Fire code enforcement is often seen as conducting inspections and noting violations to ensure violations get corrected by the property owner or contractor. The whole process is rather clean and simple. However, code enforcement can be complex and challenging and so is knowing what things are considered fire code violations. In most cases, violations take place simply because most people aren’t even aware of the fire code requirements in the first place. Most cities have a defined compliance process but depending on the local, county, and state rules, some may have fewer or more technicalities when it comes to fire code violations.
5 Common Fire Code Violations
The good news is that most common fire code violations are some of the easiest to identify and equally as easy to remedy. So, here are some of the most common fire code violations that are repeatedly encountered during fire safety inspections and may also be things you need to look for in your facility.
1. Obstructed Exits and Passageways
This hazard kind of speaks for itself, but often times, the biggest problem isn’t with exits themselves that are used on an everyday basis, but with emergency exits. Since emergency exits are, hopefully, used rather infrequently, items end up being stacked up in front of them to the point where people may not know they even exist. In even worse cases, emergency exit doors are sometimes chained and locked. To put it simply, there should be no items, of any kind, impeding a pathway to any exit in your facility. Keep all emergency exits and corridors, free of chairs, filing cabinets, small tables, and any other type of miscellaneous storage items that could cause potentially cause people to trip.
If you know this is happening in your building, you should immediately let facility personnel know nothing should impede exit pathways. In the event of an emergency, if people can’t get out of your building or facility you’ll likely end up having to deal with a lot more than just a fine.
2. Unilluminated Exit Signs
Much like a blocked exit can cause problems in the event of an emergency, so, too, can exit signs that aren’t illuminated. Most business owners assume an average exit sign is enough to point people to emergency exits, but it’s extremely important that they are also illuminated and placed in a position where it can be easily seen in the event of an emergency. Exit signs must also stay illuminated at all times, including when the building is not occupied. If a fire emergency occurs late at night, there may be cleaning crews working in the building who will need to be able to locate a safe exit. It’s also important to note that your facility may lose power, so all exit signs should also have backup batteries so that they will still be illuminated to a minimum of 90 minutes in the event of a power outage.
3. Expired Fire Extinguishers
Whether it’s in your facility or somewhere else, you’ll likely see fire extinguishers located throughout the building. Sometimes you might even see some with expired inspection tags. Fire extinguishers are designed to give any staff member of your business the ability to put out a small fire on their own, which is why it’s crucial to ensure that all of your fire extinguishers are up to date on their inspections. Much like emergency exits, fire extinguishers should also be in plain sight, not obscured from view, and have nothing blocking access to it. Fire extinguishers should be mounted to a wall surface in order to protect them from damage. If you happen to notice the gauge needle on your fire extinguisher pointing in the red area rather than the green area, notify your local Fire Marshal’s office immediately.
Because the inspection of fire extinguishers are relatively easy and simple to understand, most jurisdictions will allow any competent person to perform the monthly inspection. You can also hire a fire protection company to perform the monthly fire extinguisher inspection if you’d like.
4. Painted Fire Sprinkler Heads
When performing an inspection, fire marshals will check to see if there is adequate clearance around each sprinkler deflector, but they will also check to see if the sprinkler heads have been painted. Manufacturers are the only entities allowed to paint fire sprinkler heads. However, when painters make their way through a building they often forget to cover all of the fire sprinkler heads and if a sprayer was used to paint the ceilings, the paint likely got splattered on the head, as well. If the ceilings aren’t too high, you can easily identify the issue by performing a simple visual inspection at ground level. Any fire sprinkler heads that are painted will need to be replaced by a professional fire protection contractor to ensure that the water will be able to disperse without obstruction.
5. What are the Next Steps to Prevent Fire Code Violations?
The best way to avoid fire code violations, as well as the time and cost of correcting the violations is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. One great way to protect you and your business from fire emergencies is to install a professional up to date fire alarm system and keep it well maintained throughout the year. Afterward, you should access your city’s buildings information system so that you can look up what your jurisdiction’s violations are and any permit applications you may need to complete for your address. Next, you will want to check your local fire department’s public records for any information pertaining to your building and make sure you have a valid certificate of occupancy.
However, that type of information may be hard to find for some people and fire codes can sometimes have over 50 different types of permit requirements, so we recommend that you always consult with your local fire marshal. Your local fire marshal will be able to access all of the above information and they will also be able to assist you in your efforts, notify you of any violations they often see and make recommendations to correct them.
At TED Systems we know how important it is to keep your building as safe as possible. Our experts can install and update your fire alarm systems to ensure that they are not only up to code, but will alert the building’s occupants in case of emergency. Click here to contact us today.