November 20, 2015 — Branson, MO, Midland, TX and Rogers, AR are the latest cities to adopt Appendix L of the 2015 ICC International Fire Code, and will now require firefighter air replenishment systems (FARS) in mid- and high-rise construction. Branson will also require the system in large horizontal structures.
A FARS is a building-installed standpipe for air, delivering a safe, reliable, constant supply of breathing air when and where firefighters need it most. Firefighters can safely refill their air bottles while under full respiration in an IDLH environment at stations located throughout a structure, making ground air management achievable in mid- and high-rise buildings.
FARS are also applicable in large horizontal structures like “big box” retail stores, warehouses and manufacturing facilities, as well as tunnel systems and large marine craft.
No other method of air delivery can match FARS for the speed, volume and reliability with which air can be delivered to firefighters in complex structures.
In the mid-2000s, several progressive fire departments became aware of FARS technology and adopted local ordinances requiring FARS in new buildings, tunnels and horizontal structures. San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, Reno and Phoenix were among the early adopters.
Other jurisdictions required FARS in complex structures such as high-rises, large horizontal structures and/or tunnels by special mandate.
In 2013, after a 2-year vetting process, the International Code Council approved Appendix L to the 2015 International Fire Code, which created a national standard for FARS and allows jurisdictions to easily include FARS requirements to their local fire codes.
Adolph Zubia, Chairman of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Fire and Life Safety Section, representing the ICC Fire Code Action Committee, was the proponent of the appendix.
FARS are now required in more than 90 jurisdictions covering 10 states, and the list is growing. More than 400 buildings are currently equipped with FARS, with many more coming online.
Branson is an Ozark town in southwest Missouri known around the world as a family vacation destination. While the city’s population is around 10,000, between 7 and 8 million people visit Branson each year, packing its many hotels, its famous music venues and other popular attractions. The Branson Fire Department is currently staffed with 2 engine companies and one ladder company for a total of 33 career firefighters.
“The entire 2015 International Fire Code (IFC) was adopted with the exception of Appendix M and minor changes in a few chapters to be aligned with our jurisdictional needs,” said Branson Fire Department Fire Prevention Division Chief Randy Fogle. “The importance of adopting the entire book is not only to plan for the present but to shape the future as well. The appendix chapters have stayed the course in requirements for some time with the exception of a new Appendix L and M.
“In Branson, we do not have any buildings that would fall into a mandatory fire sprinkler requirement as the majority of commercial structures have fire sprinkler systems. Appendix L has something different to offer the fire service. This new language plays an important role for not only firefighter safety but occupant safety as well. By installing an air system in high-rise buildings, firefighters have the ability to refill their SCBA tanks near whatever activity may be happening without leaving the building which could possibly lead to a reduction in property damage by a working fire or as small as smoke ventilation.
“Currently, as outlined in the requirements of Appendix L, we do not have the capability of replenishing SCBAs rapidly for a working fire in a large structure. Additionally, we have established additional requirements in our adopted amended ordinances. By doing so, we believe that we can cover any type of Use Group that may be built in the future thus protecting our department members for years to come.”
Midland, TX, nicknamed “The Tall City,” is known for the high-rises that dominate the city’s skyline. Due to a resurgent oil market, the population has been steadily growing, and is now estimated at 165,000. The city boasts a low unemployment rate of 2.3%, with job growth of nearly 3.8% and future job growth over the next 10 years projected at 45.3%, according to Sperling’s Best Places. The city is expecting construction growth to keep pace with the growth of jobs and population.
Rogers, AR, population 56,000, is the eighth-largest city in Arkansas and part of one of the fastest growing metropolitan regions in the country. It’s home to the country’s first Wal-Mart store and has numerous big box-style buildings.
For more information on FARS and Appendix L, please visit rescueair.com.