Fire Code Reminders at SMSU

AUTOMATIC SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

Before installing automatic sprinklers, check for obstructions that will delay activation or obstruct water distribution pattern. Plan installation accordingly. Storage and equipment in areas with sprinkler systems is limited to 18" below sprinkler heads.

ELECTRICAL SERVICE BOXES

While electrical service or “breaker boxes” are generally found in maintenance or equipment areas, they are present in other campus locations. The Minnesota State Fire Code has several regulations regarding service boxes which you should keep in mind.

Closed and locked. Boxes should be kept closed at all times and even locked if in a heavily occupied area.

No exposed wires. The slots for breakers should either have a breaker or fuse in them or are covered with the proper cover for the space. An electrical service box should have no exposed wires in it.

Unobstructed access. Areas around these boxes need to be kept clear and unobstructed at all times. The Minnesota State Fire Code requires a clearance space of 78” high, 36”deep and 30” wide around them. Where practical, mark an area on the floor in front of these panels to remind people not to place anything in front of them.

Concerns with electrical services should be directed to the Physical Plant, 507-537-7106. 

EXTENSION CORDS

While use of extension cords is frequent and almost seems like a necessity, Minnesota State Fire Code has rules relating to the use of extension cords and “power strips.”

Temporary Solution. Extension cords are for temporary use, and are not meant to be a long-term solution to electrical needs. Use extension cords as a temporary situation only, not as a substitute for permanent wiring.

Good Condition. Even being used as a temporary solution, Minnesota fire code requires extension cords to be in good condition with no splices, deterioration, or damage. Use cords in a manner which will not cause them to become crimped or exposed to excessive wear. Extension cords should never be placed in areas where they will be exposed to foot traffic creating a trip hazard or an obstruction to persons attempting to exit a building. Never place the cords under rugs or mats.

Right cord for the right job. With the variety of cords and electrically energized items available, an extension cord should be designed to meet its intended use. Most cords have a label near both ends which will indicate the amperage and voltage that the cord is designed for. And lastly, when using an extension cord is utilized plug it into a proper receptacle.

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS

Fire extinguishers must be properly installed and kept accessible at all times. Ensure portable fire extinguishers are visible and unobstructed.

Hang them up. When not housed in cabinets, hand-held portable fire extinguishers must be installed on hangers or brackets. Securely anchor hangers or brackets to the mounting surface in accordance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Install within reach. A portable extinguisher having a gross weight not exceeding 40 lbs. must be installed so that its top is not more than five feet above the floor. The clearance between the floor and bottom of an installed handheld extinguisher must not be less than four inches.

OUTLETS

Outlets need to be kept in good condition and intact. If the plastic or any other parts of an outlet become damaged, repair or replace them immediately. Outlets located in floors should have some type of cover.

Concerns with electrical outlets should be directed to the Physical Plant, 507-537-7106.

POWER STRIPS

Power strips have become another frequently used tool. With our campuses having training areas which require the presence of many electrical outlets, and the abundance of computers and related equipment on all campuses, power strips are used frequently. While these devices are permissible to use, the Minnesota State Fire Code applies with use the same as with extension cords.

Approved Receptacle. If a power strip is used, it must be plugged in directly to an approved receptacle. There are two formerly common practices which are both violations of the fire code. The first is the practice of “daisy chaining” which is simply one power strip being plugged into another. The second is the practice of energizing a power strip with an extension cord. Because a power strip must be plugged directly into an approved receptacle, both of these practices are a violation of the fire code.

Overload protection. If you do use power strips, make sure that they are the type with breakers or switches which will trip if the circuit becomes overloaded.

No Gang Plugs. A “gang plug” allows three plugs into one receptacle. The Minnesota State Fire Code prohibits use of gang plugs. Instead of a gang plug, use a power strip as long as it is properly used.

WIRING AND JUNCTION BOXES

The Minnesota State Fire Code does not allow open junction boxes, switches, or any other device with exposed wiring. Make sure that your junction boxes are covered with the proper plate or cover and make sure all wiring is “unexposed” and properly installed.

Avoid “Punch Outs.” Inspect your campus for suspended receptacles constructed of metal plates which include “punch outs” in them. “Punch outs” are the metal discs which are about the size of a quarter which can easily be dislodged with finger pressure. If you are using suspended outlets in labs or shops, make sure that they are the solid body type and preferably constructed of plastic.

Concerns with electrical wiring or junction boxes should be directed to the Physical Plant, 507-537-7106.

OTHER SAFETY REQUIREMENTS

1. Fire Alarms. Pull stations for the fire alarm system must be unblocked/unobstructed at all times.

2. Exit Signs. Ensure that exit signs are lighted, either internally or externally.

3. Ceiling Clearance. Maintain proper clearance around sprinkler heads and ceilings in non-sprinklered areas at all times, particularly in storage areas. Storage should be maintained two (2) feet or more below the ceiling in non-sprinklered areas, and a minimum of eighteen (18) inches below sprinkler head deflectors in sprinklered areas.

4. Compressed gas container safety. Secure containers, cylinders, and tanks to a fixed object with one or more restraints.

5. Flammable and combustible liquids. Store flammable and combustible liquids in closed containers or portable tanks that do not exceed 60 gallons in individual capacity. Store them in approved liquid storage cabinets. 

6. Marking and Piping Systems. Mark piping systems in accordance with ASME a 13.1. Label with content’s name and include direction of flow arrow.

7. Obsolete Equipment. If a piece of fire protection equipment is out of service, remove it or clearly sign the system as being “out of service” so it is not mistaken for an active system.

8. Dryers and Vents. Build up of lint and other materials will greatly increase the odds of a fire occurring in a dryer or venting system. Clean dryer lint traps after each use, and check and clean out the entire vent system periodically or when needed to reduce fire risk.

Minnesota State Fire Code requires occupancies to have a fire safety and evacuation plan when the total occupant load is 500 or more or there is more than 100 people above or below of the level of exit discharge. When the MFSC requires a business to have an evacuation plan the State Fire Marshal’s Division does not require the plan (or map) to be posted in all classrooms. Some businesses will post a map so employees and building occupants are aware of the plan, evacuation routes, fire extinguisher locations, etc. But as long as the occupancy has a plan, has practiced that plan, and employees are aware of their responsibilities they are complying with the requirements of the fire code. Specifics can be found in section 404 of the Minnesota State Fire Code.

Please refer to the University Public Safety Fire Emergency web page for fire emergency information.

Door Wedges

The Minnesota State Fire Code requires corridors in class B occupancies to be sprinklered or have one (1) hour fire-rated doors. If the building has sprinklers, the wedging of doors is allowable providing the wedge does not create a trip hazard. 

Last Modified: 8/24/17 2:41 PM