Those of you that follow me know my love for the International Fire Code and Mechanical Code, as well as how each state utilizes these codes.  I use these codes daily in my process safety and fire safety work as I truly believe they provide us an excellent baseline in our risk reduction efforts.  This year the state of OH has been working to revise it's state fire code to the newer IFC 2015.  This process has been very educating to me in a number of ways, but mostly from reading the comments/concerns brought forward by the commenters.  One such concern was one that I have been an unknowing party to for decades and one I am quite embarrassed to admit I never even considered.  Take a look at these pictures and tell me what you see:

gym1  Gym2

The older building codes and fires codes did NOT require older gymnasiums WITHOUT FIXED SPECTATOR SEATING to be sprinkled based on their lower level fire risks; however, at this time of year these same gyms are being used as "holiday craft fairs" and man-o-man does these events change the fire risks!  As can be seen above, in some situations they are even putting down paper to cover the floor.  And look at the occupancy load on top of the fire load!  Many thanks to Robert Bates, Madison Township Fire Department for opening my eyes to a common hazard that I have looked beyond for 20 years!

Submitter: Robert Bates, Madison Township Fire Department

OFC Sections: 903.2.1.3; 903.2.1.4

Proposed Change: Remove the following proposed new language in sections 903.2.1.3 & 903.2.1.4:

“Exception: Areas used exclusively as participant sports areas where the main floor area is located at the same level as the level of exit discharge of the main entrance and exit.”  

Statement of Problem: The original intention of this exception to allow for a means to not require sprinklers in fire areas such as school gymnasiums where the calculated occupancy could be quite high thereby requiring sprinkler protection but the actual utilization of the fire area did not result in this large occupant load.  Very few gymnasiums or similar spaces are utilized “exclusively as participant sports areas”. They are frequently utilized for additional purposes such as dances, craft shows and children’s events which in some cases involve dining. These occurrences are contrary to the 903.2.1.3(b)2 “Fire areas without fixed seating not used for exhibition or display”.  In some cases the space has been retrofitted with spectator seating, with the approval of the BBA, effectively eliminating the ”exclusivity” of the use of the fire area and placing the space in direct contradiction to the exception as written as well as the definition of an A-3 occupancy which includes; 

“Gymnasiums (without spectator seating)”.

These types of situations and occurrences result in the complete circumventing of the intent of installing sprinklers in A-3 & A-4 occupancies utilized for these purposes. This is the rationale followed by the ICC when this exception was removed from the model code several years ago and why the exception was not included in the 2011 Ohio Fire Code.

Committee Reason: The SFM understands the issue raised and shares the concerns of the Commenter but, as acknowledged in the Comment, this language was inserted into the 2017 OFC to coordinate with like provisions in the OBC. This matter should first be proposed to the BBS for consideration in their rule update process via its petition process. Officials from BBS were present during a stakeholder meeting held at the SFM offices where this issue was raised. They did hear the concerns on this matter.



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