High-Rise Structures Guidelines and Codes


General Guidelines

  • Use 911 to report a fire or medical emergency.
  • Directly after reporting a fire, leave the building.
  • Know your Fire Safety Evacuation Procedure, including the exit route from your work space to the exterior of the building.
  • Learn how to find and operate the fire extinguisher.
  • Most high rise office buildings are protected by automatic fire sprinklers.
  • Look for things that may affect fire safety:

    • Extension cords
    • Space heaters, fans, coffee makers and other appliances
    • Equipment left on at end of day
    • Accumulation of combustible materials
    • Items in the evacuation path that may prevent people from safely leaving the building
    • Fire or smoke barrier doors being blocked open

Section 404: Fire Safety, Evacuation and Lockdown Plans

Acceptable Alternate Fire Evacuation Drill Procedures

(2015 VSFPC) 404.1 General. Where required by Section 403, fire safety, evacuation and lockdown plans shall comply with Sections 404.2 through 404.4.1.

(2015 VSFPC) 404.2 Contents. Fire safety and evacuation plan contents shall be in accordance with Sections 404.2.1 and 404.2.2.

(2015 VSFPC) 404.2.1 Fire Evacuation Plans. Fire evacuation plans shall include the following:

1. Emergency egress or escape routes and whether evacuation of the building is to be complete by selected floors or areas only or with a defend-in-place response.

2. Procedures for employees who must remain to operate critical equipment before evacuating.

3. Procedures for the use of elevators to evacuate the building where occupant evacuation elevators complying with Section 3008 of the International Building Code are provided.

4. Procedures for assisted rescue for persons unable to use the general means of egress unassisted.

5. Procedures for accounting for employees and occupants after evacuation has been completed.

6. Identification and assignment of personnel responsible for rescue or emergency medical aid.

7. The preferred and any alternative means of notifying occupants of a fire or emergency.

8. The preferred and any alternative means of reporting fires and other emergencies to the fire department or designated emergency response organization.

9. Identification and assignment of personnel who can be contacted for further information or explanation of duties under the plan.

10. A description of the emergency voice/alarm communication system alert tone and preprogrammed voice messages, where provided.

(2015 VSFPC) 404.2.2 Fire Safety Plans. Fire safety plans shall include the following:

1. The procedure for reporting a fire or other emergency.

2. The life safety strategy including the following:

2.1. Procedures for notifying occupants, including areas with a private mode alarm system.

2.2. Procedures for occupants under a defend-in-place response.

2.3. Procedures for evacuating occupants, including those who need evacuation assistance.

3. Site plans indicating the following:

3.1. The occupancy assembly point.

3.2. The locations of fire hydrants.

3.3. The normal routes of fire department vehicle access.

4. Floor plans identifying the locations of the following:

4.1. Exits.

4.2. Primary evacuation routes.

4.3. Secondary evacuation routes.

4.4. Accessible egress routes.

4.4.1. Areas of refuge.

4.4.2. Exterior areas for assisted rescue.

4.5. Refuge areas associated with smoke barriers and horizontal exits.

4.6. Manual fire alarm boxes.

4.7. Portable fire extinguishers.

4.8. Occupant-use hose stations.

4.9. Fire alarm annunciators and controls.

5. A list of major fire hazards associated with the normal use and occupancy of the premises, including maintenance and housekeeping procedures.

6. Identification and assignment of personnel responsible for maintenance of systems and equipment installed to prevent or control fires. 7. Identification and assignment of personnel responsible for maintenance, housekeeping and controlling fuel hazard sources.

Section 506: Key Boxes

(ACFPC) 506.1.3 Key box number and labeling of required keys. In buildings with fire command centers, the person in control shall provide fifteen (15) sets of common keys on a key ring, which shall be located in a key box in the fire control room. The keys are required for access to building services and systems regulated by Section 601 of this code; and to all storage, trash, and utility rooms, roof access doors, and doors to other secured areas. In all other buildings without fire command centers, the person in control shall provide seven (7) sets of common keys to be located in a key box in a location approved by the fire code official. Individual keys shall be clearly labeled as to function and each set of keys shall be individually tagged in a manner approved by the fire code official.

(ACFPC) 506.1.4 Other fire department access boxes. Voluntarily provided fire department key access boxes should contain one (1) key to access the premises served, and any other keys as determined necessary by the owner, occupant, operator or other person in control. All keys shall be clearly labeled as to function and individually tagged.

(ACFPC) 316.7 Obstacles. No accumulation or concentration of materials or objects shall be placed and/or located inside a structure, dwelling or unit in such a manner or circumstance that, in the professional opinion of the fire official, an obstacle or hindrance to fire and emergency personnel or to fire fighting and/or EMS operations is created.

Section 507: Fire Protection Water Supplies

(2015 VSFPC) 507.5.4 Obstruction. Unobstructed access to fire hydrants shall be maintained at all times. The fire department shall not be deterred or hindered from gaining immediate access to fire protection equipment or fire hydrants.

(2015 VSFPC) 507.5.5 Clear Space Around Hydrants. A 3-foot (914 mm) clear space shall be maintained around the circumference of fire hydrants, except as otherwise required or approved.

Section 1023: Interior Exit Stairways and Ramps

(2015 VSFPC) 1023.9 Stairway identification signs. A sign shall be provided at each floor landing in an interior exit stairway and ramp connecting more than three stories designating the floor level, the terminus of the top and bottom of the interior exit stairway and ramp and the identification of the stairway or ramp. The signage shall also state the story of, and the direction to, the exit discharge and the availability of roof access from the interior exit stairway and ramp for the fire department. The sign shall be located 5 feet (1524 mm) above the floor landing in a position that is readily visible when the doors are in the open and closed positions. In addition to the stairway identification sign, a floor-level sign in visual characters, raised characters and braille complying with ICC A117.1 shall be located at each floor-level landing adjacent to the door leading from the interior exit stairway and ramp into the corridor to identify the floor level.

(2015 VSFPC) 1023.9.1 Signage requirements. Stairway identification signs shall comply with all of the following requirements:

1. The signs shall be a minimum size of 18 inches (457 mm) by 12 inches (305 mm).

2. The letters designating the identification of the interior exit stairway and ramp shall be not less than 11/2 inches (38 mm) in height. 3. The number designating the floor level shall be not less than of 5 inches (127 mm) in height and located in the center of the sign. 4. Other lettering and numbers shall be not less than 1 inch (25 mm) in height. 5. Characters and their background shall have a nonglare finish. Characters shall contrast with their background with either light characters on a dark background or dark characters on a light background.

If you have any questions about Stairway Identification contact:

Captain Gregg A. Karl
Arlington County Fire Department
Plans Review

Section 901: Fire Protection Systems

(2015 VSFPC) 901.6. Inspection, testing and maintenance. To the extent that equipment, systems devices, and safeguards, such as fire detection, alarm, and extinguishing systems, which were provided and approved by the building official when constructed, shall be maintained in an operative condition at all times. And where such equipment, systems, devices, and safeguards are found not to be in operative condition, the fire official shall order all such equipment to be rendered safe in accordance with the USBC.

(2015 VSFPC) 901.6.2 Records. Records of all system inspections, tests and maintenance required by the referenced standards shall be maintained.

(2015 VSFPC) 901.6.2.1 Records Information. Initial records shall include the name of the installation contractor, type of components installed, manufacturer of the components, location and number of components installed per floor. Records shall also include the manufacturers’ operation and maintenance instruction manuals. Such records shall be maintained for the life of the installation.

(ACFPC) 901.6.3. Periodic testing. Periodic inspections and tests of all fire protection systems shall be performed in accordance with the respective NFPA standards and other codes as required under this Chapter. The test shall be witnessed by the fire code official or his/her designee. The fire code official shall assess fees in accordance with this Ordinance for the witnessing of such tests. The building owner or designee shall pay all assessed fees.

(ACFPC) 901.6.3.1 Testing and inspection/re-inspection fees. Fees for witnessing the testing and for inspection/re-inspection of existing fire protection equipment and systems shall be assessed. Fees shall be based on the staff hours expended witnessing these tests. Table 901.6.3.1 shall serve as a guideline for determining when such a fee is required. The Fire Prevention Office must be notified of a cancellation of a scheduled inspection/re-inspection or
site visit. To avoid the imposition of a fee due to a cancellation, a minimum notice of twenty four (24) hours is required. Notice received in less than twenty four (24) hours, or if no notice is provided to the Fire Prevention
Office, the full fee shall be assessed and paid. Fees are established pursuant to §8.1-13 herein and identified in Table 107.2.

(ACFPC) 901.6.4 Notification. The fire code official or his/her designee shall be notified before any routine test, repair, alteration or change to any fire protection system is started, regardless of whether such system is required by the building code, this code or other law or ordinance.

(ACFPC) 901.8 Removal of or tampering with equipment. It shall be unlawful for any person to silence, reset, remove, tamper with, damage, destroy, use without just cause or authorization, or otherwise disturb any fire detection and alarm system, fire suppression system, or other fire appliance required by this code or installed in any building or structure within the Arlington County except for the purpose of extinguishing fire, training purposes, recharging,
making necessary repairs, or when approved by the fire code official.

Fire Watch – Appendix A in Arlington County Fire Prevention Code

A101.1. Scope. A fire watch is a temporary measure intended to ensure continuous and systematic surveillance of a building, structure or portion thereof by one (1) or more qualified individuals for the purposes of identifying and controlling fire hazards, detecting early signs of unwanted fire, raising an alarm of fire and immediately notifying the fire department and the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center.

A102.1. Initiation. In the event that a fire protection system, sprinkler system, alarm, detection, or other suppression system is impaired or out of service, a fire watch shall be instituted by the person in control (as defined in Chapter 8.1 of the Arlington County Code, 1957 as amended).

A102.2. Procedures. When the establishment of a fire watch is initiated by the person in control, or ordered by the fire department or fire official, the owner or the owner’s representative shall implement the following procedures for the duration of the fire watch. The fire watch shall be maintained until such time the noted system(s) is returned to normal ready service and approved for use by the fire official.

1. A fire watch shall consist of the following:

a) A designated number of staff (minimum of two personnel)performing fire watch duties at all times and until the fire protection system has been repaired, inspected, tested, and certified to be placed back in service. During the duration  of a fire watch, the sole duty of such designated staff shall be the fire watch.

b) Each participating staff member shall be equipped with reliable two-way system of communications.

c) One (1) staff member shall always be stationed in an area or room equipped with a working telephone or cellular phone to report a fire, smoke or other hazardous situation by dialing 9-1-1.

NOTE: When dialing 9-1-1 from a cellular phone, some cellular phone systems may connect user with another jurisdiction’s emergency communications center, therefore the caller should confirm they are speaking with the “Arlington County Emergency Communications Center.”

d) At least one (1) staff member shall conduct a walking tour of all areas of the building no less than every fifteen (15) minutes to look for fire, smoke, or hazardous situations that require fire department response; or,

e) A complete tour of the facility within a time frame prescribed by the fire official or fire department and with the fire watch staffing level contingent upon the size of the facility and the type of occupancy.

NOTE: If the building or property is of such size that two (2) individuals cannot adequately perform the required fire watch, the fire department representative may require additional on-site personnel to participate in the fire watch. Upon request, the fire department representative may permit one (1) person to perform the fire watch if the building or property is size that one (1) person can adequately perform the required fire watch.

2. A legibly written log shall be kept on site at all times for review by any fire department employee documenting:

a) The reason the fire watch was implemented.

b) The date and time the fire department was notified the fire watch was initiated and concluded.

c) The start and stop time of each building or property tour.

d) The key locations visited in the building(s) requiring the fire watch.

e) Name(s) of personnel conducting the fire watch.

f) Name(s) of personnel recording the information.

g) Log entries shall be kept for a minimum of two (2) years.

3. Personnel conducting the fire watch shall be:

a) Capable of performing patrol duties.

b) Reliable and not under the influence of intoxicants or illegal substances.

c) Able to clearly and accurately converse with fire department personnel in English, in the event of an emergency.

d) Able to remain awake and alert at all times.

NOTE: In all cases, the sole duty of personnel assigned to the fire watch shall be to perform constant patrols of the protected premises, to keep watch for fires, and if necessary to summon the fire department.

4. In the event of a fire emergency:

a) The fire watch staff shall immediately call 9-1-1 and report the location of the fire within the building.

b) Activate the emergency alarm signal (if available).

c) Begin the evacuation of the building starting on the fire floor, then above the fire floor, then below the fire floor.

All questions concerning the implementation of the fire watch and requests for inspections to terminate the fire watch shall be directed to the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center (ECC) at 703-558-2222.

Questions: 703-228-4644 or send email.