Tricks Of The Trade: Fire Extinguisher Codes

By B. Kevin Folsom, CEP
Published in the January/February 2014 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

QWe are trying to determine the national fire extinguisher code requirements for vacant buildings, and I have been getting a variety of answers. If we have a vacant property with no combustible materials, are our clients required by code to keep fire extinguishers up to date? There have been cases of people breaking into properties and spraying the extinguishers. In a recent case there were extinguishers left outside, and they used the extinguishers to break into a door.

Terri Brumley
Assistant Facilities Manager
Southfield, MI

AThanks for your question. Due to fire safety being governed at the local fire marshal and building inspections office and according to their interpretation, I’m not going to quote or interpret fire code. The best way to find an answer on this matter is to contact these offices. However, I can tell you of three major issues that officials think about with fire safety and vacant buildings:

  1. Are all utilities disconnected?
  2. Will anyone be in the building who might need a fire extinguisher (e.g., plumbers welding with fire, electricians pulling and testing electrical circuits, etc.)?
  3. Is there anything that is unsafe to fire and rescue people should they be called to the facility to service something?

In most cases, if all utilities are disconnected, if the facility can be secured reliably, and no one is to enter the facility without being authorized and instructed to bring a fire extinguisher with them (by posting signs on the doors), then you may not be required to keep fire safety components active and up to date. Nevertheless, you are required to report this to the local city building inspections and local fire department.