Demobilizing buildings under construction, alteration or demolition during COVID-19 construction shutdown

241 snip goodCOVID-19 is having an immediate and drastic impact on the construction industry with job sites being abandoned and workers being furloughed. A byproduct of these unprecedented pandemic-related changes has been the demobilization of construction/alteration/demolition sites. Authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), contractors, installer/maintainers, facility managers and owners find themselves assessing appropriate steps to safeguard job sites and comply with local requirements.

To help, NFPA has released a tip sheet called Construction Site Safety During Emergencies. The new at-a-glance-guidance is designed to help parties implement the appropriate steps to maintain safety while complying with local requirements that are in effect now and may apply during future emergencies.

The tip sheet draws on the best practices found in NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration and Demolition Operations. While NFPA 241 is not specifically intended for demobilization efforts, the standard provides time-tested benchmarks for the building and enforcement communities as they strive to keep construction sites safer during any phase of work.

The new resource centers around three critical questions:

  1. What existing conditions are currently onsite?
  2. What key requirements should be considered?
  3. How do these buildings properly resume operations when cleared to do so?

The guidance zeroes in on existing conditions found on job sites; the questions that should be asked and answered; the sections in NFPA 241 where information can be found; and other pertinent considerations. It emphasizes the importance of developing a Fire Safety Program that prioritizes good housekeeping, onsite security, fire protection systems, rapid communication and protection of existing structures; and underscores the need for a Fire Prevention Program Manager (FPPM) who will successfully carry out the Fire Safety Program with particular attention on fire protection devices, inspections, and impairments.

The new tool reminds members of the built environment to keep in mind that when government, building or fire officials announce that construction/alteration/demolition can resume – it is important to keep in mind others who may need to be considered such as federal, state, and local authorities, or certain insurance providers.

In addition to using the new tip sheet and taking a deeper dive via NFPA 241, consider using the downtime you may have these days to find out more about building under construction fires. My colleague Richard Campbell just published an updated version of the Fires in Structures Under Construction or Renovation report that looks at these types of fires, and includes, among other things:

  • Leading causes of fires and the direct property damage that resulted
  • Timing of fires, both in calendar months and time of day
  • Leading items that first ignited in structures
  • Types of heat sources that caused fires

In recent weeks, NFPA has provided a wide range of resources that support fully operational fire and life safety systems as required by the applicable codes and standards while balancing the realities of the current pandemic. Our goal is to support you and your work with useful resources and communications during this difficult time. How are we doing? How else can we help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

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Kevin Carr
Senior Fire Protection Specialist

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