City of houston fire marshals office



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CITY OF HOUSTON

FIRE MARSHALS OFFICE

1995 S. DAIRY ASHFORD, HOUSTON TX 77077

Office: (281) 752-2562 Fax: (281) 752-2200



Dear Apartment Management/Maintenance,

In order to service your property in a more efficient and effective manner, please go over the following information with your maintenance staff. The following information should be used to assess your property on an ongoing basis and to keep the property up to fire code.
This information should be used as a guide in day-to-day operations to enable you to recognize and correct potential hazards that may endanger life and property.
In addition, property that is up to fire safety codes will minimize life hazards and maximize life safety. It is mutually beneficial to property owners, management and the Fire Marshal’s Office to work together to make all corrections necessary in order to provide a safe environment and in an emergency to limit potential property damage which could be detrimental to property value and owners liability.
All information in this guide is believed to be reliable but not guaranteed and should be independently verified. Information in this guide is subject to change and may have additions at a future date.
Thanks in advance for your cooperation, immediate attention and dedication to making your property and Houston a safer place to live.

Sincerely,

Apartment Team


Apartment Manager / Maintenance Checklist for Fire Inspection Survey

Place a check mark in the space if applicable to your property “N/A” if not applicable to your property

_______ Certificate of Occupancy / Certificate of Life Safety Compliance
_______ Multi-family registration certificate
_______ Street Address Visible
_______ Directory of Apartments Posted
_______ Address on Buildings and Units
_______ Access Gates & 911 Key Box and other required permits
_______ Gas Test within last five (5) years
_______ All occupied units have working Smoke Detectors and Fire

Extinguishers


_______ Fire Protection System / Sprinkler System (Annual Test)
_______ All Draft Stops intact and no penetrations in Boiler/Mech./Electrical

rooms.
_______ Boilers / Electrical / Mechanical Rooms and FDC locations labeled


_______ No Storage of Combustibles in Boilers/ Electrical / Mechanical Rooms
_______ All Electrical Breaker Boxes with unit numbers and breaker covers
_______ All Electrical Panels have cover plates on each building throughout the premises.
_______ Code Compliance regarding cooking devices on porches and balconies.

This guide will reference the Houston Fire Code and several standards within the fire code. The standards that management/maintenance for apartments should be familiar with are:




  • Installation and Maintenance of Portable Fire Extinguishers

  • Fire Department Access

  • Access Control Gates

  • Key Boxes

  • Marking of Fire Hydrant Locations

The standards can be found on the web at www.houstontx.gov . On the home page look on the top menu bar and click on Departments, on the drop down list click on Fire Department. Once you have reached the Fire Department screen look on the left side menu and click on Standards located under Business info. There you will find the standards listed above with all the information you will need to bring the property up to standard.


Fire Survey Guide
Main Entrance
Directory for Apartments Etc: Article V. Sec 10-212 Houston Code of Ordinances

Whenever there are four (4) or more residential units on the same premises, there shall be a directory posted and maintained near principal entrance to the premises unless an identifying number posted on each unit is clearly visible from the public street. Such directory shall indicate by a map or clearly worded directions the exact location of each residential unit on the premises. This section shall not apply if all units on the premises are located in one building, which must meet the requirements of subsection (b) of section 10-213 of Code.


Posting of numbers and directions: Article V. Sec 10-213 Houston Code of Ordinances

Each residential unit and each lodging unit shall have an identifying number posted and maintained on or within eighteen (18) inches of the principal entrance to the unit.


If it is not obvious which entrance to a building is the principal entrance, a sign clearly indicating the location of the principal entrance shall be posted and maintained on all entrances which might be confused with the principal entrance; however two (2) or more entrances may be considered principal entrances if the person in control of the property so desires. Where two (2) or more entrances are considered principal entrances, all numbers and directories must be posted and maintained at each such entrance as though it were the only principal entrance.


The numbers required shall be at least 4 inches in height, shall be permanently affixed to the outside of the building, and shall be of a color which is in contrast to the background.

Building Numbering: Article V. Sec 10-216 Houston Code of Ordinances

Each building shall have an identifying (address) number posted on or within 36 inches of the principal entrance. Such numbers shall also be posted on any sign that sets out the name of the building, and is located on the same premises as the building, and is visible

to persons traveling on the street from which the address is derived. All numbers shall be a minimum of 3 inches in height.



Access Control Gates and Key Boxes: (See example of gate with Failsafe device)


All access control gates and key boxes comply with all permitting and operational requirements. It is unlawful to erect, construct, build, or cause to be erected, constructed, or build any fence, gate or obstruction to vehicular traffic upon any private street or driveway, unless written approval for its erection is received from the Fire Marshal’s Office, after finding that it will not interfere with access emergency vehicles.
The security gates and the emergency operation shall be maintained operational at all times, or secured in the open position. Repairs shall be in accordance with original specifications and approvals.

All New and Existing Access Control Gates shall have written approval from the Fire Marshal’s Office please refer to Standards: Access Control Gates and Fire Department Access on www.houstontx.gov to make sure your property is in compliance. (See Attached Example for Existing Gate Approval)
Pedestrian Gates

Any request to close pedestrian gates must be approved by fire marshal. A minimum of (1) one pedestrian gate is to be maintained on properties having perimeter fencing.


Management Office

A responsible person, manager or owner must reside upon the premises of every apartment house in which there are sixteen (16) or more apartments. If the owner or management does not reside upon the premises of any apartment house in which there are more than four (4) but less than sixteen (16) apartment, a notice stating the name and address, emergency phone number, and the name and address of his agent in charge of the apartment house must be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises.
Managers please maintain the following information within a binder. Label your binder Houston Fire Department and make sure it is assessable upon arrival of Fire Inspector.


  • Certificate of Occupancy or Life Safety Compliance Certificates for all buildings

  • All current Fire Marshal Permits (911 Key Box, Access Gate, Cutting & Welding, Flammable, Hazardous Materials etc…)

  • Copy of approved Gate Plans

  • Copy of Gas test (within last 5 years) if applicable

  • Site Map with units that have attic access marked or a list of units with attic access if applicable.

  • Copy of Smoke Detector and Fire extinguisher addendums



Gas Test


A pneumatic test of gas piping shall be tested at least every five (5) years by a licensed plumber. Systems shall be tested in accordance with the Plumbing Code. A written record and permit shall be maintained and shall be made available to the code official upon request.
* Gas piping and fixtures near residence parking shall be protected by barrier to prevent accidental collision and potential explosion. (see photo example attached)

Combustible Storage: Attic, Mechanical, Electrical & Boiler Rooms

Combustible materials shall not be stored in attic areas. Combustible materials shall not be stored at any time in mechanical rooms, electrical rooms, or boiler rooms.

Mechanical, Electrical, Storage and Laundry Rooms


Doors into Mechanical, Electrical, Storage and Laundry Rooms shall be marked with a plainly visible and legible sign stating which room (Electrical 1, Electrical 2, Boiler 1, Boiler 2 etc..)
Penetrations in walls, partitions, ceilings and floors shall be properly repaired, restored or replaced when damaged, altered, breached or penetrated. Openings made therein for the passage of pipes, electrical conduit, wires, ducts, air transfer openings, and holes made for any reason shall be protected with approved methods capable of resisting the passage of smoke and fire. Openings through fire resistance rated assemblies shall be protected by self-closing or automatic- closing doors of approved construction meeting the fire protection requirements for the assembly.
Fire extinguishers with a minimum rating of 2-A, 10-B:C shall be provided in these areas.

Fire Extinguishers (Refer to HFD LSB Standard 01 Installation & Maintenance of Portable Fire Extinguishers).


Group R - Residential occupancies shall be classified as ordinary hazards. At least one portable fire extinguisher with a minimum rating of 2-A, 10-B:C shall be provided for each 3000 square feet of floor space, or fraction there of. Portable fire extinguishers shall be so located that no point in the building is located more than 75 feet, by an unobstructed path of travel, from a portable fire extinguisher. Fire extinguishers shall comply with Section 3.1 for annual maintenance and tagging.


(EXCEPTION:) R-2 Apartment occupancies shall be provided with at least one portable fire extinguisher. Such extinguisher shall have a gauge showing the charge and a minimum rating of 1-A, 10-B:C. Fire extinguishers that are not serviceable (1A-10BC Unit extinguishers) should be visually inspected at least monthly for lose of pressure (as indicated on the extinguisher's gauge) or for other damage to the fire extinguisher that might affect its performance.

A fire extinguisher shall be provided for and properly mounted within each occupied apartment unit. Location and placement of the fire extinguisher shall be mounted in accordance with the manufactures guidelines or Section 3.8, near the kitchen entryway, accessible and no closer than 5 feet from the cooking appliance.


2) R-2 Apartment (Garden-Type) properties equipped with automatic fire protection sprinkler systems may exclude the fire extinguisher in each apartment unit.


R-2 Residential occupancy offices, game rooms, physical fitness areas, storage rooms, maintenance shops, boiler rooms, laundry facilities, mail rooms, club houses, commons, and public assembly areas shall be classified as ordinary hazards. At least one portable fire extinguisher with a minimum rating of 2-A, 10-B:C shall be provided for each 3000 square feet of floor space, or fraction there of. Portable fire extinguishers shall be so located that no point in the room or area is located more than 75 feet, by an unobstructed path of travel, from a portable fire extinguisher. Fire extinguishers shall comply with Section 3.1 for annual maintenance and tagging.

Smoke Detectors

The owner or manager of a residential building shall ensure that the smoke detector(s) required by Section 907.3 of this code are installed and operational when the tenant first occupies the unit. After the tenant takes possession of the unit, it shall be the duty of the tenant to regularly test the smoke detector(s) in the unit, and the tenant shall notify the owner immediately in writing of any problem, defect, malfunction or failure of any detector in the unit. Upon notification by the tenant, or upon notification by an inspector of the jurisdiction, that a smoke detector in the residential unit is not in proper working order; the owner shall have the detector(s) repaired or replaced. Exception: The provisions of this section do not apply to dwelling units governed by Subchapter f of Chapter 92 of the Texas Property Code.


Electrical


All electrical wiring and appliances must be maintained in accordance with the electrical code. All repairs must be performed by a licensed electrician. Exposed electrical wiring must be in conduit and cover plates over breaker boxes, electrical junction boxes, switches and outlets must be in good repair and be in place. Extension cords shall not be used as permanent wiring. Also, electrical wiring can not be held in place by nails or staples.

Venting of gas appliances:

All gas fired appliances, such as gas operated dryers, boilers, and hot water heaters shall be vented to the outside of the building to prevent hazardous accumulations of carbon monoxide.



Laundry Rooms:

Accumulations of lint or trash should be removed from laundry rooms. Clean dryer filters on a regular basis to prevent unnecessary accumulations of lint and fire hazard.



Draft Stops / Laundry, Boiler, Electrical and Mechanical Rooms.

(See Draft stop photo. examples)

Fire-resistance-rated partitions, fire barriers, and fire walls separating vacant tenant spaces from the remainder of the building shall be maintained. Openings, joints, and penetrations in fire-resistance-rated assemblies shall be protected in accordance with Chapter 7.

The required fire-resistance rating of fire-resistance-rated construction (including walls, fire stops, shaft enclosures, partitions and floors) shall be maintained. Such elements shall be properly repaired, restored or replaced when damaged, altered, breached or penetrated. Openings made therein for the passage of pipes, electrical conduit, wires, ducts, air transfer openings,

and holes made for any reason shall be protected with approved methods capable of resisting the passage of smoke and fire. Openings through fire-resistance-rated assemblies shall be protected by self-closing or automatic-closing doors of approved construction meeting the fire protection

requirements for the assembly.

Required fire blocking and draft stopping in combustible concealed spaces shall be maintained to provide continuity and integrity of the construction.

Bar-B-Q Pits / Gas Grills


Charcoal burners and other open-flame cooking devices shall not be operated on combustible balconies or within 10 feet (3048 mm) of combustible construction. Exceptions: Where buildings and decks are protected by an automatic sprinkler system.


Bar-B-Q Pits / Gas Grills (Cont.)


LP-gas burners having a LP-gas container with a water capacity greater than 2.5 pounds (Small cylinders usually used for table top type grills) shall not be located on combustible balconies or within 10 feet (3048mm) of combustible construction.

Storage of larger propane capable grills with or without tanks cannot be stored on unprotected porches or balconies and must be removed immediately.



(An attached form is provided to notify tenants)

Fire Protection Systems


An automatic sprinkler system shall be provided throughout all buildings with a Group R-2 fire area where more than two stories in height, including basements, or where having more than 16 dwelling units. Exception: A residential sprinkler system installed in accordance with

Section 903.3.1.2 shall be allowed in buildings, or portions thereof, of Group R-2.

A fire alarm system shall be installed in existing Group R-2 apartment buildings with more than three stories or with more than 16 dwelling units. Exceptions: 1. Where each living unit is separated from other contiguous living units by fire barriers having a fire-resistance rating of not less than 3/4 hour, and where each living unit has either its own independent exit or its own independent stairway or ramp discharging at grade. 2. A separate fire alarm system is not required in buildings that are equipped throughout with an approved supervised automatic sprinkler system installed in accordance with Section 903.3.1.1 or 903.3.1.2 and having a local alarm to notify all occupants.

Compressed Gas Cylinders (Gas used for balloons)

Compressed gas containers, cylinders and tanks shall be secured to prevent falling caused by contact, vibration or seismic activity.



Pools


Most complexes have outside pool companies that provide pool services, however, for apartment complexes that maintain their own pools the following applies.
Most pool chemicals are classified as Oxidizers and present a serious fire or explosion hazard. The classes of Oxidizers vary with each pool chemical. The most common type of pool chemical is Calcium Hypo Chloride “SHOCK or Cal Hypo” typically a class 3 Oxidizer. Classification of Calcium Hypo Chloride breaks down as follows:

  • 50% or less by weight Class 2 Oxidizer

  • Over 50% by weight Class 3 Oxidizer

  • Some Oxidizers are classified as Toxic or Highly Toxic


Pools (Cont.)


Classification can be verified via an MSDS or from the manufacturer. Facilities that utilize Class 3 Oxidizers for maintenance purposes only, are allowed to have a maximum of 200 lbs. without being classified as Group H Occupancy. However, a hazardous material permit is required when the amount on hand totals 10 lbs. (solid) or 1 gallon (liquid). When Oxidizers present a health hazard such Toxic or Highly Toxic the permit amounts are as follows:

  • Toxic – 100 lbs. (solid) and 10 gallons liquid

  • Highly Toxic – Any amount for solids and liquids


When an Oxidizer presents both a physical hazard and health hazard the permit requirement is based on the lesser amount.

Oxidizers should be stored in their original container and in a dry well ventilated are separated from incompatible materials such as motor oils, transmission fluids and other solvents. When cabinets are utilized, they must be hazardous material cabinets listed for such use. Make sure to store chemicals according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Bars, Grilles, Grates or Similar Devices


Bars, grilles, grates or similar devices may be installed on emergency escape windows or rescue windows and doors provided:


  1. The devices shall be operational from the inside or the room without the use of keys or tools.

  2. Such devices shall be releasable or removable from the inside without the use of key, tool, special knowledge, or force greater than that which is required for normal operation of the escape and rescue opening.

  3. Shall be equipped with smoke detectors.


Vacant Premises

Persons owning, or in charge or control of, a vacant building or portion thereof, shall remove from there all accumulations of flammable or combustible waste or rubbish and shall securely lock or otherwise secure doors, windows and other openings to prevent entry by unauthorized persons. The premises shall be maintained clear of waste or hazardous materials. Exception:

Buildings or portions of buildings undergoing additions, alterations, repairs, or change of occupancy in accordance with the Building Code, where waste is controlled and removed as required by Section 304.


PHOTO EXAMPLES
“9-1-1” AND “ FAIL SAFE” SYSTEM ON ELECTRONIC SWING AND SLIDE GATES. Gate keys to fail safe key box should be located in 911 key box



FAIL SAFE DEVICE IS THE RED LEVER


FAIL SAFE DEVICE ON ELECTRIC SLIDE




HYDRANT SIGNS


DRAFTSTOPS



Compliant draft stop


Non-compliant breached draft stops

Breached draft stops (cont.)



ELECTRICAL PANELS



Compliant


Non-compliant


Barriers Protecting Gas Piping

Above-ground gas meters, regulators and piping subject to damage shall be

protected by a barrier complying with Section 312 or otherwise protected in

an approved manner.


Physical barriers shall be a minimum of 36 inches (914 mm) in height and

shall resist a force of 12,000 pounds (53 375 N) applied 36 inches (914 mm)

above the adjacent ground surface.

Compliant barriers

PROCEDURE FOR SUBMITAL FOR EXISTING ACCESS GATE APPROVALS

(Note: This procedure differs from the “new gate” approval procedure found in LSB Standard 4)

STEP 1:

PROVIDE 2 SETS OF SITE PLANS THAT SHOWS ALL ENTRANCES AND ACCESS POINTS TO THE PROPERTY FROM THE PUBLIC STREET (S). ALSO PROVIDE 2 SETS OF DRAWINGS OF GATE INSTALLATIONS AND AUTOMATIC OPERATING MECHANISMS


Plans must show dimensions and information such as:

  • Width of the gate / barrier

  • Type of gate/barrier operation (slide, swing, cable, chain, etc.)

  • Distance from the access roads to the gates / barriers

  • Distance from the gate to the reader

  • Location of reader

  • Location of the “9-1-1” box. (Box is to be painted red in color reflecting the numbers (9) (1) (1) in contrasting color on its face plate.

  • Location of the hold-open devices (gates shall automatically open and remain open until closed manually.)

  • Location and type of automatic opening device (s).

  • Names of public streets in immediate area

  • Any other information requested by code official

( Note : The LSB Standards showing examples of plan drawings can be viewed at City of Houston website)


Step 2:

Provide a “letter of explanation” that fully explains the type of operation and “fail safe” system.

NOTE: No electronic or battery back-up “Fail-safe” operation shall be used. All


fail-safe” operations shall be manual

Step 3:

CONTACT DESIGNATED INSPECTOR RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR GENERAL INSPECTIONS TO SCHEDULE A REVIEW OF YOUR PLANS. ONCE PLANS ARE REVIEWED FOR ACCURACY AND CONTENT THE INSPECTOR WILL THEN DELIVER THE PLANS AND “LETTER OF EXPLANATION” TO HIS/HER RESCPECTIVE SUPERVISOR FOR FINAL APPROVAL.


Example Letter for Gate Plans
Project Name: Access Gate for ABC Apartments

Location of Project: 1234 ABC Lane, Houston, TX 77001

Contractor: General Iron & Fence

Entry Gate: Gate 1


This is an automated sliding gate with a fourteen (14) feet opening. A 911 Key Box will be installed on the gate posted at a height not to exceed five (5) feet. The 911 Key Box provides a toggle switch, which when placed in the “up” position will cause the gate to slide open.

A manual disconnect option is also provided on the gate. This is performed by pulling the ring inside the fail safe box. The chain will disconnect from the gate frame.


Fire Gate: Gate 2, 3, & 4
Three (3) fire gates with 14ft open swinging gates. When the padlock is removed from the connecting arm, the gate will swing in automatically by a spring.

The gates will remain open due to a catch bar. The key to remove the padlock is located in the 911 Box. The 911 box will be installed on the gate post.


Exit Gate: Gate 5
This is a 14ft sliding exit gate. The features are the same as those described in gate 1.

Dear Residents:


This letter is to inform apartment residents of the Houston Fire Department city codes regarding OPEN-FLAME COOKING DEVICES ON BALCONIES and LP-GAS FUELED COOKING DEVICES ON BALCONIES.

FC 307.5 – OPEN FLAME COOKING DEVICES ON BALCONIES

Charcoal burners and other open-flame cooking devices shall not be operated on combustible balconies or within 10 feet (3048mm) of combustible construction. Exceptions: One and two-family dwellings, and where buildings and decks are protected by an automatic sprinkler system.

FC 307.5.1 – LP GAS-FUELED COOKING DEVICES ON BALCONIES

LP-gas burners having a LP-gas container with a water capacity greater than 2.5 pounds shall not be located on combustible balconies or within 10 feet (3048mm) of combustible construction.


In keeping in compliance with the city fire codes mentioned above, tenants are allowed to store only charcoal type grills and tabletop style propane gas grills using no more than 2.5 lbs.(small cylinders) on patios or balconies but, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES CAN A TENANT USE OR OPERATE PITS ON PATIOS OR BALCONIES. If a tenant resides in an upstairs unit, the pit must be taken downstairs and away from the building, if unit is downstairs, tenant must remove pit off patio prior to use. All pits must be a minimum of 10 feet away from the exterior of the building prior to ignition of any flame.
NOTE: Removal of Liquid Propane gas containers from the pits they supply does not abate the above code requirements which clearly state that the burners designed for tanks larger than 2.5 pounds are not to be stored on balconies or patios. Removal and / or placement of propane tanks inside the living units is strictly prohibited. Any tenant failing to comply with this notice or code provisions will be in violation and subject to action on the part of management to enforce these provisions and possible citations issued by the Fire Marshal’s office.
Residents printed name: _____________________________ Unit #__________

Residents Signature: ________________________________ Date:____/____/_____


Owners Representative:______________________________ Date:____/____/____
FORM 001

May 26, 2011

Dear Apartment Personnel,

This information has been provided to assist you in complying with the Provisions of the Houston Fire Code ( I.F.C. 2006 ) and applicable L.S.B Standards that pertain to apartment dwellings in the City Of Houston. You may download the form 001 provided on the last page of the guide and personalize it for use. It is recommended that the form be completed and placed in tenants files to verify notification if the need arises. Please feel free to contact our office if you have any questions regarding the inspection process or any of its components.

Sincerely,
Gary Rapsilver

Apartment Team Senior Inspector

Fire Marshal’s Office


GUIDE 2011






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