Fire Code Violations

12 Of The Most Common Fire Code Violations And How To Avoid Them!

The National Fire Protection Association statistics report a reasonably constant decrease in the number of deaths brought on by fires in the U.S. There have been around 60% fewer civilian fire deaths over the past 40 years– from over 6,500 annually to over 3,700. 

Still, flames pose a serious and immediate risk to the public’s safety. The most recent NFPA data show that there seem to be more fire fatalities every year. Approximately every 32 minutes in the U.S. in 2019, a fire wounded someone. 

On average, a person dies to fire every two hours.

These figures highlight the importance of being vigilant when it comes to ensuring your fire prevention systems always comply with all relevant fire rules. Different local fire codes apply to building owners. 

These regulations are upheld by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), which may be the neighborhood fire marshal, building inspector, or other code officials. Routine business considerations might hinder fire safety. 

A distracted worker may unintentionally block a fire exit, disconnect a smoke alarm that is chirping and needs a new battery, or neglect to refill a broken fire extinguisher. Unfortunately, such conduct may violate fire regulations and jeopardize the health and safety of other workers.

You can pass fire safety inspections by being aware of the common fire code infractions observed in businesses. 

This article will cover the most common fire code breaches and ways to prevent them.

Here's What We Cover:

What are Fire Codes?

To prevent fires and ensure public safety, the government establishes and enforces a fire code. The fire code ensures that this inherent degree of safety is maintained even while the building code specifies fire suppression, fire detection, and evacuation criteria. It covers topics like fire suppression and detection equipment inspection, testing, maintenance, and egress drills.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) presently produces more than 300 codes and standards, and most states have accepted all or parts of the International Fire Code (IFC) or NFPA 1: Fire Code. Businesses need to learn what regulations are in force in their jurisdiction because the codes constantly evolve, and governments pass new versions as legislation.

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What are the different types of Fire Code Violations?

Two model fire codes that serve as the foundation for most state and local fire regulations are the NFPA and the IFC. Each of these codes has a variety of requirements for various parts of your fire protection system.

We can divide the most frequent and common fire code violations we have observed into four categories based on those used in the most recent Fire and Life Safety Benchmark Report. 

This study offers information on fire inspection procedures as well as rates of device failure for each of these categories, which adds some additional context for some of the often-seen problems: 

  • Devices of fire signaling and detection, including apparatus for control, auxiliary purposes, starting machines, monitoring equipment, and notification appliances
  • Clean agents, gas detectors, and kitchen hood systems are among the fire suppression equipment and devices.
  • Water-based fire protection devices such as fire sprinklers.
  • Life safety equipment, such as portable fire extinguishers, lights, and personal protective and safety gear.

12 Common Fire Code Violations and Ways to Avoid Them

You may fix your fire protection concerns before they result in expensive fire code violation fines by learning about the significant fire safety failures in businesses and the most prevalent fire code infractions of 2019. Most workplace fire safety laws and regulations are simple to follow as part of your routine once you’ve read the details.

Blocked Exits & Fire Safety Door Regulations

According to the 2019 fire code violation findings, fire doors and exit area fire safety standards and regulations are some of the most straightforward rules to forget. All entrances and exits must always be clear of obstructions. 

If a fire breaks out and you must leave, leaving deliveries in corridors or keeping goods in front of doorways – even for a few short hours – could be fatal. Debris must be maintained away from all emergency escape doors, stairways, paths, and halls.

Using extension cords improperly

At least once, we’ve all done this. We intend to use an extension cable as a temporary repair, but it is used for weeks, months, or even years. One of the most severe code infractions you can make is this one, which happens often! Extension cords only intended for short-term use become a fire risk and compromise fire safety when used permanently.

Never run extension cords through wall holes or attach them to other permanent fixtures or other objects. Eliminate extension cords and increase the number of outlets to avoid the fire marshal turning up without notice and issuing fines.  

Untested Smoke detectors and fire alarm systems

A certified technician must inspect fire alarm systems once a year. Testing these systems can be overlooked significantly if objects like furniture or other items obstruct them. Ensure that all fire alarm pull stations are unobstructed and undergo yearly testing. 

Keep an eye out for missing or broken smoke alarms by fixing chirping noises immediately and changing batteries on the same day each year. Smoke detectors and fire alarm systems that are not kept up could cause more significant property damage and increase the likelihood that building inhabitants won’t survive a fire.

Incorrect Sprinkler Systems

If your company was first constructed for a different function, the sprinkler specifications might not be appropriate for that usage. Sprinkler system needs vary greatly depending on the area, object, and occupancy type. 

Make sure to update your fire sprinklers to fit your design and danger rating if your building has just undergone a conversion. It’s crucial to consider adequately installing a sprinkler system if the building lacks one. 

Additionally, you need to get your system professionally serviced as your municipality advises. 

A mismatched sprinkler system could prevent the sprinklers from activating during a fire. This would significantly reduce the inhabitants’ sense of safety and greatly damage the property.

Inadequate Storage in Fire Pump and Riser Rooms

Would any company benefit from additional storage space? This is a frequent and expensive fire code violation, especially for brooms, mops, and other such stuff, since fire marshals frequently observe these goods being kept in fire pump and riser rooms.

Equipment for fire protection should only be kept in fire pump and riser rooms. In the event of a fire, emergency professionals must enter the area to begin working, and unnecessary things hinder or delay their ability to reach the equipment.

Unaccounted-for fire extinguishers

A huge box shop, ample retail space, or a warehouse setting makes it particularly easy for fire extinguishers to go missing, get damaged, or become partially utilized. Businesses frequently violate the fire code because their extinguishers don’t meet NFPA 10, which OSHA inspectors enforce.

You must have fire extinguishers that are categorized for each part of your building to prevent penalties and fines. By NFPA 10, portable fire extinguishers must be of the correct type and undergo thorough testing, inspection, and recharging.

Incorrect emergency exit lighting

There must be clear, illuminated exit signs in all commercial buildings. Exit signs must be examined and certified annually to pass fire safety inspections. These signs need backup batteries to stay lit for at least 90 minutes when there is a power loss. 

Exit sign battery changes should be done annually on the same day. A broken sign could spell the difference between life and death when trying to escape a burning building.

Fire department connections and valves that are blocked outside

A typical fire code violation observed in businesses is landscaping obstructions, including trees, berms, boulders, office supplies, pallets, and dumpsters that frequently block the outside fire department connection (FDC) and other access points. This local fire code violation speeds up the growth of fires, causes firefighter injuries, and slows down occupant rescue efforts. 

The fire department must have immediate access to your exterior fire department connection (FDC) to quickly connect and turn on the valves necessary to put out a fire in your big box store, large retail store, warehouse, distribution center, or restaurant.

Objects Hanging from Fire Sprinklers and Piping

You may have seen the warning labels that say it’s against the rules to hang things from the fire sprinklers when you’ve stayed in a hotel room. This is so that garments, particularly long coats, and bridal gowns, can be hung practically from sprinkler heads and piping. 

In a hotel or work locker room, it is simple to unintentionally activate the sprinklers by turning anything from them, which can result in expensive water damage to both the business and the guests’ possessions. Although there have been warnings, several firms continue to violate the fire code despite this consistently.

Inactive Pressure Gauges

The standpipe and fire sprinkler systems depend heavily on pressure gauges. The NFPA mandates that they undergo testing, calibration, or replacement every five years because they have numerous worn parts. Since the date is frequently imprinted on the instrument’s face, checking your gauges is simple. 

Fire pumps, backflow preventers, pressure-reducing valves, and various varieties of sprinkler systems all come with pressure gauges. Make a list of every gauge in your fire protection system and conduct frequent inspections to enable the proactive replacement of out-of-date gauges. Before the inspector finds the gauges that need to be changed, a visual examination of all the gauges will rapidly identify them. 

Misplaced Sprinkler Wrenches

When sprinklers are discovered to be loaded, damaged, or activated, they must be replaced. Sprinkler systems that are not fully operational might result in expensive fire watch needs. Therefore, failing to replace them as soon as possible can be costly. 

According to the NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, sprinkler buildings must have a cabinet stocked with spare sprinklers and the proper fire sprinkler wrench for each type of sprinkler they employ to facilitate the quick replacement of sprinklers.

How to avoid breaching standard fire code violations.

  • Replace all batteries simultaneously each year to keep all smoke alarms in sync. Also, remember that smoke alarms should be updated every ten years, whether they are functional or not. Your smoke alarms or detectors will function to protect your home or place of business, according to a reliable fire alarm specialist.
  • Partner with reliable fire safety professionals who know all the steps necessary to keep your systems up to code and comply with strict insurance requirements. This task is too crucial to trust chance.
  • Fire exits should always be left unblocked. There is never a justification for leaving store inventory in places needed for fire escapes, such as hallways. The “one-time-only” defense can also develop into a harmful habit.
  • Quickly accessible without the need for extra tools. They should be self-closing to avoid being inadvertently left open or closed at all times.
  • Instead of using extension cords as your long-term answer, hire a qualified electrician to add more outlets.
  • Ensure you have fully charged and functional fire extinguishers for each facility location. Annual inspections and maintenance are also required for all fire extinguishers.
  • Keep extraneous objects from the fire pump and riser chambers to protect their integrity.
  • Not only is it prudent to perform monthly inspections of your exit signs and illumination, but the code also mandates them. Establish a schedule for maintaining your fire safety signage, such as changing the batteries on the same day each year.

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Comply with Fire codes and Stay Safe!

Your fire protection system’s maintenance business should give you written records of all servicing, maintenance, and inspections. It can be challenging to keep track of who has done what, when, and where to obtain the necessary documentation if you work with several contractors to inspect, maintain, repair, and replace your fire protection equipment. Because of this, keeping inaccurate records is a significant offense. 

You are responsible for keeping copies of your inspection and repair records as proof that you complied with fire codes as the building owner or company manager. When you partner with AIE, we act as your go-to nationwide provider of fire protection services. We keep electronic records of everything we do, so you can quickly provide them if a fire inspector shows up. We can promptly deliver them to you if you can’t find them in your database.

The rules governing corporate fire safety may need to be clarified. Still, as this article demonstrates, there are simple ways to stay updated with the fire code so you can protect people and pass fire safety inspections.

Look at our Fire Protection Software, ZenFire, to ensure your inspectors can efficiently perform their reviews and streamline business operations.

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