Generally, fire marshals are not legally obligated to be concerned about personal care homes caring for three or less patients or buildings used wholly as dwelling houses for no more than two families and has no application to most farm structures.
However, they are usually concerned about the addition of partition systems within business offices, where it is presumed that multiple people, employees, or the general public will have access.
In the case of a fire, the mandatory fire exit signs must be visible, and so, most fire marshals will have a problem with any partition systems that might prevent occupants from seeing the fire exit signs. This is the reason that most partition systems are 60” or less in height. However, if you desire a partition system that is taller, or needs to be full height (to the ceiling), then you may be limited to only certain areas of the office, where the fire exit signs will not be blocked. One possible solution is to place additional lighted fire exit signs on the panel system, directing people to the exits. Another solution is to use some clear windows in the panel system, so that the fire exits signs can still be seen. These options of course, would be at the discretion of the local fire marshal.
Another issue concerns the use of fire sprinklers. Panel systems should not block or impede the water coming from the fire sprinkler system, if it exists. The fire marshal will be aware of the local codes that mandate the free space requirements around the sprinkler heads.
Fire marshals will also invariably ask for the panel’s fire safety rating. Most fire marshals will require a class A rating. Almost all prominent manufacturers of office panels carry this rating, but it is a good idea to ask the manufacturer for the rating, so that it can be shown to the fire marshal upon request.
All buildings, in additional to any fire sprinkler requirements, need to have fire extinguishers. They must be placed in prominent locations, and be readily accessible. A panel system cannot block access to the fire extinguisher, and the fire extinguishers location must be easy to figure out, with proper signage if needed.
The Fire Alarm is a system is designed to alert occupants to evacuate the building, in case of a fire. The audible alarm should be easily heard throughout the building. In the case of a floor to ceiling partition system, in particular a system with an enhanced acoustic rating, this alarm noise could be subdued. This could result in the need for additional alarms, or the removal, or modification of the partition system pursuant to the Fire marshals requirements.
Fire marshals in most parts of the country conduct routine inspections of business’s to make sure that they are in compliance with the local fire codes. Any situation that the Fire marshal deems unsafe, will require a correction. Panel systems can be fairly expensive, and if it conflicts with fire safety, the Fire marshal may order it to be removed. Since panel manufacturers seldom entertain refunds, this could spell trouble.
These are the typical things that fire marshals will be concerned with regarding a partition system in a typical office. To avoid a waste of investment money, it is wise to discuss the proposed partition system with the fire marshal, in advance of purchasing a partition system from a manufacturer.
LC Enterprise, 363 W 3rd St. Perris CA 92570