When Is A Fire Watch Required

The Fire Code (NFPA 1) provides the authority to require standby and firewatch personnel to the AHJ.  Standby and fire watch personnel can be required “when potentially hazardous conditions or a reduction in a life safety feature exist”. Section 1.7.17 provides an exemplary list of situations in which this may occur, and clearly states the cost of these personnel is not to be incurred by the AHJ.

Though this section provides the blanket statement allowing AHJ’s to require a standby or firewatch personnel there are eight situations  within the fire code where the requirement for a standby or firewatch is expressly stated.

  • Special outdoor events, carnivals and fairs. Section 10.14.4 states, “where required by the AHJ, standby fire personnel shall be provided…”
  • As part of a fire protection system impairment plan, for systems that will be out-of-service for more than 10 hours within a 24-hour period, a fire watch is one of the options that can be required to adjust for the increased fire risk. []
  • Facilities with impaired or chronic nuisance prone fire alarm systems. Chronic nuisance alarms are defined as those that produce “5 or more nuisance alarms within a 365-day period”. []
  • During building demolition operations and at hazardous demolition sites. [16.5.4]. Section 16.2.2 requires construction sites utilizing trash chutes to submit a safety plan to the AHJ. A component of this safety plan is fire watch personnel.  This can be found in the Annex, and refers the reader to NFPA 241.
  • Fire watch and standby personnel can be required in any assembly occupancy []. The annex section provides guidance as to what specific types of assembly occupancies a fire watch may want to be implemented, “such locations would include...the spaces underneath grandstands and the areas inside and outside tents and air-supported structures”. [25.1.8]
  • Soundstages and motion picture production facilities when pyrotechnics are being used or during other hazardous operations and activities require firewatch and standby personnel. [32.4.4/32.5.4]
  • For storage occupancies, section states that a fire watch “shall” be required whenever the sprinkler system is out-of-service. Additionally, anytime hot work (cutting, welding, soldering, brazing, etc) is being conducted, a fire watch must be in place. []
  • A fire watch is required during hot work operations in which combustible materials, or wall openings are within 35 feet of the work area, or if the material is greater than 35 feet but easily ignited by sparks. [41.3.5]
The following list represents a compilation of fire watch personnel responsibilities and requirements.  These are listed throughout the various code areas and annex sections.

Fire watch personnel shall:

  • Be properly trained on their specific duties and responsibilities
  • Be equipped with fire extinguishers or extinguishing equipment
  • Have emergency services and fire department notification capabilities
  • Be assigned no other duties, fire watch only
  • Continuously patrol the affected area
  • Remain on-site throughout duration of the work and up to 2 hours upon completion of work
  • Detect and document the presence, or lack of, fire
  • Confirm other systems and egress are functioning properly
  • Prevent accumulation of flammable materials
  • Maintain work area in fire-safe condition
  • Possess authority to stop work if unsafe

Orr Protection has created a great toolkit for conducting a fire watch. This free download includes, standard fire watch rules and patrol patterns, a fire watch log, and a complete checklist for personnel and responsibilities.

Access the Orr Protection Fire Watch Toolkit here -->