors above the fire; and both the Marco Polo and Twin Parks Northwest fires both had issues with self-closing doors. These challenges touch the Skilled Workforce, Code Compliance, and Investment in Safety cogs, resulting in the entire system failing. As I reflect on the discussion during the first NFPA Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem Summit, I can’t help but wonder if another part of the ecosystem concept is the resiliency of the anticipated level of safety in buildings. Each cog is interlaced with the next, adding elements of safety which can work together in an emergency to prevent a major tragedy. When one cog is not functioning at its optimal potential does the circular concept of the ecosystem allow the others to “turn” or function which will provide some level of safety, reducing the likelihood of a significant incident? As we wrap up fire prevention week, let’s think about all the cogs and how they’ll advance the level of safety for the public. Government Responsibility, Development and Use of Current Codes, Reference Standards, Investment in Safety, Skilled Workforce, Code Compliance, Preparedness and Emergency Response, and Informed Public all work together. Buildings which are designed, constructed, and operated with all these in mind really do have a level of safety which works to protect their occupants. Check out the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™page for more on the concept, an assessment tool as well as the 2020 & 2021 Year in Review reports on the state of the ecosystem.
People looking at plans

How does NFPA 101 categorize work in an existing building?

Under NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, once a building has been approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and a new version of the code is adopted, that building becomes an existing building. Any changes to an existing building, from as small as touching up paint to as large as gutting an entire building, are covered in Chapter 43. The first step in determining the requirements for a specific change is to categorize the work being done in one of the seven work categories. The work category will drive the code requirements for the work areas so selecting the correct one is important. This blog will review the categories and walk through some examples of different projects and the category or categories they could fall under. The seven work categories are as follows: Repair - The patching, restoration, or painting of materials, elements, equipment, or fixtures for the purpose of maintaining such materials, elements, equipment, or fixtures in good or sound condition (NFPA 101 - 43.2.2.1.1 2021 edition). Renovation - The replacement in kind, strengthening, or upgrading of building elements, materials, equipment, or fixtures, that does not result in a reconfiguration of the building spaces within (NFPA 101 – 43.2.2.1.2  2021 edition). Modification - The reconfiguration of any space; the addition, relocation, or elimination of any door or window; the addition or elimination of load-bearing elements; the reconfiguration or extension of any system; or the installation of any additional equipment (NFPA 101 – 43.2.2.1.3  2021 edition). Reconstruction - The reconfiguration of a space that affects an exit or a corridor shared by more than one occupant space; or the reconfiguration of a space such that the rehabilitation work area is not permitted to be occupied because existing means of egress and fire protection systems, or their equivalent, are not in place or continuously maintained. (NFPA 101 – 43.2.2.1.4  2021 edition). Addition - An increase in the building area, aggregate floor area, building height, or number of stories of a structure (NFPA 101 – 43.2.2.1.7  2021 edition). Change of Use - A change in the purpose or level of activity within a structure that involves a change in application of the requirements of the Code (NFPA 101 – 43.2.2.1.5  2021 edition). Change of Occupancy Classification - The change in the occupancy classification of a structure or portion of a structure (NFPA 101 – 43.2.2.1.6  2021 edition). To help identify the appropriate category the flow chart below is one way to walk through the decision points for a particular work area to arrive at the rehabilitation work category. Each work area should be considered separately to ensure all requirements are captured. See a larger view of this diagram. In this method, the initial decision point is whether the work will result in a change to how the building will be used or occupied. If the work being done creates a change to the occupancy classification it is a change of occupancy, if not, it is a change of use. Although these are their own rehabilitation categories, it’s important to continue to evaluate the work associated with this change to ensure it complies with all the code requirements as a change in use or occupancy often result in additional work being performed. The second decision point will be if the work will add any areas, height or increase the number of stories, in which that case it will be classified as an addition. If not an addition, will any space or system be reconfigured? If so, it will either be a modification or reconstruction based on the level and type of work being done. If not, then the classification will be a repair where nothing is replaced or a renovation if construction elements or systems are replaced in kind. Let’s walk through a few examples of how different projects would be classified. You own and operate a warehouse and need to hire a team to manage the warehouse. The team is new to your operation and no office space exists. To address this need, you plan to convert some of the warehouse space into offices. This type of work would change how the building or space is being utilized, specifically you’d be changing from a warehouse which is a storage occupancy to offices which is a business occupancy. The work project would be classified in the change of occupancy rehabilitation work category.  Since this work also include reconfiguring space, you’ll need to continue to evaluate to see if other rehabilitation categories apply. You won’t be adding any area, height, or stories to the building. If you’re impacting an exit, the fire protection systems cannot remain operational, or the area is more than 50% of the floor the work would also be classified as a reconstruction. Otherwise, the work would also be considered a modification. Another example would be reconfiguring the entire second floor of your office building to convert the space to better serve a new tenant. The old tenant had several small offices off a hallway that provided access to the exit stairs. The new tenant would like two open office areas separated by the original corridor on the second floor. They also need a large office on the first floor, so you plan to convert two small offices into a larger one. In this instance, the use and occupancy would remain the same and the project would not add any area, height, or increase the number of floors to the building. The work would involve reconfiguring space. It would not impact a corridor or exit that is shared by more than one occupant space, and the fire protection systems and egress systems could continue to function during the construction. The work would not encompass the entire building, but since the work would involve more than 50% of the building area, it would be classified as a reconstruction. After the work has been classified in the appropriate rehabilitation work category or categories the next step would be to determine the requirements from Chapter 43. Each rehabilitation work category has a section in Chapter 43 of NFPA 101, which outlines the requirements. It is possible to have multiple categories in a single work project, that under certain conditions can be considered independently, for example the reconfiguration of a second-floor office area and the renovation of the first-floor lobby. Each of these areas would need to comply with the requirements of their specific category.  Historic buildings have their own section in Chapter 43. This is because sometimes special consideration is needed to balance historic perseveration and code compliance. To help address this, NFPA 101 allows three options for historic buildings, they can comply with: Section 43.10 for historic buildings, The applicable work category from chapter 43 or NFPA 914, Code for the Protection of Historic Structures. It may be best to investigate all three options to determine which best suits the historic structure being rehabilitated. When making changes to an existing building, whether as minor as replacing a ceiling in kind or as major as an addition NFPA 101 provides a roadmap for completing the work. The appropriate rehabilitation category will drive relevant requirements.  For more information on how to apply chapter 43 of NFPA 101 to a given building check out this blog How do I apply the provisions for rehabilitation to work at my building?, and for more on existing buildings check out this blog on Do all buildings have to comply with the latest code?

Fire Fighter Safety Building Marking Systems

There are two main ways in which fire fighters currently receive information about fire protection features and construction types of a building they are responding to. The first is from a pre-incident plan (see NFPA 1620 for information about pre-incident planning) which is available as a result of prior building inspection and the second is through signage on the building. The most widely adopted signage which most fire fighters are familiar with is the NFPA 704 hazard diamond, which provides information about hazardous materials present and the fire, health, instability and special hazards which they pose. However, there is a lesser-known marking system that has been developed and incorporated in Appendix C of NFPA 1, which if utilized can provide fire fighters the basic information about fire protection features and building construction quickly and concisely as they’re arriving on scene of an emergency. Let’s look at why this type of marking system is important to fire fighters. Modern buildings are designed with fire protection features to protect both occupants and the building itself. Some of these features provide active protection, such as fire suppression systems, while others provide passive protection such as fire resistive construction. The required protection level is dictated by the codes incorporated by reference into law by the authority having jurisdiction at the time the building was designed and constructed, or under a retroactive requirement after the building is occupied. The specific fire protection features in a building, combined with the construction type will play a role in the tactical approaches to suppressing a fire in that building. So, having this information quickly and concisely displayed on the exterior of the building can enhance the fire department’s effectiveness. Although some states have adopted signs identifying construction type and location of truss construction, the fire fighter safety building marking system (FSBMS) in Appendix C of NFPA 1 goes further to include the hazard level of the contents, presence of fire sprinkler and standpipe systems, occupancy and life safety issues and other special designations. What does it look like?   The Maltese cross, which draws its origins from the Knights of Malta, has been widely adopted as a symbol of the fire service. The eight-pointed cross can be easily identified by its curved arcs between the points which all converge on a center circle. The FSBMS utilizes a rating system in each of the arms of the cross and the center circle to concisely display the hazard level, fire suppression systems, occupancy life safety issues and special hazards of a given building. The image above is an example of a FSBMS symbol. These signs should be located “in a position to be plainly legible and visible from the street or road fronting the property or as approved by the fire department.” To aide in visibility the signs should incorporate a white reflective background and black lettering.  Now let’s look at what each of the letters in the four sections of the cross identify. Rating System Construction Type The construction type is identified utilizing letter combinations in the top section of the Maltese cross as follows: FR — Fire-resistive construction NC — Noncombustible construction ORD — Ordinary construction HT — Heavy timber construction C — Combustible construction These construction types provide firefighters a general understanding of how well the building will resist collapse under fire conditions. Fire resistive construction would theoretically resist collapse the longest and combustible construction has the potential for the earliest collapse. Hazards of Contents The hazard of the building’s contents as it relates to fire conditions will be displayed on the left section of the Maltese cross as follows: L — Low hazard. Low hazard contents shall be classified as those of such low combustibility that no self-propagating fire therein can occur. M — Moderate hazard. Moderate hazard contents shall be classified as those that are likely to burn with moderate rapidity or to give off a considerable volume of smoke. H — High hazard. High hazard contents shall be classified as those that are likely to burn with extreme rapidity or from which explosions are likely. The hazard level will provide fire fighters with a general idea of how rapidly a fire will grow and spread through the building contents. This information can be used to anticipate the amount of water and firefighting resources needed to effectively control the fire. Automatic Fire Sprinkler and Standpipe System The presence of automatic fire sprinklers and standpipe systems will be displayed in the right section of the cross as follows: A — Automatic fire sprinkler system installed throughout P — Partial automatic fire sprinkler system or other suppression system installed S — Standpipe system installed N — None The general understanding of what active fire suppression systems are located in the building will guide firefighter’s tactics including apparatus positioning and hose line selection. Occupancy/Life Safety Issues The occupancy and life safety issues will be displayed in the lower section of the cross as follows: L — Business, industrial, mercantile, residential, and storage occupancies M — Ambulatory health care, assembly, educational, and day care occupancies H — Detention and correction facilities, health care, and board and care occupancies This information about building occupants/occupancy type will allow firefighters to gauge the difficulty in evacuating occupants from the building. The L occupancies representing those where the occupant load is lower, and occupants can most effectively evacuate unassisted. The M is of moderate concern where the occupant load is higher and/or the occupants may need additional assistance due to age or health conditions. The H is of high concern where the occupants may not be able to self-evacuate and considerable resources will be needed to evacuate the building. Special Hazards The center circle has been left empty to allow the inclusion of special hazards or provisions. This may be a location to include such things as truss type construction or even the hazardous materials information for example an NFPA 704 diamond, as long as the provisions for size of 704 are met. Summary Having the information on construction type, hazard level of contents, presence of sprinkler and standpipe systems and occupancy/life safety issues has the potential to enhance the effectiveness of firefighters arriving on scene. These responders would be equipped with the knowledge needed to best address an emergency in the building. States which have incorporated NFPA 1 into law should take the extra step to specifically name Annex C in the incorporating ordinance, thus incorporating a national standard the firefighter safety building marking system into law in their jurisdictions. Unless specifically incorporated by refence the FSBMS in Annex C would be a recommendation rather than a requirement. A national system has the potential to increase firefighter effectiveness while decreasing the number of fire fighter injuries and deaths by providing important information quickly and concisely as they arrive on scene. 
Buildings

Do all buildings have to comply with the latest code?

When constructing a new building it is imperative architects, engineers, contractors, and owners follow the most current codes and standards to provide what is considered the current minimum level of safety for a building. This minimum level of safety is established most often by consensus codes and standards which have been adopted by the jurisdiction where the building is being constructed. These codes and standards are constantly evolving, adapting to new technology and addressing gaps in safety. But what about existing buildings? Do they need to be brought up to the adopted code? The answer is often complicated and depends on the local codes in place as well as the type of occupancy. An example of this complexity occurs when you examine requirements for existing buildings in NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code as compared to NFPA 101, Life Safety Code. Both codes define an existing building as “A building erected or officially authorized prior to the effective date of the adoption of this edition of the Code by the agency or jurisdiction” however, the two codes treat them very differently. Looking in Chapter 1 of both codes the scope and purpose statements provide direction as to where codes apply and their overall intent. NFPA 5000 would not apply to existing buildings unless they undergo a change in use, some level of building rehabilitation, an addition or if the building is relocated or damaged. NFPA 101 has no such clause and applies to both new and existing buildings. Thus, where NFPA 5000 focuses on the design and construction of new buildings, NFPA 101 applies to both new and existing buildings with a focus on safety during the entire lifecycle of the building not just the initial design and construction. Under NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, buildings which have “been officially authorized” meaning they were designed and permitted in accordance with earlier editions of the building code, can remain in their original state. If they undergo the items mentioned earlier, they would be required to comply with the most current version of the building code. For example, the 2021 edition of NFPA 5000 requires all newly constructed one- and two-family dwellings to be protected with an automatic fire sprinkler system. This was first introduced in the 2006 edition; and earlier editions did not contain this requirement.  In areas were NFPA 5000 is adopted, existing homes authorized for use prior to the adoption of the 2006 edition are not required to be retrofitted with automatic fire sprinkler systems. This concept of “officially authorized” or existing buildings, is one of the reasons we continue to see fires with a significant number of injuries and deaths. It’s not that the current level of safety expected in new buildings isn’t enough, it’s that the vast majority of the buildings in the U.S. and many other countries around the world were constructed under what was considered the minimum level of safety at the time.  That level of safety has evolved but requiring all buildings to be retroactively improved to meet the current codes and standards may be costly and could impose a significant hardship on building owners. However, there are times where the risk will outweigh cost, for example, anywhere the 2021 edition of NFPA 101 has been adopted. In these jurisdictions, an automatic fire sprinkler system is required in all nursing homes, both new and existing, with very few exceptions. The code development process determined the risk to the occupants of these facilities is significant enough that providing automatic fire sprinklers in nursing home facilities is required to meet what is now considered the minimum level of safety for both new and existing buildings. As you can see, the answer to the question of whether an existing building must be improved to meet what is now considered the minimum level of safety can be found in that jurisdictions adopted code. The adopted code is often a suite of different codes and standards, which may include, building, fire, and life safety codes. It is important that these codes work together to set the minimum level of safety for all buildings in the jurisdiction. For more information on the importance of how code development and adoption improve safety while balancing risk check out the NFPA Fire And Life Safety Ecosystem.

Fire Department Use of Sprinkler Systems

At the first NFPA meeting in 1896 the first consolidated set of sprinkler installation rules were established, becoming what is today known as NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems. Formalizing the sprinkler installation standards increased fire sprinkler effectiveness, however, a gap still existed in the use of fire sprinkler systems. In 1933 a brochure titled “Use of Automatic Sprinklers by Fire Departments” was published providing fire departments with guidelines on how to best capitalize on the effectiveness of fire sprinkler systems during incidents. This brochure evolved over the next 33 years into the Recommended Practice for Fire Department Operations in Properties Protected by Sprinkler and Standpipe Systems, NFPA 13E first published in 1966. Today NFPA 13E provides the information necessary to ensure fire departments are trained on and operate effectively with automatic fire sprinkler systems. Although some fire sprinkler systems are designed to suppress a fire, most are designed to control a fire. The main difference between fire control and fire suppression is related to the fire sprinkler systems impact on the fires heat release rate. The graph below depicts fire control (dotted line) versus fire suppression (solid line). Fire sprinklers controlling a fire result in a steady heat release rate, keeping the fire from growing, and fire sprinklers suppressing a fire will result in a decreasing heat release rate. The three principal causes of fire sprinkler system failures identified in NFPA 13E are a closed control valve, inadequate water supply for the system and occupancy changes that render the installed system unsuitable. Beyond the primary causes found in the recommended practice, NFPA has conducted research on the U.S. Experience with Fire Sprinklers to help understand fire sprinkler effectiveness. Let’s take a second to review the three main causes found in the recommended practice all of which responding fire department personnel can impact positively. Closed control valve Familiarization with the types of control valves and their layout in a system allows firefighters to both understand what valves will disrupt water flow and what position have they should be in for effective operation. Should they encounter a valve which is not in the correct position during a fire, placing that valve in the correct position may restore the system effectiveness. This is not a hard and fast rule however, since the fire may have already operated more sprinkler heads than the available water supply can support, making the system ineffective. Additionally, fire departments should never turn off a sprinkler system that has activated until they have confirmed the fire is fully extinguished and overhaul has taken place. Even if ventilation is needed to increase visibility and conduct search and rescue, the system should remain operational to control the fire as these tasks occur. Once this occurs, steps should be taken to identify if only a portion of the system needs to be shut down (a zone) rather than the entire system. Anytime the system is shut down a firefighter with a portable radio should remain at the control valve to immediately open the valve should the fire not be fully extinguished. Simply turning the system back on may not reestablish fire control. Fire sprinkler systems are designed to control a fire utilizing a specific number of sprinklers at a design pressure and flow. If the system is shut off prior to the fire being extinguished the potential exists for additional heads beyond the design to activate. When the system is turned back on the available water supply may not cover the operated heads leading to ineffective water application and a fire that is no longer controlled. Inadequate Water Supply The water supply may be inadequate due to a lack of available water flow, lack of available pressure or both. Since fire department pumpers often have the capacity to supply water at higher flow rates and pressures than the normal water supply, utilizing a fire department pumper to supply water to the fire department connection (FDC) can address most inadequate supply concerns. The FDC will often bypass many of the control and check valves in the system, supplying water directly to the operating sprinklers. NFPA 13E recommends a pressure of 150 psi (10 bar) to effectively suppl fire sprinkler systems, unless additional signage is provided to indicate a different pressure. The fire department can also have a negative impact on the water supply to a fire sprinkler system. Although fire sprinkler systems are designed with a hose stream allowance or amount of water the fire department may potentially need to fully extinguish the fire, this may not be sufficient. For more information on fire flow check out this blog Calculating the Required Fire Flow. The hose allowance accounts for water needed at the base of the fire, which if the fire department cannot effectively apply water to the base of the fire, more may be needed. Utilizing more water from the supply than accounted for has the potential to reduce the sprinkler system effectiveness, eliminating its ability to control the fire, resulting in fire growth and the need for more water. Supporting the system through the FDC ensures that even if more water is needed than the original allowance, the sprinkler system still has an available supply at an effective flow and pressure. Occupancy changes Although the fire department does not have an ability to impact occupancy changes during a fire incident, an effective preplan and inspection program has the potential to identify occupancy changes which can adversely impact fire sprinkler system effectiveness before fires occur. Training those conducting these inspections to understand what types of commodities would represent a high heat release rate fire and how to identify if a sprinkler system could be designed to deliver the necessary water density can reduce this potential cause of failure. Summary As with all NFPA recommended practices, the language is less rigid than a standard or code, utilizing “should” instead of “shall” as to not limit the individual fire departments, allowing them to adopt more effective procedures. Familiarization with NFPA 13E provides anyone who may be utilizing a fire sprinkler system the knowledge necessary to positively impact the systems effectiveness.  Check out NFPA 13E to help your department identify the recommended training and operations for those responding to emergencies involving activated fire sprinkler systems. Interested in learning more, check out the resources below for additional information on fire sprinkler systems and fire department access. Sprinkler system Basics: Types of Sprinkler Systems The Basics of Sprinkler Thermal Characteristics Types of Sprinklers NFPA 1: When is Fire Department Access Required?

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