We get calls from businesses who are panicked by their fire inspector. Will they get their certifications of occupancy in time or will they get fined? Read further to find out where violations typically occur and how to resolve or prevent fire safety violations.
Here is our list of the top 7 causes for citations and delays. In our experience, with a little planning and attention to a few key areas all violations are easily preventable.
1. The tenant failed to maintain their existing system. Typical neglect includes: Dead batteries, Broken or damaged exit signs, Burned out lamps in emergency lights, Expired fire extinguishers, Tape-based products losing adhesion
Place an asset tag on the devices, basically a serial number sticker, and use a plan to test the system every 30 days and once annually.
Exitexpo has a handy logger app that allows you to generate your asset tags, log, schedule and assign system testing tasks which includes automated reminders along with the ability to capture and track the warranty and replacement records. Maintaining your fire protection is regimented and mandated by law, thus the citations and hefty fines for those who don't. A proactive approach can keep the system relatively inexpensive to maintain and spare the loss of time, money, resources, safety, and legalities from violations.
2. The usage of the facility has changed since the emergency lighting and safety plan were created.
What to look out for: Blocked or locked doors or areas along the evacuation path. Exit paths must be clearly defined and free from obstructions.
Spacing clearance requirements around stand pipes, fire extinguishers, and fire suppression and fighting equipment.Curtains or wall coverings blocking visibility to exit signs
3. Repurposing of a multipurpose room without updating the fire safety system. Often seen with art exhibits or museums, particularly with the installation of wall coverings/drapes that block the signs or lights, tall temporary structures that obscure or alter the exit path, or temporary walls or partitions like you see in hotel conference rooms. Emergency evacuation maps must be posted and accurate.
4. Missing emergency lights, exit signs, braille exit signs, braille restroom signs, or fire extinguishers. The common offense with dense residential and multi-level buildings is that they are are not up to date with the new low-location exit sign laws or stairwell egress system laws. Braille exit route signs are usually forgotten as well as required braille signs for the bathroom doors locations and the exit doors. Vandalized exit signs often go unnoticed. If your public bathroom contains showering areas such as with spas or gyms, take an especially close look at the emergency lighting in these areas. Resolution: Where you have an exit sign, you'll need a braille exit sign. Your bathroom signs should have approved quality braille (Grade 2) on them (Be careful of injection molded braille signs, they often do not meet code). Low location exit signs are now being required in many residential situations. Stairwells may require photoluminescent egress markings and glow in the dark stair nosing.
5. Inappropriate Installation of a sign, light, or extinguisher. Examples include usage of an indoor exit sign, in outdoor areas. Usage of an outdoor exit sign without the battery heater in cold areas. Electrical exit signs mounted to the wall but not connected to electricity. Self luminous exit signs with the tubes and trays missing. Wrong class of fire extinguisher for the environment. Photoluminescent exit signs installed without a charging light source. Using a non-low location rated exit sign in low locations -(OSHA has laws about how far signs can protrude from the wall surface and typical exit signs do not meet this). Usage of printed exit signs on paper or plastic (garage sale type sign) Resolution: if your exit sign cannot be seen in the dark for 90 consecutive minutes from up to 50-100ft away, it's not up to code, that includes the cheap glow-in-the-dark yard sale style type of exit signs. Your signs need to be UL 924 rated. Every sign or light we sell meets these standards and other standards which are noted on the fixtures and represented by the categories in our store - example: cold locations, wet location, indoor, outdoor etc... . If in doubt, ask us which sign you should use.
6. Not using adequate emergency lighting and exit signs in temporary locations such as under construction areas or outdoor events like fairs, concerts, carnivals, tented locations, haunted houses, or festivals. We see this often around Halloween and 4th of July. Halloween sees an increase in make-shift haunted houses and halls of mirrors, whereas 4th of July sees an uptick in fireworks booths and outdoor viewing events. Just because the areas are temporary, the same laws apply.Things to look out for:In these situations access to electricity is often limited. Extension cords are allowed but you must ensure that the emergency lighting backup batteries are operable. To be clear, the backup battery charges when the sign/light is receiving electricity and discharges when the electrical source is absent. The batteries discharge over 90 minutes and take 24 hours to fully recharge. If, for example, you have a generator running to power your tent's lights for the night and plan to return the next day, when you shut off your generator at night time, from the perspective of emergency light or sign there is an emergency and the battery must take over the role of powering illumination. After 90 minutes the batteries will likely be dead and will not have a chance to recharge before the usage next day. Additionally, should an emergency occur during the next day, the batteries will not adequately illuminate either in brightness or duration as required by code. The resolution is to either replace the rechargeable batteries the next day with fully charged batteries or to disconnect and reconnect the batteries at the end and beginning of each day. You may also get UL 924 rated non-electrical exit signs (self luminous or photoluminescent)When disconnecting batteries there is a great risk to forget reconnection the next day, we see this with event planning companies who cycle through many signs and lights. Less frequently but worth mentioning is that it's import to be aware that extended gaps in charging and extended periods of being discharged will affect the performance lifespan of your batteries.
7. Too few signs or lights. The code requires an average minimum of light to be present along the path of emergency egress (1 fc). We often see older styles of lights being replaced 1 for 1 with under-powered fixtures. For example, older generations of emergency lights had Par style lamp heads, ones that look like the head lights of your grandmother's Buick. These lights are capable of illuminating wide areas. While new technologies such as LED are more efficient and require smaller nicad batteries, the temptation to use them ought not to cause you to overlook the photometric characteristics comparisons. Additionally, if you decide to use smaller decorative incandescent lamp versions of emergency lights in lieu of the larger older boxes housing styles, the probabilities are nearly certain that the replacement will be insufficient. You will need to either increase the number of units installed and place them accordingly along the exit path.
Ultimately it is the discretion of the inspector to grant approvals and issue citations, however, our customers have had 100% success in resolving problems, even in dispute situations, by using our UL rated products according to their standards and certifications. If you find yourself in need of qualified products and expert care, we're here to help. Call us at 8443948247