College Planning & Management

AUG 2012

College Planning & Management is the information resource for professionals serving the college and university market. Covering facilities, security, technology and business.

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Fire & Life Safety FOCUS ON PREPARATION AND PREVENTION Preparing for Inspections Plan to stay a step or two ahead of annual campus fi re inspections. BY MIKE HALLIGAN A S SUMMER ENDS AND class rooms fi ll with students, we know that the very people who occupy our buildings can and will compromise the fi re and life safety elements of any campus build- ing. We also know that as summer ends and instructors and students return, visits from the local fi re inspector will take place and there will be a list of hopefully not more than a few small items that will need to be corrected in order to obtain annual fi re clearances. While there are a few individuals who think the local inspection process does not accomplish anything more than a brief moment during which a facil- ity is in compliance, most of us agree that a proactive effort to keep on top of items that can lead to fi res, spread of fi re, or obstructions in egress routes is a worthwhile, ongoing effort. Another item most of us agree upon is that there is a certain level of inconsistency as different fi re crews or inspectors visit our facilities from year to year. A Better Way This scenario repeats itself every fall in school buildings across the country. After talking with many of you this year, I have found that there is a better way. In lieu of waiting for the fi re inspection, ask the local fi re inspector to create or give you the list they use to evaluate each type of occupancy present for the facilities on your campus. Most if not all inspectors would be more than willing to provide you with a copy of the forms they use for each part of your facilities. In some cases, each form may be subdivided into several categories. There will be categories for classrooms, assembly spaces, laboratories, mechanical spaces, and offi ces. In addition, there will be sections for the overall means of egress of the building; fi re sup- pression systems; fi re detection systems and operating features such as emergency plans, furnishings, and decorations; and documenta- tion of required drills. There may also be special sections or forms if you have portable classrooms or open fl exible plan buildings. Once you have obtained all the forms used by the inspection agency, you can supply the users of each space or occupancy a check- list that they can use to monitor their own conformance with the inspection items. In classrooms, instructors would know the specifi c requirements for classroom setup and use. Please see the chart above. These are just a few common items that will be found on all classroom occupancy inspection lists. There are a few very progressive programs that take the checklist and turn it into one page graphics to further simplify and clarify what each element 10 COLLEGE PLANNING & MANAGEMENT / AUGUST 2012 QUESTION When classrooms have more than 100 occupants do doors have panic hardware? Are the horns and strobes visible and working in the classroom? Is there vertical clearance of 18 in. around all sprinkler heads? Are student events scheduled below the exit level in rooms with fire sprinklers? Are fire extinguishers unobstructed? Does the instructor understand the emergency plan for the building? Are all doors in the egress path unobstructed? Do decorations, artwork, teaching materials, and furnishings exceed 48 sq. ft. in the hallway or classroom? requires. The visual description helps all occupants understand the requirements and greatly assists with initial training. Training users on the basic elements they will be inspected against fi ts the very educational model for the facility that employs us. Improved Results While these lists won't take the place of an annual inspection from the local fi re department, they should reduce the number of items found to be not in compliance and, more importantly, reduce the risks of fi res starting or spreading because of noncompliance. Better, clearer, up-front inspection expectations will help the users of a space stay in compliance not only when the fi re inspector is there but also through the other 364 days of the year when they are not. In addition, this approach should help reduce the amount of time you are responding to inspection defi ciencies or questions from occupants of the space. CPM Mike Halligan is the associate director of Environmental Health and Safety at the University of Utah and is responsible for Fire Prevention and Special Events Life Safety. He frequently speaks about performance-based code solutions for campus building projects, is recognized as an expert on residence hall fi re safety programs, and conducts school fi re prevention program audits/strategic planning. He can be reached at 801/585-9327 or at WWW.PLANNING4EDUCATION.COM YES NO COMMENT

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