Construction-site fires can cause a great deal of damage and injury. They also pose a threat to the surrounding area because of hot work, flammable materials, and other hazards. Luckily, many construction site fires can be avoided with proper planning and preparation. A construction site fire watch is an essential component of a construction safety plan.
A construction fire can easily spread from one building to another if there are no proper fire safety measures in place. This is especially dangerous if the fire alarms are not connected and the water supply has been shut off. Additionally, many construction sites are home to power tools, which can spark nearby combustible materials. Because of these risks, the International Code Council recently approved changes in the International Fire Code to protect construction sites. One of these changes includes requiring construction sites to have a construction site fire watch guard on duty during nonworking hours. New construction buildings must have a construction site fire watch for at least 50,000 square feet of space. These new requirements are meant to protect firefighters from the dangers of large buildings and to save resources.
A construction site fire watch is crucial for any job site that is involved in hot work. These fire watches must last at least 30 minutes and be extended by the fire code official, depending on the type of work being done. The duration of the fire watch is typically outlined in the permit for the hot work.
NFPA 101 Life Safety Code Section 22.214.171.124
NFPA 101 is a set of standards for fire alarm systems. The code requires periodic tests of fire alarm systems. Each test must include operating fifty percent of the system’s initiating devices. These tests must be performed by a licensed fire alarm testing firm. Also, fire alarm testing firms must provide a uniform testing report bearing the name of the person performing the test.
The provisions of this article apply to all new and existing structures and operations. They are intended to minimize the potential risks posed by fire. The article also establishes the requirements for egress facilities that allow occupants to quickly escape. As a result of these requirements, fire safety features and practices must be maintained and updated on a regular basis.
Fire alarm systems must communicate with a Central Processing Unit via a Class “X” Signaling Line Circuit. The device must also meet NFPA 72 requirements for initiating device and notification appliance circuits. The system must have a backup communications path for emergency forces.
Fire alarm systems must be installed within a safe egress system. If the floor area of a building exceeds 22,500 square feet, the building needs additional fire alarm zoning. Generally, the fire alarm zone len
NFPA compliance: defining a fire watch
The following codes should be observed when complying with requirements to identify and control fire hazards.
One or more qualified individuals are assigned the task of conducting a fire watch to ensure that continuous and systematic surveillance is maintained of a building, or portion of the building, to identify and control fire hazards, detect early signs of fire, activate an alarm and notify the fire department in the event of a fire.
The National Fire Protection Association’s 2012 edition, NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, section 126.96.36.199, specifies that the AHJ be notified when a required fire alarm system fails for more than four hours in a 24-hour period, and the building must be evacuated or an approved fire watch is provided. A fire watch is also required by section 9.7.6 if an automatic fire sprinkler system is out of service for more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period. According to NFPA 101-2012, section 3.3.104, a fire watch should at the very least involve some special measures beyond normal staffing, such as the assignment of an additional security guard(s) to walk the affected areas. According to NFPA 25, Standard for Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, Annex A.15.5.2(4)(b), a fire watch should consist of trained personnel who continuously patrol the area.
Those assigned to perform a fire watch should pay particular attention to the following, but not limited to:
- There are many potential sources of fire ignition, including frayed electrical wires and improper storage of flammable materials.
- Ensure that the fire extinguishers are in their proper location, undamaged, unobstructed, visible, charged and operational, as well as ensure that the bands that secure the pin are intact.
- Combustible materials such as trash and garbage.
- Any obstructions that could impede emergency movement must be removed from exits, stairwells, and corridors.
- Inspect the operation of illuminated exit signs (electrical or photoluminescent).
- A self-closing door should be examined to ensure that it is not blocked or wedged and that it can close freely.
- A sprinkler system (if active) must be inspected for possible obstructions, leaks, closed valves, and decreased pressure.