When industrial, manufacturing, or aviation facilities want to announce a new product, host a dignitary, or throw a party, the solution for where to host these people is often found in tents or temporary membrane structures. These are a viable and cost effective solution, however, they require compliance with a different set of codes than the normal facility activities. Used in these conditions, these tents must be protected as places of assembly.
There are three code sections that address the fire prevention and life safety requirements for tents:
- NFPA 101, Life Safety Code
- Chapter 11 - Special Structures and High Rise Buildings
- Chapter 12/13 - Assembly Occupancies
- NFPA 1, Fire Code
- Chapter 25 - Grandstands and Bleachers, Folding and Telescopic Seating, Tents, and Membrane Structures
- NFPA 102, Standard for Grandstands, Folding and Telescopic Seating, Tents, and Membrane Structures
- Chapter 8 - Tents
These codes state that any tent over 200 sq. ft. requires a permit and, therefore, must comply with these standards.
All tents must be flame and fire resistant. This is evidenced by a certification stating that the tent has been tested and approved per the criteria of NFPA 701, Standard Methods of Fire Test for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films. Certification should be sent to the local authority or agency responsible for the tent. This certificaiton should also be sewn into the tent fabric. As an event planner, or facility safety person you should also request these certifications from the vendor.
If your event requires multiple tents, a minimum of 10’ between stake lines must be maintained. This is to ensure an adequate means of egress and emergency access. Any tent stakes adjacent to a means of egress should be capped off or covered to avoid injury.
The ground under the tent and and at least 10’ outside of the tent, is required to be clear of flammable/combustible materials or vegetation. This would include straw, mulch, trees, grasses, and fuel sources, such as fueled vehicles.
Smoking inside of tents is not permitted. “No Smoking” signage should be posted.
At least 1 (minimum 5lb, 2A:10BC) fire extinguisher is required. Anything over 200 sq. ft. will require more than 1. The amount, extinguisher locations, coverages, and travel distance should be in accordance with NFPA 10, Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers.
LP tanks (typically used for cooking and heating) cannot be installed within 5’ of the tent. The tanks should be secured and protected from damage.
Exits shall be designated and clearly marked (minimum of 2). This is required on every tent, but is more important for tents with closed sides. This ensures that certain areas inside the tent will be free of tables, chairs, stages, or any other elements, and will be maintained as a safe point of egress. If the even will be taking place at night, the lighted exit signage and emergency lights must be installed.
All electrical chords, boxes, and related components are to be protected from contact by the public. This can be accomplished with proper covers, temporary fencing, and warning signage. Electric generators cannot be installed within 5' of a tent and are required to be protected from public contact, as well.
Download a FREE Tent Inspection Checklist that you can utilize to ensure that your next big "tent event" will be a success.