Hypothermia Center Building Safety Criteria

When a building is used as a temporary hypothermia center, the Virginia building code requires a higher level of safety that is equivalent to overnight housing. In order to provide the essential services of hypothermia prevention and building safety, the following criteria are the minimum required for participating centers beginning with the 2013-2014 season.

  1. An emergency evacuation plan for each sleeping area shall be established.  The plan shall be available to the fire marshal and be on-site at all times.

  2. A no smoking in the building policy shall be maintained.

  3. Interconnected smoke detectors shall be installed in the sleeping areas and building corridors.

  4. In buildings with furnaces or appliances fueled by gas, propane or oil, carbon monoxide detectors shall be installed in each sleeping area.

  5. The maximum occupant capacity shall be based on 35 square feet per person in the sleeping areas.

  6. At least one staff person or volunteer shall remain awake at all times.

  7. Panic hardware (push bars or similar latch releasing mechanism) shall be equipped on exit doors of sleeping areas with a maximum occupant capacity greater than 49.

  8. Exit signs shall be illuminated or photo-luminescent (glows in the dark).

  9. Sleeping areas and their corridors leading to the exits shall be located in the sprinklered portions of the building. If the sleeping areas and corridors do not have sprinklers, the following shall also apply to mitigate the increased level of protection sprinklers provide:

    1. Sleeping areas shall have an exit door directly to the outside of the building.
    2. A nightly fire watch shall be provided.  A fire watch agreement with the fire marshal shall be signed by the responsible party.  Participating staff and volunteers shall attend training on how to conduct a fire watch.
    3. Sleeping rooms with one exit door shall be limited to a maximum occupant capacity of 49 (including staff and volunteers).
    4. The building’s use as a hypothermia center shall be limited to two weeks per season to ensure the nature of the occupancy is temporary.
    5. Other conditions identified by the fire marshal or the building official deemed necessary to provide an appropriate level of safety may be required.

  10. Two inspections by the fire marshal shall be conducted for each building to verify the criteria herein are met; one before the onset of the hypothermia prevention season and another within a month before the building is to open as a hypothermia center.  Inspections may also be requested by calling 703-246-4849, TTY 711. 


Dan Willham
Deputy Building Official
703-324-2573, TTY 711

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