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FAQ's

Question: Where can I obtain a copy of the Life Safety Code enforced by the Office of the State Fire Marshal?

Answer: The Life Safety Code is published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) as one of several standards produced by the NFPA. The State of Illinois, through the Office of the State Fire Marshal, has adopted the NFPA Life Safety Code into Illinois' administrative code to serve as the applicable rules for fire prevention and safety. However, NFPA documents are copyrighted and cannot be provided by the OSFM. Copies of the Life Safety Code are available for examination at any of the regional offices of the OSFM and may be able to be found at local libraries or fire stations. Also, the Life Safety Code may be purchased from the NFPA by contacting their toll free number 1-800-344-3555. (Please understand that there are various editions of the Life Safety Code available from the NFPA. Illinois has adopted the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code). The actual adoption of the NFPA Life Safety Code occurs within Illinois administrative code at 41 Ill. Adm. Code 100. The Part 100 rules not only formally adopt the Life Safety Code but also give exceptions and modifications to the Life Safety Codes adoption. The adoption language, along with exceptions and modifications made to the code can be viewed at the following link.


Question: I am confused because I have been told that the "Part 100" rules are applicable in Illinois and not the Life Safety Code.

Answer: The State of Illinois, through the Office of the State Fire Marshal, has adopted the 2000 edition of the National Fire Protection Association's Life Safety Code into Illinois' administrative code to serve as the applicable rules for fire prevention and safety. The adoption of the Life Safety Code is made at 41 Illinois Administrative Code 100. Therefore, those who often deal in administrative code terms may refer to the adoption location of the Life Safety Code as the "Part 100" rules. Actually, the Part 100 rules are not only the location of the adoption language for the 2000 edition of the NFPA Life Safety Code, but also where Illinois' exceptions and modifications made to the Life Safety Code are found as well as rules for permanently moored vessels in Illinois.


Question: Are there any exceptions or changes to the Life Safety Code adopted by the Office of the State Fire Marshal?

Answer: Yes. Within 41 Illinois Administrative Code 100 where the 2000 edition of the NFPA Life Safety Code is adopted, the OSFM has also made modifications to the LSC. Specifically:

  • The chapter of the Life Safety Code applicable to one- and two-family dwellings has been adopted only as "recommendations" and not made mandatory in Illinois;
  • The Life Safety Code's definitions of a day care center and a day care home have been modified to recognize the classifications imposed by the Illinois Child Care Act and DCFS rather than those offered in the Life Safety Code;
  • Similarly, the Life Safety Code's requirements for child-to-staff ratios in day care centers and day care homes have been modified to recognize the ratios required by DCFS rather than those offered in the Life Safety Code; and
  • Modifications have been made to allow alternative means of escape from the basement levels of home day care occupancies beyond those recognized by the Life Safety Code.


Question: Does the Life Safety Code apply to a building that was occupied prior to the state's adoption of the Code?

Answer: Yes. Unlike many building codes and local ordinances, the NFPA Life Safety Code is applicable to both new and existing occupancies. Examination of the Life Safety Code reveals that for most occupancy classifications, the code provides a chapter describing requirements for "new" occupancies and a sister chapter applicable to "existing" occupancies of the same classification. Although the existing occupancy chapters are often less stringent in some requirements than those applicable to new occupancies, it is not true that existing occupancies do not have to comply with the Life Safety Code.


Question: How do I know if my building or occupancy is classified as "new" or "existing" by the Life Safety Code?

Answer: The determining factor of whether an occupancy is required to comply with the "new" or the "existing" chapters of the Life Safety Code is dependent upon the status of the occupancy on the date of adoption of the Life Safety Code into the Illinois Administrative Code. The Office of the State Fire Marshal adopted the 2000 edition of the NFPA Life Safety Code into Illinois' administrative rules with an effective date of January 1, 2002. Any buildings that were constructed after January 1, 2002 are classified as "new" occupancies. If a building changes occupancy classification after the January 1, 2002 date, it also must comply with the requirements for a "new occupancy".

Those occupancies that were in existence on the Life Safety Code's adoption date are classified as "existing" occupancies unless a change of occupancy classification occurs. Also, if buildings were designed prior to January 1, 2002 but not constructed until after that date, they are classified as "existing" occupancies considering that proof is available that plans were finalized prior to the 1/1/02 adoption date of the Life Safety Code.

Also, if a building was occupied prior to January 1, 2002, and then was vacated without being used by another occupancy classification in the interim, and then reoccupied for the same purposes (occupancy classification) after the January 1, 2002 adoption of the Life Safety Code, the building continues to be classified as an "existing" occupancy. However, if in the interim period the building was converted to another occupancy classification, and then desires to return to the original occupancy classification, it must comply with the "new" occupancy requirements of the Life Safety Code.

Some examples:

  • If a building was classified as a day care center prior to 1/1/02, and has not changed occupancy classification since, it is allowed to comply with the "existing day care center" chapter requirements of the 2000 Life Safety Code.
  • If a building was constructed after 1/1/02 and then occupied as a day care center it must comply with the "new day care center" chapter requirements of the 2000 Life Safety Code.
  • If a building was classified as a day care center prior to 1/1/02 and then was vacated and not used for any other occupancy classification, and then reopened in 2005 as a day care center once again, the center would be allowed to comply with the "existing day care center" chapter requirements of the 2000 Life Safety Code.
  • If a building was classified as a day care center prior to 1/1/02, and then was vacated, but for a time during 2004 was used as a "mercantile classification", and then in 2005 changed back to a day care center, the center would need to comply with the "new day care center" chapter requirements of the 2000 Life Safety Code.

Question: If I change sub-classification under the Life Safety Code must I comply with the "new" occupancy chapters of the Code?

Answer: Yes. In accordance with Life Safety Code requirements, if an occupancy changes sub-classifications it is required to comply with the "new" occupancy chapter requirements pertaining to the updated occupancy classification. For example, if an existing day care home modifies its operation to become a day care center, the building must comply with the "new day care center" occupancy chapter requirements of the Life Safety Code. Similarly, if an existing "small" residential board and care occupancy adds clients to be reclassified as a "large" residential board and care facility the building must comply with the requirements applicable to a "new" large residential board and care facility.


Question: Does the Life Safety Code apply to my single family home?

Answer: The Life Safety Code contains a chapter entitled "Single- and Two-Family Homes" that contains fire safety rules for homes. However, the adoption language of the Life Safety Code into Illinois Administrative Code makes this chapter of the Life Safety Code only "recommended" and not mandatory. The OSFM does not cite single family homes for violation of the Life Safety Code. However, the agency urges compliance with the Life Safety Code's requirements because they enhance safety for occupants.


Question: Do local ordinances and regulations apply if I meet the State Life Safety Code?

Answer: Yes! Locally adopted codes and regulations are concurrently applicable to the requirements of the Office of the State Fire Marshal. Local requirements may be more stringent than those adopted and enforced by the OSFM. Therefore, the OSFM encourages building owners to verify compliance with both the state-adopted codes as well as those imposed by local authorities. Compliance with OSFM rules and codes does not guarantee compliance with local codes or ordinances.


Question: Are there other codes that I should be aware of other than the Life Safety Code that are applicable in Illinois?

Answer: Yes. And there are other administrative code sections address specific subjects and may be applicable to a building/project:

  • Title 41 Illinois Administrative Code 150 Race Track Rules for Fire Safety specific to parimutuel horse race tracks and associated buildings. Note that these rules are not applicable to "Off Track Betting" establishments that are required to comply with the adopted 2000 edition of the NFPA Life Safety Code.
  • Title 41 Illinois Administrative Code Part 160 "Storage, Transportation, Sale and Use of Gasoline and Volatile Oils: Rule and Regulations Relating to General Storage" (addresses bulk storage tanks for flammable and combustible liquids). The rules not only address large-volume aboveground storage tanks but also more commonly encountered smaller volume tanks containing products that include fuel for emergency generators, fresh and waste motor oil, and any other fluids or chemicals that have an associated flash point;
  • Title 41 Illinois Administrative Code Parts 174 "Requirements for Underground Storage Tanks and the Storage, Transportation, Sale and Use of Petroleum and Other Regulated Substances” and Part 175 “Technical Requirements for Underground Storage Tanks and the Storage, Transportation, Sale and Use of Petroleum and Other Regulated Substances"(address all forms of motor fuel dispensing stations, mobile fueling, underground storage tank installation, and transportation of flammable and combustible liquids);
  • Title 41 Illinois Administrative Code Part 180 "Storage, Transportation, Sale and Use of Gasoline and Volatile Oils" (addresses dispensing of flammable and combustible liquids from aboveground storage tanks, aboveground fuel storage tanks at airports, kerosene storage tanks, and general rules related to the handling of flammable and combustible liquids);.
  • Title 41 Illinois Administrative Code Part 200 "Storage, Transportation, Sale and Use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas" (addresses LP-Gas storage, particularly propane. References NFPA Standard #58 The LP-Gas Code);

  • Title 41 Illinois Administrative Code 251 Fire Equipment Distributor and Employee Standards (addresses licensing requirements related to portable fire extinguishers and fixed fire suppression systems other than water-based sprinkler systems);
  • Title 41 Illinois Administrative Code 300 Furniture Fire Safety Regulations (addresses the use of upholstered seating furniture in certain occupancies);
  • Title 83 Illinois Administrative Code Chapter I, Subchapter f, Part 785 "Joint Rules of the Illinois Commerce Commission, the Office of the State Fire Marshal, and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency: Fire Protection and Emergency Services for Telecommunications Facilities" (addresses fire protection features in telecommunication switching facilities).

Also, realize that the Life Safety Code makes reference to several other NFPA standards, the application of which becomes mandatory, because of the LSC reference. These include but are not limited to:

  • NFPA 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers
  • NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems
  • NFPA 13D Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes
  • NFPA 13R Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Residential Occupancies up to and Including Four Stories in Height
  • NFPA 14 Standard for the Installation of Standpipe, Private Hydrant, and Hose Systems
  • NFPA 20 Installation of Stationary Pumps NFPA 54 The National Fuel Gas Code NFPA 58 The LP-Gas Code
  • NFPA 72 The National Fire Alarm Code
  • NFPA 96 Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations
  • NFPA 101A Guide on Alternative Approaches to Life Safety

Also, it should be realized that the rules imposed by the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal do not override those enforced by other state licensing agencies. Often licensing rules of other state agencies require building features not required by the Life Safety Code. Owners should therefore also familiarize themselves with the applicable licensing rules of other state agencies that may apply to their occupancies.

Lastly, it should be realized that the rules of the Office of the State Fire Marshal serve as the minimum criteria that are required to be met by building and facility owners. Most state rules do not supersede the requirements imposed by local rules and ordinances. Local rules may be more stringent than the requirements of the OSFM and owners are obligated to comply with such requirements.


Question: What rules apply to permanently moored vessels?

Answer: The rules for permanently moored vessels are found in 41 Illinois Administrative Code 100 Section 100.7-b-5. (Realize that these rules are in addition to the requirements of the 2000 edition of the NFPA Life Safety Code that also apply to permanently moored vessels). The rules found at 100.7-b-5 require specific stability, floatation and inspection criteria for permanently moored structures.


Question: What is the definition of a high rise in the Life Safety Code?

Answer: A building greater than 75 ft. in height where the building height is measured from the lowest level of fire department vehicle access to the floor of the highest occupiable story.


Question: Must all high rise buildings in Illinois be protected by automatic sprinklers?

Answer: Not necessarily. The 2000 NFPA Life Safety Code that has been adopted and is enforced by the Office of the State Fire Marshal does not contain an across-the-board requirement that all high rise buildings be protected by an automatic fire sprinkler system. The Life Safety Code addresses fire safety requirements within buildings based upon the occupancy classification of the structure. Furthermore, the Life Safety Code has varying requirements for "new" occupancies as opposed to "existing" occupancies. Although true that the Life Safety Code does indeed require some high rise occupancies to have automatic fire sprinkler systems, other occupancy classifications are allowed to either be protected with an automatic fire sprinkler system or prove equivalent safety through the use of an engineered life safety engineered life safety system. The Life Safety Code describes an engineered life safety system as a document developed by a registered professional engineer who is experienced in fire and life safety systems design. The system shall be approved by the authority having jurisdiction and might include any or all of the following systems: (1) partial automatic sprinkler protection, (2) smoke detection alarms, (3) smoke control, (4) compartmentalation, or (5) other approved systems.


Question: Does the Office of the State Fire Marshal enforce the Life Safety Code in public school buildings?

Answer: No. By law, the Office of the State Fire Marshal cannot enforce the OSFM-adopted NFPA Life Safety Code in Illinois' public elementary or secondary schools. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) maintains jurisdiction within these school buildings and the ISBE has adopted specific fire safety rules and regulations applicable to public schools. Illinois law now requires an annual fire safety inspection of all public schools by either the OSFM or the local fire department but that inspection must be conducted by applying the ISBE rules and not the OSFM's adopted Life Safety Code or any locally adopted regulations.


Question: Does the Office of the State Fire Marshal enforce the Life Safety Code in health care occupancies?

Answer: No. Although the Life Safety Code is applicable in these occupancies, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) enforces the NFPA Life Safety Code in Illinois' licensed hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and ambulatory care facilities.


Question: Does Illinois have a building code?

Answer: Illinois has not adopted a statewide building code. However, in accordance with State law, if a community had not adopted their own building code by July 1, 2011 then the 2006 edition of the International Code Council’s International Building Code (IBC) becomes the applicable code in those areas. For a list of applicable building codes in areas of Illinois contact the Capital Development Board.


Question: I operate an adult education facility. How is my facility classified by the Life Safety Code?

Answer: Adult education facilities (serving clientele above the 12th grade) are classified in the Life Safety Code as "business occupancies". Often owners and designers will assume that such facilities must comply with the "Educational Occupancy" chapters of the Life Safety Code, but this is incorrect. The Educational Occupancy chapters are applicable to schools serving students only through the 12th grade (through the end of high school) but not adult education facilities.


Question: Am I required to have smoke detectors in my home?

Answer: Yes! In accordance with the Smoke Detector Act (425 ILCS 60) all residential occupancies in Illinois are required to be provided with smoke detectors. The statute also requires that if a home was newly constructed or substantially remodeled after December 31, 1987, the smoke detectors must be powered by the buildings electrical system (not battery powered) and interconnected so that the activation of any one smoke detector causes all detectors in the home to activate.


Question: Am I required to provide fire sprinklers in a day care center?

Answer: Not necessarily. There is not an "across-the-board" requirement in the Life Safety Code that all day care centers be provided with automatic sprinkler systems. Requirements for the provision of automatic sprinkler protection the OSFM Division of Fire Prevention's regional offices staff can provide an answer regarding the necessity of a sprinkler system in day care centers is dependent upon three factors: a) whether the center is classified as "new" or "existing" in accordance with the Life Safety Code; b) the construction type of the building housing the day care center; and c) the floor level in the building where the day care center is located. If these conditions are explained to representatives at any of the OSFM Division of Fire Prevention's regional offices staff can provide an answer regarding the necessity of a sprinkler system.


Question: How do I know the occupant load of an assembly occupancy?

Answer: The determination of the occupancy load and number of exits required from an assembly occupancy is a multi- step process that must be conducted in accordance with Life Safety Code requirements. Please see the separate OSFM document provided on the agency web page for an explanation and example of occupant load calculations.


Question: How often are sprinklers systems required to be tested?

Answer: The Life Safety Code adopted and enforced by the Office of the State Fire Marshal makes reference to another NFPA standard to define the testing and maintenance requirements for sprinkler systems. Specifically, NFPA Standard #25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems is referenced. NFPA 25 establishes testing and maintenance schedules for various system components (i.e., valves, alarm devices, sprinklers heads, etc.). There is not one singular answer to the question of how often sprinkler systems or their components must be tested. NFPA 25 sets varying requirements based upon the type of sprinkler system and types of components and appurtenances that are present. By statute, those who inspect and maintain automatic sprinkler systems (other than weekly or monthly inspection and testing of control valves and gauges) must be OSFM-licensed fire sprinkler contractors.


Question: How often are fire alarm systems required to be tested?

Answer: The Life Safety Code adopted and enforced by the Office of the State Fire Marshal makes reference to another NFPA standard to define the testing and maintenance requirements for sprinkler systems. Specifically, NFPA Standard #72 National Fire Alarm Code is referenced. NFPA 72 establishes testing and maintenance schedules for various fire alarm system components. There is not one singular answer to the question of how often fire alarm systems or their components must be tested. NFPA 72 sets varying requirements based upon the type of fire alarm system and types of components and appurtenances that are present. The Office of the State Fire Marshal recommends that those responsible for maintaining or testing fire alarm systems be thoroughly familiar with NFPA 72. Furthermore, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation oversees rules that require those who maintain fire alarm systems to be licensed by that agency.


Question: Do I have to be licensed or certified to design or install a fire sprinkler system in Illinois?

Answer: Yes. The Fire Sprinkler Contractor Licensing Act (225 ILCS 317) and the subsequently developed administrative rules on this subject (41 Ill. Adm. Code 109) require that those who design or install fire sprinkler systems be licensed by the Office of the State Fire Marshal. Licensing information can be found on the OSFM's website. Also, the Fire Sprinkler Contractor Licensing Act requires that a professional engineer oversee the design of, and seal the plans for, fire sprinkler systems. (Note: there are some exceptions in the Act and the rules for the installation of smaller residential type sprinkler systems). Note that recent changes to the Act now require that those who inspect and maintain automatic sprinkler systems (other than weekly or monthly inspection and testing of control valves and gauges) must also be OSFM-licensed fire sprinkler contractors.


Question: Do I have to be licensed or certified to install a fire alarm system in Illinois?

Answer: Yes. Illinois law requires that those who install fire alarm systems be licensed. Specifically, 225 ILCS 446 entitled the "Private Detective, Private Alarm, Private Security, and Locksmith Act" defines a "Private alarm contractor" as any person who engages in a business that sells, installs, monitors, maintains, alters, repairs, replaces, services, or responds to alarm systems, including fire alarm systems. The Office of the State Fire Marshal does not issue licenses for fire alarm contractors. Licensing issues and questions about who can legally perform work on fire alarm systems within Illinois should be directed to the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation.


Question: Do I have to be licensed to test or maintain portable fire extinguishers in Illinois?

Answer: Yes. The Fire Equipment Distributor and Employee Regulation Act requires that any person, company or corporation which services, recharges, hydrotests, inspects, installs, maintains, alters, repairs, replaces, or services fire extinguishing devices or systems, other than water sprinkler systems be licensed by the Office of the State Fire Marshal. The rules governing the licensing of portable fire extinguisher contractors are found within 41 Ill. Adm. Code. It should also be realized that the Act and the subsequently developed Part 250 rules also regulate the design, installation and testing of engineered and pre-engineered fire suppression systems. Fire equipment contractor regulation is handled by the OSFM's Division of Fire Prevention and specific questions should be directed to that Division. It should also be noted that the Fire Equipment Distributor and Employee Regulation Act does not apply to water sprinkler systems. Water sprinkler system design and installation is regulated by the OSFM, but under the Fire Sprinkler Contractor Licensing Act.


Question: I have designed a fire suppression or fire alarm system to an updated NFPA standard (more recent than the edition referenced by the adopted 2000 Life Safety Code). Will such a system be considered in compliance with Illinois requirements?

Answer: Yes. As long as the entire system is designed in accordance with all requirements of the updated standard. You cannot "pick and choose" parts of the earlier edition and the updated edition. The entire installation must comply with the updated edition to be considered compliant.


Question: How do I file a complaint regarding fire code violations that I have witnessed?

Answer: You may call or write to any of the regional offices of the Division of Fire Prevention of the Office of the State Fire Marshal. Please be prepared to supply specific information regarding the name and address of the occupancy, the specific type of violation, where the violation is located in the building, when you witnessed the violation, and whether you have contacted the local fire authorities regarding the violation. The regional office contact numbers are:

  Chicago 312/814-2693
  Marion 618/993-7085
  Springfield 217/785-4714


Question: I own or operate a Community Integrated Living Arrangement (CILA) or a Group Home and cannot find such a classification in the NFPA Life Safety Code. Where do I find the requirements for my occupancy?

Answer: These occupancies are classified by the definitions of the Life Safety Code as "Residential Board and Care" occupancies. You will find separate chapters of the Life Safety Code applying to "new" and "existing" residential board and care occupancies. Furthermore, you will find that within the "new" and "existing" residential board and care chapters, facilities are designated as "small" or "large" depending upon the number of clients served within the occupancy. ("Small" pertains to a facility serving 16 or less clients and "Large" pertains to a facility serving more than 16 clients. Because CILA occupancies are limited to eight clients, they are classified as "small residential board and care occupancies").


Question: Must my kitchen cooking surface fire suppression system comply with U.L. 300?

Answer: The applicable rules of the Office of the State Fire Marshal (41 Ill. Adm. Code 251) reference NFPA standards that result in all newly installed cooking surface fire suppression systems needing to be tested and listed in accordance with UL 300. Furthermore, the rules require that existing cooking surface fire suppression systems be brought into compliance with UL 300 by January 1, 2010. (Systems located in governmental entities are allowed until January 1, 2011 to comply with a UL300 listed system).

To date, all of the systems listed by UL in accordance with the UL 300 requirements have been wet-chemical systems. There are currently no dry chemical systems that are compliant with UL 300 listing criteria. Therefore, all new installations of systems for the protection of commercial kitchen cooking equipment must be wet-chemical systems and existing dry chemical suppression systems must be replaced by UL 300 compliant wet chemical systems by January 1, 2010 (or January 1, 2011 if within a governmental building).

It should also be realized that the rules, interpretations and opinions of the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal do not supersede those of local authorities. Therefore this Office recommends contacting applicable local fire and/or building departments concerning this matter to ensure compliance with all local rules and ordinances. Local authorities having jurisdiction are able to apply their adopted standards concurrently with those of the OSFM.


Please read the following information regarding the possible ineffectiveness of dry chemical fire suppression systems on many kitchen cooking surface fires.


Question: Why are dry chemical extinguishing systems no longer effective on kitchen fires?

Answer: In the past, most deep-fat frying was done in animal-based fats with high fatty-acid content. Dry chemical extinguishing agents are primarily alkaline based. The fatty acids found in animal fat combine with alkalines to produce a soap solution. The process is known as saponification. Thus, when a fire occurs in animal fat liquids and dry chemical extinguishing agent is applied saponification cuts off the oxygen supply to the burning liquid. Currently, vegetable oil is used in approximately 75% of commercial cooking equipment. Vegetable oil has limited fat. The process of saponification is greatly reduced when used on vegetable oil fires because the soap blanket is broken down more easily. Also, high efficiency cooking equipment is now better insulated and keeps cooking oil at higher temperatures. The result is that re- ignition occurs more readily and dry chemicals cannot effectively extinguish vegetable oil fires.

As a result, UL modified the criteria used to test kitchen suppression systems within their UL 300 specification document to reflect these industry changes. The modern UL 300 test criteria takes into account the use of low cholesterol vegetable shortening, which has more severe burning characteristics than animal fats as well as the use of higher energy efficiency appliances, which are better insulated and retain heat that increases difficulty of extinguishment. As a result, it is estimated that five (5) times as much wet extinguishing agent is required to protect fryers against the current UL 300 fire test protocol than against the previously used kitchen fire test protocol. It is also interesting to note that there are currently no UL listed, pre-engineered, dry chemical system units that comply with the current UL 300. Only wet-chemical extinguishing systems have been able to successfully pass the UL 300 test criteria.


Question: What type of portable fire extinguishers are acceptable for kitchen protection?

Answer: The Life Safety Code references another NFPA standards for the specific installation requirements applicable to portable fire extinguishers. Specifically, NFPA 10 Portable Fire Extinguishers requires a Class "K" rated portable fire extinguisher where grease is used for cooking. However, the standard allows the continued use of existing extinguishers if they were installed before June 1998. Therefore, existing dry chemical extinguishers may continue to be used if they were installed prior to this date. Class B gas-type portable extinguishers such as CO2 and halon are specifically prohibited from being installed in kitchens.

Note that although the use of dry chemical extinguishers existing prior to June 1998 is code-compliant in kitchen areas, testing indicates that dry chemical extinguishing agents may not be effective on modern kitchen grease fires. Cooking fires now often involve low cholesterol vegetable shortening, which has more severe burning characteristics than animal fats as well as the use of higher energy efficiency appliances, which are better insulated and retain heat that increases difficulty of extinguishment by dry chemical products. Class K fire extinguishers that are required in new installations since 1998, and recommended by the OSFM for all kitchen environments, contain wet chemical extinguishing agents that have been proven more effective on cooking oil fires.


Question: Where are smoke detectors required in day care centers?

Answer: In both new and existing day care centers the Life Safety Code requires that smoke detectors be located on each story in front of the doors to the stairways and in the corridors of all floors occupied by the day-care occupancy. Detectors also shall be installed in lounges, recreation areas, and sleeping rooms in the day-care occupancy.

Note: classrooms are considered sleeping rooms as the result of children taking "nap periods" and are required to be provided with smoke detectors unless the DCFS licensing agent and the owner of the day care center provide written verification to the OSFM that sleeping does not occur at the facility. The requirements for smoke detector installation do not apply to day care centers housed completely within one room. Also note that the detectors are not allowed to be battery operated - they must be powered by the building's electrical system and be part of an interconnected fire alarm system.


Question: What distinguishes a day care home from a day care center?

Answer: The licensing classification in accordance with the rules of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) dictates the occupancy classification that is imposed by the Office of the State Fire Marshal when applying the Life Safety Code to the facility. The adoption of the NFPA Life Safety Code by the Office of the State Fire Marshal specifically defers to the DCFS classifications rather than those offered in the Life Safety Code. The Life Safety Code's requirements that specify the number of clients that constitute a day care home versus a group day care home versus a day care center should be disregarded and DCFS licensing rules should be consulted for day care facility classification.


Question: What are the options for providing code-complying exits from a home day care or group home day care basement?

Answer: First, it should be understood that the Life Safety Code requires that both a primary and secondary means of escape from each story of a day care home or group day care home. For the primary means of escape from the basement level the LSC requires that a "direct exit" be provided. This means a door leading directly to the outside of the home (not a stairway up through the home that leads clients through the grade level of the occupancy to exit). However, modifications have been made to the administrative rules addressing this subject that offer two alternatives to this requirement:

  • If an exit discharging directly to the outside at the basement level is not provided, and therefore occupants must traverse another level of the home to exit, the path of egress through the level of exit discharge shall be separated from the remainder of that level of the home by construction providing a minimum fire resistance rating of 1-hour, or
  • If an exit discharging directly to the outside at the basement level is not provided the home shall be equipped with smoke detectors permanently powered by the building's electrical system and wired so that the actuation of one detector will actuate all the detectors in the dwelling. At least one such smoke detector shall be located on each level of the occupancy (excluding unoccupied attics), and the path of egress through the level of exit discharge (from the basement door to the exterior door of the home) must be protected by automatic fire sprinklers. Listed residential sprinklers shall be used and the installation shall be made in accordance with National Fire Protection Association Standard #13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes - 1994 (or an updated) edition

For the secondary means of escape from a home day care or group home day care occupancy basement, the Life Safety Code allows the use of any path that would comply with the requirements for the primary means of escape, or the use of a properly sized escape window. The rules for the escape window are:

  • Such windows shall be openable from the inside without the use of tools and shall provide a clear opening of not less than 20 in. in width, 24 in. in height, and 5.7 ft2 in area.
  • The bottom of the opening shall be not more than 44 in. above the floor.
  • The clear opening shall allow a rectangular solid, with a width and height that provides not less than the required 5.7 ft2 opening and a depth of not less than 20 in. to pass fully through the opening.

However, the Office of the State Fire Marshal has also made modifications to this requirement in the Illinois Administrative Code to allow for the use of escape windows that do not meet these prescriptive requirements if certain conditions can be met. The rules allow:

If a window is used where the size is not in accordance with the applicable edition of the Life Safety Code, the owner or operator of the day care or group day care home must demonstrate to an on-site representative of the Office of the State Fire Marshal that all occupants (staff and clients) can escape through the window to the exterior of the home in 3 minutes or less. The bottom sill of any window used as a secondary means of escape shall be within 44 inches of the floor as required by the Life Safety Code, or a permanently fixed stair or ramp shall be installed at the window to allow occupants to be within 44 inches of the bottom window sill when standing atop the stair or ramp.


Question: What other obligations does the Life Safety Code put on the owners of day care facilities?

Answer: In addition to the licensing requirements imposed by the Department of Children and Family Services as well as the physical fire protection features that must be provided in day care occupancies as required by the Life Safety Code, the Code places "operating feature" requirements on the owners of day care occupancies (both day care homes and day care centers). These operating features include:

  • The facility shall have a comprehensive written fire emergency response plan. Copies of the plan shall be made available to all employees. All employees shall be periodically instructed and kept informed with respect to the duties of their position under the plan.
  • Emergency egress and relocation drills shall be conducted as follows:
    • Not less than one emergency egress and relocation drill shall be conducted every month the facility is in session.
    • Exception: In climates where the weather is severe, the monthly emergency egress and relocation drills shall be permitted to be deferred, provided that the required number of emergency egress and relocation drills is achieved and not less than four are conducted before the drills are deferred.
    • All occupants of the building shall participate in the drill.
    • One additional emergency egress and relocation drill, other than for day-care occupancies that are open on a year-round basis, shall be required within the first 30 days of operation.
  • Fire prevention inspections shall be conducted monthly by a trained senior member of the staff. A copy of the latest inspection report shall be posted in a conspicuous place in the day-care facility.
  • It shall be the duty of site administrators and staff members to inspect all exit facilities daily to ensure that all stairways, doors, and other exits are in proper condition.

Question: What occupancies require portable fire extinguishers according to the Life Safety Code?

Answer: The Life Safety Code does not make across-the-board requirements for portable fire extinguishers. Rather, each individual occupancy chapter of the Code addresses whether or not portable fire extinguishers are mandated in that particular occupancy classification. When extinguishers are required, they must be installed in numbers and spacing complying with NFPA Standard #10 Portable Fire Extinguishers.

The following is a list of Life Safety Code occupancy classifications with an indication of whether portable fire extinguishers are required to be provided:

  • Ambulatory Health Care - required to be provided throughout the building.
  • Apartment Buildings - in hazardous areas only (exempted from providing portable extinguishers if the building is protected throughout by an automatic fire sprinkler system.
  • Business Occupancies - required to be provided throughout the building.
  • Detention Occupancies - required to be provided throughout the building (but access may be locked or in staff locations).
  • Health Care - required to be provided throughout the building.
  • Hotels and Dormitories - in hazardous areas only (exempted from providing portable extinguishers if the building is protected throughout by an automatic fire sprinkler system.
  • Mercantile - required to be provided throughout the building.
  • Residential Board and Care - only in large facilities (serving more than 16 clients) and then only in hazardous areas.

Portable extinguishers are not required by the Life Safety Code in the following occupancies:

  • Assembly
  • Industrial
  • Day Care Centers
  • Lodging and Rooming House
  • Day Care Homes
  • One- and Two-Family Dwellings
  • Educational
  • Storage

Extinguishing agent, extinguisher spacing and extinguisher capacity requirements are found in NFPA Standard #10 which is referenced by Life Safety Code Section 9.7.4.1.

As a reminder, Illinois law and the subsequently developed 41 Illinois Administrative Code 251 rules require that any person, company or corporation which services, recharges, hydrotests, inspects, installs, maintains, alters, repairs, replaces, or services fire extinguishing devices or systems, other than water sprinkler systems be licensed by the Office of the State Fire Marshal. This includes portable fire extinguishers.


Question: Does the Office of the State Fire Marshal enforce the Illinois Accessibility Code?

Answer: No. The Illinois Accessibility Code (71 Ill. Adm. Code 180) is mutually administered by the Capital Development Board (CDB) for interpretations of the requirements and the Office of the Attorney General for enforcement of the requirements. Note however, that the 2000 Life Safety Code adopted and enforced by the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal does contain its own accessibility requirements for "new" occupancies.


Question: What does the Life Safety Code require for accessibility?

Answer: The Life Safety Code does not impose accessibility requirements in "existing" occupancies. Therefore, occupancies that were in place on the adoption date of the Code (January 1, 2002 in Illinois) are not subject to compliance with any accessibility requirements unless a change of occupancy occurs.

In "new" occupancies (those buildings that are newly constructed or experience a change of occupancy classification after January 1, 2002 when the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code was adopted in Illinois), accessible exiting may be provided in several ways. First, it should be understood that "accessible means of egress" should comply with the accessible route requirements of CABO/ANSI A117.1 American National Standard for Accessible and Useable Buildings and Facilities. The easiest method of providing accessible exiting is obviously when the building in question is located on the level of egress discharge thus allowing an even grade between the floor of the building and an outside egress path. Multi-story buildings, whether those stories are above or below grade level, present a more difficult case for compliance with accessibility requirements. For a low number of stories, code complying ramps may prove to be a viable alternative. However, the most common method of complying with the LSC?s requirements for accessible exiting in a multi-story building is to provide what the Code refers to as "areas of refuge".

Several sections of the Code are devoted to enumerating the requirements for creating a safe area where physically challenged building occupants can await rescue/removal from the building during fire conditions. Such "Areas of Refuge" are required to not only provide minimum space for wheelchair or other physically challenged occupants to wait, but also to be physically separated from other areas of the building by fire rated barriers. These areas of refuge are required to be designated by signs. Furthermore, such areas are required to be provided with two-way communication systems for summoning assistance to that specific area of refuge. The number of, location of, and travel distance to, such areas of refuge are defined by individual occupancy chapters of the Code depending upon the occupancy classification and size of the building in question. It is also important to note that some individual occupancy chapters of the Life Safety Code relax the requirements for the provision of a specific space as the designated area of refuge and allow an entire floor of a building to be credited as the area of refuge if the entire floor is protected throughout by an automatic fire sprinkler system.

Because the LSC allows areas of refuge to serve accessibility requirements (as well as allowing floors protected by automatic sprinklers to serve as one large area of refuge), an uninformed observer often concludes that upper or lower stories of a building are not compliant with accessibility requirements because they see no "ramps" or obvious means for occupants to exit the building. It must be realized that areas of refuge are often provided by passive building systems such as fire rated barriers and self-closing fire doors that may not be noticed by everyday occupants of the building).

For more information regarding accessibility requirements in specific occupancy classifications or buildings, contact one of the regional office of the Division of Fire Prevention.


Question: What do I need to know about the Furniture Fire Safety Act and Rules?

Answer: In addition to the requirements applicable to furnishings found within the Life Safety Code, the Office of the State Fire Marshal enforces Illinois' Furniture Fire Safety Act (425 ILCS 45). In accordance with Illinois' Furniture Fire Safety Act and the subsequently promulgated rules found in Title 41 Illinois Administrative Code

Title 41 Illinois Administrative Code Part 300- a, articles of seating furniture manufactured after March 1, 1991, that are used or intended for use in public occupancies or public assembly areas, as defined in the rules that are not protected throughout by an approved automatic sprinkler system in accordance with NFPA 13 must meet the test requirements set forth in California Technical Bulletin 133 (1991 edition).

Title 41 Illinois Administrative Code Part 300- c, requires that articles of seating furniture manufactured after March 1, 1991, that are used or intended for use in public occupancies or public assembly areas and are placed in occupancies that are protected throughout by an approved automatic sprinkler system in accordance with NFPA 13 must meet the test requirements as set forth in California Technical Bulletin 116 (1980), and California Technical Bulletin 117, (1980).

It should be realized that the "public occupancies" for purposes of enforcing the Furniture Fire Safety Act applies to more than "assembly occupancies" as defined by the Life Safety Code. The Furniture Fire Safety Act and the subsequently developed Part 300 rules are applicable to seating furniture in: public auditoriums and stadiums, day care centers, health care occupancies, penal institutions, and public areas of hotels and motels (meaning areas containing 10 or more pieces of seating furniture). The Act and the Part 300 rules are NOT applicable to residential board and care facilities. Furthermore, the Furniture Fire Safety Act regulates only seating furniture. The provisions of the Act are not applicable to mattresses.


Question: Is the Furniture Fire Safety Act (and 41 Ill. Adm. Code 300 "Furniture Fire Safety" rules) applicable to residential board and care homes?

Answer: No. Residential board and care homes are not subject to compliance with the provisions of the Furniture Fire Safety Act or the subsequently developed Furniture Fire Safety administrative rules. However, you should be aware that the Life Safety Code adopted and enforced by the Office of the State Fire Marshal does contain furnishing and mattress requirements for residential board and care facilities.


Question: Is the Furniture Fire Safety Act (and 41 Ill. Adm. Code 300 "Furniture Fire Safety" rules) applicable to mattresses?

Answer: No. Neither the Furniture Fire Safety Act nor the subsequently developed Furniture Fire Safety administrative rules are applicable to mattresses. However, you should be aware that the Life Safety Code adopted and enforced by the Office of the State Fire Marshal does contain furnishing and mattress requirements beyond those addressed by the Furniture Fire Safety Act for some occupancy classifications.


Question: What is a Fire Safety Evaluation System (FSES)?

Answer: A fire safety evaluation system (commonly referred to as a "FSES") is a method of demonstrating that a building or occupancy provides a degree of safety that is equivalent to that provided by the prescriptive requirements of the Life Safety Code. NFPA 101A Guide on Alternative Approaches to Life Safety is referenced by the Life Safety Code and offers a detailed set of requirements that must be followed to prepare an FSES to assess both active and passive fire protection features in a building to determine if the overall conditions can be considered equivalently safe to that provided if the building complied with the Life Safety Code. NFPA 101A provides detailed worksheets that must be completed to assess an occupancy. NFPA 101A does not offer an FSES process for all occupancies. Currently, FSES processes are prescribed for business, detention and correctional, educational, health care, and residential board and care occupancies.

It is the current policy of the Office of the State Fire Marshal to accept and evaluate submitted FSES documentation for determination of equivalent safety to that required by the state-adopted Life Safety Code. However, the OSFM will not produce the FSES for an occupancy owner but rather only evaluate submitted FSES documentation. Although there are no applicable laws or rules relative to requirements for an individual to complete an FSES, the intricacy of the process and the necessity for familiarity with the process and fire safety features, causes the OSFM to caution building owners that those developing FSES documentation should be experienced in the process or maintain licensure as an architect or professional engineer.


Question: Are there any OSFM rules for providing fire lanes?

Answer: No. Neither the Life Safety Code nor other state fire prevention statutes and rules address the issue of fire lanes. This issue is usually addressed by local building codes or other locally adopted ordinances. The OSFM recommends contact with the local fire department or building department relative to fire lane requirements.


Question: Are there any OSFM rules for fire hydrants?

Answer: The Fire Hydrant Act (425 ILCS 20) is a state statute that defines the height at which fire hydrant outlets must be located when fire hydrants are provided. However, the Act does not specifically require that fire hydrants be installed. Furthermore, the Life Safety Code does not contain requirements for the provision or placement of fire hydrants. Requirements for fire hydrant provision may be found in local fire or building codes/ordinances and the Office of the State Fire Marshal recommends contact with local officials regarding this issue. (The Fire Hydrant Act requires that any fire hydrant installed or replaced after the effective date of the Act [1987] shall have a discharge that is maintained at least 14 inches, but not more than 26 inches, for the surface from which the hydrant protrudes. Not object shall be constructed, maintained or installed within 48 inches of a fire hydrant. It shall be unlawful to maintain, construct, or enlarge any barriers, trees, bushes, walls or other obstacles which may hide or impede the use of a fire hydrant).


Question: Does the OSFM inspect telecommunications facilities?

Answer: The Office of the State Fire Marshal has joint jurisdiction for fire safety in telecommunications occupancies with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA). The applicable rules are found in Title 83 Illinois Administrative Code Chapter I, Subchapter f, Part 785 "Joint Rules of the Illinois Commerce Commission, the Office of the State Fire Marshal, and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency: Fire Protection and Emergency Services for Telecommunications Facilities". Currently, inspectors of the ICC handle routine inspection activity in Illinois' telecommunications facility and only involve the OSFM if particular problems or need for fire protection expertise arise. Therefore, the OSFM does not conduct annual inspections of telecommunications occupancies. Occupancy owners should contact the ICC relative to a regular inspection and the ICC will notify the OSFM if intervention is required.


Question: What is meant by the term "Travel Distance" in the Life Safety Code?

Answer: Travel distance is used within the Life Safety Code to refer to the length of movement necessary for an occupant to reach an exit. The LSC requires that the travel distance to an exit shall be measured on the floor or other walking surface along the centerline of the natural path of travel, starting from the most remote point subject to occupancy, curving around any corners or obstructions with a 1-ft clearance there from, and ending at the center of the doorway or other point at which the exit begins.

Where measurement includes stairs, the measurement shall be taken in the plane of the tread nosing. Once an occupant enters a code-complying exit stairwell, they are considered to be within the "exit" of the building and therefore, travel distance does not include the distance down the stairway to the outside of the building. It should also be understood that when the Life Safety Code requires a limitation on travel distance between a room door and an exit, or within a room to the room door, the travel distance requirement pertains to the one closest exit available to occupants. All exits available or provided to an occupant do not have to comply with travel distance requirements. (There is no limitation on the travel distance to a second or third exit provided to occupants as long as the closest code-complying exit is within travel distance limitations set by the Life Safety Code).


Question: What is meant by the term "interior finish" in the Life Safety Code?

Answer: The Life Safety Code defines "interior finish" as "the exposed surfaces of walls, ceilings, and floors within buildings". Common components of buildings that are considered part of the interior finish include paneling, ceiling tiles, and plastic sheet goods. Carpeting is considered an interior floor finish. More definitive information regarding the requirements for interior finish, including an overview of why interior finish ratings are regulated by the Code, how interior finish products are tested and rated, and special provisions of the code applicable to interior finish in sprinklered occupancies and the application of after-market products to enhance interior finish ratings are provided in a separate document "Interior Finish" that is available from the OSFM's Division of Fire Prevention.


Question: What is the Truss Construction Fire Safety Act and what does it require?

Answer: The Truss Construction Fire Safety Act (425 ILCS 68) was passed by the General Assembly in 1997. It was intended to offer a method of standardized marking of buildings that contain truss constructed components in floors or roofs.

The Act does not mandate statewide marking of all structures containing trusses. Rather, the Act allows a municipality or a county to pass an ordinance that requires that a truss construction emblem be affixed to the front of all or any class of structure, excluding residential structures, within that municipality or county that have truss construction. The Act also allows the municipality or county to require that such structures be registered with the fire department. Furthermore, the Act allows the municipality or county to charge a reasonable fee to the owners of structures that use truss construction for purposes of covering costs related to identifying, maintaining records of, and inspecting the structures.

The Act prescribes that if a municipality or county ordinance requires a truss construction emblem then:

  • The emblem be of bright reflective material or color;
  • The shape of the emblem shall be an isosceles triangle;
  • The size of the emblem shall be 12 inches horizontally by 6 inches vertically;
  • The following letters shall be on the emblem: "F" to signify a floor with truss construction "R" to signify a roof with truss construction;
  • "F/R" to signify both a floor and roof with truss construction; and
  • The emblem shall be permanently affixed to the left of the main entrance door at a height between 4 and 6 feet above the ground and shall be maintained by the building owner.

The Act defines the term "truss" to mean "a framed structural unit made up of a group of triangles arranged in a single plane in such a manner that if loads are applied at the points of intersection of the truss members, only compressive and tensile (non-bending) forces will result in the members". The act further defines "truss construction" to mean "a structure, excluding a residential structure, in which the roof or floor is supported by trusses".


Question: Are smoke detectors required for the hearing impaired in hotels and motels?

Answer: Yes. The Smoke Detector Act (425 ILCS 60) requires that: "every hotel shall be equipped with operating portable smoke- detecting alarm devices for the deaf and hearing impaired of audible and visual design, available for units of occupancy. Specialized smoke detectors for the deaf and hearing impaired shall be available upon request by guest in such hotels at a rate of at least one such smoke detector per 75 occupancy units or portion thereof, not to exceed 5 such smoke detectors per hotel. Incorporation or connection to an existing interior alarm system, so as to be capable of being activated by the system, may be utilized in lieu of the portable alarms. Operators of any hotel shall post conspicuously at the main desk a permanent notice, in letters at least 3 inches in height, stating that smoke detector alarm devices for the deaf and hearing impaired are available. The proprietor may require a refundable deposit for a portable smoke detector not to exceed the cost of the detector".


Question: Does the OSFM regulate open-burning or fire pits?

Answer: No. These issues are usually addressed by local or county rule. The Office of the State Fire Marshal has not adopted and does not enforce rules that address open-burning, the use of fire pits or fire pots, bonfires, construction-site warming barrel fires, or other forms of what are generally considered to be controlled fires.