46592752 - tower crane at construction site in morning sunlightDuring construction, you can get the developer/property owner to fund the work (See supporting Code Requirement information below).

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant from DHS is a valid source to obtain grant funding for laptops in each emergency vehicle as well as the preplanning software.

FM Global Launches New Fire Prevention Grant Program Financial Support for Organizations and Agencies Working to Combat Fire.

We have experienced property owners receiving 3-5% reductions in their insurance premium by preplanning through Blazemark, essentially paying for itself.

Pre-planning within the community can improve your ISO rating and property owners insurance rates.

  • Volunteer Firefighter’s Relief Act Funds (Act 84) can be used for preplanning services, software, as well as computers for each piece of fire apparatus.
  • Pennsylvania State Volunteer Fire Company Grant program can be used for preplanning services, software, as well as computers for each piece of fire apparatus.


The 2003, 2006, and 2009 International Fire Codes (which has the same requirement in the 2006 Code) have the following requirement in it under Chapter 14, “Fire Safety During Construction and Demolition” which applies to structures in the course of construction, alteration, or demolition.  These sections were moved to Chapter 33 in the 2012 International Fire Code in sections 3308.1 and 3308.2.

1408.1 Program Superintendent.  The owner shall designate a person to be the Fire Prevention Program Superintendent who shall be responsible for the fire prevention program and ensure that it is carried out through completion of the project.  The fire prevention program superintendent shall have the authority to enforce the provisions of this chapter and other provisions as necessary to secure the intent of this chapter…

1408.2 Prefire Plans.  The fire prevention program superintendent shall develop and maintain an approved prefire plan in cooperation with the fire chief.  The fire chief and the fire code official shall be notified of changes affecting the utilization of information contained in such prefire plans.

The International Fire Code also has other requirements:

  • Chapter 4 Requires Fire Safety and Evacuation Plans for Assembly, Education, High-Hazard, Institutional, R-1, R-4, High-rise, certain Mercantile and Covered Malls, Underground Buildings, and Buildings with an Atrium and Group A, E or M. These plans have a number of required items, almost all of which are included in a pre-fire plan that meets the requirements of NFPA 1620.
NFPA 1-2006 also requires prefire planning during construction, alteration, or demolition: 16.3 Fire Protection. 16.3.1 Fire Safety Program. An overall construction or demolition fire safety program shall be developed. Essential items to be emphasized include the following:
  1. Good housekeeping
  2. On-site security
  3. Installation of new fire protection systems as construction progresses
  4. Preservation of existing systems during demolition
  5. Organization and training of an on-site fire brigade
  6. Development of a prefire plan with the local fire department  
  7. Rapid communication
  8. Consideration of special hazards resulting from previous occupancies
  9. Protection of existing structures and equipment from exposure fires resulting from construction, alteration, and demolition operations [241:7.1]
16.3.2 Owner’s Responsibility for Fire Protection.* The owner shall designate a person who shall be responsible for the fire prevention program and who shall ensure that it is carried out to completion. [241:7.2.1] The fire prevention program manager shall have the authority to enforce the provisions of NFPA 241 and this chapter and other applicable fire protection standards. [241:] The fire prevention program manager shall have knowledge of the applicable fire protection standards, available fire protection systems, and fire inspection procedures. [241:] Inspection records shall be available for review by the AHJ. [241:] Where guard service is provided, the fire prevention program manager shall be responsible for the guard service. [241:7.2.2]* Prefire Plans. Where there is public fire protection or a private fire brigade, the manager shall be responsible for the development of prefire plans in conjunction with the fire agencies. [241:] Prefire plans shall be updated as necessary. [241:] The prefire plan shall include provisions for on-site visits by the fire agency. [241:]   


Annex B of NFPA 1620 – 2015 Edition

B.1       Inadequate Pre-Incident Planning, Office/Commercial High Rise, Montreal, QC, October 26, 1986.  The building was a fire-resistive 15-story high rise with stores on the basement and floor levels 1 and 2, parking garage space on floors three through five, and offices on the floors above.  There were three high-rise towers built on the commercial/parking garage plaza.  The fire broke out at approximately 5:15 p.m. on a Sunday on the 10th floor of the East Office Tower.  The tower was quickly evacuated.  The fire spread and burned for 13 hours causing a portion of one floor to collapse and resulted in heavy fire damage on the 10th, 11th, 12th and 16th floors (note – there was no numbered 13th floor) because firefighters were unable to get enough water.  The fire was eventually controlled utilizing “flying standpipes” off of ladder trucks, ladder pipes (which had difficulty reaching the upper floors), and portable master streams from adjacent towers.  There was great difficulty applying water to the top floor.  The damage to the structure and contents was estimated at $80 million (Canadian).

Several Siamese connections were installed around the complex.  The Siamese connections were identified as to the type of suppression system that each supplied, but not the specific location that the suppression system supplied.  Firefighters did not connect to the Siamese connection to the standpipe system because the connection was labeled “sprinkler system.”  Sprinklers were provided to the commercial floors of the building, but not to the offices located above.  Firefighters pressurized the connection that was labeled “standpipe system,” but this actually supplied the sprinklers on the lower floors.  Continued requests from the fire area for more pressure resulted in firefighters over pressurizing what was actually the sprinkler system Siamese, resulting in pipe failures in the commercial area causing significant damage in that area that was unaffected by the fire.  Following the fire, investigators also found a partially closed valve in the standpipe supply line.

The fire department was held liable by the Quebec Superior Court for 25% of the damages to the building, which was reported to be $51 million Canadian.  The court chastised the fire department for failing to have an updated fire prevention plan for the Alexis Nihon complex that would have identified locations of standpipes and pumps that were improperly or not used on the night of the fire.  Five firefighters were injured fighting this fire.

REFERENCE – Montreal Gazette Article, July, 1999, NFPA Fire Investigation Report

B.2       Good Pre-Incident Planning, Paper Products Warehouse, Enfield, CT, May 26, 1991.  The warehouse was 124 m x 118 m x 23 m (408 ft x 388 ft x 75 ft) high and of light noncombustible construction.  The storage racks supported the roof of the warehouse and contained eleven tiers of gift and greeting card products.  Ceiling sprinklers and eight levels of in-rack sprinklers were provided.

During an overnight shift, employees working on an automatic stacker crane in the warehouse heard a loud noise and saw sparks at the ceiling.  Power was lost to the warehouse and the remainder of the facility.  The fire department and the plant emergency organization were alerted as the fire developed at the top of the rack.  The plant emergency organization members met and directed the fire department to the fire area.

The fire department connected to a yard hydrant and advanced two 44-mm (1 ¾-in.) hose lines into the warehouse.  Fire fighters used a ladder on the stack crane to acces the fire, which was 23 m (75 ft) above the floor.  The fire was extinguished in less than 30 minutes and prior to the operation of the automatic sprinklers.

Fire and water damage was limited to three pallet loads of stock.  The operation of the warehouse was partially interrupted for 3 days while repairs were made to the electrical system.  Total damage from the fire was less than $10,000.

REFERENCE – existing NFPA 1620 App. B

B.3  Inadequate Preplanning or Communication of Preplan Information Contributes to 2 Fire Fighter Fatalities, Auto Parts Store, Chesapeake, VA, March 18, 1996.    The building involved was approximately 12 years old.  Two of the building’s exterior bearing walls were constructed with unprotected steel frames and two were constructed with masonry block.  Lightweight wood trusses with a clear span of 15.2m (50 ft) supported the store’s roof.  Because the facility was an auto parts store, it contained a wide variety of combustible and noncombustible materials, flammable auto paints (liquid and aerosol), and other flammable and combustible liquids.  During construction of this building, several roof trusses on this building had collapsed while plywood roof sheathing was being installed, injuring three construction workers.  Fire officers and fire fighters on the fire scene were unaware that the roof of the store was constructed with lightweight wood trusses.

The fire occurred when a utility worker damaged the electrical service drop conductors on the outside of the store.  Electrical arcing inside the store ignited fires that quickly involved the wood trusses supporting the roof and ignited a fire in the area of an electric hot water heater.  Though some of the fire was visible to anyone in the occupied area of the building, much of the fire was hidden in the concealed space above the store’s ceiling, and the fire was able to spread in that area.

The fire department was dispatched at 11:29 a.m.  Two fire fighters entered the building and located a small fire at the rear of the store.  The fire fighters extinguished the fire, and called for second crew and pike pole.  Approximately 20 minutes after arrival, the roof of the building collapsed and the two fire fighters were trapped inside.  The fire fighters both died of burns, with smoke inhalation being a contributing factor.

The Chesapeake Fire Department has a comprehensive company-level commercial-building inspection program.  The auto parts store had a pre-plan that was last reviewed in April 1994.  The pre-fire plan had diagrams showing the store’s location in the shopping center, had a plan showing the interior arrangement of the store, and the location of utilities.  The pre-fire plan also showed the location, distance, and flow of the three closest fire hydrants.  It is unclear if the pre-fire plan was referenced during the fire attack.

REFERENCE – NFPA Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report

B.4  Lack of Preplanning Contributes to 4 Fire Fighter Fatalities, Warehouse, Seattle, WA, January 5, 1995.   

The building in which the fire occurred was originally constructed in 1909 with a structural support system of heavy timber.  Over the years, however, the warehouse had been modified a number of times.  One of these modifications was a cripple wall (a short section of wall used to support a larger wall) that has been installed to support the joists of the floor assembly between the upper and lower levels.  Unfortunately, this cripple wall was more susceptible to fire than the building’s other structural support mechanisms and when it failed it caused the floor to fail, creating the opening into which the four fire fighters fell.

From the outside, each face of the building presented a significantly different image.  From the west side, it looked like a two-story structure constructed of various materials.  When viewed from the north, a steep grade partially obscured the details fo the building and the structure appeared to have two stories, although only one level was accessible from the east side.  From the east, it appeared to be a one-story building with no lower level.  And from the south, heavy vegetation obscured the building so that only one floor was visible until one approached the parking lot at the southwest corner.

The layout of the building, the adjacent structures, and the sloping grades made it impossible to drive around the structure to size it up.  However, it was possible, with some difficulty, to walk around the building.

Probably the most significant factor contributing to this fatal incident was the fact that the building had two levels.  Members of the crew that attacked the fire from the east thought tht they were working in a one-story structure without a basement.  Members of the crew working on the west side of the building knew that the building had two floors but thought that the interior crew was fighting with the same body of fire they were confronting.

This confusion over the number of levels and the level where the main body of fire was located allowed the crews working on the fire to operate longer than they possibly should have.   They thought they were making headway on the fire and were hitting spot fires while the main body of fire was actually working below them.

REFERENCE – NFPA Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report 

B.5  Lack of Preplanning Contributes to 3 Fire Fighter Fatalities, Pesticides Repackaging Facility, West Helena, AR, May 8, 1997.    The building involved was approximately 2 years old and of unprotected noncombustible construction.  Most of the building’s area was used for storage of product.  However, in one small production area where pesticides were repackaged there were several offices in the building.  The building was served by a wet-pipe sprinkler system.

Facility personnel discovered greenish-yellow smoke coming from a 725 kg (1600 lb.) intermediate bulk container (IBC)  containing azinphos methyl in the facility’s received area and called the fire department at 1:02 p.m.  In response, the fire department sent an engine, and additional firefighters.  The fire chief reported yellow-colored dust or smoke showing upon arrival and requested a full response, including mutual aid.

The incident commander was provided MSDS sheets on material in the facility from employees, and was advised the material was not explosive and that the primary hazard was inhalation.  The MSDS sheets were provided to the mutual aid chief officer for a more detailed review, and fire fighters were advised to don SCBA’s prior to approaching the structure.  As 4 fire fighters approached the building to conduct a more thorough size-up, an explosion occurred and a huge ball of fire and smoke mushroomed from the building.  The four fire fighters were struck by flying masonry blocks and other debris and were buried under the material.  Other fire fighters on the scene began rescue operations, during which smaller explosions were occurring.  One of the four trapped fire fighters was successfully rescued, and it was determined that the other three fire fighters could not be uncovered without the use of power equipment.  It was also reported that vital signs could not be found on any of the buried fire fighters.  Considering this information, the severity of the still growing fire and the information obtained from the MSDS, the incident commander ordered all personnel to evacuate the fire area and to withdraw to a distance he believed would be safe.

Hazmat team assistance was requested, and an area within a two-mile radius on the downwind side of the scene was evacuated.  One of the many facilities in the evacuation zeon was the local hospital.  Once hazardous materials specialists arrived on scene, it was determined that the most prudent plan of action would be to allow the fire to burn itself out, and the hazmat team personnel focused on recovering the fire fighters’ bodies.

The more detailed review of the MSDS sheets at the start of the incident by the mutual aid chief indicated that the material involved posed primarily toxicological hazards for which the fire fighters were not properly protected, and one of the sheets indicated that if the product were ignited, it would emit yellow smoke.  The mutual aid chief believed that withdrawal of the fire fighters was appropriate and was approaching the incident commander to inform him of this when the explosion occurred.  A formalized preplan of the facility had apparently not be conducted – incident engagement into the hazard area was initiated while information gathering on the situation was still being conducted. REFERENCE – NFPA Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report

B.6  Lack of Preplanning Contributes to 6 Fire Fighter Fatalities, Cold Storage and Warehouse Building, Worcester, MA, December 3, 1999.    The structure was a 6-story cold-storage and warehouse that had been vacant since 1991.  The original building was constructed in 1905, and 7 years later (1912), another building was constructed on the western side.  The exterior walls were constructed of brick, while the interior walls were covered with 6 to 18 inches (NEED METRIC EQUIVALENT) of asphalt-impregnated cork (depending on the floor level), 4 inches of polystyrene and/or foam glass, and a thin layer of glass board.  The flooring was wooden except for the flooring in the basement and first and second floors, which were concrete.  The joists consisted of heavy timbers.  Two stairwells were present; one was located on the B side of the building and extended from the basement to the flat roof, and the other was located on the C side and extended to the third floor only.  The building was essentially windowless, and although a few windows were present, they were covered with plywood.  The building entrances and exits were secured by plywood, but homeless people had gained access to the building and established living quarters.

An off-duty police officer driving by reported smoke coming from the top of the building at 1813 hours, and a full first-alarm assignment was dispatched.  It was later determined that the fire had been in progress for 30-90 minutes prior to the time of dispatch.  Firefighters from the apparatus responding on the first alarm were ordered to search the building for homeless people and fire extension.  During the search efforts, two fire fighters became lost and one sounded an emergency message.  Fire fighters who responded on the first and third alarms were then ordered to conduct search-and-rescue operations for the missing fire fighters, and the homeless people.  During these efforts, four more fire fighters became lost.  45 minutes after the dispatch, fire conditions worsened, and it was reported that structural integrity of the building had been compromised.  Command ordered all companies to evacuate the building.  After the fire had been knocked down, search-and-recovery operations commenced until the bodies of all 6 missing fire fighters were recovered, 8 days later.

Five (5) minutes after dispatch, the incident commander radioed the dispatch center and requested any available building information, but no information was ever found or received.  Due to the lack of pre-fire planning and inspection, and lack of building plans/drawings, confusion existed among the fire fighters as to the configuration and number of floors contained within the building.

REFERENCE – NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Report #99F-47 

B.7  Inadequate Preplanning Contributes to 3 Fire Fighter Fatalities, Auto Parts Store, Coos Bay, OR, November 25, 2002.    The building involved was built in 1938, was approximately 13,520 square feet and was of Type IV heavy timber construction.  The non-sprinkle red building had numerous modifications which included the addition of a warehouse and a mezzanine.  Inspections of the building had been completed by the fire department prior to the incident, however, no pre-emergency plans were ever developed.

There was a delayed notification of the fire department while occupants investigated a burning odor.  Firefighters advancing attack lines found fire in the rafters.  Roof stability deteriorated and the IC called for an evacuation, however five fire fighters were still operating in the building when the roof collapsed.  Two fire fighters were able to escape, however three were trapped.  One fire fighter was able to be removed while conditions deteriorated further, but was later pronounced dead.  It took fire fighters approximately 2 hours to control the fire before they could re-enter the building to locate the remaining 2 fire fighters who were pronounced dead on the scene.

REFERENCE – NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Report #F2002-50

B.8  Inadequate Preplanning Contributes to Fire Fighter Fatality, Restaurant/Lounge, Diamond, Missouri, February 18, 2004.  The building was a one story, non-sprinkle red commercial restaurant/lounge that was constructed of sheet metal walls and roof over wood frame and lightweight wood trusses.  The interior ceiling was metal decking attached to the bottom of the trusses, suspended from the bottom chord.  The building was approximately 5000 sq. ft., built in 1995.  None of the responding departments had inspected the building or developed a pre-incident plan.

The initial alarm was dispatched at 1331 hours for five units from three separate departments for a structure fire.  The victim, providing mutual aid, had been searching for the seat of the fire with two volunteer fire fighters from another department, when one of these fire fighters lost the seal on his SCBA face piece.  The fire fighter immediately abandoned the nozzle position and retreated out of the closest door.  The backup fire fighter also retreated out of the building when his partner left.  In the black smoke and zero visibility, the fire fighters were unaware that the victim was still inside the structure.  Soon after, the Incident Commander ordered an emergency evacuation because of an imminent roof collapse.  Personnel accounting indicted that a missing fire fighter was still inside the building when the roof partially collapsed.  After several search attempts, the victim was found in a face-down position with his mask and a thermal imaging camera cable entangled in a chair.  He was pronounced dead on the scene.

In this case, the metal building, roof and ceiling, and lightweight wood roof truss construction created a dangerous fire environment conducive to early structural collapse.  Concealed spaces above suspended ceilings allow flame spread to go undetected.  The presence of concealed spaces can be noted in pre-incident visits and referenced.  Also, a pre-incident inspection provides an opportunity to test radio transmission capabilities.  In this case, it is unknown whether the metal building interfered with communications to the victim’s designated radio channel.  It was not tested before the building was razed.  NFPA 1620 addresses the need for testing communications and interference of radio coverage during the pre-incident planning process.

REFERENCE – NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Report #F2004-10

B.9  Major Oil Depot Fire Highlights Need to Improve Pre-Incident Planning, Hertfordshire, England, December 11, 2005.  In the early hours of Sunday 11th December 2005, a number of explosions occurred at Buncefield Oil Storage Depot, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. At least one of the initial explosions was of massive proportions and there was a large fire, which engulfed a high proportion of the site. Over 40 people were injured; fortunately there were no fatalities. Significant damage occurred to both commercial and residential properties in the vicinity and a large area around the site was evacuated on emergency service advice. The fire burned for several days, destroying most of the site and emitting large clouds of black smoke into the atmosphere. The firefighting required a national response with a total of 32 Fire and Rescue Services attending in some capacity.  In total, 786,000 litres of foam was used to extinguish the fire in 22 tanks.  Insufficient guidance was available to primary responders on a number of critical early issues, such as how to assess the impact of the smoke plume on air quality.  Decisions on whether to fight the fire or to allow it to burn out in a controlled fashion depend on the availability of such assessments.  The incident exceeded the worst-case planned scenario which was a single tank fire, and the water supply lagoons on the facility were rendered useless by the incident.  Following the incident, it was determined that the main water supply lagoon may not have adequate capacity for firefighting during summer months.

A special investigative board established by the British government recommended, among other things:  Where operators depend on local services (eg the local Fire and Rescue Service) to provide alternative resources, they need to consult the local provider to identify any limitations on the availability of services. Any such limitations should be considered and addressed within the site’s emergency planning arrangements; Local authorities should review their off-site emergency response plans, and in the case of fuel storage sites, to take account of explosions and multi-tank fire scenarios; and Facilities should work in conjunction with neighboring local authorities in developing their off-site emergency plans and involve these authorities in training and in emergency exercises.

REFERENCE – Buncefield Major Incident Investigation Board Report, July, 2007

Greg Jakubowski

August, 2007



Greg Jakubowski has over 130 articles published to his credit. As a fire attack editor of Fire Rescue magazine, he has authored the Tactics column for more than thirteen years. Fire Rescue has grown significantly to its current circulation of 50,000. He has co-authored Rapid Intervention Teams, a book and accompanying training curriculum on firefighting safety for Fire Protection Publications of the Oklahoma State University. The Rapid Intervention Teams book sold out its initial printing of 5,000 in 13 months and continues to sell at a brisk pace. The training curriculum has sold almost 1000 copies across North America.   banner-top-left  

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