Office of the Fire Marshal

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Office Hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, Lobby Hours: 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Monday-Friday

703-246-4800
TTY 711

12099 Government Center Parkway
Fairfax, VA 22035

John Walser,
Battalion Chief

Fire Watch Personnel

CODE COMPLIANCE GUIDELINE

Required Duties and Emergency Responder Notification

This page outlines the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code (i.e., Fire Prevention Code or SFPC) requirements related to the (i) duties of fire watch personnel and (ii) requirements for emergency responder notification. This is not an Order of Fire Watch, which is a legal order issued by the Fire Marshal, but rather a guide to those persons responsible for conducting a fire watch and calling for help in the event of an unwanted fire or emergency.

Questions regarding the content of this publication should be directed to the Fire Inspections Branch at 703-246-4849 during regular office hours, Monday thru Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

 

OVERVIEW

There are generally two circumstances when the Fire Marshal's Office requires a fire watch in a building or occupancy for the purpose of enhancing life safety: 1) Special activities and/or at-risk occupancies; 2) Out of service fire protection systems. A fire watch is accomplished through the use of dedicated, informed, and trained fire watch personnel having an increased level of situational awareness, along with the knowledge of what to do if a fire is discovered. The focus of the fire watch is three-fold: (a) Compensate for a potentially reduced level of occupant self-preservation; (b) Guard against a condition posing an increased risk to the occupants; and/or (c) Compensate for a reduced level of fire protection resulting from an out of service fire protection system (e.g., fire alarm, fire sprinkler, fire pump, etc.).

  • Special Activities and/or At-Risk Occupancies. In accordance with sections 403.11.1 and 403.11.1.1 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 an activity requiring a fire watch is being conducted.
  • Out of Service Fire Protection Systems. In accordance with Section 901.7 of the Fire Prevention Code (as amended by Fairfax County), where a fire protection system is out of service, the fire official may order an approved fire watch for all premises left unprotected by the shut down until the fire protection system has been returned to service.

 

FIRE WATCH PERSONNEL

In accordance with sections 403.11.1.2 of the Fire Prevention Code, fire watch personnel shall:

  1. Keep diligent watch for fires, obstructions to means of egress and other hazards.
  2. Take prompt measures for remediation of hazards and extinguishment of fires that occur.
  3. Take prompt measures to assist in the evacuation of the public from the structure.

 

EMERGENCY RESPONDER NOTIFICATION

In accordance with sections 401.3, 901.7, and 5003.3.1 of the Fire Prevention Code (as amended by Fairfax County), notification of emergency responders shall be as follows:

  • Fire Events. In the event an unwanted fire occurs on a property, the owner or occupant shall immediately notify the fire department (911) and implement the evacuation plan. When an unwanted fire is discovered, do not delay! Notify the occupants, evacuate the structure as appropriate, and immediately call 911! Remember, a person shall not, by verbal or written directive, require any delay in the reporting of a fire!
  • Alarm Activations. Upon activation of a fire alarm signal, employees or staff shall immediately notify the fire department (911) and implement the evacuation plan. This includes activation of monitored fire alarms designed to automatically call the fire department upon activation; employees or staff must also call 911 to report the fire alarm signal.
  • Hazardous Materials Release. Any person who witnesses, discovers, or otherwise has knowledge of a spill, leak or other release of a hazardous material or other material that may negatively impact the environment, regardless of quantity, shall immediately report such spill, leak or release to the Department of Public Safety Communications (DPSC) by calling 911.
  • Out of Service Fire Protection Systems. Where a fire protection system is out of service, the fire department and the fire code official shall be notified immediately by calling the Office of the Fire Marshal at 703-246-4821 during regular office hours (M-F, 7a-3p). Otherwise, call DPSC after-hours at 703-691-2131 to make this non-emergency notification.
  • Delayed Notification Prohibited. A person shall not, by verbal or written directive, require any delay in the reporting of a fire to the fire department.
  • False Report Prohibited. It is unlawful for a person to give, signal, or transmit a false alarm.
  • Interference with F.D. Operations Prohibited. It shall be unlawful to interfere with, attempt to interfere with, conspire to interfere with, obstruct or restrict the mobility of or block the path of travel of a fire department emergency vehicle in any way, or to interfere with, attempt to interfere with, conspire to interfere with, obstruct or hamper any fire department operation.

 

DOCUMENTING THE FIRE WATCH

When a fire watch is conducted, and involves periodic patrols or tours of the areas of the structure or occupancy on fire watch, or when a fire watch log is specifically required, the following minimum information must be recorded in a written record such as this:

FIRE WATCH LOG

Date Tour Start Tour End Areas Checked Findings/Actions Name
4/15/17 0700 0720 All Floors Clear J. Firewatch
4/15/17 0800 0820 All Floors Clear J. Firewatch
4/15/17 0900 0925 All Floors Smoke on 4th floor, 911 called, alerted occupants. J. Firewatch
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