October 22nd, 2016
Fire and Life Safety is a very serious topic in Jersey City, Hoboken, and throughout New Jersey. The local governing bodies are cracking down on property owners who neglect to adhere to the ever changing fire and building codes. Ignorance is no excuse and the fines associated with violations of such codes can be hefty. A proactive approach to fire safety is the way to ensure safety for tenants and compliance with codes.
In New Jersey, there are a number of governing bodies for fire safety and life safety. The following are some of the main ones.
FIRE SAFETY GOVERNING BODIES IN NEW JERSEY
The mission of the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety is to serve as the central focus for the State's fire service community and the general public in all matters relating to fire safety through the development and enforcement of the State Uniform Fire Code, public education programs and firefighter training programs.
Within the Division of Fire Safety, the Bureau of Fire Code Enforcement is responsible for enforcing the State's Uniform Fire Code. The Bureau of Fire Department Services is responsible for the training and education of New Jersey's fire service, fire incident reporting, firefighter serious injury and fatality investigations and fire safety's public education.
The Division of Codes and Standards establishes and enforces building codes, in partnership with the State's municipalities, to protect the health and safety of New Jersey residents. The Division enforces the Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law, the Uniform Construction Code implementing the building, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, energy, mechanical, elevator, radon, asbestos, rehabilitation and barrier-free subcodes, and lead hazard abatement; it oversees carnival and amusement ride inspections, LPGas installations, rooming and boarding house licensing, and the State's New Home Warranty program.
The following are the most common fire and life safety systems and components that must meet the codes set forth by New Jersey's governing bodies.
FIRE ESCAPE SYSTEMS
Fire escapes are an integral component of most urban landscapes. Two forms of egress are required from each floor of a commercial or multi-family residential building. Since most older buildings do not inherently have multiple forms of egress, fire escape systems address this requirement. It is critical that fire escape systems are structurally safe for both tenants and fire fighters. Most local and national codes state that all fire escapes shall be examined and/or tested and certified every five years by a design professional or qualified examiner, who will then submit an affidavit to the fire official. Additionally, New Jersey Fire Escape Code 1028.6 states that any New Jersey fire escape or exterior stairway found to be in a state of deterioration or determined to be unsafe by the fire official shall be repaired immediately. Depending upon the structural condition, a load test of any fire escape shall be conducted before the fire escape is returned to service.
FIRE SPRINKLERS SYSTEMS
Automatic fire sprinkler systems are required in all commercial and multi-family buildings. A sprinkler system will quickly put down any small to medium fire outbreak, protecting life and property until further help arrives. NFPA has no record of a multiple-death fire (three or more persons killed) in a completely sprinklered building where the fire sprinkler system was operating properly. Fire sprinkler systems should be tested quarterly as per most urban municipal codes.
FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS
A fire alarm system is absolutely crucial to keeping people safe from fires, but simply having a fire alarm installed is not enough. Fire alarm systems must be regularly tested to make sure they are in working order and up to code. Annual inspections check all the different components of a fire alarm system, including panels, detectors, pull stations, horns, strobes, enunciators and door holders.
PORTABLE FIRE EXTINGUISHERS
Fire extinguishers give tenants the ability to quickly put out small fires before they escalate into major catastrophes. For this reason, it is important to make sure the portable fire extinguishers in a building are in working order. There’s nothing worse than reaching for a fire extinguisher and finding it doesn’t work! Fire extinguishers must be inspected, serviced, and tagged annually by a licensed fire safety company to ensure they are always up to code.
EMERGENCY AND EGRESS LIGHTING
Emergency lights and emergency exit lighting help keep order, prevent panic and facilitate safe evacuation during a fire or other emergency situation. A professional fire safety company should make sure all emergency lighting is up to code and working properly in a building by inspecting and testing all batteries, battery charging systems, bulbs and any other emergency exit lighting hardware annually.
CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS
Carbon Monoxide is a killer. New Jersey regulations for the Maintenance of Hotels and Multiple Dwellings requires the installation of Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarms. Single station Carbon Monoxide Alarms are required to be placed in the immediate vicinity (within 10 feet) of sleeping areas in every dwelling unit or guestroom in a building that contains a fuel-burning appliance or has an attached garage. CO alarms should be tested monthly by tenants and replaced as per the expiration date listed on each device.
The Elevator Safety Unit registers all elevator devices in the State of New Jersey. Elevator devices consist of elevators (hydraulic, traction, winding drum, roped hydraulic, rack & pinion and limited use limited access), escalators, moving walks, dumbwaiters, wheel chair lifts, chair lifts and man lifts. The elevator subcode is regulated under the Uniform Construction Code in Subchapter 12. There are three choices a NJ municipality may make regarding the jurisdiction of the elevator subcode in its town. It may give jurisdiction to the State, it may hire its own local Subcode Official, or it may subcontract to a third party agency. If the State has jurisdiction in a town, the Elevator Safety unit coordinates inspections between the owner, elevator company and the State. The unit conducts all cyclical and acceptance (inspections under permit) inspections. Owners are billed for inspections directly by the State.