Fire Marshal Requirements for Assembly Occupancies
An assembly occupancy, also known as a place of assembly, public assembly, or Group A occupancy, include structures or portions of structures having an occupant load of 50 or more which are occupied for the gathering of people for civic, social or religious activities, recreation, amusement, entertainment, food and drink consumption, or awaiting transportation. Also included are night clubs which are buildings or portions thereof in which the main use is a place of public assembly that provides exhibition, performance, or other forms of entertainment; serves alcoholic beverages; and provides music and space for dancing.
The Fairfax County Fire Marshal requires all assembly occupancies located in Fairfax County and the towns of Clifton, Herndon, and Vienna obtain and/or maintain the following:
- Certificate of Occupancy
- Fire Prevention Code Permit (FPCP)
- Occupant Load Sign(s)
- Fire Safety & Evacuation Plan
- Crowd Management / Fire Watch
- Compliance with the Fire Prevention Code
CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY
Assembly occupancies must first obtain a valid certificate of occupancy from the appropriate government agency in the jurisdiction where the occupancy is located.
- FAIRFAX COUNTY. In Fairfax County, a certificate of use and occupancy shall mean the permits described in the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance, as amended, including but not limited to residential use permits and non-residential use permits. No occupancy or use shall be made of any structure or of any premises, and no change in use shall be permitted, unless and until a Non-Residential Use Permit (Non-RUP) has been approved in accordance with the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance. For information about how to obtain a Non-RUP, please read the publication Non-Residential Use Permits (PDF) or call the Zoning Permit Review Branch at 703-222-1082.
- TOWN of CLIFTON. For information about how to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (i.e., Use Permit) from the Town of Clifton, please visit the Town of Clifton Online.
- TOWN of HERNDON. For information about how to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy, Zoning Inspection Permit, and/or Zoning Appropriateness Permit from the Town of Herndon, please visit the Town of Herndon Online or call the town at 703-787-7380.
- TOWN of VIENNA. For information about how to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy from the Town of Vienna, please visit the Town of Vienna Online or call the town at 703-255-6341.
FIRE PREVENTION CODE PERMIT (FPCP)
Assembly Occupancies. An operational permit must be obtained from the Fairfax County Fire Marshal prior to establishing an assembly occupancy. Operational permits issued by the County Fire Marshal are known as Fire Prevention Code Permits (FPCP). Download the FPCP application and record the following information on the application: FPCP Type: F3ASMB. The permit fee is $150.
Temporary Tents & Membrane Structures. Establishing a place of assembly in or under a temporary tent or membrane structure requires an FPCP. For detailed information about permitting, plan review, and inspection requirements related to the installation, maintenance, and occupancy of temporary tents and membrane structures, consult the following publication:
Carnivals, Fairs, Festivals, & Large Outdoor Public Assemblages. Establishing a place of assembly outdoors at events such as carnivals, fairs, festivals, and outdoor events with more than 500 persons requires an FPCP. For detailed information about permit and public safety planning requirements related to carnivals, fairs, festivals, and outdoor public assemblages of 500 people or more, consult the following publication:
Candles & Open-Flame. In accordance with Section 308.3 of the Fire Prevention Code, a person shall not utilize or allow to be utilized, an open-flame in connection with a public meeting or gathering for purposes of deliberation, worship, entertainment, amusement, instruction, education, recreation, awaiting transportation or similar purpose in Group A or E occupancies without first obtaining a Fire Prevention Code Permit (FPCP). There are two types of open-flame permits: One-Time Use and Continued Use.
- One-Time Use. A one-time FPCP is required for each event for the use of open-flame in connection with a public meeting or gathering inside a building, space, or structure including temporary tents and theatrical performances. For theatrical performances, the term "each event" may apply to an ongoing production where the open-flame device and the manner in which it is used does not deviate from the original conditions of approval. FPCP Type: F3FLM2. The permit fee is $78.
- Continued Use. An FPCP is required for the continued use of open-flame decorative devices in restaurants, drinking establishments, assembly halls, and dining areas. This permit may be renewed annually. FPCP Type: F3FLM1. The permit fee is $150
For information about Fire Prevention Code Permits (FPCP), visit Fire Marshal Permit Requirements online or call the Fire Inspections Branch at 703-246-4849.
OCCUPANT LOAD SIGN
If your business or organization is required to maintain a Fire Prevention Code Permit (FPCP) issued by the County Fire Marshal to operate an assembly occupancy, valid occupant load signs must be posted in all assembly areas. It is the responsibility of the assembly occupancy owner, operator, or manager to maintain posted occupant load signs in proper locations and in legible condition.
In accordance with Section 403.1.1 of the Fire Prevention Code, occupant load postings (signs) required by the building code are required to be maintained. The Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC) requires that every room or space that is an assembly occupancy, and where the occupant load of that room or space is 50 or more, have the maximum allowable occupant load of the room or space posted in a conspicuous place near the main exit or exit access doorway from the room or space. Assembly areas with multiple assembly, seating or use configurations, such as hotel ballrooms, school gymnasiums, eating establishments with an approved accessory dance floor, or partitioned conference rooms, may need different occupant load signs to be posted for each configuration. Spaces with an occupant load less than 50 may not require a sign; however, if a sign is desired by the assembly operator, or required by the Fire Marshal, one can be obtained.
Occupant load signs are issued by the Building Official of the jurisdiction where the assembly occupancy is located and shall serve as the official occupant load signs for posting unless otherwise approved. Occupant load signs can be obtained from the local government agency (Building Official) listed under the following jurisdictions:
- Fairfax County and the towns of Clifton and Vienna. For information about how to obtain occupant load signs for assembly occupancies located in Fairfax County, the Town of Clifton, and the Town of Vienna, please go to the Fairfax County Permit Application Center at 12055 Government Center Parkway, Second Floor, Fairfax, Virginia 22035. For more information on permit and submission requirements please call Building Plan Review at 702-222-0114 or go to the Posting of Maximum Occupant Load section of the DPWES website.
- Town of Herndon. For information about how to obtain occupant load signs for assembly occupancies located in the Town of Herndon, please go to the Town of Herndon Building Inspection Section, 777 Lynn Street, 2nd Floor, Herndon, VA 20170 or call the town at 703-435-6850.
Remember, occupant load signs must be posted near the main exit or exit access doorway from the assembly room or space, and not behind the bar, in the office, or in the file cabinet!
FIRE SAFETY & EVACUATION PLAN
Section 403.2 of the Fire Prevention Code requires that an approved fire safety and evacuation plan be prepared and maintained for all assembly occupancies other than those used exclusively for purposes of religious worship having occupant loads less than 2,000. Furthermore, fire safety and evacuation plans shall be approved by the Fire Marshal as required by Section 401.2 of the Fire Prevention Code.
For detailed information about the fire safety and evacuation planning requirements for assembly occupancies located within Fairfax County and the towns of Clifton, Herndon, and Vienna, please download and read the following publication:
You may also call the Engineering Plans Review Branch at 703-246-4806 should you have any questions about the planning and submittal process.
CROWD MANAGEMENT / FIRE WATCH
In accordance with Section 403.11.3 of the Fire Prevention Code, trained crowd managers shall be provided for facilities or events where more than 1,000 persons congregate. The minimum number of crowd managers shall be established at a ratio of one crowd manager to every 250 persons. Where approved by the fire code official, the ratio of crowd managers shall be permitted to be reduced where the facility is equipped throughout with an approved automatic sprinkler system or based upon the nature of the event. Fire watch personnel other than designated crowd managers may be required by the Fire Marshal.
The focus areas related to crowd management and fire watch include the following:
- Crowd Managers. Individual persons or job/staff positions designated as crowd mangers shall be identified in the written emergency procedures part of the public safety plan and/or approved fire safety and evacuation plan. It is recommended that alternate crowd managers also be designated and be trained as required.
- Crowd Manager Training. Designated crowd managers shall be familiar with the approved public safety plan and/or approved fire safety and evacuation plan, and be properly trained in the emergency procedures described within.
- Crowd Manager Duties. Designated crowd managers shall appropriately implement the emergency procedures described in the approved public safety plan and/or approved fire safety and evacuation plan. In addition, crowd managers shall also act as fire watch personnel and keep diligent watch for fires, obstructions to means of egress and other hazards during the time such place is open to the public or such activity is being conducted and take prompt measures for remediation of hazards, extinguishment of fires that occur and assist in the evacuation of the public from the event areas (i.e., structures, premises).
- Fire Watch Personnel. In accordance with Section 403.11.1 of the Fire Prevention Code, when in the opinion of the fire code official, it is essential for public safety in a place of assembly or any other place where people congregate, because of the number of persons, or the nature of the performance, exhibition, display, contest or activity, the owner, agent or lessee shall provide one or more fire watch personnel, as required and approved, to remain on duty during the times such places are open to the public, or when such activity is being conducted.
- Fire Watch Duties. On-duty fire watch personnel shall have the following duties: Keep diligent watch for fires, obstructions to means of egress and other hazards; Keep diligent watch for fires, obstructions to means of egress and other hazards; Take prompt measures to assist in the evacuation of the public from the structures.
For more information about these special requirements for public safety (crowd management and fire watch), please contact the Fire Inspections Branch at 703-246-4849.
COMPLIANCE WITH THE FIRE PREVENTION CODE
Assembly operators are required to comply with all applicable provisions of the Fire Prevention Code and are encouraged to evaluate the safety of their assembly occupancy by conducting periodic fire prevention code-based self-inspections. To assist in the self-inspection process, please download and use the following publication:
Questions about the Fire Prevention Code may be directed to the Fire Inspections Branch at 703-246-4849.
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department
Office of the Fire Marshal
10700 Page Avenue
Fairfax, Virginia 22030
Fire Marshal Announcements