Monday, December 5, 2016

Elements of Plan Review

For fire prevention organizations tasked with conducting plan reviews, NFPA 1730 lists 9 plan review elements. This post will examine each of these and provide links to additional resources.

1.  Fire Protection Environmental Impact (Feasibility Study). The feasibility study should examine such items as response times for fire/emergency services, communications capabilities,  hydrants availability, and water main requirements.  Any special considerations, and fire protection alternatives or equivalencies, should be documented and reviewed.
    Suggested resource: Fire Protection Approaches in Site Plan Review 

2.  Water Supply and Fire Flow. These should be conducted to ensure that the available water supply requirements can be met. If they cannot, other options should be considered and decided upon at this time.
    Suggested resource: How to Conduct Hydrant Flow Testing 

3.  Emergency Vehicle Access. This should be based on the largest piece of apparatus that the responding department may have to use.  Driving surfaces, widths, overhead clearances, loads, and turn-around's, and dead-ends should be considered.

4.  Construction Building Plans. This element of plan review should be conducted to determine code compliance, occupancy classifications, construction type, required fire protection features, fire resistance ratings, interior finishes, and any special hazards or structures.
     Suggested resource: The Art of Reading Buildings ; 101 Things I Learned in Engineering School 

5.  Certificate of Occupancy Inspections. These inspections are carried out throughout the project and can include all the trades (plumbing, electric, HVAC, etc.) and fire protection systems.  These inspections ensure that what has been approved on the plans is what is being installed in the building.
     Suggested resource: Why You're Stuck in Permitting (and how to get out!)

6.  Hazardous Materials and Processes. Any hazardous materials or processes should be reviewed for proper storage, handling, transfer, containment, emergency planning, and fire protection.
     Suggested resource: What's your MAQ? ; How to Store Hazardous Materials 

7.  Fire Protection System Plans.  These reviews confirm that required systems are in place, designed properly, and work for the structure.  These systems include, sprinklers, alarms, smoke control, fire pumps, hood systems, kitchen hoods, elevator recall, and similar items.
     Suggested resource: Sprinklers where required... ; How to Design a Fire Alarm System

8.  Fire and Life Safety Systems Field Acceptance Inspections.  These final inspections are in place to visually witness the correct operation of the fire protection systems, and confirm that all systems are in place and functional in accordance with codes, standards, and approved plans.
     Suggested resource:  Testing Integrated Fire Systems ; Understanding Pre-Action Sprinkler Systems

9.  Certificate of Occupancy (CO) issued.  This is the main objective for any building project.  After all work is completed, and all items are confirmed to be installed and functional per the approved plans, the Certificate of Occupancy can be issued, and the structure can be put into use.
     Suggested resource: The Road to C.O. - the Direct Route to Building Occupancy 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Determining Frequency of Inspections

Fire codes and standard do not directly address the frequency of existing building inspections. How often should existing buildings be inspected?  Should all buildings be inspected with the same frequency? What structure should be inspected more frequently or less frequently? What determines inspection frequency?

As a definitive guide for the establishment of fire prevention and inspection programs, NFPA 1730 answers these questions and provides guidance on how to determine the inspection frequency of existing buildings. The minimum frequency of inspections should be established based on occupancy risk, as follows:

High Risk Inspected Annually
Moderate Risk Inspected Biennially
Low Risk Inspected Triennially
Critical Infrastructure Inspected per AHJ

NFPA 1730 defines these risk categories.
  • High Risk.  Buildings having a history of frequent fires and a high potential for life or economic loss; or a building in which occupants must rely heavily on the building's fire protection features, or rely on staff assistance for evacuation.
  • Moderate Risk. Buildings having a moderate fire history and present only moderate potential for life or economic loss.
  • Low Risk. Buildings having little to no history of fire with minimal potential for life or economic loss.
  • Critical Infrastructure. Vital assets, systems, networks, or structures whose damage or destruction would have a debilitating effect on the community.
High risk occupancies may be buildings such as apartments, health care, detention, assembly, and educational facilities.  Moderate risk occupancies can be ambulatory health care, walk-in clinics, and industrial buildings.  Storage, mercantile, business, and office buildings could be considered low risk occupancies. Critical infrastructure facilities are buildings such as power plants, water treatment facilities, public safety buildings, and special structures unique to the community.

All the structures in the community will fall into one of these risk categories.  The occupancy risk classification of each structure will be determined based on the Community Risk Assessment (CRA). Ample time should be spent on ensuring that the CRA is conducted properly.  The community risk assessment sets the standard and drives the direction of the entire fire prevention organization.

Determining the amount of occupancies in each category, will reveal the amount of inspections that are required to be conducted annually.  From this the fire prevention organization can determine adequate staffing levels.

The simplified process for determining inspection frequency for existing occupancies should look like this:

Step 1. Conduct a CRA.
Step 2. Classify the occupancy risk of each structure.
Step 3. Determine the amount of inspections to be conducted annually.
Step 4. Determine the necessary staffing level needed to complete the inspections.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Expressing Professional Gratitude

Gratitude is defined as “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful”. We all have much to be grateful for. We understand gratitude in our personal lives when we look at our families, enjoy our homes, and play with our “toys”. However, many of us have equally as much to be grateful for in our profession and work.  

We can be grateful for the people that we encounter in this career. Think of the individuals that inspired us to pursue a fire service career. Think of the officers and fellow firefighters, that have taken the time to teach, instruct, and pour into our professional development. Consider the people that we have the privilege of working side-by-side with each day. Have we expressed your gratitude toward these individuals? We can express this by writing a note of thanks, by passing on the lessons learned from the influencers in our careers, and by treating one another with respect.
We can be grateful for the work place that provides us with gainful employment. It is through the opportunity to work at this place, for this company, which provides us the tools to care for our families and pursue our interests, and create incredible experiences. We express our gratitude for our work place by always acting in the best interests of the customer, and by putting the needs of all over the needs of ourselves.
We can be grateful that we have the power to perform the work. Many are physically unable to work. There are still others who may not have the opportunity to engage in work or careers that they are passionate about. We have the power to do both. We are physically capable, of pursuing a career that we can be passionate about. We can express our gratitude for the power to perform by fully applying our knowledge, skills, and energy to our field each and every workday.
Being grateful and expressing that gratitude will bring out the very best in those we work with each day. As we celebrate this Thanksgiving holiday, take some time to reflect and express you gratitude where it may most be needed.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Reader Survey and Free Stuff

I could really use your help, right now. In an effort to make this blog more relevant to your needs and interests I have created the 2016 Reader Survey

Would you please take a couple minutes and fill out the brief survey?  By doing so you will be helping yourself, by helping me create more interesting and relevant content.

Your input is important to me.  The survey is less than 10 questions, and should take less than 5 minutes. Also, there are no 'required' responses to hang you up.

For those of you who take the time to fill out the survey, you will be entered into a drawing to receive a package of fire prevention tools and resources. You must enter you e-mail at the end of the survey to be eligible for this.

Thanks in advance for your assistance in this!