Halloween is just a few weeks away, and before you know it, Thanksgiving and Christmas will be hot on its tail. While there’s nothing wrong with getting in the holiday spirit when it comes to office decor, did you know that certain kinds of decor as well as where you place them can be in direct violation of fire code?
In order to maintain the safety of your building and your team as well as the integrity of your fire alarm system, here’s what you should know about holiday displays in relation to fire code compliance.
Use Combustible Vegetation Sparingly
Combustible vegetation refers to both the artificial and natural elements you might use in a holiday display such as hay bales, natural cut Christmas trees, branches, corn stalks, and the like. While using combustible vegetation in your holiday displays is permissible, it must be done sparingly.
According to the NFPA, “limited quantities of combustible vegetation shall be permitted where the AHJ determines that adequate safeguards are provided based on the quantity and nature of the combustible vegetation.” These adequate safeguards include:
- sprinkler and fire protection systems nearby
- a certain moisture content in the vegetation
- appropriate display location
So while you wouldn’t be in direct violation of fire code if you were to have an autumn display complete with hay bales, cornstalks, and dried leaves in your lobby, keep in mind that, when it comes to elements that can easily catch fire, less is more.
Why the Emphasis on Combustible Vegetation?
The issue with certain kinds of vegetation is not necessarily their natural states. It becomes a hazard when these items are dried out. The lack of moisture makes it easy for them to ignite should an accident occur.
What About Live Christmas Trees?
The NFPA Fire Code does regulate the use of live trees. Here’s a quick-and-easy approach to having fresh-cut trees on the premises:
- The bottom of the trunk must have a straight cut at least 1/2 in. above the end before putting the tree in a stand to absorb water
- Water must be present in the stand at all times
- The tree must be removed from the premises immediately once there is evidence of dryness
Most artificial Christmas trees, on the other hand, are marked flame-retardant by the manufacturers, so generally they are permissible to use (provided that they don’t obstruct doorways and exits).
Location is Critical
While much of this is left to the discretion of the fire inspector, where you place your holiday displays is critical for maintaining fire code compliance. For example:
- Keep displays, especially larger items like hay bales and Christmas trees, from obstructing hallways, doors or exits.
- Keep combustible vegetation away from heaters and vents that could cause them to catch fire.
- Keep combustible vegetation away from open flames such as lanterns and candles.
- Keep twinkle or other electrical lights away from metal Christmas trees.
By placing your holiday displays in the appropriate locations and using limited amounts of combustible materials, you’ll not only minimize your chances of creating a fire hazard in your facility, but you’ll also be keeping your employees, staff, and other building occupants out of harm’s way during the most festive times of the year.