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Frankenmuth Fire Dept.
Letter to Editor

FFD inspector says keep fire safety in mind during pandemic

  COVID-19 precautions and fire safety codes have been amended a bit during this current pandemic the United States and other countries are going through.

  Frankenmuth Fire Department Inspector Dan Sherman reported that according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), they have seen some pretty extraordinary things with respect to the application of their Life Safety Code over the last month or so. In some cases, the fire code rules have needed to be bent in order to achieve the necessary goal of saving as many patients’ lives as possible at make-shift hospitals and triage areas. Sherman said this is perfectly justifiable.

  𠇏or those operating businesses, the importance of social distancing is recognized and the way we shop for groceries and other items looks much different than it did 6-8 weeks ago,” Sherman said.

   Examples are where stores have adopted practices whereby the  number  of shoppers permitted in the store is limited to avoid over-crowding; aisles have been designated as one-way to reduce the occurrence of shoppers passing one another in close proximity and; at check-out lines, marks on the floor indicate where to stand to maintain a distance six feet from other customers.

  “These are all reasonable precautions to help keep workers and customers healthy and they have no adverse impact on fire and life safety. However, the  locking of egress doors and blocking exit access paths to control access and the flow of customer traffic in the store might be well intended to enhance social distancing, but it could be extremely dangerous in the event of a fire or similar emergency requiring the evacuation of occupants,” Sherman pointed out.

  “The current health emergency might justify turning an exhibit hall into a field hospital without meeting all the prescriptive code requirements for a health care occupancy, but it does not justify compromising the means of egress from a grocery store, big box store or fast food restaurant,” Sherman added.

  A fundamental tenet of life safety from fire egress must be available to building occupants whenever a building is occupied.  If a restaurant is open for drive-through pickup only, the egress doors must be able to be opened from the inside by workers without requiring the use of a key, tool or special knowledge via one latch/lock releasing motion.

  “The same goes for entrances to grocery stores; if only one entrance is being used to control access, then other entrances serving as required can be utilized to direct shoppers to the waiting line at the designated entry point. Likewise, aisles are required egress paths and must not be blocked. Floor markings, signs and staff can all be used to direct the flow of customers while leaving the aisles accessible in and for an emergency,” the inspector said.

  Many people have died in fires over the years due to compromised means of egress.

  “The situation we, including first responders, currently face is difficult enough. We ask that owners and operators not make it any worse by creating situations having the potential to lead to a large loss-of-life fire. With a little creativity, employees and customers can be kept safe from both the coronavirus and fire,” Sherman concluded.

 


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(c) 2006 Frankenmuth News