Minimum Fire Code Requirements
The major concept of minimum fire code requirements is the safe evacuation of the building’s occupants. A safe and clear atmosphere is essential for the expedient and safe escape of everyone. Any obstacle prevents or slows their escape and may cause occupants to panic. Exit signs and emergency lights make exits obvious and easy to locate. Fire rated separations, corridors, doors, dampers, automatic fire sprinklers, etc. are necessary to limit the smoke and the fire’s progress allowing additional time for the occupants to escape.
The fire safety process begins with the building’s construction features. Florida Building Code requirements play an important part in fire safety. Construction features provide a sound foundation for slowing or limiting the fire’s destructive power and providing an easier escape. The exit features are maintained (limits smoke and fire intrusion) and a premature collapse is prevented. Typically, the Florida Building Code dictates the major portion of the building’s structural components, as related to fire safety. Construction features such as; occupancy and building size limitations, occupancy and tenant separations, structural protection, etc. are usually determined by the Building Code. Egress, fire protection systems, etc. are sometimes found in both the Building Code and the Fire Code. The Code section that affords the most stringent life safety will be applied.
The Florida Fire Prevention Code will be concerned with the interior portion of the building and may have additional construction requirements. They may include; protection of storage areas, details for multi-story buildings, corridor and exit construction, an automatic fire sprinkler system, a fire alarm system, or other fire protection features. The reduction of fire damage to the building or its contents is another concern. Most life safety features have a dual role. For example, a fire sprinkler system will limit the spread of the fire to allow the occupant’s time to escape. In most cases, the fire sprinkler system has also extinguished or limited the spread of the fire. Primarily, the occupancy, tenant, and hazard separations attempt to separate the fire from the occupants as they escape, but they also limit the spread of fire. In the majority of the occupancies, as the occupant load (number of people in the building) increases, so does the fire safety requirement. The potential for disaster increases as the number of people in a building increase. Under normal conditions, a single person in a building at the time of a fire will be able to escape without delays. With a large number of people present, other people, tables, chairs, etc. restrict the occupant’s movements and an increase of nervousness heightens the potential for panic.
The Fire Prevention Division will review all commercial building plans for compliance with the applicable State statutes, Florida Administrative Codes, County codes, ordinances, or regulations. These may include but are not limited to, applicable National Fire Codes, Florida State Statutes, Florida Fire Prevention Code, Manatee County Land Development Code, and local amendments to the Fire Code.
The following information is necessary to ensure a thorough and timely review:
- Occupancy classification of the building or portions of the building must be identified. The use of each room is necessary to determine the appropriate Code requirements.
- Minimum 20 ft. fire department access roadways. The Manatee County Land Development Code may require wider access aisles.
- When Manatee County utilities water is present, a fire hydrant is required for new building construction and new additions. The fire hydrant shall be within 400 ft. curb line distance of the farthest portion of the building. This distance is measured along the edge of the roadway (not right-of-way) and/or driveway.
- A fire apparatus must be able to drive on an all weather-driving surface capable of supporting the weight of the apparatus from the hydrant to the building.
- Show the hydrant location or make a note of why it is not applicable. Interior remodeling that does not encompass new construction or additions, do not require a fire hydrant.
- The building size may be limited by the Standard Building Code and the Florida Fire Prevention Code.
- Indicate the location and wall details of any required tenant or occupancy separations.
- A typical wall section of any fire rated separations (walls, ceilings, etc.) is necessary. Include the independent testing laboratory design number for the type of separation.
- Providing details of the type and installation of the fire penetration sealing components (dampers, sleeves, sealants, etc.) is helpful.
- Occupancies such as assembly, business, educational, health care, residential, mercantile, etc. usually require the storage and hazardous areas to be separated from other areas by a one-hour fire rated assembly. The door(s) in these assemblies must be fire rated and have a self-closing device.
- Stairs (interior and exterior means of egress components) must meet the requirements of the Florida Fire Prevention Code in reference to the tread, riser, landings, etc.
- Occupant load factors in the Florida Fire Prevention Code are used to determine the maximum safe occupant load of a building.
- Indicate the size and locations of all exits. The typical exit width is 36″ in clear width.
- Exit doors are to be side hinged and no wider than 48″ in width.
- Exit doors should swing outward or toward the direction of exit travel. Areas with more than a 50-person occupant load must comply with this standard.
- Exit signs are required. Certain conditions may require the signs to be illuminated and have battery back up.
- Most large buildings or occupancies must have at least two exits as remote from each other as practical. Large occupancies may require more and/or larger exists to meet the exit capacity requirements of the Florida Fire Prevention Code. The main exit and the secondary exit widths are usually calculated with different formulas.
- Fire exit corridors may be required to be separated from other areas by a one-hour fire rated assembly.
- Typically, buildings with 100 person occupant loads or more are required to have panic hardware on the required exits.
- Travel distances to exits may become an issue and require more exits than were provided.
- No dead-end corridor shall exceed 20 feet.
- Interior finishes become more crucial and restrictive as the occupant load increases. The interior finish requirements are listed in the Florida Fire Prevention Code & Building Code.
Fire Sprinkler Requirements
- Must meet the Florida Administrative Code requirements.
- Must be engineered and installed by a Florida licensed fire sprinkler contractor.
- A separate permit and review are required through East Manatee Fire Rescue.
- A ground inspection of all components prior to installation, 200-psi test, and a final inspection by East Manatee Fire Rescue is required.
- Check with East Manatee Fire Rescue to see if a Fire Sprinkler System will be required in your proposed building.
- Other conditions required for a fire sprinkler system must be designed and installed by a Florida licensed fire sprinkler contractor. A separate permit and review are required and a final inspection and functional test are required prior to a Certificate of Compliance or Occupancy.
Fire Alarm Systems Requirements
- Must meet the Florida Administrative Code requirements.
- Are required in business occupancies (two or more stories above level of exit discharge, 50 occupants above or below level of exit discharge, or 300 person occupant load); Industrial occupancies with more than 100 person occupant load or 25 people above the level of exit travel.
- Are required in some storage occupancies.
- Check with the Fire Prevention Division to see if a Fire Alarm System will be required in your proposed building.
- Other conditions that may require a fire alarm system.
- Must be designed and installed by Florida licensed fire alarm contractor.
- A separate permit and review are required and a final inspection and functional test are required prior to a Certificate of Compliance or Occupancy.
- The Fire Prevention Division will not design the building or fire safety features, however, if you have any questions or need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact the Fire Prevention Division.
Contact Fire Prevention for a fire or life safety presentation for your East County business, organization, or group.
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