This page outlines the fire safety and evacuation planning requirements for certain mercantile occupancies located within Fairfax County and the towns of Clifton, Herndon, and Vienna. Mercantile occupancies, also known as Group M buildings, include buildings and structures, or portions thereof, accessible to the public used primarily for the display and sale of merchandise, and involve stocks of goods, wares, or merchandise incidental to such purposes.
FIRE SAFETY & EVACUATION PLAN REQUIRED. In accordance with Section 404.2 of the Fire Prevention Code, an approved fire safety and evacuation plan shall be prepared and maintained for all mercantile occupancies having an occupant load of 500 or more persons for the entire occupancy or 100 or more persons for areas of the occupancy located above or below the lowest level of exit discharge. The minimum required contents of the plan, along with plan maintenance requirements, are outlined on pages two and three of this publication. Specific use and occupancy-related requirements, employee training and response, emergency evacuation drills, and emergency responder notification are also addressed.
Pursuant to Section 401.2 of the Fire Prevention Code, required fire safety and evacuation plans shall be approved by the Fire Marshal's Office. To accomplish this approval, required fire safety and evacuation plans shall be submitted to the Office of the Fire Marshal for review. The review is conducted to ensure the requirements of the Fire Prevention Code are addressed.
SUBMITTAL INSTRUCTIONS. Submit three (3) copies of the fire safety and evacuation plan, along with a self-addressed return envelope, appropriately sized for the material submitted, to the following address for review:
Fairfax County Fire Marshal's Office
ATTN: Revenue & Records Branch (Evacuation Plans)
12099 Government Center Parkway
Fairfax, VA 22035
An hourly fee of $156 will be charged for the review of the fire safety and evacuation plan. Hourly fees are charged in quarter hour increments ($39), rounded to the next quarter hour. Do not include a payment with your plan submittal. You will be billed. Be sure to provide an accurate billing address along with contact information for the person responsible for the plan.
RETRIEVING THE APPROVED PLAN. After the plan is reviewed and approved, please make arrangements to retrieve copies of the approved plan. The Office of the Fire Marshal will retain one copy of the approved plan on file. Plans may be retrieved one of two ways, either picked up at our office during regular office hours or returned by mail. To find out the status of your submitted plan, contact 703-246-4803 during regular office hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The fire safety and evacuation plan for mercantile occupancies consist of four (4) main parts:
Floor Plan with Evacuation Routes Shown
COVER PAGE (Part 1)
The cover page shall contain the occupancy name, address, and the following information:
- Name, address, and telephone numbers of the building management company.
- Name, address, and telephone numbers of the building owner (if not management).
- Type of mercantile occupancy (i.e., clothing, furniture, grocery, hardware, etc.)
- Square footage of occupancy and number of occupied floors above- and below-grade.
- Identification and assignment of personnel who can be contacted for further information or explanation of duties under the plan.
- Emergency contact information for key operational personnel and building owner’s agent.
WRITTEN PLAN (Part 2)
The written plan shall contain the following information and/or procedures:
- Reporting Fire Emergencies
- Describe the preferred and any alternative means of reporting fires and other emergencies to the fire department or emergency response organizations.(404.2.2.1)
- Evacuation Procedures & Escape Routes
- Designate emergency egress or escape routes, and whether evacuation of the building is to be complete or, where approved, by selected floors or areas only. (404.2.1.1)
- Explain the life safety strategy and procedures for notifying, relocating, or evacuating occupants, including occupants who need assistance. (404.2.2.2)
- Describe the preferred and any alternative means of notifying occupants of a fire or emergency, and where provided, include a description of the emergency voice/alarm communication system alert tone and preprogrammed voice messages. (404.2.1.10)
- Accountability of Evacuees
- Designate the evacuation assembly area(s) on the exterior of the occupancy. (404.2.2.3.1)
- Explain the procedures for accounting for employees and occupants after evacuation has been completed. (404.2.1.5)
- Emergency Response Duties
- Explain the procedures for employees who must remain to operate critical equipment before evacuating, if applicable. (404.2.1.2)
- Explain the procedures for assisted rescue of persons unable to use the general means of egress unassisted. (404.2.1.4)
- List the identification and assignment of personnel responsible for rescue or emergency medical aid, if applicable. (404.2.1.6)
- Occupancy Hazards
- List all major fire hazards associated with the normal use and occupancy of the premises, including maintenance and housekeeping procedures. (404.2.2.5)
- List the identification and assignment of personnel responsible for the fire protection systems, maintenance, housekeeping, and controlling fuel hazard sources. (404.2.2.6-7)
FLOOR PLAN (Part 3)
The floor plan for each floor or area shall clearly illustrate the following information:
- Location inside building (i.e., floor, section, above-grade, below-grade).
- Location of all exit corridors, exit stairs, and exits serving the occupancy.
- Primary evacuation routes leading to the designated assembly point (solid lines).
- Secondary evacuation routes leading to the designated assembly point (dashed lines).
- Accessible egress routes, areas of refuge, and exterior areas for assisted rescue. **
- Location of all fire alarm and fire suppression manual activation stations.
- Location of all portable fire extinguishers.
- Location of fire alarm display and/or control panels (if applicable).
**Accessible egress route means facilities accessible to persons with physical disabilities.
SITE PLAN (Part 4)
The site plan shall clearly illustrate the following information:
- Building footprint showing location of all exit discharges serving the occupancy and paths leading to the public way.
- Location of designated evacuation assembly area(s) identified in the written plans.
- Routes of fire department and emergency vehicle access (all sires of building).
Once you have completed all four (4) parts of the plan, double-check the plan to ensure that all Fire Prevention Code requirements outlined on this page are addressed. Then, assemble three (3) copies of the completed plan, and submit for review and approval as specified.
AVAILABILITY & DISTRIBUTION OF PLAN
In accordance with Section 404.4 of the Fire Prevention Code, fire safety and evacuation plans shall be available in the workplace for reference and review by employees, and copies shall be furnished to the fire code official for review upon request. In addition, fire safety and evacuation plans shall be distributed to the tenants and building service employees by the owner or owner’s agent. Tenants shall distribute to their employees applicable parts of the fire safety plan affecting the employees’ actions in the event of a fire or emergency.
MAINTENANCE & UPDATE OF PLAN
In accordance with Section 404.3 of the Fire Prevention Code, fire safety and evacuation plans shall be reviewed or updated annually or as necessitated by changes in staff assignments, occupancy, or the physical arrangement of the building.
EMPLOYEE & STAFF TRAINING REQUIREMENTS
The Fire Prevention Code requires employees and staff of mercantile occupancies to be trained in the fire emergency procedures described in their approved fire safety and evacuation plans. Training shall be based on these plans. Employees shall receive training in the contents of fire safety and evacuation plans and their duties as part of new employee orientation and at least annually thereafter. Records shall be kept and made available to the fire marshal upon request.
- Fire Prevention Training. Employees/Staff shall be apprised of the fire hazards of the materials and processes to which they are exposed. Each employee shall be instructed in the proper procedures for preventing fires in the conduct of their assigned duties.
- Evacuation Training. Employees/Staff shall be familiarized with the fire alarm and evacuation signals, their assigned duties in the event of an alarm or emergency, evacuation routes, areas of refuge, exterior assembly areas, and procedures for evacuation.
- Fire Safety Training. Employees/Staff assigned fire-fighting duties shall be trained to know the locations and proper use of portable fire extinguishers or other manual fire-fighting equipment and the protective clothing or equipment requires for its safe and proper use.
FIRE DEPARTMENT (911) NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
In accordance with sections 401.3 of the Fire Prevention Code, 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 to the fire department (911) and implement the evacuation plan.
- Alarm Activations. Upon activation of a fire alarm signal, employees or staff shall immediately notify the fire department (911) and implement the evacuation plan.
- 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 (911).
- Delayed Notification. A person shall not, by verbal or written directive, require any delay in the reporting of a fire to the fire department.
- False Report. It shall be unlawful for a person to give, signal, or transmit a false alarm.
- Interference with F.D. Operations. 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.
EMERGENCY EVACUATION DRILLS
In accordance with Section 405 of the Fire Prevention Code, emergency evacuation drills complying with the provisions listed below shall be conducted at least annually or when required by the fire code official. Drills shall be designed in cooperation with the local authorities.
- Purpose. Emergency evacuation drills shall be held to familiarize occupants, employees, and staff with the evacuation procedure.
- Leadership. Responsibility for planning and conducting the drills shall be assigned to a competent person(s) designated to exercise leadership.
- Time. Drills shall be held at unexpected times and under varying conditions to simulate the unusual conditions that occur in case of fire.
- Records. Records of required emergency evacuation drills shall be maintained and include:
- Identity of the person conducting the drill, date, and time of the drill
- Notification method used and staff members on duty and participating
- Number of occupants evacuated
- Special conditions simulated
- Problems encountered
- Weather conditions when occupants were evacuated
- Time required to accomplish complete evacuation
- Notification. Prior notification of the emergency evacuation drill is required. Notification shall be made by calling DPSC at 703-691-2131.
- Initiation of Evacuation. Where a fire alarm system is provided, emergency evacuation drills shall be initiated by activating the fire alarm system.
- Accountability. As building occupants arrive at the assembly point, efforts shall be made to determine if all occupants have been successfully evacuated or have been accounted for.
- Recall & Reentry. An electrically or mechanically operated signal used to recall occupants after an evacuation shall be separate and distinct from the signal used to initiate the evacuation. The recall signal initiation means shall be manually operated and under the control of the person in charge of the premises or the official in charge of the incident. No one shall reenter the premises until authorized to do so by the official in charge.
- Unplanned Evacuations Not a Substitute for Required Drills. Evacuations made necessary by the unplanned activation of a fire alarm system or by any other emergency shall not be substituted for a required drill.
In accordance with Section 405.2 of the Fire Prevention Code, required emergency evacuation drills shall be held at the intervals specified in the table below, or more frequently, where necessary to familiarize all employees and/or occupants with the evacuation procedure.
All Mercantile Occupancies *
* Mercantile occupancies having an occupant load of 500 or more persons for the entire occupancy or 100 or more persons for areas of the occupancy located above or below the lowest level of exit discharge.
FIRE PROTECTION SYSTEMS OUT-OF-SERVICE
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 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. Otherwise, notification shall be made by calling DPSC at 703-691-2131.
HAZARD COMMUNICATION REQUIREMENTS
The Fire Prevention Code requires the following with respect to hazardous materials:
- MSDS. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all hazardous materials requiring a Fire Prevention Code Permit (FPCP) from the Office of the Fire Marshal shall be readily available on the premises as a paper copy, or where approved by the fire marshal, shall be permitted to be readily retrievable by electronic access.
- Labeling. Individual containers of hazardous materials, cartons or packages shall be marked or labeled in accordance with applicable federal regulations. Buildings, rooms and spaces containing hazardous materials shall be identified by hazard warning signs.
- Liaison Personnel. Persons responsible for the operation of areas in which hazardous materials are stored, dispensed, handled or used shall be familiar with the chemical nature of the materials and the appropriate mitigating actions necessary in the event of a fire, leak or spill. Responsible persons shall be designated and trained to be liaison personnel for the fire department. These persons shall aid the fire department in preplanning emergency responses and identification of the locations where hazardous materials are located and shall have access to Material Safety Data Sheets and be knowledgeable in the site emergency response procedures. Liaison personnel should be identified in the written plan.
Where facilities develop a lockdown plan requiring that occupants be sheltered and secured in place within a building or occupancy when normal evacuation would put occupants at risk, the lockdown plan shall be reviewed and approved by the Office of the Fire Marshal. Detailed information on lockdown planning requirements and approval procedures is available online.
EDUCATIONAL & PLANNING RESOURCES
To obtain more information which may assist you in developing a fire safety and evacuation plan, or to enhance occupant safety in mercantile occupancies, copy and paste any of the following web addresses into your browser, or simply search the internet for these topics.