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August 3, 2010 > Fire prevention requirements for 'assembly use'

Fire prevention requirements for 'assembly use'

By Jason Wong

Milpitas Fire Marshal Albert Zamora and Fire Prevention Engineer Jaime Garcia presented the Planning Commission with the city's "Fire Prevention on Assembly Use" policy on July 28, 2010.

The focus was on new businesses within an existing, high-occupancy building, such as day care centers, restaurants or churches. These high-density, new business types must comply with current state and local fire-prevention building codes and mandates. The latter include the following elements - preventative systems, declared occupancy loads, access for fire apparatus to the site and maintenance of these systems. New business applicants will be required to work alongside Milpitas Fire Prevention Division during the planning review of their projects.

Typically, the process comprises a myriad of operational permits, fire department inspections and preventative system approvals. During technical planning and review, the Fire Prevention Division provides the applicant with state and local fire code requirements to be incorporated into the building construction plans. Building code fire prevention features include, but are not limited to, preventative systems such as fire extinguisher, automatic fire sprinkler system, fire service water line, manually operated fire alarm system, automatic fire alarm system and fire-suppression hood in a restaurant's kitchen area.

Occupancy loads must comply with the current building codes in the form of occupancy notification signs, emergency exit requirements, emergency exit signs, emergency exit lighting, emergency exit instructions and line safety measures. Site access for fire apparatus refers to fire truck entry/admittance and fire hydrant access.

Lastly, the comprehensive prevention system must be inspected annually by the Fire Department to ensure proper maintenance and working order.

Applying state and local fire prevention building codes can be complex depending on the combination of conditions - change in building use, building square footage, and maximum occupancy load. For instance, a day-care center with 10 or more children must have a minimum of two emergency exits. A manually operated fire alarm is required for 50 or more children in a building. Restaurants with 1,000-person occupancy must have an automatic fire alarm system. Only restaurant patrons count towards the occupancy load, restaurant staff are excluded. Fire prevention measures do no apply to customers seated outside.

Citizens are encouraged to contact the Fire Department directly or call 911 to report immediate and potential fire hazard conditions and may do so anonymously. If a building is found to be non-compliant, the fire department can issue a correction notice, citation or close the building, if necessary.

Beginning January 1, 2011, a new state building code requirement will mandate all newly constructed single-family, residential homes to have a fire prevention sprinkler system. In addition, existing homes expanding living space may also have to address this new sprinkler system requirement.

For more information, contact Fire Marshal Albert Zamora on (408) 586-3371 or at azamora@ci.milpitas.ca.gov, Fire Prevention Division on (408) 586-3365 or Fire Prevention Engineer Jaime Garcia on (408) 586-3369 or at jgarcia@ci.milpitas.ca.gov.

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