Occupant Use Fire Hoses
The small hoses inside facilities are typically referred to as “Occupant Use Hoses.” This is a reflection of the fact that professional fire services will not use these hoses, but their own professional-grade hoses. Very seldom, if ever, will a fire department utilize the hose available within a facility and one of the reasons is that the hose is not maintained by the fire department so they cannot be sure of its maintenance history and current state.
So, what are occupant use fire hoses for?
Occupant use fire hoses were originally intended for building occupants to use like they would an extinguisher, to fight incipient stage fires. Concerns of liability have changed this standard though and most companies do not encourage employees to fight incipient stage fires. Employee safety should always be your primary concern. Before deciding whether your facility should allow the use of hoses for incipient stage firefighting, look closely at your hazards, resources, and safety issues.
One special use of fire hoses is during a time when your sprinkler system may be down for repairs or improvements. Having a fire hose charged and available can provide protection during this vulnerable time. It may also be a precaution you can take when hot work is being done in your facility. During any hot work activity, it is possible for sparks to smolder for a long period of time which may result in a fire. While an extinguisher can also be used, extinguishers only provide a few seconds of discharge which may not be sufficient during hot work situations.
Why do fire hoses need to be inspected?
Like any Life Safety inspection, the purpose of fire hose inspections is to ensure it is in operable condition for use during an emergency. There is a specific concern with fire hoses, since they operate under pressure from the water flow, if there is a break in a worn and unmaintained hose it can cause a portion of the hose to whip around uncontrollably, potentially causing injury.
When should you have your hoses inspected professionally?
Every year, or after any use, you should have your fire hose inspected by a professional for a visual hose, nozzle and coupling inspection. During this inspection, your Life Safety Partner will unrack, unreel/unroll and physically inspect your hose to determine that the hose, couplings, and any nozzle have not been vandalized, they are free of debris, and exhibit no evidence of mildew, rot or damage by chemicals, burns, cuts, abrasion or vermin. They will also check that nozzle controls and adjustments operate properly, inspect gaskets for presence, tight fit, and deterioration, and couplings for damage, corrosion, and rotation.
Within 5 years of manufacture, and every 3 years after that, your Life Safety Partner should perform a Hose Pressure Service Test. Using a hose testing machine, they will raise the hose pressure slowly to 45 psi and bleed off air, then raise the pressure slowly until the service test pressure is attached and maintained for 3 minutes.
Please note, these testing and inspections requirements are for occupant use fire hoses. If you have a fire brigade and a structural fire brigade hose cabinet, then both testing and inspection must be completed on an annual basis.
What self-inspections should you do to check for problems in between professional inspections?
In between your annual inspection, it’s a good idea to have someone assigned to perform a brief visual inspection of your fire hose. This can be done at the same time they perform your monthly extinguisher inspections. Look for cracks, weak areas, signs of fraying, vandalism of any type, and broken couplings. If you see signs of any damage, you should contact your Life Safety Partner for assistance.
Our last article focused on Fire Sprinkler System types and how the different types are best used in particular structures or situations. The same variation is true for fire suppression systems used in special hazard applications. Here we will review the different technologies and their purposes.
A foam-water fire sprinkler system is a special application system which discharges a mixture of water and low-, medium-, or high-expansion foam concentrate. This results in a foam spray from the sprinkler. This is usually used with special hazard occupancies associated with high challenge fires, such as flammable liquids and airport hangars. The foam-water application can be used in wet, dry, pre-action or deluge system.
Water spray systems are operationally identical to deluge systems, but the piping and discharge nozzle spray patters are designed to protect a uniquely configured hazard, usually being three-dimensional components or equipment. The nozzles are selected for a specific spray pattern to conform to the three-dimensional nature of the hazard. Some typical spray patterns are oval, fan, full circle, and narrow jet. Examples of hazards protected by water spray systems are electrical transformers containing oil for cooling or turbo-generator bearings. Water spray systems can also be used on the surfaces of tanks containing flammable liquids or gases (such as hydrogen). In this case, the water spray is intended to cool the tank and its contents to prevent tank rupture and fire spread.
A water mist system works by creating a heat absorbent vapor. This type of system is used when water damage is a concern or where water supplies are limited. By using a mist, an equal volume of water will create a larger total surface area exposed to the fire. The larger total surface area better facilitates the transfer of heat, thus allowing more water droplets to turn to steam more quickly. A water mist, which absorbs more heat than water per unit time, due to exposed surface area, will more effectively cool the room, thus reducing the temperature of the flame. NFPA 750 defines water mist as a water spray with a droplet size of “less than 1000 microns at the minimum operation pressure of the discharge nozzle.” Water mist systems use a compressed gas as an atomizing medium, which is pumped through the sprinkler pipe. Instead of compressed gas, some systems us a high-pressure pump to pressurize the water so it atomizes as it exits the sprinkler nozzle. Water mist systems can operate with the same functionality as deluge, wet pipe, dry pipe, or pre-action systems.
Clean Agent (Gaseous Fire Suppression)
NFPA 2001 defines clean agent as, “Electrically nonconductive, volatile, or gaseous fire extinguishant that does not leave a residue upon evaporation.” Clean agents are used when protecting high dollar, mission critical assets that would be destroyed by water, such as IT systems, data storage rooms, and manufacturing equipment, or irreplaceable items like intellectual property, art, and antiques. There are three ways clean agents can extinguish a fire: reduction of heat, reduction or isolation of oxygen, and inhibiting the chain reaction of the heat and oxygen.
Clean agent fire protection systems are comprised of the agent, agent storage containers, agent release valves, fire detectors, fire detection system (wiring control panel, actuation signaling), agent delivery piping, and agent dispersion nozzles. Less typically, the agent may be delivered by means of solid propellant gas generators that produce either inert or chemically active gas. Clean agents are applied with either total flooding or local application. Total flooding systems apply an extinguishing agent to a three dimensional enclosed space in order to achieve a concentration of the agent (volume percent of the agent in air) adequate to extinguish the fire. These types of systems may be operated automatically by detection and related controls or manually by the operation of a system actuator. Local application systems apply an extinguishing agent directly onto a fire (usually a two dimensional area), or into the three dimensional region immediately surrounding the substance or object on fire. The main difference in local application from total flooding design is the absence of physical barriers enclosing the fire space.
Condensed aerosol fire suppression is one of the most efficient forms of fire suppression. It is a particle-based form of fire extinction similar to gaseous fire suppression or dry chemical fire extinction. The aerosol employs a fire extinguishing agent consisting of very fine solid particles and gaseous matter to extinguish fires. The condensed aerosol microparticles and effluent gases are generated by the exothermic reaction; until discharged from the device, the particles remain in vapor state. They are cooled and “condensed” within the device and discharged as solid particles. Condensed aerosols release finely-divided solids of less than 10 micrometers in diameter, the solid particles have a considerably smaller mass median aerodynamic diameter than those of dry chemical suppression agents, remain airborne significantly longer, and leave much less residue within the protected area. Condensed aerosols are flooding agents and therefore effective regardless of the location and height of the fire. This system does not require a room integrity test as it is flooding the space at room pressure; this will save you money in sealing the room and annual testing.
Dry chemical fire extinguishing agents are primarily used for fast knock down of high risk gas and liquids such as dip tanks, paint booths and gas filling stations. The dry chemicals work by preventing the chemical reactions involving heat, fuel, and oxygen (combustion). The substances in dry chemicals can also stop the break-down of fuel in the fire to prevent the creation of highly reactive fragments of molecules.
Primarily used in kitchen fire suppression, the wet chemical agent suppresses fire by cooling and reacting chemically to produce a foam layer on the grease. The foam seals combustible vapors, stopping the flames from re-igniting.
Fire Extinguishers may not be a part of the fire sprinkler system, but they are an integral part of your fire safety system. If the proper fire extinguisher is used correctly and promptly, more than 90% of fires are extinguishable. Most work environments are required by OSHA to have an emergency action plan, functioning extinguishers, and trained extinguisher operators. OSHA requirements vary, but safety does not – be safe, provide fire extinguishers and fire extinguisher training to your staff.
Keeping your project on schedule can be a challenge. Planning, communicating and coordinating with the different trade professionals is important and one set-back can cause a ripple effect for others. Here are a few items Electrical Contractors can check off the list to keep the fire protection part of the plan on moving forward.
- Have background CAD Drawings available
Your fire protection project starts with installation drawings which overlay with the project’s background CAD drawing. The design of a fire protection project cannot begin until these original drawings are received. When you select your Life Safety partner, have your project’s CAD drawings ready to hand over so that the fire protection design can begin immediately. To delay the start of the design can lead to slow submittals, unnecessary delays, or even missed deadlines.
- Coordination with other trades
To have a successful fire protection design, your Life Safety partner will need to coordinate efforts with other trades during construction. Successful communication between trades will limit delays and errors in project delivery. For example, the sprinkler contractor needs to communicate the number and locations of sprinkler points to be monitored. It is recommended that your elevator contractor and fire alarm contractor meet early in the schedule to discuss the interface. Many issues and delays can occur if miscommunication occurs between the fire alarm and HVAC professionals, so A1 recommends that you use your fire alarm contractor to supply and install the system duct detectors. This cuts down on the opportunity for problems and delays, and allows the duct detectors to be programmed in a way that they can be reset at the fire alarm panel.
- Phone Company
We all know utilities move at their own pace. Waiting on the phone company to provide a dedicated line for your fire sprinkler monitoring system can be frustrating and cause an unnecessary delay. By utilizing cell monitoring you can cut out the phone company altogether. Take back control of your project. Your Life Safety partner can install a cell dialer during construction.
Your Fire Alarm panel requires a dedicated power line with 120-volt circuit with a breaker lock marked “fire” in red. Without this power line installed and properly marked, your Life Safety partner cannot move forward with the fire alarm panel install and programming. Ensure that your power is properly run before your Life Safety partner is scheduled to perform the fire alarm install.
- Check all Circuits
This is another item that needs to be completed before your Life Safety partner can begin installation. Your electrician should check all circuits to ensure they are free of trouble, no grounds, opens or shorts. If your fire alarm panel senses these troubles it will not work properly, your Life Safety partner will have to spend valuable time rechecking all lines for the problem which can delay the schedule.
- Communicate Permit Notes/Changes
When permits are returned with comments it is imperative that these notes be passed back along to your subcontractors including your Life Safety partner. If changes are required but not implemented, you can fail your final walk-through and delay occupancy. Even small changes can take time and cause extra expense if they have to be corrected after all work is complete; however, the delay and expense can be minimized if the changes are communicated during construction.
- Communicate changes to project schedule
Changes to your project schedule need to be communicated to your Life Safety partner and other subcontractors as soon as possible. If you are changing your project to a phased project, experiencing delays, or accelerating your project getting all of your partners on-board with that change as quickly as possible can be the difference in successfully meeting your new timeline.
- 100% Pre-Check
You should test 100% of the fire alarm devices before the AHJ arrives for the final inspection. This ensures a successful final and occupancy. More importantly, it provides confidence that the fire alarm system will work in the case of an actual emergency.
A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. Click here to see more information on how A1 can provide all your fire safety needs.
Widespread use of smoke alarms began in the 1970s, and have greatly reduced the number of home fire deaths. Prior to the 1970s, the average number of annual deaths by home fires was roughly 6,000. While there has been a dramatic decrease in home fire deaths, there is still more work to be done. Three out of every five home fire deaths occur in a home with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. No smoke alarms were present in more than 1/3 of home fire deaths. In reported home fires where smoke alarms were present, but did not operate, almost half of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries. A quarter of the smoke alarm failures were due to dead batteries. NFPA estimates that there are about five million homes nationwide without smoke alarms.
In 2015, 3,280 civilians died in fires. Most fire deaths are not caused by burns, but by smoke inhalation. An individual can become incapacitated by smoke so quickly that they are overcome and can’t make it to an otherwise accessible exit. Having smoke detectors and alarms in your home and business can provide valuable time to evacuate, preventing injury and death.
A smoke alarm is a stand-alone device with a built-in sounder, a power supply, and a sensor. A smoke alarm is not connected to a fire alarm control panel, but may interconnect with other smoke alarms within the building. A smoke detector is part of a commercial fire protection system, it has only a built-in sensor and sends information to the fire alarm panel.
There are two main types of smoke detection technology used both in stand-alone devices and as the sensor in smoke alarms, ionization and photoelectric. Each has advantages, for best protection you should use both types of smoke detection technologies. There are units available which utilize both technologies in a single device for both detectors and alarms.
Ionization Smoke Detection
Ionization Smoke Detectors are generally more responsive to fires that have flames. The detectors have a small amount of radioactive material between two electrically charged plates, this ionizes the air and causes current to flow between the plates. When smoke enters the chamber, it disrupts the flow of ions thus reducing the flow of current and activating the alarm.
Photoelectric Smoke Detection
Photoelectric Smoke Detectors are more responsive to fires that begin with a long period of smoldering. Photoelectric-type detectors aim a light source into a sensing chamber at an angle away from the sensor. When smoke enters the chamber, it reflects the light onto the light sensor which triggers the alarm.
Smoke detectors have advanced technologically to be more user friendly. In addition to combination detectors which include both photoelectric and ionization technology, you can also get detectors that combine CO detection, or many have features for silencing nuisance alarms. Smoke alarms can be interconnected to allow an alarm to sound throughout the house or building when one unit detects smoke; some of these devices can be programmed to provide audio messages that state for which room the alarm has sounded.
What should school alarms have: horns and strobes or audio messages?
Most state fire, building, and life safety codes require all new K-12 schools to have a fire alarm system which includes horns and strobes. For schools with more than 100 occupants, it is required by NFPA that the systems initiate an audio alarm to notify occupants. This alarm must meet requirements of, and is installed in accordance with, NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.
A fire alarm system has at least horns and strobes that signal when the system is activated. The horns and strobes are the traditional alert and are required for all fire alarm systems. Adding audio messages to your fire alarm takes your system to the next level. Audio messages can be individualized for specific circumstances, instead of a generic horn and strobe, and provide more information for how to respond to the situation.
NFPA 72 permits the emergency voice/alarm communications system to provide other uses, such as for public address (PA) or mass notification purposes. Some features of the PA system may seem to interfere with an emergency communication system such as the ability to lower the volume on speakers, emergency notification systems can override the local volume controls to reset them to the emergency sound level. In addition, emergency notification systems need to be set to override any PA non-emergency messages. Specific design requirements for a school’s emergency communication system also include the ability to broadcast live voice messages by paging zones, and requires an emergency power supply which can support the system for 24 hours.
NFPA 72, Chapter 24, provides guidance for messages recorded in the emergency communication system. It requires that messages be developed to address each scenario outlined in the school’s emergency response plan (which means schools are required to have an emergency response plan). Emergency messages must have content that provides information and instructions to the building occupants. An evacuation message must use the standard alarm evacuation signal consisting of a Temporal-3 alarm signal (which is the recommended standard evacuation pattern for smoke and fire alarms) for at least two cycles before and after the recorded voice message.
While this overview was a general review of requirements for school emergency notification systems, it is important to review your state and local code requirements as they may dictate other design requirements. You should also review your emergency response plan with your local police and fire department to get their input and coordinate responses.
Attics: Determining if sprinklers are required
First, it is important to remember the difference between Code and Standards. Code tells us what needs to be done for fire protection and comes from the IBC, International Fire Code, or State Building Code. Standards pick up at this point outlining how the fire protection needs to be carried out; these are from the National Fire Protection Association.
While codes and standards are created to provide clarity on what is required, there can sometimes be varied interpretations on how a standard is applied. These interpretations can vary geographically or depending on the role of the interpreter in the life safety profession. To avoid this confusion, the NFPA technical committees work to ensure the language of the codes and standards is clear and can be enforced only in the intended manner. However, there are still cases where various interpretations exist and one such area is the idea of providing automatic sprinkler protection in attics.
NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems, the standard for the installation of automatic sprinkler systems never specifically addresses whether or not an attic requires sprinkler protection. Section 8.1 states that all spaces should be protected unless there is a specific exemption somewhere in the standard. Since there is no specific “attic sprinkler exemption” in NFPA 13, many people think that all attics require sprinklers.
The real answer is a bit more complicated. Since there is no outright exemption for attics, the NFPA various standards on concealed spaces must be read to determine whether or not each particular attic space is considered a concealed space that does not require sprinklers. Currently, there is even some confusion on whether attics are even considered to be concealed spaces. NFPA 13 does not declare attics to be concealed spaces because not all attics are created the same from a fire development and fire spread perspective. Because of this, the standard is written to take into consideration hazards present in an attic when determining if it is a concealed space and if it requires sprinkler protection.
Adding to the confusion are two different staff interpretations from NFPA staff members in the last five years. The first interpretation stated that attics cannot be considered concealed spaces and so always require sprinklers. The second interpretation attempted to clarify that attics can be concealed spaces, and therefore may not always require sprinklers.
To determine if your attic requires sprinklers, your sprinkler system designer and reviewing authority should consider the following:
* what are the construction materials?
* can the space be occupied?
* are goods stored in the space?
* what is the quantity of combustible material?
* what level of access is provided to the space?
The answers to these questions will allow them to determine whether or not the space qualifies as a concealed space and if it needs sprinklers.
How often and what kinds of safety drills should you perform at work?
While fire drills are the most commonly heard of safety drills, there are several situations which require an action plan, whether that is evacuation or lock-down. Fire, extreme weather such as tornado or earthquake, intruder or active shooter situations all require different emergency responses from facility occupants. Emergency planning and training directly influence the outcome of an emergency situation.
OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.38, Employee Emergency Plans and Fire Prevention Plans states that the emergency action plan covers the “designated actions that employers and employees must take to ensure safety from fire and other emergencies.”
Instructions you should outline in your plan include emergency escape procedures and escape route assignments. This ensures that all employees understand the situations in which they should evacuate the building and the route that should be taken by each facility location. You should outline procedures employees should take including shutting down equipment, using fire extinguishers or other safety measures they should attempt.
OSHA requires that employers record emergency action plans in writing unless there are 10 or fewer employees, in which case a verbally communicated plan is sufficient. For more information about developing an emergency action plan or reviewing your emergency action plan, visit our article “Is your fire safety & evacuation plan up to code?” which includes an editable template.
How often should you perform safety drills?
The National Fire Protection Association and OSHA both recommend that employers practice safety drills periodically. This is only a recommendation, as safety drills are only required for schools and residential care facilities. Be sure to check your local fire safety codes, as some contain additional requirements for Fire/Evacuation Drills.
Ohio law requires 10 drills per school year at schools and educational institutions, and 12 drills per year (one conducted on each shift every 3 months) for residential care facilities such as nursing homes. The law also requires that records be maintained and submitted to the State Fire Marshal twice a year showing when drills are performed, including the time, date, weather condition, number of people participating, and total time for evacuation.
Indiana law requires schools to hold one tornado drill and one manmade occurrence disaster drill during each semester. The school’s governing body may require more than the state law, and must require logs of all drills conducted to be filed.
Kentucky law requires schools to hold at least one severe weather drill, one earthquake drill, and one lock-down drill within the first 30 instructional days of each school year and then again in the month of January. No later than November 1 of each school year, the local district superintendent must send verification to the Kentucky Department of Education verifying compliance with these requirements.
You can see the number and types of drills vary greatly. It is important to consider the severe weather conditions that can affect your region when creating your emergency plan. As OSHA recommends, have periodic drills at your workplace. The number of drills you decide is sufficient for your workplace should be influenced by the number of employees you have and the complexity of your emergency evacuation or lock-down plan. The purpose of drills is to ensure everyone knows what to do, and will be able to remember and perform that in the event of an emergency.
Types of Safety Drills
Fire/Evacuation Drill: Fire drills, also called a rapid dismissal drill, is an evacuation drill that should be practiced to ensure an orderly evacuation in the event of a fire which can cause panic and chaos.
Lock-down drill: Lock down drills are used at facilities when an intruder or active shooter is on, or is suspected to be on, the premises.
Tornado Drill/Earthquake Drill: Severe weather drills are very specific to provide safety measures for the current weather conditions. Consider weather conditions for your area and perform drills with your employees to ensure everyone is aware of what to do in the event of a tornado or earthquake, or what the response will be company-wide in the event of a flood, snowstorm, or other inclement weather conditions.
Statewide Drills for National Severe Weather Preparedness Week
Many states will identify a day each calendar year to perform statewide tornado drills as part of the National Severe Weather Preparedness week in March. Tornado sirens are sounded during these drills, so this is an opportunity for your workplace to hold a tornado drill. These statewide drills are an excellent reminder to review your emergency plans, practice fire drills, and update emergency kits.
Sound Your Alarm
If you are performing a fire, lock-down, or severe weather drill at your facility, consider sounding your alarm system. This will allow your employees to become familiar with the sound of your alarm for different emergency events and how to respond to each. If you are going to sound your alarm system, be sure to contact your alarm company in advance to notify them of the test and drill.
Your emergency action plan will vary depending on the size of your company and facility, the number of employees you have, and the type of operations. Small companies might have relatively simple plans that are communicated verbally, involving where the exits are located, what the alarm sounds like, and which emergency services numbers to use. In contrast, employers with multiple sites, greater variability in operations, or large numbers of employees may develop complex, written preparedness plans that cover all types of facilities.
A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.
Current legal restrictions on grill usage at rental properties are in place to decrease fire hazards and protect tenants and property.
Three out of five households own a gas grill, which translates to a lot of tasty meals. But it also means there’s an increased risk of home fires. Each year, grilling causes an average of 8,900 home fires, and close to half of all injuries involving grills are due to thermal burns.
Gas grills can cause a lot of problems for landlords and their properties when tenants use and store them improperly. Many people believe that the danger from gas grills is low to non-existent because they are outside. However, gas grills pose several fire dangers through ignition explosion, vent explosion, carbon monoxide leaks, or explosions or gas leakages due to ruptured tanks, valves and hoses.*
Check out NFPA’s handout on grilling safety!
The Law on grills in multi-family dwellings
Gas and charcoal grills may not be operated on balconies or within 10 feet of the building/home. There are limited exceptions to this rule in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky (click the links for the full text of that State’s Code as it relates to grills).
There are some exceptions to when grills are legally acceptable to use on balconies or within 10 feet of construction, these are outlined below by State.
In Ohio, grills are acceptable if:
- It is a One- or Two-family dwelling.
- The building, balconies or decks are protected by an automatic sprinkler system.
- It is a charcoal burner, AND fire extinguishers of the proper rating, quantity and size are present, AND all other combustible material has been removed from the balcony or cooking site.
- Natural gas fired open flame cooking devices and/or appliances if the LP-gas container has a water capacity not greater than 2 1/2 pound [nominal 1 pound (0.454 kg) LP-gas capacity].
- If it is a natural gas supplied cooking device, the natural gas fuel supply piping system is connected to the building where the cooking is to occur. There cannot be any storage tanks or cylinders located in or near the dwelling unit structure where the cooking is to occur.
- The fire code official may require that any person responsible for the use of a natural gas fire open flame cooking device carry comprehensive general liability insurance at an amount to cover any possible damage to people or property by the open flame device.
- Gas pressure supplied to the natural gas fueled cooking appliance must follow the pressure recommendations by the cooking device/appliance manufacturer. In no case can the maximum pressure supplied to the device or appliance exceed 2 pounds per square inch (psi).
- While the grill is in use, all combustibles that are not part of the dwelling unit structure shall be kept 5 feet away from the cooking device.
- Any and all building code requirements for the installation and use of natural gas fired grills, open flame cooking devices or appliances must be complied with, including compliance with any permit and inspection requirements.
In Indiana, the exceptions are much fewer. Indiana State Fire Code restricts grills to:
- One- and two-family dwellings, and buildings or decks that are protected by an automatic sprinkler system.
- LP-gas fueled cooking devices having a LP-gas container with a water capacity greater than 2.5 pounds (nominal 1-pound LP-gas capacity) are only allowed on combustible balconies or within 10 feet of combustible construction at one- or two-family dwellings.
In Kentucky, the restrictions are equally restrictive to one- and two-family dwellings. Kentucky adopted NFPA 1, Section 10.11.6 Cooking Equipment, which states:
- No hibachi, grill, or other similar devices used for cooking, heating, or any other purpose shall be used or kindled on any balcony, under any overhanging portion, or within 10 ft. (3m) of any structure, except for at one- and two-family dwellings.
- In addition, no hibachi, grill or similar devices used for cooking shall be stored on a balcony of dwellings greater than 2-family.
As a Landlord, you have the right to ban or allow gas grills on your properties, as long as it falls within the bounds of law.
Single-Family Home Rentals
The toughest call on grills is for gas grills and single family home renters. Most of the legal conditions for limiting or restricting gas grill usage, such as combustible material and limited outdoor space, don’t apply. When deciding if you will allow grills on your single-family rental homes, consider the outdoor space available for grilling. Is the patio big enough? Can the tenant grill a safe distance from the structure and neighbors? The bottom line is that it’s completely up to the landlord about whether or not to allow gas grills in a single family rental property. It’s easy to ban grill usage, citing fire hazards; however, granting permission for a gas grill can give renters a greater sense of home and incentive to renew their lease agreement.
What if I decide to ban Gas Grills?
If you select to ban gas grills on your rental property, make sure to include in the lease agreement that the use of gas grills is strictly prohibited. The lease should also state that there should never be any flammable gas tanks store in the rental property. This will include propane gas tanks used for gas grills, and include any other gas tanks that pose potential fire hazards. If you want to ban all kinds of grills, make sure to use specific language to identify charcoal and gas, or any kind of open flame cooking system.
Should I do anything special if I allow Gas Grills?
If you choose to allow gas grills on your rental property, whether multi-unit or single family, make sure you are very clear in your lease agreement and with the tenant about any restrictions or rules regarding grilling. Give your tenants a copy of the local or state fire code regulations concerning grilling (feel free to use the documents we gave you at the above links). Make sure they understand this is about being compliant with the law and keeping the renters and property (theirs and yours) safe.
Write up a clear addendum to your lease for gas grills which specifically states:
- The locations on the property where a gas grill is allowed.
- Make sure to include distance requirements from any structures (including the dwelling, storage facilities, fences, etc) and exactly what that distance is.
- Also include language about storing the propane tanks, that they should never be stored inside the rental unit or close to it. If there is a shed on the property, that may be an acceptable location to store propane tanks if it is far enough from the house.
- Finally, include language in the addendum about consequences of not following the restrictions for gas grill use or causing damage to the structure with their grills.
What should I do if I discover a lease violation concerning a gas grill?
If at all possible, you should immediately document the lease violation by taking photos of the problem. If photos are not possible, interview neighbors or other tenants for statements of gas grill use and abuse by the tenant in question.
Now, follow your normal steps with any lease violation. Deliver an official comply or quit notice requiring the tenant to resolve the issue with the gas grill within the allotted time frame or face eviction. If the tenant fails to resolve the problem with the grill by the time allowed in the notice, then you may begin eviction proceedings.
You should never take matters into your own hands by removing the gas grill from the property, even if just to store it in a safer location. Even if the presence of the grill is a lease violation, it is still property of the tenant and taking it could be considered a theft and could be cause for police action against you.
The key for gas grills on your rental properties, whether you allow them or not, is to be upfront and consistent in your lease agreements policies and enforcement of those policies.
Life safety systems such as sprinklers, fire extinguishers, fire pumps, and fire alarms all have required tests and inspections to ensure they are running properly. Fire safety systems protect lives and property, and where they are required to be installed there is an authority (such as the AHJ or Fire Department) to inspect them and ensure compliance with state and federal laws.
While many people look at these inspections as a hassle, they actually benefit the building or business owners, and those that utilize the building.
Fire safety inspections offer:
- A safer shopping, work or living environment;
- Business and job security, as up to 80% of all small businesses that experience a large fire never reopen, and those that do reopen stand to lose much of their customer base due to prolonged closures;
- A building with an improved resale value, as many buyers will have a building inspected for fire or safety hazards, or areas not up to code.
- A potential for lower insurance premiums, some items on the inspection checklist may be required by both the fire department and your insurance company (such as an annual fire sprinkler and fire alarm inspection), many insurance companies provide premium reductions to businesses for a properly installed and maintained fire protection system.
For a complete list of fire safety devices and their required inspection schedules, check out our Inspections Guidebook. But below are a few of the most commonly missed safety device inspections.
Sprinkler Head Testing
If you have a Sprinkler System you should have the system regularly inspected and tested. But did you know that you also need to have the Sprinkler Heads tested?
A fire sprinkler head is the component of a fire sprinkler system that discharges water when the effects of a fire have been detected, such as when a predetermined temperature has been exceeded. It is critical for the sprinkler head to be clear of obstructions, as well as corrosion, paint or other foreign material, which may prohibit it from working properly.
Required Inspections: Every 10 Years for dry type sprinkler heads; Every 20 Years for Sprinkler Heads with a Fast Response Element; at 50 Years all Sprinkler Heads must be tested and from this point must be tested every 10 years; at 75 Years all Sprinkler Heads must be tested and testing must be done every 5 years.
Find out what type of Sprinklers Heads you have and how old they are to determine what testing you need to schedule! Call A1 or your Fire Protection company for help.
Standpipe systems are a series of pipe which connect a water supply to hose connections, basically an extension of the fire hydrant system. They are designed to provide a pre-piped water system for building occupants or the fire department. Standpipe systems are designed to provide fire protection water for hose lines in strategically placed locations inside a building or structure. They are most common in large floor area buildings, where most of the facility may be some distance from an outside entrance, or in multistory buildings to prevent long lengths of hose in stairwells and on the ground.
Required Testing and Inspections: If you have a Standpipe system in your building, it is required to be inspected annually. Various testing of equipment is also required, for example a flow test must be performed every 5 years. According to NFPA 25 2011 (6.3.1), a flow test shall be conducted every 5 years at the hydraulically most remote hose connections of each zone of an automatic standpipe system to verify the water supply still provides the design pressure at the required flow. Check out A1’s Standpipe Systems Ebook for more detailed information about Standpipes.
If you have a Sprinkler System, you are required to have a Sprinkler Cabinet with spare sprinkler heads, a sprinkler head wrench, and a list of all sprinkler head locations on site. NFPA requires a certain number of each type of sprinkler heads used in your sprinkler system to be stored on-site to allow for immediate removal and replacement of sprinklers that may have been operated or become damaged.
Required Inspection: According to NFPA 25 (18.104.22.168), a supply of at least six spare sprinklers shall be maintained on the premises so that any sprinklers that have been operated or been damaged in any way can be promptly replaced. A22.214.171.124 states that a minimum of two sprinklers of each type and temperature rating installed should be provided.
Tips for your fire inspection
Meet with your inspector before they begin to ask what devices they will be looking at. Provide the inspector with copies of all your system and equipment inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) reports. Have someone accompany the inspector to take notes on areas you need to address.
NFPA 25, Standard for the inspection, testing, and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems, requires that a standpipe system be visually inspected on a regular basis.
If your building or facility has multiple levels or a large area such as an enclosed shopping mall then you may have a standpipe system. This water based fire system is an integral part of your building’s fire and safety design as it can supply the building’s sprinkler system and allows firefighters to hook up fire hoses directly on the level where a fire is occurring.
There are different types of standpipes, some may have water in them while others are dry and need to be hooked to a water supply for use; some standpipes have enough pressure from the water supply to work on their own, while others need the help of a fire department pumper truck.
Pictured above is one example of a stand pipe with a 2 ½” hose vale. These vales should be checked weekly for damage, leaks, or missing caps.
What you need to do:
No matter what type you have, it is important to inspect your standpipe weekly for:
- Signs of physical damage or leakage.
- Make sure all control valves are in place.
- Check for dry rot on the hose and cap gaskets.
- Check for proper labels on equipment.
- Make sure equipment is accessible – not blocked by boxes or other items.
- Gauges on dry, pre-action, and deluge valves for standpipes should be inspected for normal air and water pressure; automatic standpipes can be inspected monthly.
The most common problems found with standpipes are related to housekeeping – keep your standpipes in good working order by keeping the area around the standpipe and valves cleaned and painted in order to prevent corrosion. Standpipes are commonly in need of maintenance for leaking valves, missing caps or handles, and damaged devices – all of which you will be able to see on your weekly checks so it can be fixed right away, before the problem escalates!
Your weekly checks should find any emergency maintenance problems, your required semi-annual and annual inspections will test the system thoroughly for issues you would not be able to see in your weekly checks. At the semi-annual inspection, your alarm devices, valve supervisory devices, and supervisory signal devices will be tested. In addition to these, the annual inspection will test the hose nozzles, hose storage devices and main drain.
Every 3 to 5 years, inspections will include a pressure test on hoses; testing of control valves, pressure-reducing valves and system flow; dry standpipe system piping, hydrostatic test; and a full flow test. Your inspector will lubricate and operate all valves and hose connections to ensure everything is working properly and they will remove the hoses from racks to reload them in order to keep them in good working order.
Read more about Standpipes, the different types, required inspections, and more in our Standpipe Systems Ebook. A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.