BPS Chemical Explosion - Lessons Learned

On May 8, 1997, an explosion and fire occurred at the Bartlo Packaging Incorporated (BPS) facility located in West Helena, Arkansas. As a result of the explosion and
fire three firefighters died and seventeen other firefighters required medical attention due to heat exhaustion and minor injuries.

Hundreds of residents, including local hospital patients, were evacuated or sheltered in place due to the threat of exposure to toxic chemicals released in the blast.

This presentation reviews the incident, the chemistry, and the lessons learned.

Read the full, EPA/OSHA Joint Chemical Accident Investigation Report.

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 2014 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!

Take Command

takecommand_coverTake Command: Lessons in Leadership: How to Be a First Responder in Business, is the best book I've read this year, and has found its way into my top 5 best books on leadership.  The author, Jake Wood,  is the CEO and co-founder of Team Rubicon, a non-profit disaster relief organisation.  Team Rubicon was started and runs on the military principals that Wood was able to hone as a Marine sniper. 

The books chapters are broken down into the four part process that leaders must take to move forward - prepare, analyze, decide, act.
Take Command provides practical guidance on preparing to lead and building teams, gather and interpreting information, weighing and accepting risk in decision making,  and taking the most intelligible course of action.

Wood defines a team as, "a group of individual egos, united in pursuit of a common mission or goal, often forgoing personal advancement and comfort for the sake of the whole."  (this type of team member is becoming a rare find).  But, Wood takes the team up another level, High-Impact Teams (HIT).  A high-impact team "is defined by some special internal characteristics along with some environmental ones."  A HIT must be faced with a daunting task or high stakes opportunity - a mission with high cost of failure but potential for great reward.  Additionally, the team "must be foolish enough to think it can make a change, daring enough to try, and persistent enough to have a chance."  These are the ingredients of a HIT - foolishness, daring, persistence.  To accomplish great things, and make a great impact, you need to create a high-impact team. 

The key component of working as a team is trust.  Wood explains that trust, and creating that trust, is composed of the four 'TRs":

Trust = Training + Transparency + Trial & Tribulation

Being an effective team requires competence, open and honest communication, and experience together.
Jake Wood discusses a military term that he applies at Team Rubicon, Commanders' Intent. A Commander's Intent is a form of communicating the mission to the team.  It provides critical information by answering the five W's:

Who, What, Where, When, Why

It then identifies the ideal end-state.  The expected outcome of the particular mission.  The final section defines the conditions and circumstances in which operations will cease.

This document is distributed to all team members a few days before any operation or business move.  The application of this document relies heavily on the trust relationship between team members and team leaders. By following the Commander's Intent team members are empowered to improvise or take initiative to accomplish the greater goal.

These are just two of the leadership gems that come from Take Command. This book is a must read for anyone who is a leader (whether by position, or in practice) or desires to lead.  As well as, contributing to leadership, the reading of this book can make anyone a better follower.

Take Command opens with this quote:
Of every one hundred men in battle, ten should not be there.  Eighty are nothing more than sheep.  Nine are the real fighters, we are lucky to have them since they make the battle.  Ah, but the one - one is the Warrior - and he brings the others home.
- Heraclitus, approximately 500 BC

Fire: The Burning Truth

The Burning Truth About Fire

Alarm Traders Direct smoke alarms supply a range of high quality mains smoke alarms and easy to operate battery smoke alarms for domestic homes and businesses. For more information on wireless smoke alarms visit Alarms Traders wireless smoke alarms. Infographic designed by Reflect Digital

Buy Now, NFPA 409 - Resource Guide

What do you need to know about aircraft hangars?

Aviation facilities come with their own unique set of challenges, fire protection requirements, and construction guidelines.  Each of these is laid out in great detail within the pages of NFPA 409, Standard on Aircraft Hangars.

This training resources will enable your team to:

  • understand and identify the protection, construction, and maintenance requirements for aircraft hangars
  • practically apply the requirements of NFPA 409
  • implement a plan of action to ensure compliance with the standard

ORDER NOW - $37.97

- 92 page, soft cover book, NFPA 409 - Resource Guide
- .PDF version of NFPA 409 - Resource Guide
Powerpoint and Google Slides presentation 
- Instructors guide
- All checklists, tools, and resources needed for NFPA 409 compliance

NFPA 409 - Resource Guide

Through my career in fire protection, I came to the realization that most people really, truly, just don't know. They are not aware of fire protection and life safety requirements, they don't understand what they need to do to be in compliance, they are pulled in too many directions to focus on any one aspect of their facility.  This is even more true in the specialized field of aviation and aircraft hangars.

This is why I created the, NFPA 409 - Resource Guide.  This guide is meant to be a companion to NFPA 409, Standard on Aircraft Hangars.  The Resource Guide breaks down aircraft hangar requirements into a clear and concise process. It uses common terminology to describe hangar classifications, construction guidelines, and fire protection system installation and maintenance requirements.

The NFPA 409 - Resource Guide, includes all the materials necessary to train your staff or team members on the requirements and enforcement of the NFPA 409 standard.  These training materials include, a powerpoint slideshow, an instructors guide (what to say with each slide), and the audio recording of me presenting this information.  

The NFPA 409 - Resource Guide includes all checklists, tools, and referenced reading materials that a facility will need to maintain full compliance with the NFPA 409 standard.

This valuable training resource will enable your team to:

- understand and identify  the protection, construction, and maintenance requirements for aircraft hangars
- practically apply the requirements of NFPA 409
- implement a plan of action to ensure compliance with the standard

Product release date:  Available now!
Digital download price: $24.95 (available for 5 days only 11/10 - 11/15)
Print price: $34.97 (discounted rate for 5 days only 11/10 - 11/15)
Whats included: .PDF version of NFPA 409 - Resource Guide, audio recording of the presentation, powerpoint and Google slides slideshow, instructors guideall checklists, tools, and resources needed for a NFPA 409 compliance program. 

High-Cost of a Hangar System Discharge

NFPA 409, Standard on Aircraft Hangars clearly outlines fire protection system requirements, components, and design criteria.  These system designs are based on several factors including, hangar class, hangar size, fueled or unfueled storage, and the presence of hazardous operations.  These criteria are laid out in order to provide the greatest level of coverage and fire protection, with the least chance of a false activation or accidental discharge.

As we discuss these false activations, we are talking about an instance when the sprinkler and/or foam system activate, agent is expelled from the sprinkler heads, but there is no fire event in progress. The cost of an accidental discharge can be astronomical and have far-reaching consequences.  These costs are related to:
  1. Damage to aircraft
  2. Cost to recharge/refill foam supply
  3. Cost to retain and remove foam contaminant effluent
  4. Manpower costs
  5. Loss of future business
Foam and water discharge can cause significant damage to an aircraft engine and avionics, especially when the nacelle (casing around the engine) is open for servicing.  An almost equal amount of damage can be caused to sensitive electrical components if the system discharges into an open cockpit.  If a discharge happens under these conditions, each part must be inspected, cleaned, and treated.  A study by the Navy estimated the repair cost to be half that of a full replacement.

Based on where you look, the cost of foam (AFFF) concentrate starts at around $1,000 for 55 gallons. Hangars requiring foam systems would require thousands of gallons of this concentrate.  A 1,000 gallon tank recharge/refill could cost nearly $20,000. 

The foam discharged is required by environmental protection guidelines to be captured, retained, and properly disposed of.  If a system is activated, the discharge should flow into the trench drainage system, it would then flow to a holding area.  All the discharged liquid will have to be removed by tanker trucks, this would also have to include the wash down water from cleaning the foam residue left in the trench and on the hangar surfaces.  Low estimates for this are around $1 per gallon transported.

The clean up and additional aircraft maintenance and repair all require manpower.  This is unplanned work that an employee must be paid to fulfill (often at overtime pay rates).

Perhaps, the biggest cost, could be the economic factor, a loss of future business.  An accidental discharge could cause current and future customers to lack faith in the organization, stop current programs, or prohibit future purchases.  The loss of one large contract could put the company out of business.

The most common reason for a false activation or accidental discharge is improper maintenance and lack of following proper testing procedures.  NFPA 409 provides clear guidance on the inspection, testing, and maintenance of these systems.

The book and resource guide, NFPA 409 - Resource Guide, is available now.  This guide is intended to be used in conjunction with NFPA 409, Standard on Aircraft Hangars.  

The Resource Guide provides clarification on the code requirements, outlines hangar classifications, describes the construction process, and defines the fire protection system installation and maintenance procedures. Purchasing this guide provides access to a complete training program for you and your staff, an audio presentation, and a collection of checklists to ensure that compliance is maintained.  

Answer this in the comments section:
Have you ever experienced a false system discharge?  What was the root cause?

Get Your Copy, Now!

NFPA and Aircraft Hangars

Storing and maintaining aircraft comes with its own unique set of hazards.  The primary hazard is concerned with the amount of fuel and the fire load and heat output that this fuel, if impinged upon by fire, would emit. In light of the unique hazards presented, the National Fire Protection Association, has identified special considerations for facilities housing aircraft and aircraft operations.

When searching the NFPA codes a good starting point is NFPA 101, Life Safety Code and NFPA 1, Fire Code.  NFPA 101 is helpful as it is separated by occupancy use/type.  Let's work step by step through the code.
  • We decide that the building will be used only for the storage of aircraft (as opposed to servicing)
  • We must go to Chapter 42, Storage Occupancies
  • The building must comply with all parts of this chapter
  • NFPA 101: 42.6 outlines, "Special Provisions for Aircraft Storage Hangars"
  • This lists several modifications for enhanced life safety and egress for buildings housing aircraft
Now let's assume that the building will be used for the servicing and maintenance of aircraft.
  • The occupancy type that this type of activity fits most closely into is "industrial"
    • NFPA 101: defines these as, " used for operations such as...assembling...finishing...repairing, and similar operations"
  • We must turn to Chapter 40, Industrial Occupancies
  • The building must comply with all parts of this chapter
  • NFPA 101: 40.6 outlines, "Special Provisions for Aircraft Servicing Hangars"
  • This section lists several modifications required to enhance life safety and egress functions
NFPA 1 is broken down into more "process based" sections.  Chapter 21, "Airports and Heliports" provide guidance on aviation facilities, including terminal buildings, rooftop helipads, and hangars.  The direction included in the above NFPA 101 sections is also listed here.  This section goes into further detail related to terminal buildings. NFPA 1: 21.1, states that the construction and protection of hangars shall comply with NFPA 409, Standard on Aircraft Hangars.  This standard is also referenced in the Annex A for NFPA 101:40.6 and NFPA 101:42.6.

As fire inspectors, fire protections specialists, facility managers, and aviation officials, we are pulled in many directions and expected to be knowledgeable in many different areas.  These codes NFPA 101:42.6 and NFPA 1:21 are a great place for the basic information.  However, NFPA 409 provides in-depth guidance for the construction, protection, and maintenance of aircraft hangars. 

My next post will discuss the high cost of non-compliance with these standards regarding the fire protection of aircraft hangars.

Answer this in the comments section below:
What are your biggest challenges related to aviation facilities and aircraft hangars?

Available now!

Doorway to Hell - an Analysis of Potential Sprinkler Performance

Copyright © 1984 National Fire Protection Association
In 1984 tragedy struck the Great Adventure theme park when 8 teenagers were killed in the Haunted Castle attraction.  The fire, believed (not proven) to have been started by a an individual playing with a lighter, has seen a great deal of controversy, and differing of opinions, through out the years. The resulting code changes created the special amusement requirements in NFPA 101.  

In the video below, Jack Fairchilda certified fire protection specialist with Ballinger A/E, discusses the history and impact of this fire, and guides us through his analysis of the potential effectiveness of fire sprinkler systems, he answers the question, "Would sprinklers have saved these kids?"

Copyright © 1984 National Fire Protection Association

Show Notes

Doorway to Hell - the documentary film

Copyright © 1984 National Fire Protection Association

Host a Successful Tent Event

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.

Assembly occupancies with more than 200 seats are required to have the seating permanently attached to the floor. The code realizes that in some instances this may be impractical, so it makes allowances for differing types of floor plans and seating arrangements. However, if the chairs will be in rows they must be attached in groups of not less than 3.

2014 ARFF Working Group Conference - In Review

I recently returned from the 2014 ARFF Working Group annual conference, which was held in Galveston, TX.  This is a "must-attend event" for anyone involved in the aircraft rescue and firefighting field.  Every session is filled with value adding information, education, and resources.  The vendors in the exhibitor showcase are all relevant to ARFF operations, and provide useful products and services.

The opening session was brought by Tony Brigmon, Ambassador of Fun, from Southwest Airlines.  He delivered an engaging and lively presentation on "fun".  He talked about how music can change the whole attitude of an event or meeting.  He provided the following guide to selecting the right audio track, for the mood you want to set:

M - Motivate - fast tempo, lots of bass, loud volume ("Eye of the Tiger") 
U - Unwind - slow tempo, more treble, soft volume (classical music)
S - Smile - songs that make you smile - country music ("Mississippi Squirrel")
I - I Love You - songs that make you feel 'frisky'
C - Communicate - the lyrics match a message you are sending to someone

Dr. Sabrina Cohen-Hatton is a fire officer and psychologist from Wales. She delivered an insightful presentation on the psychology of incident command.  In her session she defined what command truly is, and identified 6 findings from her extensive research in this field.

Representatives from the  FAA were on hand to provide information on their standards and requirements. And to provide updates that will affect ARFF operations.

Chief Duane Kann, newly appointed Chairman of the ARFF Working Group and Chief at Orlando International Airport, provided updates on the applicable NFPA standards. And he encouraged more involvement in the NFPA technical committees and code development process.

There were several case-studies/lessons learned presentations given based on current aviation related incidents.  We heard about the Challenger Accident (Aspen, CO), the crash of Asiana Flight 214 (San Francisco, CA) , and the Active Shooter incident at LAX.  Each of these department heads shared about the incident in general, but also what lessons were learned and how they could be applied to our individual operations. There were several common lessons between these events:
  1. Compliance does not equal preparedness - minimum standards may need to be exceeded in order to truly be prepared for an emergency incident.
  2. Unified command/mutual aid - this should be practiced, and every agency should have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
  3. Realistic training - training should be conducted in a realistic way, in an environment that can mimic actual conditions, and it must be conducted often.
There were a few presentations on specific aircraft types, familiarization, and emergency procedures.  ARFF Training Concepts discussed airplane construction, systems, and materials, and connected these to emergency response procedures.

Representatives from the DFW Fire Research and Training Center, identified and "busted" 9 training myths, commonly heard around the fire house. 

Myth #1 -  They attended _______ training.  They know how to do that.
Myth #2 -  Everybody knows about "throttles-bottles-batteries".
Myth #3 -  Dangerous goods are always located in the most forward position.
Myth #4 -  Everybody knows the importance of early ventilation.
Myth #5 -  If we shut off the battery switch we cannot open the cargo doors.
Myth #6 -  We have plenty of air.
Myth #7 -  Engine fires can be extinguished from front, back, and access panels.
Myth #8 -  ARFF driver/operators know everything about their apparatus.
Myth #9 -  It won't happen here.

This conference was a really great event.  The education received and value added far exceeds the associated conference costs.  That makes this conference a deal!  Any departments with ARFF responsibilities should make it a point to send their personnel to this event each year.

All the presentation will be available on-line at the ARFF Working Group website,  

Conducting Hot Work Operations

Smoke Showing Photography: Boston Ma - 9 Alarms 2 LODD's - March 26 2014 &emdash; On March 26, 2014 Lt. Edward Walsh, Jr. and Firefighter Michael Kennedy of the Boston Fire Department lost their lives in the line of duty.  The fire, a brownstone in the 200 Block of Beacon St., would escalate to 9-alarms. The cause of the fire was determined to be wind-driven sparks from a welding operation.

D & J Iron Works were found to be at fault in this fire and these deaths.  Though, not intentional, their lack of proper fire safety precautions will cost them $58,000 in fines.  This seems like a small financial penalty for the damage and lives lost.  However, this incident will, no doubt, put this company out of business due to lost revenue, damaged reputation, and lost standing in the community.

D & J Iron Works was cited and fined for 10 violations, among them are the following:
  • lack of employee fire safety training
  • ineffective fire prevention precautions
  • no posted "fire watch" during the welding operation
OSHA and the NFPA have specific guidance and safeguards that must be followed when performing hot work operations.  This can most readily be achieved by instituting a hot work permit program/system at your facility or within your community.  FM Global freely provides a complete hot work system and information.  These can be ordered through their website.

Below is a brief slideshare that provides an overview of the hot work process and considerations.  This presentation is based on the requirements found in NFPA 1:41 and NFPA 51B.

If you would like any further information, training materials, or assistance in creating your own hot work program, feel free to contact me.

Related Post:

On Sabbatical


An extended period of absence from a customary practice, taken in order to fulfill some goal, to rest, or acquire new skills and training.

I will be taking a short sabbatical from the blog,  This sabbatical will last for at least 30 days, then I will re-evaluate.  I will be using  this time away to lay out new plans and goals for my life and career, and ensure that I am headed in the direction that I need to be headed, undertaking only the tasks that are necessary to accomplish these goals.

Thank you for understanding.  Look forward to seeing you again soon.  

In the interim, here are some posts that you should read:

How to Persuade

Communication is a primary required skill in the fire protection/life safety industry.  Persuasion is the most powerful tool that we can have in our communications toolbox.  Persuasion plays a big role in educating our clients/community on why violations need to be corrected, showing the value of our work, and in the successful acceptance of our designs and ideas.  But, how can one be persuasive?  How can this skill be learned?

In the 1930's, Alan Monroe, a speech professor at Purdue, created an organizational pattern for creating persuasive speaking.  His pattern is referred to as, Monroe's Motivated Sequence Pattern.  By structuring your speech according to Monroe's method you are enabled to lead the audience to see and take action on the issue at hand. Monroe's motivated sequence pattern requires five steps:

  1. Attention
  2. Need
  3. Satisfaction
  4. Visualization
  5. Action
Properly employed, these five steps can lead to a persuaded audience regardless of the topic.

Attention - Gain the attention of the listener.  This attracts the listener to what you are about to say.  You want to create interest in the audience.  A typical tool to be utilized here would be story, questions, a quote, or facts.

Need - Describes the problem and demonstrates a need for change in the current situation. This details what the problem is. Proof that a problem exists can be validated to the listener by following these steps:
  • State the problem
  • Provide an example of the problem
  • Provide statistics/testimony that show the seriousness of the problem
  • Show how the listener is directly affected by the problem
SatisfactionPresents the solution, providing sufficient information and evidence to allow the listener to understand how it accomplishes the goal. This answers the question, "how will you satisfy the need?" The following five step order will accomplish this:
  • State the solution
  • Explain how the solution will work
  • Show reasoning behind your solution
  • Show successful past implementation of the solution
  • Meet and respond to any objections
Visualization - This describes the benefit, of the applied solution, to the listener. At this point you would want to bring in your visual aid to better enable your audience to see what could be if the problem was solved.

Action - Tells the listener what they must do, right now, to solve the issue. Ensure that your action steps are clear, concise, and have a clear completion timeline.

The next time you want to persuade - whether you are making a formal presentation to a large audience, presenting a new idea to your boss, or educating a client on the importance of a product - ensure success by applying the five steps of Monroe's Motivated Sequence Pattern.

How to Obtain Building Occupancy

When you start out on a building project, whether a new structure or a renovation, the ultimate goal is always the same -- building occupancy.  The goal is to occupy the structure as soon as possible, without any problems, and within (if not under) budget.   

When all the steps in a building project are carried out correctly these objectives can easily be achieved.  However, there almost inevitably, seems to be a hitch in the process.  Some part of the process that is not quite right that wants to derail the project and keep you out of the building.  These problems can arise anywhere, from the beginning in plan review and permitting, through construction and site 'surprises', to the final testing and inspections.  

With adequate resources, proper systems, and the right team in place the process can go smoothly, and be an enjoyable experience (rather than fret and stress filled).  My special white paper, The Road to C.O. - the Direct Route to Building Occupancy, reveals:

  • how to avoid the most common disapprovals in plan review
  • the importance of a properly trained and 'code knowledgeable' team
  • how to address jurisdictional issues with the local AHJ (authority having jurisdiction)
  • how to pass your final inspections with ease and peace of mind

Download the FREE guide now:

How to Commission New Hangars

Building or renovating an aircraft hangar is a decision that is entered into with much prior planning and large capital investment. Besides the cost of the building itself, these hangars protect contents that are valued in the millions of dollars. A fire incident that would cause these buildings or their contents to be devalued would be catastrophic.
To prevent this from occurring the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)—dedicated to reducing the burden of fire and other hazards to life safety by providing consensus codes and standards, research and education—produced document NFPA 3, Recommended Practice for Commissioning and Integrated Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems. This standard was created to give clear guidance to the integrated testing of fire systems, and provide a reliable means of ensuring that all active and passive fire and life safety systems work as they are intended.

Read the entire article featured in the June-July 2014 issue of, Airport Business magazine.  Click on the article title below to read it now on-line.

Why You're Stuck in Permitting (and how to get out!)

You have won the bid, the contracts are signed, the job is yours.  However, this is just the beginning. Looking ahead, you know the road to achieving your CO (certificate of occupancy) is long, you hope it will not be treacherous.  Achieving the CO is the main goal.  It is the light at the end of your tunnel, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Just getting there is not enough.  Getting there on-time and in budget makes all the difference between success and failure.

But, right now you are stuck in the building department equivalent of purgatory, permitting and review. Most building/fire plan review departments allow up to 10 days for the review to happen (this is quick by many standards).  If your submittal is correct in all points and meets all federal, state, and local code requirements, then your plan will most likely be approved (taking up only the 10 days ou have allotted for this activity).  But, lack of required information, or failure to comply with local ordinances and AHJ requirements will keep your plans locked up and you paying for and submitting endless revisions and resubmittals.

Here are the top 12 reasons why your plans will be disapproved (in no particular order):

  1. Incomplete, missing, or incorrect listing of code references and editions used.
  2. Lack of sprinkler/alarm calculations (hydraulic/battery).
  3. Insufficient remoteness of exits.
  4. Lack of compliance with egress requirements.
  5. Point of service (for fire systems) not clearly shown.
  6. Incorrect spacing of fire sprinkler heads.
  7. Incorrect spacing/installation of fire alarm devices.
  8. Incorrect or missing door rating in fire-rated assemblies.
  9. Incorrect locking devices on doors.
  10. No detail of fire-rated walls.
  11. Missing or incorrect stair details.
  12. Missing fire penetration protective details.

To ensure a smooth travel into and out of permitting here are a few things to consider, and some steps to take.  

  • Remember that every state adopts different codes (ICC, NFPA), and different editions (2014 may be the latest, but the state your working in has only adopted the 2009 edition).  
  • Each jurisdiction may have its own, more stringent, ordinances.
  • Consult with the AHJ (building and fire) to determine what codes are currently being utilized, what local changes are in effect, and what that particular code official wants to see. This 1 hour, to-the-point meeting, could save you days of resubmittals, as well as, help to establish rapport with the building official, and increase his knowledge of your intended product.  He will now be someone that is in your corner, a partner on your project, rather than someone who is trying to figure out what you are doing, and not getting the clear answers he needs from your plans.
  • Consult the applicable codes and standards, as they often include a list of required documents for plan submittal:
    • NFPA 13:23 - Fire Sprinkler Plans and Calculations
    • NFPA 72:7 - Fire Alarm Minimum Required Documentation
  • Consider the use of a third-party review.  These plan review/code experts will do all the leg work to ensure that your plans are to code and everything is ready for submittal.  Since they are a neutral party, they will be willing to offer advice and alternative code provisions for the structure that you envision.

I hope these quick tips will keep your next project moving through the process so you can come in on time and under budget!

Download a FREE plan review checklist by clicking on this link (I promise no junk e-mail or auto-responders, just value adding content!)