Topic: Code Enforcement

House under construction

Considerations for Single-Family Residential Electrical Services Based on the 2020 NEC

For those who regularly install single-family residential electrical services, the work can often seem repetitive. Resulting in a step-by-step process that leaves many with the impression that they can do the work in their sleep. And many likely could. Then there are those who do not have much experience with residential electrical services and are trying to navigate the basics of what goes into a typical installation.Whatever side of the coin you fall on, this blog has something for you.While some of the items mentioned here are long standing NFPA 70, National Electrical Code® (NEC®) codes and processes, there are a couple changes within the 2020 NEC that will modify how residential electrical services will be installed moving forward. Pre-Installation Considerations   Many residential electrical services need questions answered prior to being able to do the installation. Some residential electrical services are pre-designed and have the information already available for you. For example, in custom home scenarios, it is common to have to gather information up front from the builder and/or homeowner. The equipment being installed within the home may be minimal or it may be extravagant, but the electrical needs of both will need to be met accordingly.  The size of the home and the equipment loads will have a direct impact on the overall size of the electrical service.  As another example, if you are working in a tract home development, the builder has likely already pre-determined many items you would normally need to determine yourself before installation, like what size electrical service you need to install and where the electrical panel will be located.  They may have already spelled out that each home within the entire development will receive a 150-amp electrical service, with the electrical panel installed in the garage, and utilizing aluminum service-entrance conductors.  While there is not enough time to elaborate on a full electrical service calculation here, subscribers of NFPA LiNK™ can access a full single-family residential service calculation within NFPA DiRECT™ that will walk you through the step-by-step process.     Once the legwork has been completed to come up with the electrical service size, and the desired location for some of the service equipment such as the electrical panel and meter, our next conversation needs to take place with the utility or power company (POCO). While many POCO’s operate differently, it is fairly common for them to give you information like whether the home will have power fed overhead or underground, or if you are given the option to choose.  They will also confirm that the desired meter location will work for what they need.  In a tract home scenario, the builder and POCO have likely already discussed these items and have a plan in place.  However, in a scenario where there is a single custom home being built on a 10-acre parcel, having this conversation with the POCO becomes even more crucial to the process and helps to avoid any hiccups.  For example, based on rights-of-way that the utility has available to them, they may only be able to bring the power into one specific corner of the home.  If the meter gets mounted on the opposite corner of the home, the POCO may not provide power until it is relocated. Having the right conversations to gather the correct information, well before any screwdriver gets turned to install any equipment, is key to any successful project.   Service Equipment Considerations   The initial conversations before installation should provide some critical information, such as: where the meter and electrical panel need to be installed, if the electrical service will be fed overhead, or underground, etc. In some installation areas, the meter and electrical panel will be installed on the outside of the home in the exact same location. Within this scenario, it will also have your main service disconnect for the power into the home located at this spot. If the panel is going to be located within the home, that can have an impact on how things need to be done per the NEC.   Where the electrical panel is installed within the home has a direct correlation to the NEC requirements for a main service disconnect.  Per 2020 NEC section 230.70, a service disconnect is required to be installed for a building on the exterior of the building or inside nearest the point of entrance of the service conductors. In cases where the service entrance conductors leave the meter, penetrate the home, and go directly into the electrical panel, the main breaker within the electrical panel often serves as the main service disconnect required by 230.70. Where the service entrance conductors penetrate the home and do not terminate directly into the electrical panel, a main service disconnect mounted on the exterior of the home, prior to the service conductors entering the home, is necessary.     Based on a change that was incorporated into the 2020 NEC, an emergency disconnect is now required per section 230.85.  This disconnect is intended to give first responders the ability to shut down power to the entire home before entering to address the emergency.  The NEC requires that the disconnect be installed outdoors in a readily accessible location and that it be identified as the emergency disconnect. In the previously mentioned scenarios where the main disconnect was installed outdoors within the electrical panel or in a service disconnect installed due to the distance the service entrance conductors run into the building, it will just be a matter of changing how the service disconnect is marked.  It would need to be marked as an “EMERGENCY DISCONNECT, SERVICE DISCONNECT” or, if more applicable, one of the other two marking options listed in section 230.85.  For an installation where the service conductors leave the meter, penetrate the home, and go directly into the electrical panel, an exterior emergency disconnect would now be required to be installed for the home.  Section 230.85 requires an emergency disconnect to be installed for all new electrical services as well as when an electrical service is modified or upgraded.   The 2020 NEC cycle had an additional change that will impact residential electrical service installations.  New section 230.67 requires all dwelling unit electrical services to have a surge protective device (SPD) installed.  The SPD must be integral with the service equipment, or mounted directly adjacent to the service equipment, and must be a Type 1 or Type 2 SPD.  Many manufacturers are now offering residential electrical panels with built-in SPD to help meet this new code requirement. Similar to the emergency disconnect requirement, this SPD requirement applies to both new services as well as services that are modified or upgraded.   Wiring Considerations   While some items discussed in this blog are new to residential electrical services, there are many that stay tried and true.  For example, sizing of service entrance conductors and conduit as well as sizing grounding and bonding conductors stay consistent with the way they have been done in the NEC for some time now.  To review those requirements, the scenario below will be used to elaborate on each area.   Scenario: 200-amp, 120/240-volt, single-phase, 3-wire electrical service with Type THWN copper service entrance conductors installed in Schedule 40 PVC conduit and a copper grounding electrode conductor and copper bonding wires.   In order to size our service entrance conductors properly, we turn to Table 310.12 which addresses wire size for single-phase dwelling services and feeders.  Using the scenario information that we have a 200-amp electrical service and are utilizing copper conductors; we determine that our service entrance conductors for this electrical service will need to be 2/0 AWG copper THWN conductors.   Service Entrance Conductors Size: 2/0 AWG copper THWN conductors   Knowing that we have a 3-wire electrical service consisting of (2) ungrounded (hot) conductors and (1) grounded (neutral) conductor, we look to Annex C – Table C.11 which covers installations using Schedule 40 PVC conduit. Using Table C.11, we determine that in order to fit our (3) 2/0 AWG copper THWN conductors into one conduit, we will need a minimum size of 1 ½” Schedule 40 PVC conduit.   Conduit Size: 1 ½” Schedule 40 PVC conduit   Grounding Electrode System Considerations The grounding electrode system in electrical services creates a common connection between electrical equipment, grounding electrodes that are present and/or required, and the earth so as they are at the same relative potential. This helps to stabilize voltage on the system and limit the voltage that can be imposed on the system by lightning strikes and other potential surges. NEC section 250.50 states that all grounding electrodes listed in 250.52(A)(1) through 250.52(A)(7) that are present in the building or structure must be bonded together to form the grounding electrode system. The following are grounding electrodes, some with specific requirements, that are permitted by the NEC for grounding:  Metal underground water pipes Structural steel Concrete-encased electrodes (often referenced as “UFER ground” in the field) Ground rings Rod and pipe electrodes Plate electrodes Other listed grounding electrodes In most residential applications, the more common grounding electrodes that are incorporated into the grounding electrode system are the concrete-encased electrode (UFER), rod electrodes (ground rods), and metal water pipe, although this is becoming less common due to more use of plastic piping in lieu of metal for water supplies. NEC Table 250.66 is utilized for determining what size wire we need to use for our grounding electrode conductor, based upon the largest ungrounded (hot) service entrance conductor.  With us determining previously that our service entrance conductor will be size 2/0 AWG copper THWN conductors and that the scenario also stated that the grounding electrode conductor should be copper, we can now use Table 250.66 to determine that we will use a #4 AWG copper grounding electrode conductor for this electrical service.  The one caveat being the grounding electrode conductor that is ran to the ground rods is not required to be larger than #6 AWG copper. All other grounding electrode conductor connections, such as to the metal water pipe and to the concrete-encased electrode, will need to be sized as the #4 AWG copper required in Table 250.66.   Grounding Electrode Conductor Size: #4 AWG copper conductor* *Except to ground rods which can be a #6 AWG copper   Bonding Considerations   By definition, bonding means connected to establish electrical continuity and conductivity. Unlike grounding, which intends to establish a ground connection, such as to earth, bonding connects all metallic parts on the system which have the potential to become energized. Building systems, such as metal water and gas piping, are required to be bonded per the NEC. Other systems, such as community antenna television (CATV), are required by the NEC to be bonded through an intersystem bonding termination (IBT) device. Bonding all the systems together helps to minimize the potential difference between systems.   The metal water piping connection that may have been made as part of the grounding electrode system is not the same requirement as listed in section 250.104(A), which requires the metal water piping system to be bonded. Again, one is dealing with grounding and one is dealing with bonding.  Based on section 250.104(A), the conductor for bonding must be sized in accordance with Table 250.102(C)(1) although it is never required to be larger than 3/0 AWG copper. Based on our 2/0 AWG copper service entrance conductors and our scenario stating that our bond wires would also be copper, we can utilize Table 250.102(C)(1) and determine we need a #4 AWG copper bonding wire for the metal water piping.  Also of note, section 250.24(B) requires a main bonding jumper, for grounded systems, that connects the equipment grounding conductor to the grounded (neutral) conductor at the service disconnecting means.  Typically, this main bonding jumper is provided by the manufacturer along with residential panels in the form of a screw or strap that bonds the grounded (neutral) bar to the enclosure when inserted properly.  If that main bonding jumper were not to be provided, and the NEC is needed to find the correct size, section 250.28(D)(1) tells us that Table 250.102(C)(1) would also be used to size the main bonding jumper.   Metal Water Piping and Main Bonding Jumper* Size: #4 AWG copper conductor *If the main bonding jumper is not provided with the panel.   NEC section 250.104(B) states that “other” metal piping, such as gas piping, must also be bonded.  That bonding is to be done per Table 250.122.  What is different about table 250.122 versus the other tables we have been using is that it is based on the rating of the overcurrent device, often a circuit breaker of fuse, that is ahead of the circuit that could cause the system to become energized.  The problem with scenarios like gas piping bonding is that we may not necessarily know what circuit could potentially energize it as the gas piping could be routed throughout the home and could be energized by any size feeder or branch circuit.  However, in our scenario, the largest overcurrent device we would ever have to assume could energize the gas piping would be the 200-amp main breaker, since the is the largest circuit within the home.  So, if we utilize Table 250.122 to determine the copper bond wire size we need for the gas piping bond, based on the 200-amp overcurrent device, we would select #6 AWG copper wire.  Keep in mind that this # 6 AWG copper wire is the minimum size wire we need.  For example, if there is already a roll of #4 AWG copper wire on the truck to take care of the water bond, there is no reason that that same #4 AWG copper wire could be utilized for the gas piping bond, since #4 AWG is larger than #6 AWG wire.   Metal Gas Piping Bonding Size: #6 AWG copper conductor   The last area of bonding residential services to cover is the bonding of communication systems as listed in section 250.94. Other systems, such as community antenna television (CATV), are required by the NEC to be bonded through an intersystem bonding termination (IBT) device. Again, bonding all of the systems together helps to minimize the potential difference between systems. Based on section 250.94(A), any IBT that is used must meet the following criteria: Be accessible for connection and inspection. Consist of a set of terminals with the capacity for connection of not less than three intersystem bonding conductors. Not interfere with opening the enclosure for a service, building or structure disconnecting means, or metering equipment. At the service equipment, be securely mounted and electrically connected to an enclosure for the service equipment, to the meter enclosure, or to an exposed nonflexible metallic service raceway, or be mounted at one of these enclosures and be connected to the enclosure or to the grounding electrode conductor with a minimum 6 AWG copper conductor. At the disconnecting means for a building or structure, be securely mounted and electrically connected to the metallic enclosure for the building or structure disconnecting means, or be mounted at the disconnecting means and be connected to the metallic enclosure or to the grounding electrode conductor with a minimum 6 AWG copper conductor. The terminals shall be listed as grounding and bonding equipment. In conclusion, there are many consistent ways in which residential electrical services continue to be installed. Based on the ever-changing need to continually make the world a safer place, there are also changes that happen within the NEC to incorporate those needs. This blog intends to give you the most up-to-date information based on the 2020 NEC, however, it is not intended to serve as a consultation or installation instructions for any given scenario.  Electrical work should always be done by professional electricians who know the local code requirements. Those same electricians also have established relationships with the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) in that area where they can reach out and get clarification if needed.  It takes all stakeholders working together to keep this electrified world a safer place for all people and property. The visual content included in this blog is from NFPA LiNK™, your custom on-demand code knowledge tool, brought to you by NFPA. Find out more about NFPA LiNK™, and sign up for your free trial, here: www.nfpa.org/LiNK Important Notice: This correspondence is neither intended, nor should it be relied upon, to provide professional consultation or services.
A street with high rises

Occupancy Classifications in Codes

One of the most critical steps in applying NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, and other building and fire codes to a space is identifying the correct occupancy classification. The occupancy classification drives the requirements for many different fire and life safety features. These requirements reflect the unique and expected characteristics of the anticipated occupants of that space such as, capability of self-preservation, familiarity with the space, age, and alertness. Improperly classifying a building or space risks over- or under-applying necessary code requirements, resulting in buildings lacking fire and life safety features, or containing additional fire and life safety features that are not required by the Code. While the majority of the NFPA developed codes and standards use occupancy classifications consistent with the Life Safety Code, including NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, other organizations’ codes and standards may differ. This can create challenges for the designer when multiple codes and standards are applicable and enforced in a jurisdiction. Perhaps one of the more common scenarios is when both the International Building Code (IBC) and the Life Safety Code apply. Below is a table comparing the different occupancy classifications between the IBC and NFPA 101/5000. One thing to note is that although some of the occupancies seem to correlate obviously, there may be differences between details within the definitions, such as minimum number of occupants, that could result in a different classification. NFPA 101 and 5000 Occupancy Classification IBC Occupancy Classification Assembly Assembly (divided into subcategories A-1, A-2, A-3, A-4, A-5) Ambulatory Health Care Business Educational Educational Day Care Educational or Institutional Health Care Institutional (divided into subcategories I-1, I-2, I-3, and I-4) Detention and Correctional Residential Board and Care Institutional or Residential One- and Two-Family Dwelling Residential (divided into subcategories R-1, R-2, R-3 and R-4) Lodging or Rooming House Hotels and Dormitory Apartment Mercantile Mercantile Business Business Industrial Factory and Industrial (divided into subcategories F-1 and F-2) Storage Storage (divided into subcategories S-1 and S-2) No equivalent occupancy classification (see paragraph below for additional information) High Hazard (divided into subcategories H-1, H-2, H-3, H-4, and H-5) No equivalent occupancy classification (see paragraph below for additional information) Utility and Miscellaneous   Ambulatory Health Care One major difference between the NFPA 101/5000 occupancy classifications and the IBC classifications is the ambulatory health care occupancy classification. It is important to understand what types of facilities we are discussing before we get into how these are classified differently. Ambulatory health care occupancies per the Life Safety Code are those occupancies in which four or more patients are being treated simultaneously and are incapable of self-preservation because of (1) the treatment; (2) anesthesia; or (3) the nature of the injury/illness. Although not a separate occupancy classification, the IBC does have a definition for “Ambulatory Care Facility” which closely resembles the NFPA ambulatory health care occupancy. Per the IBC, these types of facilities would be considered business occupancies. NFPA 101 and 5000 create a distinction between business occupancies and ambulatory health care facilities based on the occupants’ ability of self-preservation. Therefore, these types of facilities would not be considered business occupancies but would be considered ambulatory health care occupancies per NFPA. It is worth mentioning that per NFPA a traditional doctor’s office or an urgent care center where patients are still capable of self-preservation would be considered business occupancies. Educational and Day Care NFPA 101 separates day care occupancies from educational occupancies. The NFPA and IBC definitions for educational occupancies are fairly similar. At first glance it may seem like some occupancies that would be classified as educational per the IBC would actually be day care occupancies per NFPA. However, when you look more closely at Chapter 16 and 17 of NFPA 101 you find that occupancies in which the primary purpose is education for children 30 months of age or older must comply with the educational occupancy requirements. It should be noted that prior to the 2021 Edition, the age was 24 months. While the educational definitions are closely aligned between NFPA and IBC, the major difference is the NFPA occupancy classification of day care. There are two main categories of day cares, those providing services for children and those providing services for adults. Instead of calling these day care occupancies, the IBC would classify child day cares serving children under two and a half years old and adult day cares as institutional occupancies. There is one exception to this. A childcare facility with more than 5 but less than 100 clients two and a half years of age or younger, and located on the level of exit discharge, is classified as an educational occupancy per the IBC. Institutional The institutional occupancy group in the IBC consists of four different categories: I-1, I-2, I-3, and I-4. These subcategories are based on anticipated occupant characteristics and there are similar occupancy classifications found in NFPA 101/5000. However, in the NPFA codes and standards these are treated as individual occupancy classifications and not as subcategories of a broader classification. Even with the sub-categories, the occupancy classifications do not always obviously align between NFPA and IBC. The table below summarize how the NFPA occupancy classifications would most likely fall into the IBC institutional subcategories.   Closer Look at how NFPA Occupancy Classifications Align with IBC Residential Subcategories NFPA IBC Notes Day Care I-4 Depends on number of occupants, age of occupants, and location of occupants in relationship to the level of exit discharge Educational Health Care   I-2 N/A Detention and Correctional I-3 N/A Residential Board and Care I-1 Depends on the number of occupants   R-3 R-4 When starting with the IBC institutional subclassification determining the NFPA occupancy classification is more straightforward. Remember though, it is important to always verify the actual definitions and minimum number of occupant requirements before selecting the appropriate occupancy classification. The table below shows the potential NFPA occupancy based on the IBC institutional subcategory.   IBC NFPA I-1 Residential Board and Care I-2 Health Care I-3 Detention and Correctional I-4 Day Care Residential The residential occupancy group in the IBC consists of four different categories: R-1, R-2, R-3, and R-4. These subcategories are based on anticipated occupant characteristics and there are similar occupancy classifications found in NFPA 101/5000. However, in the NPFA codes and standards these are treated as individual occupancy classifications and not as subcategories of a broader classification. Even with the sub-categories, the occupancy classifications do not always obviously align between NFPA and IBC. The table below summarize how the NFPA occupancy classifications would most likely fall into the IBC residential subcategories.   Closer Look at how NFPA Occupancy Classifications Align with IBC Residential Subcategories NFPA IBC Notes One- and Two-Family Dwelling R-3 N/A Lodging or Rooming House R-1 Depends on the number of occupants R-3 Hotels R-1 Depends on the nature of the occupants (transient or not) R-2 Dormitories R-2 N/A Apartment R-2 N/A Residential Board and Care R-3 Depends on the number of occupants   R-4 Institutional If you are starting with the IBC residential subclassification and trying to determine the NFPA occupancy classification, it is not as straightforward. The IBC uses terminology not found in NFPA 101 or 5000 and creates the subclassification groups based on different characteristics of how the space is being used, such as the number of occupants. The table below shows how many potential NFPA occupancies you could have per each IBC residential subcategory.   Closer Look at how IBC Residential Subcategories Align with NFPA Occupancy Classifications IBC NFPA Notes R-1 Lodging or Rooming House Depends on the number of occupants Hotel R-2 Apartment Depends on the nature of the occupants (transient or not) Hotels Dormitories R-3 One- and Two- Family Dwelling Depends on (1) number of occupants and/or outsiders and (2) if residents are receiving personal care services Lodging or Rooming House Residential Board and Care R-4 Residential Board and Care N/A High Hazard One of the major differences between how NFPA 101/5000 and the IBC address occupancy classification is how they handle areas and spaces where high hazard materials are present. The IBC has a separate occupancy classification for areas or spaces that manufacture, process, generate, or store “materials that constitute a physical or health hazard” in amounts larger than what is permitted in control areas. NFPA, on the other hand, does not create a separate occupancy classification, instead, there are provisions for high hazard contents that must be followed, regardless of the occupancy whenever applicable. High hazard contents are “those that are likely to burn with extreme rapidity or from which explosions are likely.” Additionally, there are subclassifications of certain occupancies, such as storage and industrial, for those that store or use high-hazard contents. Within the occupancy chapter, additional requirements apply based on the high-hazard classification. NFPA 5000 has a chapter with additional requirements based on the presence of high hazard contents. Again, this does not change the occupancy classification itself but does require additional fire protection and/or life safety features because of the increased hazard of the space. Utility and Miscellaneous Another major difference between how NFPA 101/5000 and the IBC address occupancy classification is the Utility and Miscellaneous occupancy classification the IBC has. There is no equivalent in the NFPA occupancy classification. In the IBC, this group is used for structures such as barns, sheds, and towers. While there is no separate occupancy group for these in the NFPA classifications, these structures would still be assigned an occupancy classification. Depending how the space is actually used, storage, industrial, or business are potential examples of appropriate occupancy classifications. Additionally, NFPA 101 and 5000 have requirements for “Special Construction” and “High-Rise” buildings. Instead of changing the occupancy classification when traditional occupancies are placed in unique buildings or are in unusual surroundings, there are requirements that modify the base occupancy requirements to accommodate for these unusual surroundings or structures and the risks associated with them. Conclusion The application of occupancy classifications between different organizations’ codes and standards is not always straight forward. Therefore, when working with multiple codes, you must consider the specific building and the occupant characteristics of that space. Since different occupant thresholds and occupant characteristics are used for different organizations’ codes and standards, you can’t always generalize how the occupancy classifications align. Hopefully, the above tables provided some insight and at least a starting point when trying to determine how the occupancy classifications relate.
Cannabis growing facility

NFPA Standards Council approves development of NFPA 420, Standard on Fire Protection of Cannabis Growing and Processing Facilities

The NFPA Standards Council has approved the development of NFPA 420, Standard on Fire Protection of Cannabis Growing and Processing Facilities. The new standard, which was originally proposed in response to serious fires that have occurred at cannabis facilities in recent years, will provide clear guidance on fire protection standards for facilities that produce, process and extract cannabis. Rapid legalization of medical and/or recreational use of cannabis throughout the U.S. and the exponential growth of facilities around the globe have also underscored that provisions are needed to minimize fire and associated risks these types of facilities. As recently as few weeks ago, a three-alarm fire destroyed a cannabis facility in Shelton, Washington. NFPA 420 will build upon the work started several years ago in NFPA 1, Fire Code, which addresses the fire protection aspects of the growing and processing facilities. The new stand-alone document will expand upon those requirements, referencing appropriate resources as needed, with the overall goal of addressing the protection of facilities from fire and related hazards where cannabis is being grown, processed, extracted and/or tested. NFPA 420 is envisioned by the council to include requirements for inspecting, systems testing, and maintenance of cannabis growing, processing, and extraction facilities. It also is anticipated to establish the general skills, knowledge and experience required among facility operators and facility managers responsible for ensuring adequate levels of safety at these facilities. The start-up roster for the Technical Committee on Fire Protection of Cannabis Growing and Processing Facilities (CGP-AAA) will be appointed at the NFPA Standards Council meeting in August 2021. Applications to serve on the committee are being accepted through June 15, 2021. For those interested in learning more about the primary fire and life safety hazards at cannabis growing and extraction/processing facilities, as well as best practices to safely run these facilities, NFPA is hosting a two-hour Fire and Life Safety Hazards in Cannabis Cultivation and Processing Facilities presentation on June 22, 10:30-12:30 EST. Presented by Kristin Bigda and Val Ziavras of NFPA, the session is one of several online presentations planned that day, which address timely issues facing building and life safety professionals and practitioners. Learn more about all this and the wide array of sessions planned in support of the NFPA 125th Anniversary Conference Series at www.nfpa.org/conferenceseries. Visit the NFPA cannabis fire and life safety page to access and/or download a wide range of information and resources on fire protection at cannabis facilities.

Restaurant Fire Protection Basics

As we emerge from the shutdowns and limitations due to COVID-19, many of us are likely looking forward to the day when our favorite restaurant will be able to operate at full capacity. Full tables, a packed bar area, people sitting in a waiting area, and a ton of activity in the kitchen will be good for local businesses and for people’s need for more in-person social interaction. As we look forward to those days, this blog offers an introduction to some of the basic concepts that are used for the protection of customers, employees, and the building itself.  For the purpose of this blog, we’ll be talking about dine-in restaurants with full kitchen capabilities that are assembly occupancies (defined as having an occupant load of 50 or more persons). NFPA statistics show that for eating and drinking establishments, the majority of fires occur in the kitchen and specifically involve cooking equipment. With that in mind, this blog will center around kitchen safety, but first let’s address some of the general fire safety provision that also apply to dining areas. General Requirements Egress The ability for patrons to evacuate the restaurant in the event of a fire must be adequately provided and maintained. For restaurants with an occupant load of 50 or more, which would classify them as an assembly occupancy, the main entrance must be sized to be able to accommodate at least one half of the total occupant load. Other exits must be provided to handle the additional capacity with the total number being based on layout and maintaining acceptable travel distances. Some common areas of concern regarding safe egress include the arrangement of chairs and tables cutting down on the available aisle accessways as well secondary exits being locked, blocked, or obstructed by storage. Fire Alarm Whether or not a fire alarm system is required can come down to many variables but if it is a standalone building it is only required to be provided with a fire alarm system where the occupant load is greater than 300. Where  required, the system will need to be initiated by one of or a combination of manual operation (pull stations), automatic detection, or sprinkler system waterflow.  Notification of the occupants is required to be a voice announcement and include visible signals. Sprinkler Protection Sprinklers have not traditionally been required for all restaurants. Beginning with the 2021 edition of NFPA 101 Life Safety Code®, restaurants that are assembly occupancies of new construction will require sprinkler protection. Like fire alarms, a lot of variables can play into the need for sprinkler protection, including construction type, height, other uses of the building, and more. Where considering a standalone building used only as a restaurant its classification as an assembly occupancy does not require sprinkler protection for any existing construction unless it can also be considered a nightclub, dance hall, or discotheque in which case they are required for occupant loads over 100. Kitchen Fire Protection Wet-chemical extinguishing system As referenced earlier, the majority of fires in restaurants are caused by cooking equipment. For this reason, any cooking equipment used in processes that produce grease-laden vapors must be provided with ventilation and a fire extinguishing system. The fire extinguishing systems must be listed to UL 300 or equivalent standards which is currently only achieved by wet chemical extinguishing systems. The wet chemical is able to separate the oil and air for a sufficient amount of time to allow complete cooling. These systems are most commonly activated automatically through the use of fusible links that are in the exhaust airflow and have a manual release that can also be used by staff in the area. The manual release should be located in the path of egress from the space to allow for safe use.  Some common issues with the fixed extinguishing systems include the caps on discharge nozzles being taken off for day-to-day use. These caps prevent grease from getting into and clogging the nozzles and are designed to blow off when the system activates. The rearrangement or replacement of cooking equipment can also be problematic as the systems are specifically designed for the original equipment, changing these out without analyzing the system could result in a failure to extinguish a fire. Class-K Fire Extinguisher While the fixed extinguishing system is intended to be the primary means of extinguishment, at least one portable fire extinguisher is also required to be provided in the kitchen area. Extinguishers in kitchens need to be Class K to be appropriate for use on the cooking medium. Signage is required at the extinguisher in the form of a placard that is conspicuously placed near each Class K extinguisher that states that the fire protection system must be activated prior to using the fire extinguisher. Inspection and Maintenance Routine inspection and maintenance of cooking equipment, the hood and exhaust systems, and fire extinguishing equipment (including fire extinguishers) are vital to ensuring that protection is maintained consistently for the restaurant. In addition, instructions need to be provided to new employees on hiring and to all employees annually on the use of portable fire extinguishers and the manual actuation of the fire-extinguishing system. Hoods need to be inspected for grease buildup at a frequency that is typically semi-annually for most restaurants but can be more or less frequent, depending on the type and volume of cooking. When that inspection finds grease buildup the hood and exhaust system must be cleaned. NFPA 96 Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations, 2021 2021 The fire extinguishing systems must be maintained at least every 6 months and all actuation and control components, including remote manual pull stations, mechanical and electrical devices, detectors, and actuators, must be tested for proper operation. Fusible links of the metal alloy type and automatic sprinklers of the metal alloy type must also be replaced at this interval. Summary This is meant to be a high level overview of some of the major fire protection and life concepts for restaurants. There are many more details on each of the items covered in this blog and there are others that were not included here but still must be provided for a full compliant arrangement. NFPA 96 Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations, is a great place to start to find more information. NFPA 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers, NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code®, NFPA 101, and the locally adopted building code should all be referenced for a full understanding of the requirements. I hope this was helpful as an overview. If you have any questions or would like to see a more in-depth discussion on any of the items covered, please let me know in the comments.
Wildfire Community Preparedness Day

Wildfire preparedness is in the cards…the social media cards, that is!

May 1 is Wildfire Community Preparedness Day and people all over the country are organizing projects and activities for that day and throughout the month. One great way to help people get excited for what kinds of activities they can do to reduce their wildfire risks is to share the great examples highlighted on our social media cards.  The “cards” are images with a message about a wildfire preparedness or pre-fire action someone can take that will make a real difference around their home and in their community.  To use them, simply click to open and save, or right-click on the image to save, and post them on your Facebook or other social media platform. Then, include the suggested link that goes with each image so when your friends and neighbors click on the image, they can learn from pages on NFPA’s website that provide more detailed information. These key tips to prepare for wildfire include: Clear and dispose of debris in your yard, as well as lawn cuttings, to reduce fuel for a wildfire. Move firewood piles at least 30 feet from any buildings. Know two ways out of your neighborhood and designate a meeting place before wildfire threatens your area. Protect from embers by installing metal mesh screening in attic and crawl space vents. Remove needles or leaves from roofs, gutters, porches and decks to prevent ignitions. Pets are part of the family. Make sure your evacuation plans include your pets. Using social media is a great way to spread the word about wildfire preparedness. When you post them, be sure to also include the social media hashtag #wildfireprepday to help spread the word!
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