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On the Job, Safety & Codes | June 1, 2016 | By:

Triggers for site-specific engineering top the tent-related proposals taken up at the ICC’s Committee Action Hearing.

With debate and voting at the April Committee Action Hearing (CAH), the International Code Council (ICC) took its first step in revising codes as part of the Group B I-Code Development Cycle for the 2018
Model Code.

A proposal governing site-specific engineering is the most significant for the tent industry. Proposal F300-16 was submitted by the Special Event Work Group, a working group of code officials, industry members and other stakeholders created by the Fire Code Action Committee (FCAC). The proposal called for full site-specific engineering for an installation with 300 person occupancy or 4,000 square feet, whichever comes first. Although IFAI’s Tent Rental Division (TRD) participates in the work group, it submitted its own proposal (F301-16) with a different set of triggers for site-specific engineering.

“The code committee and industry members who provided feedback felt that 4,000 square feet was too
much to bear,” says Tom Markel, TRD code committee chair. “That’s in the bread and butter end of what most companies do.”

Through negotiations, F300-16 was modified to 1,000 person occupancy and 7,500 square feet. TRD agreed to pull its own proposal in return. “Both sides made big concessions to get this done,” Markel says. “With this compromise we have something we can live with, and we’ve planted the seed for the next code cycle. These things take time and communication.”

Action on additional tent-related code proposals is described below.

F298-16: Umbrella structures

Affecting three IFAI divisions [TRD, Professional Awning Manufacturers Association (PAMA) and Fabric Structures Association (FSA)], this proposal, approved with modifications, expands the definition of “tent” in the code to include umbrella structures. The California Fire Chiefs Association submitted this proposal in response to canopy-style structures that lack an FR rating and create a sizable space, “yet by being described as a removable umbrella with a permanent base were attempting to get around the code,” Markel says. “The proposal would clarify the ability of code officials to regulate umbrella structures like tents and canopies of more than 400 square feet, either single or aggregate, in places of assembly.” TRD supported this proposal as modified at the CAH.

F299-16: Special amusement buildings

This proposal, which was approved, requires that a tent used as a special amusement building such as a haunted house install an automatic sprinkler system. The TRD code committee remained neutral on this proposal.

F302-16: Inspection

Submitted and withdrawn by TRD, this proposal delineated the frequency and timing of inspections for installations that exceed 30 days and introduced the possibility of a third-party inspector. “A lot of code officials didn’t understand the proposal wouldn’t require them to inspect the tent and would put that requirement on the people that own the tent,” Markel says. “We’ll have to educate code officials and talk more in the industry about certification of installers and inspectors. That is the route we will have to go in the future.”

F303-16 and F304-16:Flame propagation and labeling

These proposals, submitted by Marcelo Hirschler of GBH International (F303) and TRD (F304) would clarify the appropriate test for flame propagation performance criteria. TRD withdrew its proposal in order to negotiate for modification of F303. As approved, NFPA 701 Test Method 1 is allowed for some fabrics under 21oz/y2; NFPA 701 already requires Method 2 for sides, tops and fabric over 21oz/y2. (F303 originally pushed for Method 2 only.)

F305-16: Fire extinguishers

TRD withdrew this proposal because of negative feedback from some code officials to the way it described fire extinguishers and the required locations.

F306-16: Portable propane

This proposal from the National Propane Gas Association was approved with modifications advocated for by TRD. “The original proposal would have banned the use of small propane tanks in contact with the ground, which is impractical for the event industry using them in short-term applications,” Markel says.

F307-16, F308-16, and F309-16: Special Event Work Group proposals

These proposals, all approved, were submitted by the Special Event Work Group. F307 affects the staging industry and is minor and editorial in nature. F308 changes the term “stage canopy” to “temporary special event structure,” an important distinction, as “stage canopy” created confusion between tents and stage structures, Markel says. F309 reorganizes Chapter 31 but makes no change in text. TRD supported all three proposals.

F310-16: Outdoor events

This FCAC proposal is an attempt to regulate outdoor events regardless of the presence of tents or special event structures. The committee disapproved it with guidance to bring it back through the public comment. “TRD will continue to work with the Special Event Work Group on this because, with or without tent structures, we are involved with outdoor special events and need our voice to be heard,” Markel says.

F409-16: Trade shows

This proposal to the code appendix was disapproved with committee comments to make changes for the Public Comment Hearing. It mostly relates to indoor trade shows but includes any location, including tents. “Although TRD had commented on this in the last code cycle and will continue to monitor it, we are staying neutral unless having a trade show under a temporary membrane structure would be affected in an adverse way in comparison to having one in a permanent facility,” Markel says.

F410-16: IFAI Staking Study

TRD submitted the IFAI Staking Study as an appendix proposal because of interest by some code officials. “It was disapproved because errors occurred in putting the core of the study into the ICC’s cloud system, and floor modifications to fix those problems were too confusing and ruled out of order,” Markel says. TRD will try to correct the problems through public comment, however, TRD is ultimately working toward having the staking and ballasting studies incorporated into the ASTM F24 standard. “It’s critical to get the standard approved so that it’s available in the next code cycle for inclusion in the fire code, Chapter 31,” Markel says.

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