NFPA 1: Storage of combustible materials, #FireCodefridays

This past week was a busy one for NFPA 1.  I finished some of the final pieces for the 2018 edition of the Fire Code Handbook (shelf date June 2018) and at the same time began preparation for the upcoming 2021 revision cycle (stay tuned for a future post highlighting the many issues we will be addressing this cycle!).  Even once a Code has been newly published, NFPA staff's job as Staff Liaison is never done.  There are ongoing items that must be completed year-round to finalize the development of one Code and then to prepare for the next one.  Exciting things to come for NFPA 1!

This week I also taught portions of NFPA's 2 day hands-on course for facility managers.  We cover provisions from NFPA 25, 72, 101, 80, 96, 3 and 4…all over 2 days while also offering facility managers the opportunity to work hands on in a fire safety lab with equipment they deal with on their jobs daily.  I was excited to see a lot of enthusiasm about fire door safety as well as answer some questions on NFPA 1.

Facility managers cannot possibly know the Codes cover to cover, but must be able to manage the needs of systems in their building along with general housekeeping and fire safety issues.  One question I received was about storage in a boiler room and if it was permitted.  Searching through Chapter 10 of NFPA 1, which covers general safety requirements (a chapter important to fire inspectors but also to facility managers), we came across Section 10.18 for the storage of combustible materials.  More specifically, Section 10.18.5 addresses equipment rooms, as follows:

10.18.5 Equipment Rooms. Combustible material shall not be stored in boiler rooms, mechanical rooms, or electrical equipment rooms. Materials and supplies for the operation and maintenance of the equipment in the room shall be permitted.

The use of equipment rooms to store items, such as those needed for the equipment in the room, is normal. The storage of materials and supplies related to the operation of the equipment is permitted in accordance with Equipment should be stored in cabinets or other protected areas to limit the hazard.  Spaces such as boiler rooms, mechanical rooms, or electrical rooms are designed for a particular purpose and should not be seen as an opportunity for free storage within a building.  Storing combustible materials within one of those spaces increases the risk and also the fuel load within the space should a fire occur.  Controlling the combustible storage in these spaces can help to lessen the risk of a fire developing and/or interfering with the boiler equipment, mechanical equipment or electrical equipment. Materials that are not associated with the equipment are not permitted to be stored within equipment rooms.

Section 10.18 also addresses other generic storage conditions.  Storage of combustible materials, regardless of location, must be orderly and it cannot interfere with the location of sprinklers.  Storage is also not permitted in exits.  Attic, under-floor, and concealed spaces used for storage of combustible materials must comply with the protection from hazards requirement for storage rooms in NFPA 101.  Finally, any fueled equipment, including items like motorcycles, lawn care-equipment or portable cooking equipment cannot be stored, operated or repaired within a building unless the building has been constructed for that purpose using the building code or is allowed by another provision of NFPA 1.

Have you found storage in these equipment rooms in your facility?  How did you prevent this Code violation from occurring? 

Thanks, as always, for reading!  Happy Friday, stay safe!

(Follow along with the development of the 2021 edition of NFPA 1 here.  You can also view the 2018 edition of the Code for free here.)

You can follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA

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Kristin Bigda
Technical Lead and Principal Fire Protection Engineer with a focus on building and life safety related content.

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