As a property manager or business owner, it is your responsibility to provide a safe working environment and/or living space for your employees/tenants. Thus, performing routine maintenance to identify and address potential issues before they lead to catastrophic damage to your property is important not only for compliance but also to keep your business running.
Below are the 11 top building fire code violations that you should know so you can avoid them and protect your business’s reputation. This list can also help you eliminate hazardous conditions in your building and pass fire safety inspections by your fire marshal or local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).
Scout Security can help with your fire safety code compliance in Colorado Springs and Denver Metro through our certified and highly trained fire watch guards. They can identify potential fire hazards and perform necessary actions to keep your property safe. Contact us now!
#1. Improperly Placed, Inadequate, or Lack of Functional Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers are your first line of defense during a fire by preventing small fires from growing larger and spreading further.
- Use the right type of fire extinguishers depending on the class of fire being dealt with in specific areas of your building.
- Partially used, missing, expired, or damaged fire extinguishers are common violations among large businesses. Ensure that they are fully charged, inspect them regularly, and service them annually including every after use.
- Make sure that your fire extinguishers adhere to NFPA’s Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers (NFPA 10).
- Have your fire extinguishers serviced by a licensed contractor.
- Make sure that they are accessible, highly visible, and nothing is blocking them. They should be installed in specific locations and mounted to a wall.
#2. Installing the Wrong Fire Sprinkler System
The type of fire sprinkler system your building has should match your building’s purpose. Fire sprinkler system requirements vary for different building types.
- Update your fire sprinkler system to match your building’s hazard classification, especially after renovations where the building was originally intended for a different purpose. This prevents the sprinklers from malfunctioning during fire emergencies.
#3. Failure to Maintain Fire Protection Systems
Workplace fire safety rules and regulations cover annual testing and maintenance of fire protection systems. These include the major components of your fire suppression and alerting systems such as:
- Fire alarm systems and its components
- Fire sprinkler systems
- Smoke detectors
- Audible devices
- Fire alarm boxes
- Hose and standpipe systems
- Water distribution systems
- Other fire detection, notification, and suppression systems
- Testing and servicing of fire protection systems should be done by certified technicians.
- Ensure that fire alarm pull stations are not blocked and fire alarm control units are easily accessible.
- Fix chirping noises in your smoke detectors immediately. It is a sign to change batteries.
- Replace batteries at the same time every year to ensure that all systems will function for the same time duration.
- We recommend replacing your detector every ten years regardless of whether they are still working or not.
Read more about NFPA 72 (National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code) here to ensure the compliance of your fire alarm systems.
#4. Blocked Doors, Exits, & Passageways
Fire safety regulations also require doors, passageways, exits, and fire lanes to be free of any obstructions. They should allow for safe and quick evacuation during emergencies.
- Avoid storing goods and leaving deliveries, furniture, and other items in front of doorways, walkways, stairways, and hallways.
- Exits should be self-closing and easy to open. They should not require any special way of opening (e.g. keys) to allow for quick evacuation.
- NFPA 80 (Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives) requires fire doors to be kept closed unless held open by an approved device. Avoid using hold-open devices that are not approved such as wedges and door stops.
#5. Blocked Exterior Fire Department Connections & Valves
Blocked exterior fire department connections (FDCs) can hinder the fire department’s emergency response procedures. It will make controlling the spread of fires and rescue operations slower which could lead to more injuries and casualties.
- Clear the paths to FDCs, fire hydrants, and valves so your fire department can access and operate them easily to extinguish fires.
- Make sure that landscaping features, equipment, dumpsters, and others are not blocking FDCs.
#6. Inadequate and/or Faulty Fire Safety Signages, Exit Signs, & Emergency Lighting
Faulty exit signs and emergency lighting could prevent safe and orderly evacuation. Ensure that they are all well-lit and working to avoid unwanted penalties during an inspection. Exit signs and emergency lighting are usually required in commercial buildings.
- Ensure that exit signs and emergency lights are always illuminated, working properly (i.e. not flickering), unblocked, and remain on after pushing the test button.
- Test all exit signs and emergency lights at least monthly to ensure that they are working. Replace their batteries if necessary (it is best to do this at the same time as your smoke detectors).
- Signages should have backup batteries to ensure that they will remain lit for 90 minutes or more during power outages.
- Service signages and emergency lighting annually through a certified professional.
- Do not remove exit signs without your building department’s approval.
- Put clear signages on doors leading to fire alarm panels, sprinkler riser rooms, and electrical rooms.
#7. Using Extension Cords as Permanent Wiring
You might face costly penalties when your fire marshal shows up unannounced and discovers that you’re using multiple extension cords as permanent wiring. This is among the most severe fire safety code violations commonly found in buildings. Never use extension cords to replace permanent wiring as they can overheat and create a fire hazard.
- Instead of using multiple extension cords, add more outlets.
- Do not plug permanent fixtures into extension cords. Only use them for short-term use (e.g. for portable appliances). Otherwise, they will become a fire hazard. Unplug them when they are not in use.
- Do not pass electrical cords through ceilings, doorways, floors, walls, or under floors.
- Do not plug extension cords into each other if their use is allowed. Make sure that they don’t have any signs of damage.
- Do not plug multi-plug power strips and surge protectors into another surge protector or extension cords. Plug them directly into an outlet.
#8. Storing Unnecessary Items in Fire Pump & Riser Rooms
Avoid using riser rooms and fire pumps as storage closets. Only fire protection equipment should be stored in them so that emergency personnel can access needed equipment easily and quickly in case of emergencies.
- Do not store other items such as brooms and mops inside riser rooms and fire pumps.
#9. Improper Storage of Combustibles
Improperly stored combustible and flammable materials can worsen fire damage. Aside from costly fire safety code violations, you will face financial losses and most likely lawsuits due to property damage.
- Do not store combustibles in electrical equipment, elevator, mechanical, and boiler rooms. They should not interfere with sprinkler locations.
- Keep combustibles away from heating devices such as water heaters and furnaces. There are specific clearance requirements that you should be following for these.
- If you have fire sprinklers, store combustibles at least 18 inches below sprinkler heads. In non-sprinklered areas, the distance between the ceiling and combustible storage should be at least 24 inches.
#10. Hanging Items on Sprinkler Heads & Piping
It is prohibited to hang anything on fire sprinkler heads and exposed piping regardless of how small or lightweight the item is. Chemical incompatibility with the materials and the vibrations caused by the items can lead to bigger problems. These include unintentionally activating your fire sprinklers and causing water damage not only to your property but to your customers’ or tenants’ belongings.
- Do not hang clothing, lighting, and other unrelated signages on sprinkler heads and piping.
- Add warning signs below your fire sprinklers that discourage hanging items from them.
- Replace fire sprinkler heads that you might have accidentally painted over.
#11. Failure to Keep Proper Maintenance & Repair Records
Make sure to keep records of your inspections, maintenance, and repairs. These will serve as proof that you took necessary actions to comply with fire safety codes. It can save you from costly lawsuits in case of fire damage and avoid insurance claim denials due to non-compliance reasons.
- Reports of annual inspections for fire sprinkler and alarm systems are usually required to be submitted to your local fire department.
- Always correct any deficiencies specified in the report before they get worse and cause you to fail fire marshal inspections which could lead to more serious violations.
Other Helpful Information You Might Want to Know
More Tips to Avoid Fire Safety Code Violations
- Avoid piling up combustible trash and debris on your premises.
- There should be a 36-inch minimum clearance around electrical panels.
- Provide approved covers for junction boxes, electrical outlet boxes, switch boxes, and circuit breaker panels. Do not leave them open.
- Make sure that address numbers are legible and visible from your property’s street side.
One Last Thing to Know About Fire Codes
Fire safety codes and regulations are enforced to protect the lives of people and your property from the consequences of fire damage. They include requirements for fire detection, fire suppression, and evacuation including testing and maintenance of fire protection systems.
Most areas adopted the requirements set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and International Fire Code (IFC) with a few additions and/or changes. Also, these requirements evolve continuously, so make sure that you stay updated with the changes in your local area to avoid costly violations.
- What is a Fire Watch: Procedures | NFPA & OSHA Requirements
- 5 Fire Marshal Responsibilities: How Do They Protect Your Business?
- 9 Factors to Consider When Hiring Fire Watch Guard Services
- How Much Does A Fire Watch Cost?
Whether you are running a hotel, apartment, manufacturing facility, or other commercial business, following fire safety codes should be among your top priorities. Addressing minor issues before your fire marshal discovers them will make a big difference when it comes to the success of your business. You can prevent costly liabilities as well as property, financial, and reputational damage which could lead to your business being shut down.
Scout Security’s proactive fire prevention strategies are among the most effective ways to avoid costly violations. We help address fire protection issues and keep your building compliant with fire safety rules and regulations in Colorado. Hire our fire watch guards now!