Research Paper: Adopted Fire Prevention and Life Safety Codes for Buildings Structures

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Fire Prevention Code for the City of Dallas

The adoption of the International Fire Code and International Building Code by the city of Dallas marks a huge step for the city in the area of public safety. There have been numerous public safety incidents related to building fires in particular. Building fires are especially dangerous in the context of multi-level buildings. Multi-level buildings present heightened public safety risks for the city of Dallas because of the difficulty of exiting the building. Furthermore, the bright long-term outlook for Dallas' economy indicates a building boom, especially in the Downtown area.

The risks created by building fires extend into more than one section of the Dallas municipal code. Thus, a serious solution to this problem required revisions to multiple sections of the municipal code. Fortunately, the city of Dallas met this challenge with a comprehensive regulatory framework for public safety in buildings. Together, the Fire Code and the Building Code are integrated and comprehensive, drafted with each of the other codes in mind.

The Fire Code also marks a huge step for the city in the area of international integration. Governments in Texas have a reputation for being independent-minded regarding regulation. With its comprehensive Fire Code and Building Code, the city of Dallas has indicated its dedicated support for international public safety standards.

Report

I. The History of the Adopted Codes

The International Building Code was adopted by the city of Dallas, with amendments, in 2008. (http://www.dallascityhall.com/building_inspection/construction_codes.html). The International Fire Code was adopted by the city of Dallas, with amendments, in 2007. (http://www.dallascityhall.com/building_inspection/construction_codes.html).Before the international codes were adopted, the city of Dallas had its own fire code and building code.

II. The Permitting Process Utilized and Enforced in Dallas, TX.

According to the Building Code, "A person, firm or corporation shall not erect, construct, enlarge, add to, alter, repair, replace, improve, remove, install, convert, equip, use, occupy or maintain a structure or building service equipment without first obtaining a MASTER PERMIT from the building official." (Building Code, Chapter 52, 301.1)

Generally, a building permit is needed for work involving structural elements of a building. Permits are not required for certain construction work. Historic or conservation districts have special requirements for work on the exterior of properties. Most permits are issued at the Building Inspection Permit Center, but can be obtained at a Building Inspection District Office under some circumstances. (http://www.dallascityhall.com/building_inspection/building_inspection_faqs.html)

The Permitting process is over seen by a dedicated Building Official. "The building official who shall be appointed by the city manager shall be in administrative and operational charge of the division of building inspection." (Building Code, Chapter 52, 201.1) The Building Official may appoint technical officers and inspectors as necessary to accomplish the duties of his office.

To obtain a permit, an applicant shall first file an application in writing on a form furnished for that purpose by the building inspection division. An application must

contain the following information:

1. Identification and description of the work to be covered by the permit.

2. Description of the land on which the proposed work is to be done, by street address or similar description that will readily identify and definitely locate the proposed structure or work.

3. Indication of the use or occupancy for which any proposed structure is intended.

4. Signature of the applicant or an authorized agent, who may be required to submit evidence to indicate such authority, together with a verification of the truth and correctness of the information in the application.

5. Attachment of plans, diagrams, computations, specifications, and other data as required.

6. The name, address, and telephone number of the industrialized builder, if applicable.

7. Other information required by the building official necessary for issuance of the permit. (Building Code, Chapter 52, Administrative Procedures for the Construction Codes)

In addition to submitting a written application users can also go online to the Dallas Permits and Inspections Online website. (http://www.dallascityhall.com/building_inspection/pdf/OnlineApplications_manual.pdf) As with the written application, users will have to enter the site address, public/private classification, work description, land use, and project value. They then pay the permit fee for that particular type of project. Once approved, the user can even print the permit online. (http://www.dallascityhall.com/building_inspection/pdf/OnlineApplications_manual.pdf)

III. Explanation of the process utilized to conduct a code enforcement inspection.

The Inspection Services section is responsible for ensuring new construction meets all applicable City Codes and regulations. This involves inspecting work in progress in the field for conformity with approved plans and the following codes: Building, Electrical, Plumbing, Mechanical, Signs, Fire and Fire Sprinkler, and Energy Codes. Safety is the primary function of the inspectors. New construction is typically checked several times during various phases of construction to ensure construction is proceeding according to Code. In addition, inspectors ensure the City's site management requirements are met. (http://www.dallascityhall.com/building_inspection/inspections.html)

The person that originally applied for the permit, whether it be the homeowner or the contractor is responsible for scheduling an inspection. ((http://www.dallascityhall.com/building_inspection/inspections.html). There is a list of required inspections. (http://www.dallascityhall.com/building_inspection/required_inspections.html).

IV. Explanation of the anticipated different types of hazards that will be discovered in different types of occupancies.

Large quantities of flammable liquids, solids, and gases are found in industrial buildings, such as warehouses or factories.

Faulty electrical systems, which may cause fires through hot wires and connections, can be found in residential, commercial, or industrial buildings.

Storage areas containing combustible materials are often found in or around industrial buildings.

Combustibles near equipment that generates heat, flame, or sparks

Highly flammable candles are often found in residential buildings.

Improperly-extinguished cigarettes, cigars, and lighters are often found in residences.

Improperly sealed fireplace chimneys are found in residential buildings.

Cooking appliances, such as stoves and ovens, can cause fires if not properly turned off and are often found in residential buildings.

Heating appliances that come into contact with flammable - wood burning stoves, furnaces, boilers, portable heaters

Exposed computer power cords and cables, which can spark a fire, can often be found in office buildings.

V. Problems anticipated to be encountered during a code enforcement inspection.

Exceeding the maximum occupancy within any part of the building.

Not maintaining proper fire exits and public emergency guidance

Not maintaining fire extinguishers in easily accessible places.

Improperly storing hazardous materials that are used for operations within the building.

Improperly storing flammable materials in certain areas of the facility.

Not maintaining fire detection and warning systems.

Not maintaining a list of firestops.

Not maintaining adequate fireproofing.

Not providing adequate fire safety education and training to building users.

Conduct fire drills at regular intervals throughout the year.

VI. Anticipated Public Reaction

The city expected the residents of Dallas to be enthusiastic about the new safety codes because they were stricter and more in line with new technology. Because they are based on the International Fire Code and Building Code, they promote energy efficiency, which means reduced utility bills for compliant buildings.

Public fear of building fires were well publicized and the city had already taken steps in 2003 to add more building inspectors. (Wrolstad). From a public safety perspective, the citizens of Dallas were relieved that the city had taken steps to address the risk to public safety created by building fires. However, some citizens have been alarmed at the enthusiasm with which the city has been enforcing the building code, including one Church which was shut down for "…sheet rock falling from the ceiling; electrical issues; and structural deficiencies that must be repaired…." (Vega).

The city of Dallas was also attentive to the concerns of builders and businesses. Dallas has one of the healthiest economies in the country and the city is careful not to curb the city's attractiveness as a site for corporate headquarters. In fact, city public safety inspectors actually declined to pursue building code violations committed by the Dallas Cowboys during the construction of their defective training facility. (Formby)

The city's new focus on green building and international standards are a huge turnaround from what many of the city's residents are used to. As a city, Dallas was developed relatively early compared to many cities in the American west. Because of its early development, many buildings in Dallas were built according to outdated public safety and building codes. For this reason, the city exempted existing buildings from the new safety codes. Instead, it created a special regulatory framework for existing buildings. (Dallas Existing Building Code) This code had special provisions regarding improvements, alterations, and additions.

VII. Key components of a successful code enforcement program.

In Dallas, successful enforcement of the fire prevention and building codes require, first, education regarding the requirements and applicability of the fire prevention and building codes. Second, there must be adequate, accessible resources available for applying for a building permit and scheduling a building inspection. Third, because the building inspections are initiated by the users instead of the city government, the city must have monitoring mechanisms in place to detect users who neglect to schedule a required building inspection.

Conclusion

The city of Dallas' new Fire Code and Building Code stand as a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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