Contact Us

973 - 773 - 3359

Name
Name


Passaic, NJ, 07055
United States

973-773-3359

Fire Code Violations

Windowless basement fire code violation abatement

 

NEW JERSEY UNIFORM FIRE CODE

WINDOWLESS BASEMENT FIRE CODE VIOLATION ABATEMENT  

Application of the New Jersey Uniform Fire Code (NJUFC) is one of the many and varied services provided by most fire departments in the State of New Jersey. More importantly, it is a provision of service to which the “consumer public” or general citizenry is entitled. In order to better understand the NJUFC, a review of the events leading up to its enactment is imperative. 

The State of New Jersey, along with the rest of the Nation, experienced an exceptionally large number of fires and fire deaths during the 1960’s, 1970’s and into the 1980’s. In addition to significant fires and fire deaths in New Jersey’s larger cities, two major fires with multiple fire deaths occurred in municipalities within Monmouth County. The Brinley Inn fire in Bradley Beach in 1980 resulted in the deaths of 24 people and the Beachview Rest Home fire in Keansburg in 1981 resulted in the deaths of 31 people. These tragedies were a major impetus, which led to enactment of the Uniform Fire Safety Act on November 12, 1983. State Senator John P. Caufield, who was also Director of the Newark Fire Department at the time, was one of the primary proponents of this legislation.

The purpose of the Uniform Fire Safety Act was the creation of a Fire Safety Commission whose responsibility was to ensure that all areas of the State are protected by a uniform, minimum fire safety code so that the lives and property of the State’s citizens are guarded against the hazards presented by fire. Pursuant to enactment of the Uniform Fire Safety Actand the efforts of the Fire Safety Commission, the New Jersey Uniform Fire Code was adopted on February 19, 1985. The State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Division of Fire Safety oversees its application. 

The NJUFC, in addition to regulating fire safety inspections throughout the State, also governs mandatory requirements for firefighter training, firefighter instruction, firefighting equipment, fire investigations, the management of fire and related emergency incidents, etc. With regard to fire safety, the NJUFC is essentially divided into two separate areas. The Fire Prevention Code, which was enacted as part of the NJUFC on February 19, 1985, and the Fire Safety Code, which was enacted as an addition, to the NJUFC on June 16, 1986. The Fire Prevention Code regulates the proper maintenance of existing fire protection features of an occupancy; whereas, the Fire Safety Code addresses retrofit requirements in which modifications must be made to address the lack of fire safety in an occupancy. The most recent example of a retrofit requirement is Governor Whitman’s signing into law on July 5, 2000 the “Sprinkler Bill” which requires all public and private colleges and boarding schools to install sprinklers. This law was enacted in response to the unfortunate and tragic deaths of Seton Hall University students as a result of a fire in their dormitory on January 19, 2000. Some other aspects of the NJUFC are as follows:

• Certificates of Smoke Detector and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Compliance (CSDCMAC) – prior to the sale, lease or change of occupancy of a residential dwelling unit, a CSDCMAC must be obtained. This certification attests to the fact that working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are properly located in residences.

• Windowless Basements – requires firefighter access openings, of specific dimensions, to provide entry into a below grade area; if an access opening is not of the required dimension, a fire detection system or fire suppression system is required. This section of the NJUFC was enacted due to the death of a New Jersey Firefighter in a basement fire lacking an appropriate access opening as well as a fire detection system or a fire suppression system.

REQUIREMENTS FOR WINDOWLESS STORIES / BASEMENTS

5:70—4.7 Fire suppression systems

(h) In all buildings, any windowless basement or story located below the seventh story shall be equipped throughout with an automatic fire suppression system installed in accordance with the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code.

1.    Stories or basements shall not be considered windowless when there is provided on at least one side of such story or basement fire fighter access through openings, such as windows, doors or access panels, that are located entirely above the adjoining grade level.

2.   Such openings shall be at least:

    i.    32 inches by 48 inches in size, spaced not more than 100 feet apart in         each story or basement; or

    ii.    22 inches by 42 inches in size, spaced not more than 30 feet apart in each story or basement.

3.   All openings for fire fighter access shall conform to all the following:

    i.    Openings shall be unobstructed to allow fire fighting and rescue operations from the exterior; and

    ii.    Openings in stories at or above grade shall have a sill height of not  more than 36 inches as measured from the finished floor level.Openings in basements shall have no sill height restrictions; and

    iii.    Openings shall be readily identifiable and open-able from the outside or shall be glazed with plain flat glass.

4.    When openings in a story are provided on only one side and the opposite wall of such story is more than 75 feet from such openings, the story shall be considered windowless unless openings as specified above are provided on at least two sides of the exterior walls of the story.

5.    If any portion of a basement is located more than 75 feet from openings as specified above, the basement shall be considered windowless.

6.    Windowless basements not exceeding 3,000 square feet in area shall be exempt from this automatic suppression requirement, provided a supervised automatic fire alarm system shall be installed in accordance with the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code.

7.    In windowless basements greater than 3.000 square feet, but not exceeding 10,000 square feet in area, the required suppression system need not be connected to a water supply other than an existing domestic supply if the following conditions are met:

    i.   The suppression system shall be provided with a fire department connection, which shall be marked with a sign reading “Basement Area Sprinkler Water Supply”; and

ii.A supervised automatic fire alarm system shall be installed in accordance with the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code.

Truss Placards – requires structures of truss construction to be identified as such by having an emblem of a bright, reflective color and in the shape of a triangle affixed to them. This section of the NJUFC was enacted to alert firefighters to the truss construction of structures after the deaths of five New Jersey Firefighters in the collapse of a truss constructed structure involved in fire. 

• Amusement Buildings – all structures that are designed to disorient, reduce vision, present barriers or impede the flow of traffic (such as haunted houses or houses of terror) are to be equipped with fire detection and suppression systems as well as various other fire safety provisions. Once again, this section of the NJUFC was enacted after a tragedy, the deaths of several teenagers in a haunted house in a New Jersey amusement park. 

• Fire Safety Permits (FSP’s) – a FSP is required in order to maintain, store or handle materials, or to conduct processes which produce conditions hazardous to life or property, or to install equipment used in connection with such activities. Some examples for which a FSP is required include the use of a torch, welding or cutting operations, discharging of fireworks, fumigation, bonfires, etc. 

• General Fire Safety – pertains to a multitude of issues, which are specifically addressed within the NJUFC. This includes maintenance of fire detection and suppression systems, fire extinguishers, means of egresses, storage and housekeeping, electrical safety, heating appliance safety, cooking appliance safety, etc. 

 

The NJUFC is extremely detailed and as a result, it requires competent fire inspectors to interpret and apply. Prior to becoming a fire inspector, an individual must become certified as a fire inspector and in order to become certified, appropriate coursework must be satisfactorily completed and a passing grade on an exam attained. In addition, once certified, the fire inspector must complete required continuing education training on an annual basis. Furthermore, if a fire inspector knowingly fails to perform his duty as imposed by the NJUFC, he or she can be held criminally liable.

In conclusion, the citizenry of the State of New Jersey is indeed fortunate, that fire safety is regarded as such a serious matter and therefore, that we are all entitled to a minimum, acceptable level of fire safety as well.

 


SUBJECT:                   Subchapter 4 Supervision of Alarm Systems;

                                      And windowless story or basements


REFERENCE:              N.J.A.C. 5:70-4.7(h) 6., N.J.A.C. 5:70-4.7(h) 7.ii.,

                                       N.J.A.C. 5:70-4.7(k), and N.J.A.C. 5:70-4.9(c)


ISSUE DATE:              June 21, 2006


This bulletin is intended to provide guidance concerning supervision of fire suppression and fire alarm systems as required by Subchapter 4, the retrofit provisions.


I.Fire Suppression and/or Fire Alarm System Supervision


Two sections of Subchapter 4 address the monitoring of fire suppression systems and the monitoring of automatic fire alarm systems.


                     N.J.A.C. 5:70-4.7

                     (k) Fire suppression systems required by this code shall be supervised by one of the following methods as determined by the fire official:

1.Approved central station system in accordance with NFiPA 71,

2.Approved proprietary system in accordance with NFiPA 72D,

3.Approved remote station system of the jurisdiction in accordance with NFiPA 72C; or 

4.Approved local alarm service which will cause the sounding of an alarm in accordance with NFiPA 72A;

5.The following are exceptions to (k) above:

i.Underground gate valves with roadway boxes;

ii.Halogenated extinguishing systems;

iii.Carbon dioxide extinguishing systems;

iv.Dry chemical extinguishing systems; and

v.Limited area sprinkler systems.

                                                                                                                 


                       N.J.A.C. 5:70-4.9

                     ( c) Automatic fire alarm systems required to be supervised by this code shall employ one of the following methods as determined by the fire official

1.Approved central station system in accordance with NFiPA 72;

2.Approved proprietary system in accordance with NFiPA 72D;

3.Approved remote system of the jurisdiction in accordance with NFiPA 72C;

4.Approved local alarm service which will cause the sounding of an alarm in accordance with NFiPA 72A.


In both of these sections the choice of the supervising method to be employed is the choice of the fire official. It is not the choice of the owner/occupant. To properly reflect this provision of the code, ALL violation notices issued that involve wither of these supervision sections shall specify the method to be utilized.


All of the referenced standards listed for the types of supervision require electrical supervision of the system status with visual and audible indications of alarm activation, trouble alarms and supervisory alarms. In addition to the alarm system panel installed in the protected premise, Method No. 1 central station, Method No. 2 proprietary and Method No. 3 remote station system supervision all require off site supervising services to be employed. 


Method No. 4, “Approved local alarm which will cause the sounding of an alarm in accordance with NFiPA 72A” is intended to have the fire alarm panel installed in a constantly attended location to ensure that someone is present to act on any trouble signals and to call the fire department in the event of alarm activation. Whether the signal devices are bells, horns, buzzers, chimes or sirens, they must be heard at all times by someone responsible to act on them. Trouble signals are required to be distinct from alarm signals.


When these supervisory methods were enacted in Subchapter 4 they were developed based upon the provisions for monitoring found in the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) at that time. The UCC was based upon the building code developed by the Building Officials and Code Administrators International with the 1984 edition of the Basic Building Code being in effect when the initial provisions of the Retrofit Code was enacted and the 1987 edition being in effect when the Windowless Story and Basements language was added. Following is the language from those two editions.



II.Windowless stories or basements


In addition to protecting the occupants of the building, the windowless story or basement suppression requirement, N.J.A.C. 5:70-4.7(h), is specifically intended to address firefighter safety.  The intent of the provisions is to protect firefighters by providing for early detection, early suppression and the sounding of an alarm. The objective of the code is that a fire suppression system be installed.



Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:70-4.7(h) 6.:


               “Windowless basements not exceeding 3,000 square feet in area shall be exempt from this automatic suppression requirement, provided a supervised automatic alarm system shall be installed in accordance with the New Jersey Construction Code.”,


and,


Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:70-4.7(h) 7.:


               “In windowless basements greater than 3,000 square feet, but not exceeding 10,000 square feet in area, the required suppression system need not be connected to a water supply other than existing domestic supply if the following conditions are met:


i.The suppression system shall be provided with a fire department connection, which shall be marked with a sign reading “Basement Area Sprinkler Water Supply”; and 

ii.A supervised automatic fire alarm system shall be installed in accordance with the New Jersey Construction Code.”


The intent of this provision was to allow the installation of an automatic fire alarm system as an alternative to a fire service water supply or to a suppression system provided there was early detection of a fire and immediate notification of the fire department. There is no firefighter protection provided with an automatic fire alarm system if the system is not supervised to provide for immediate notification of the fire department either through an off site monitoring service or a local alarm sounding in a constantly attended location where someone has the responsibility to call the fire department. 


When applying either of these alternatives to the fire suppression system requirement the Fire Official does not apply the supervision section of Subchapter 4 because in both instances the retrofit language specifies that the “…system shall be installed in accordance with the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code.” The system will then be installed and supervised by the standards as specified by the UCC. All editions of which since 1984 provide for either off site monitoring, or the sounding of an alarm in a constantly attended location. 


If the responsible owner or agent of the building the windowless story or basement requirement is being applied to does not agree with the alternative to suppression by installing a supervised automatic fire alarm system, then refer them to N.J.A.C. 5:70-4.7(h) and have them install an automatic fire suppression system. In that case there would be no requirement for supervision if the space is small enough that it can be protected by a limited area sprinkler system.



HISTORICAL BACKGROUND


BOCA Basic Building Code / 1984


SECTION 1718.0 SUPERVISION

1718.1 Fire Suppression Systems:

Fire suppression systems required for buildings of Use Groups A, E, I, or R shall be supervised by methods 1, 2, 3, or 4 below. All other fire suppression systems shall be supervised by one of the following methods.


1.Approved central station system in accordance with NFiPA 71 listed in Appendix A.

2.Approved proprietary system in accordance with NFiPA 72D listed in Appendix A.

3.Approved remote station system of the jurisdiction in accordance with NFiPA 72C listed in Appendix A.

4.Approved local alarm service, which will cause the sounding of an audible signal at a constantly attended location in accordance with NFiPA 72A listed in Appendix A.

5.Locking valves open.


Exceptions


1.Underground gate valves with roadway boxes;

2.Halogenated extinguishing systems;

3.Carbon dioxide extinguishing systems;

4.Dry chemical extinguishing systems; and

5.Limited area sprinkler systems.


1718.2 Fire protection systems:

All required fire protection systems shall be connected to an approved central-station system, proprietary system or remote-station system of the jurisdiction, when approved by the fire subcode official.


Exceptions


1.Fire suppression systems shall conform to section 1718.1

2.Standpipe systems.

3.Fire alarm systems in occupancies in buildings of Use Group R when less than 5 stories in height.

4.Single station detectors required by Section 1716.3.4.



BOCA Basic Building Code / 1987


SECTION 1020.0 SUPERVISION

1020.0 Fire Suppression Systems:


Fire suppression systems required for buildings of Use Groups A. E, I, or R shall be supervised by methods 1, 2, 3, or 4 below.  All other fire suppression systems shall be supervised by one of the following methods.


1.Approved central station system in accordance with NFiPA 71 listed in Appendix A.

2.Approved proprietary system in accordance with NFiPA 72D listed in Appendix A.

3.Approved remote station system of the jurisdiction in accordance with NFiPA 72C listed in Appendix A. 

4.Approved local alarm service which will cause the sounding of an audible signal at a constantly attended location in accordance with NFiPA 72A listed in Appendix A.

5.Locking valves open.


Exceptions


1.Underground gate valves with roadway boxes;

2.Halogenated extinguishing systems;

3.Carbon dioxide extinguishing systems;

4.Dry chemical extinguishing systems; and

5. Limited area sprinkler systems.


1020.2 Fire protection systems:


All required fire protection systems, other than fire suppression systems, shall be connected to an approved central-station system, proprietary system or remote-station system of the jurisdiction, when approved by the fire subcode official. Fire suppression systems shall conform to section 1020.1


Exceptions


1.Standpipe systems.

2.Fire alarm systems in buildings of Use Group R when less than 5 stories in height.

3.Single station detectors required by Section 1018.3.5.

4.Smoke detectors in buildings of Use Group I-3.


Take note that in the UCC the choice to use ‘local alarm service’ was limited to fire suppression systems. The concept within the code explaining the difference was that fire protection systems were only announcing the existence of the fire to cause evacuation and to cause notification of the fire department for responses to suppress the fire.

The UCC also clarified that when the local alarm service was utilized the alarms must sound in a constantly attended location. This is a reflection of what the referenced standard called for to ensure that if a trouble signal occurred the system was repaired and if an alarm signal occurred the fire department would be notified.


It was never the intent of subchapter 4 to be less restrictive than the UCC beyond extending the ‘local alarm service’ option to the automatic fire alarm systems for the existing buildings. When requiring compliance with the provisions of subchapter 4 as it applies to fire protection supervision it is the responsibility of the Fire Official to ensure that the supervision to be provided at any particular location in accordance with the choice of ‘local alarm service in accordance with NFPA 72A’ includes that the alarm will be heard by someone at all times and that the fire department will be notified whenever an alarm signal occurs. If the Fire Official cannot ensure that will occur, then the local alarm service method is not to be designated.