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Coffee break Bulletin

Fire prevention at buildings under renovation or construction

Posted: March 19, 2019

Buildings under construction or renovation are at their most vulnerable and weakest condition. Accumulation of waste combustibles, limited access, minimal water supply and hazardous operations increase the challenge. Add to this the effects of firefighting operations, increased water weight, weakened metal and support structures, and hidden hot spots, and you have a formula for disaster waiting to happen.

This Coffee Break Bulletin was originally published in 2010 and bears repeating.

The 2010 bulletin honored nine Boston, Massachusetts, firefighters who lost their lives while overhauling a hotel under renovation. Today we remember two York, Pennsylvania, firefighters — Zachary Anthony and Ivan Flanscha — who were killed in 2018 during overhaul operations on a large structure under renovation.

Here are a few prevention tips when dealing with buildings under renovation or construction:

Create a risk assessment and action plan

  • Visit the facilities and perform a risk assessment.
  • Develop a pre-incident action plan in the event of a fire, collapse or hazardous materials release.
  • Communicate the risk assessment and action plan to all emergency response personnel.
  • Schedule training on the risk assessment and action plan.

Check structural plans and fire protection features

  • Review the owner’s fire safety program for completeness and compliance.
  • Verify the condition of escape facilities including doors, walkways, stairs, ramps, fire escapes or other means of egress.
  • Check fire protection features, especially fire extinguishers, hydrants and temporary standpipe systems. If they are not operational, have them repaired or at least note their status in your pre-incident action plan.
  • Review structural plans with the project supervisor. If there are concerns about all or a portion of a project’s structural integrity, report them to the local building code official.

Be aware of hazardous materials

  • Ensure that the storage of Class I and II flammable and combustible liquids exceeding 60 gallons (227 liters) is more than 50 feet (15.2 meters) from the structure.
  • Verify that "No Smoking" signs are posted and enforced.
  • Check to see that hot work (welding, cutting, torch-down roofing) and other hazardous operations are suitably protected.

Action step to prevent fires at buildings under renovation or construction

For more information, refer to National Fire Protection Association 1, Fire Code Chapter 16, or International Code Council's International Fire Code® Chapter 14.

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