National Capital Area Fire and Life Safety Requirements For Outdoor Events and Tent Use

 

The Fire and Life Safety Requirements for Outdoor Events and Tent Use is a manual for National Park Service staff and permit holders using tents as part of special events on parkland in the National Capital Area. For more information about special events contact the Division of Permits Management.

 

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Introduction

The National Park Service, National Capital Region (NPS-NCR), Authority Having Jurisdiction, (AHJ) requires that fire and life safety plans and specifications be reviewed and inspections conducted on all fairs, festivals, special events and 1st amendment demonstrations PRIOR to start date.

Per Director’s Order #58 /Reference Manual 58, (DO58/RM58), the NCR/Fire and Emergency Manager has been designated as the Authority of Having Jurisdiction for the administration of all regional structural fire and life safety, enforcement and has adopted the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes and standards for fire prevention, and protection. NFPA 1 Fire Code and NFPA 101 Life Safety Code are some of the model codes and standards referenced in this manual.

All scheduled event documents shall be submitted to the AHJ for review and approval, twenty (20) business days prior to the scheduled event and shall include plans, specifications, and drawings for all outdoor event tents, greater than 900 sq. ft., and all cooking tents. However, ALL tents and temporary structures shall comply with the aforementioned fire and life safety codes and standards.

Submission Package:

  • Site Layout Plan
  • Tent Floor Diagram
  • Assembly Tents
  • Cooking Tents Diagram. (Use of cooking appliances require AHJ approval)
  • Emergency Plan
  • Crowd Control training certificates
  • “Flame Propagation certificates or tent labeling” in compliance with NFPA 701 Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films.
  • Public Health inspection report on all cooking operations, when required by the USPHS


NOTE: Handwritten layout plans, tent diagrams or handwritten reports are not acceptable.

National Capital Area Public Gathering Permit will not be issued without successful completion of the NCR Fire and Life Safety inspection (s). Event operation or occupancy shall not be permitted without the NCR AHJ approval.

Definitions

AHJ. Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). An organization, office, individual or designee responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure.

Assembly Occupancy. An occupancy (1) used for a gathering of 50 or more persons for deliberation, worship, entertainment, eating, drinking, amusement, awaiting transportation, or similar uses; or (2) used as a special amusement building, regardless of occupant load. NFPA 101:3.3.188.2*

Commercial Cooking (Equipment), Operation. Cooking equipment that produces grease-laden vapors and that might be a source of ignition of grease in the hood, grease removal device, or duct shall be protected by fire-extinguishing equipment.

Occupant Load Certificate. Every room constituting assembly occupancy and not having fixed seats shall have the occupant load of the room posted in a conspicuous place near the main exit from the room. NFPA 1:12.7.9.3.1

Temporary Structure. A building or structure not meeting the definition of permanent structure. NFPA 101:3.3.271.9

Tent. A temporary structure, the covering of which is made of pliable material that achieves its support by mechanical means such as beams, columns, poles, or arches, or by rope or cables, or both. NFPA 101:3.3.278*

Permanent Structure. A building or structure that is intended to remain in place for a period of more than 180 days in any consecutive 12-month period. NFPA101:3.3.271.8

Sections

1. Responsibilities

Park

  • Incorporate the “NCR-Fire and Life Safety Requirements for Outdoor Events and Tent Use” into the park’s permit process
  • Required consultation with NCR AHJ on all cooking tent operations.
  • Review emergency plan.
  • Pre-event fire and life safety inspections
  • A Public Gathering Permit may be issued after successful completion of all NCR-Fire and Life Safety Requirements for Outdoor and Tent use. Event operation or occupancy shall not be permitted without the NCR AHJ approval.

Regional AHJ:

  • Coordinate with Park permit staff and Park Structural Fire Coordinator, PSFC the implementation of the NCR-Fire and Life Safety Requirements for Outdoor and Tent use and provide any assistance as needed
  • Review all commercial cooking operations plans, tents and equipment
  • Review all outdoor events and tents drawings on assembly tents 900 sq. ft. or greater.
  • Perform Fire and Life Safety Inspections and assist park staff with technical expertise as needed
  • Issue Occupancy Load Certificates on assembly occupancies and perform exit remoteness calculations on tents requiring more than two (2), exits.

2. Site Layout Plan

All Site Layout Plans should be drawn at a minimum of ⅛ to 1” scales and shall include:

  • Overall site map
  • Description of each tent
  • List of all structures and equipment within the event site.
  • List of booth or site numbers (name of occupant if possible).
  • Location of all cooking, retail, and display booths.
  • Location of all LPG use including cooking and heating. (No LPG storage is permitted on site during the event, per AHJ)
  • Location of all portable generators
  • Distance to roadways or other structures
  • Submit NFPA 701, flame propagation performance certificates or insure flame propagation labeling on all tent fabrics are attached.

3. Tent Floor Diagram (NFPA 101:7.3.1.3.2)

All Tent Floor Diagrams or Event Structures Diagrams should be submitted to scale at a minimum of ⅛ to 1” and shall include:

  • Overall dimensions of tent in feet/inches
  • Description of tent activities or function
  • Egress paths and exit locations and widths in inches/feet
  • Placement of tables and chairs
  • Location of all Exit doors widths in feet /inches
  • Exit signs and emergency white lights
  • Locations of all portable fire extinguishers
  • Location and size of all LPG cylinders
  • Location of all cooking appliances
  • Location of all portable generators
  • Location of all portable heaters

4. Emergency Plan

The written emergency plan shall include:

  • The date and time of the event.
  • The name and address of the park site (s).
  • Complete contact information from at least two people, the event sponsor or coordinator and or an assistant, including cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
  • The approximate number of attendees and staff.
  • Evacuation procedures in the event of an emergency (Fire, EMS, weather, etc.).
  • A plan to immediately stop any music, all audio-visual special effects in the event of emergency.
  • In case of emergency, call 911 and/or the USPP at 202-610-7500.
  • Emergency procedures, medical first aid stations and evacuation plans shall be reviewed and discussed with all event staff.

Permits for outdoor events shall not be issued until AHJ has reviewed and approved application material to assure compliance with “NCR-Fire and Life Safety Requirements for Outdoor Events and Tent Use.”

5. Temporary Tents

  • Tent Approval: A plan for the placement of a tent must be submitted and approved by the NCR AHJ or designee before a permit is granted or erecting of a tent can begin. (NFPA 102: 8.4.4)
  • Tent Clearance: A minimum 10 ft. clearance must be maintained from tents to any flammable or combustible materials or vegetation. (NFPA 101:11.10.2.1)
  • Aisle Width: The width of aisles serving seating at tables shall be not less than 44 in. where serving an occupant load exceeding 50 people, and 36 in. where serving an occupant load of 49 people or fewer. (NFPA 101:12.2.5.8.2)
  • Exit Head Clearance: All exits must have a minimum head clearance height of 7 ft. (NFPA 1:25.1.3.2)
  • BBQ Grills: No hibachi, grill, or other similar devices used for cooking, heating, or any other purpose shall be used or kindled on any balcony, under any overhanging portion, or within 10 ft. of any structure. (NFPA 1:10.11.6.1)
  • Flame Propagation Performance: All tent fabric shall meet the flame propagation performance requirements outlined in NFPA 701. The AHJ requires a certificate or an acceptance label attached to the tent material. (NFPA 101:11.11.2.1)
  • Occupant Load: The occupant load for assembly areas will be determined by the AHJ or designee. Occupant load certificates will be issued accordingly and posted in a conspicuous place.
  • Exits and Occupant Loads for Enclosed Tents: Tents that have sides attached and those with rolled up sides which are capable of being enclosed shall meet the following occupant load and exit requirements. (NFPA 1:14.9.1.2)

Occupant Load Number

Minimum Exits and Exit Remoteness

Less than 49 people

1

50-499 people

2

500-999 people

3

1000 or more peop

4 or more










NOTE: Occupant Load assessments and exit remoteness calculations for tents requiring two exits or more, shall be performed by the NCR AHJ

  • Hay, Straw or Shavings: Hay, straw, shavings, or similar combustible materials that have not been treated to make them flame retardant to a degree acceptable to the AHJ shall NOT be permitted within any structure used as an assembly occupancy. (NFPA 1:25.1.5.3)
  • Stake Line Separation: There shall be a minimum of 10 ft. between stake lines. (NFPA 101:11.11.3.1) (Visible markings are recommended to mitigate trip hazard)
  • Tent Stakes: Tent stakes adjacent to any means of egress from any tent open to the public shall
 

6. Cooking Boothes

  • All tent fabric shall meet the flame propagation performance criteria contained in NFPA 701. The AHJ requires a rating certificate or other evidence of acceptance (i.e. a label attached to the tent material). Evidence of flame resistance acceptance shall be included with the event plan. (NFPA 101:11.11.2.1)
  • Cooking booths shall be separated by a minimum of 10 feet from non-cooking booths.
  • Booth exit opening(s) shall be a minimum of 3 feet in width. NFPA 101:7.3.1(2)
  • Portable fire extinguisher requirement: See Section 9, Portable Fire Extinguishers.

7. Exit Signs and Emergency White Lights

  • Required for all enclosed assembly occupancy tents and or as approved by the AHJ ort designee
  • Exit Signs: Exits must be marked with continually illuminated signs with an emergency battery backup. (NFPA1:14.14.5.1)
  • Emergency White Lights: Emergency illumination shall be provided for a minimum of 1 ½ hours in the event of failure of normal lighting. (NFPA 101:7.9.2.1*)

8. Fire Hazards

  • Flammable and Combustible Clearance: Minimum of 10 ft. clearance of all flammable or combustible materials or tall vegetation that is not used for necessary support equipment. (NFPA 101:11.10.2.1)
  • Sources of Ignition: Sources of ignition, including matches and lighters, shall not be used within 20 ft. (6 m) of areas used for fueling, servicing fuel systems of internal combustion engines, or receiving or dispensing of Class I and Class II liquids. (NFPA 1:30.3.2.1)
  • NO SMOKING: Smoking shall not be permitted. Plainly visible “NO SMOKING” signs shall be posted. (NFPA 101:11.11.4.2.1)
  • Wiring Protection: Flexible cords or cables accessible to the public shall be arranged to minimize the tripping hazard and shall be permitted to be covered with non-conductive matting, provided that the matting does not constitute a greater tripping hazard than the uncovered cables. (NFPA 70:525.20 (G)).
  • Temporary Electrical Wiring: All electrical appliances, fixtures, equipment, or wiring shall be installed and maintained in accordance with NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NFPA 1:11.1.2)

9. Portable Fire Extinguishers

  • ABC Class: Portable fire extinguishing equipment of approved types shall be furnished and maintained in TENTS/COOKING BOOTHS in such quantity and in such locations as directed by the authority having jurisdiction. Minimum of 2A 10-BC. (NFPA 101:11.11.5).
  • Maximum Travel Distance to Extinguisher of 75 feet for Class A-Hazard. (NFPA table 10:6.2.1)
  • Fire Extinguisher Height: Fire extinguishers under 40 lbs. weight, its top shall be mounted no higher than 5 ft. from the floor, or the bottom, no less than 4 in. from the floor. (NFPA 1:13.6.8.1.3.8.1)
  • Fire Extinguisher Maintenance: Fire extinguishers shall be subjected to maintenance at intervals of not more than 1 year, at the time of hydrostatic test, or when specifically indicated by an inspection or electronic notification. (NFPA 1:13.6.9.3.1.1.1)
  • Fire Extinguisher Obstruction: Fire extinguishers shall not be obstructed or obscured from view. (NFPA 1: 13.6.8.1.3.3.1)
  • Class K-Rating. COOKING BOOTHS - Class K-rated fire extinguishers shall be provided where combustible cooking of vegetable or animal oils and fats are being performed. It shall be installed within 30 ft. of the hazard. NFPA 10:6.6.1(2)
  • Fire Extinguisher Size and Placement for Class B Hazards such as Portable Generators. Portable fire extinguisher UL rating requirement is based on the maximum fuel capacity of Class B Hazard. Table NFPA 10:6.3.1.1
Type of Hazard Flammable and Combusible Liquids Fire Extinguisher Type Max Travel Distance
Low-Hazard Less than 1 gallon of fuel 5B Fire Extinguisher 30 feet apart
NFA10:5.4.1.1 10B Fire Extinguisher 50 feet apart
Ordinary-Hazard Less than 1-5 gallons of fuel 10B Fire Extinguisher 30 feet apart
NFPA10:5.4.2 20B Fire Extinguisher 50 feet apart
High-Hazard More than 5 gallons of fuel 40B Fire Extinguisher 30 feet apart
NFPA10:5.4.1.3 80B Fire Extinguisher 50 feet apart
 

10. Egress

  • Furnishings or Decorations: No furnishings, decorations, or other objects shall obstruct exits or their access thereto, egress therefrom, or visibility thereof. (NFPA 101:7.1.10.2.1)

11. Portable Heaters

  • Portable Outdoor Heaters: Heaters used for temporary heating shall be located at least 6 ft. (1.8 m) from any cylinder. (NFPA 58:6.19.4.4)
  • Patio Heaters: Patio heaters shall not be located within 5 ft. (1.5 m) of exits from assembly occupancy. (NFPA 58:6.20.2.3)
  • Carbon Monoxide Monitoring: All temporary tents or structures utilizing gas powered heating or cooking equipment or appliances shall be monitored for Carbon Monoxide (CO), gases. Monitor shall take place on an hourly basis.
  • Portable Electric Heaters: Heaters shall be connected to electricity by electric cable that is suitable for outside use and is of sufficient size to handle the electrical load. (NFPA 101:11.11.6.2.3)

12. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Cylinders

All LPG use shall meet NFPA 58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code, including the requirements listed below.

  • LPG Separation Distance: Containers for LPG installed not less than 5 ft. from any doorway or opening with at least two means of egress and 10 ft. from any opening with at least one means of egress. (NFPA 58:8.4.1.1)
  • No LPG Storage: NO ONSITE STORAGE of LPG cylinders is permitted per AHJ. LPG Containers that show excessive denting, bulging, gouging, or corrosion shall be removed from service. (NFPA 58:5.2.1.4)
  • LPG Cylinder Transportation. Cylinders in excess of 40 lb. (18 kg) total weight being transported to or from the site shall be carried on a hand truck or motorized truck. NFPA 1:41.5.5.3
  • LPG Limits: Maximum Allowable Quantity (MAQ), is based on cooking tent size or cooking tent area’s square footage. Per NPS-NCR Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)
Maximum LPG cylinder size use per appliance 100 pounds
Maximum LPG use per 10 feet by 10 feet tent (or 100 square feet tent area) 200 pounds
Minimum separation distance per every 200 pounds LPG (100 square feet tent) 10 feet (58:8.4.1.1)

Example: A tent size of 20 ft. x 20 ft., has a maximum LPG use of 400 lbs., with a 10ft. separation distance to every 200 lbs. LPG use.

  • LPG Protection: LPG tank containers shall be secured in upright position and protected from vehicular traffic. (NFPA 1:25.1.10.1.7)
  • LPG Visual Inspection: Visual inspection shall be performed in accordance with the following: (NFPA 58:5.2.3.4)
    • (1) The cylinder is checked for exposure to fire, dents, cuts, digs, gouges, and corrosion according to CGA C-6, Standard for Visual Inspection of Steel Compressed Gas Cylinders.
    • (2) The cylinder protective collar (where utilized) and the foot ring are intact and are firmly attached.
    • (3) The cylinder is painted or coated to minimize corrosion.
    • (4) The cylinder pressure relief valve indicates no visible damage, corrosion of operating
    • components, or obstructions.
    • (5) There is no leakage from the cylinder or its appurtenances that is detectable without the use of instruments.
    • (6) The cylinder is installed on a firm foundation and is not in contact with the soil

13. Portable Generators

  • Separation from tents: Generators and other internal combustion power sources shall be separated from temporary membrane structures and tents by a minimum of 5 ft. and shall be protected from contact by fencing, enclosure, or other approved means (NFPA 1: 25.1.12.1)
  • Refueling: Portable generators shall not be operated or refueled within buildings, on balconies, or on roofs. (NFPA 1: 11.7.2.2)
  • Portable generators shall be positioned so that the exhaust is directed as follows:
    • At least 5 ft. in any direction away from any openings or air intakes
    • Away from the building.
  • Wiring Protection: Flexible cords or cables accessible to the public shall be arranged to minimize the tripping hazard and shall be permitted to be covered with non-conductive matting, provided that the matting does not constitute a greater tripping hazard than the uncovered cables. NFPA 70:525.20 (G).

14. Crowd Control

Crowd Managers: Public assembly occupancies shall be provided with a minimum of one trained crowd manager or crowd manager supervisor, where the occupant load exceeds 250. (see additional information) (NFPA 101:12.7.6.1) Crowd Management training certificates shall be submitted to Park contract staff and the NCR AHJ with other required documents submission package for review and approval, 20 days prior to the scheduled event (see page 1). Spot checks on Crowd Managers certifications will be performed during the scheduled event. View crowd management certification training for staff or supervisors available online.

15. Fire Hydrants

Fire Hydrants: A minimum 36 in. of clear space shall be maintained to permit access to and operation of fire protection equipment, fire department inlet connections, or fire protection system control valves. NFPA 1:13:1.4. Vehicle clearance of 15 feet on all Fire Hydrant, RM58

16. Bonfire / Recreational Fires, AHJ

Bonfire Requirements

A bonfire, is an open burning fire, constantly attended outdoor fire utilized primarily for ceremonial purposes shall have a maximum fuel area of 5 feet in diameter by 5 feet in height.

Permit Application Requirements

Site Plan. A site plan shall provide the following information:

  • Proposed location of the bonfire.
  • Location of all utilities such as gas meters and overhead power lines.
  • Location of the two closest fire hydrants and all fire department access routes.
  • The AHJ shall be consulted to determine a safe location of any bonfire/outdoor fire.

Fire Safety Requirements

  • Maximum of one (1) bonfire per day may be approved
  • Maximum fuel area of 5 feet in diameter and 5 feet in height
  • Minimum distance to structures, 50 feet
  • Minimum distance to any woodland, 150 feet
  • Minimum audience separation from the bone fire, 4 x the flame height. Audience separation distance shall be maintained throughout the event.
  • Maximum duration, 3 hours
  • The bonfire shall be constantly attended until completely extinguished
  • A minimum of two 2 ½ gl. pressurized water extinguishers or two 4A rating portable fire extinguishers, or a garden hose or water truck shall be available on site.
  • Burn only dry, well-seasoned firewood or similar clean burning wood and ignite with small quantity of paper.
  • Combustible or flammable liquids, or other hazardous materials, shall NOT be used to aid the ignition of the bonfire, open burning or recreational fire.
  • Permits will be issued after a satisfactory site inspection.
  • Periodic spot inspections and additional safety precautions shall be directed by the NPS staff, AHJ or local fire department personnel

Post-Burn Requirements. Verify the bonfire is completely extinguished 30 minutes after the
controlled burn has been completed

17. Open-Flame Devices

Open-flame decorative devices, candles, oil lamps, decorative torches and gas lights are NOT authorized in any tent or temporary structures.

18. Fireworks / Pyrotechnics

All indoor fireworks use or outdoor aerial display of fireworks (pyrotechnics), shall meet NFPA 1123, NFPA 1124 and NFPA 1126, be inspected and
approved by the NCR AHJ.

  • All pyrotechnic technicians and assistants shall meet the state or locality certification requirements, as approved by the NCR-AHJ.

19. Electrical Work

All electrical appliances, fixtures, equipment, and wiring shall be installed and maintained in accordance with NFPA 70, National Electrical Code.

20. Commercial Cooking Operation

All commercial (kitchens), cooking operation in tents, food trucks or structures shall meet NFPA standards, including NFPA 1, Fire Code,
NFPA 17A, Standards for Wet Chemical Extinguishments, NFPA 96, Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations, UL 300 Standards and NCR AHJ approval

NOTE: During the event, periodic spot inspections and additional safety precautions shall be directed by the NPS staff, NCR AHJ or local fire department personnel

Reference Codes, Standards, & National Park Service's National Capital Area Policies

RM-58 Structural Fire Management
UL300 Commercial Cooking Controls Standards
NFPA 1, Fire Code
NFPA 10, Standards for Portable Fire Extinguishers
NFPA 17A, Standards for Wet Chemical Extinguishments
NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquid Code
NFPA 30A, Code of Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities and Repair Garages
NFPA 58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code
NFPA 96, Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations
NFPA 70, National Electrical Code
NFPA 101, Life Safety Code
NFPA 102, Standard for Grandstands, Folding and Telescopic Seating, Tents, and Membrane Structures
NFPA 701, Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films
NFPA 1123, Code for Fireworks Display
NFPA 1124, Code for the Manufacture, Transportation, Storage, and Retail Sales of Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles
NFPA 1126, Standard for the Use of Pyrotechnics Before a Proximate Audience

Sample Drawings

 
Illustration of fire and safety requirements for an assembly tent

Assembly Tent

The image is an illustration of safety requirements for an assembly tent used for special events on the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, DC. For more information about this image or permitted events, contact the Division of Permits Management at 202-245-4715.

The assembly tent is 40 feet by 30 feet and a total of 1200 square feet with an occupant load of 80 people. The tent must be NFPA 701 compliant with flame retardant material that includes a label or certificate. The tent must have two exit doors, one 2A:10BC fire extinguisher per exit, one exit sign per door, and one set of emergency white lights per door.

The illustration of the tent layout inludes exits on opposite ends of the tent with exit signs and fire extinguishers by each exit. Food and gifts areas are labeled, as well as ten tables and 80 chairs in the tent.
 
Illustration for fire and safety requirements for a kitchen tent

Kitchen Tent

The image is an illustration of safety requirements for a kitchen tent used for special events on the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, DC. For more information about this image or permitted events, contact the Division of Permits Management at 202-245-4715.

The kitchen tent must be a minimum of 10 feet by 10 feet. A maximum of 100 pounds per appliance and 200 pounds per location is permitted within the tent. It must be NFPA 701 Compliant and use flame retardant material and have a label or certificate. Fire extinguishers with a K rating and 2A: 10BC multipurpose are required.

The illustration of the tent layout inludes two fire extinguishers at the exit of the tent, a cooking area with a stovetop, grill, and three fryers, three sinks, and a table in the center of the tent.
 
Illustration for fire and safety requirements of equipment outside of assembly and kitchen tents

Tent Outdoor Appliances and Devices

The infographic is an illustration of safety requirements for outdoor appliances and devices for tents used for special events on the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, DC. For more information about this image or permitted events, contact the Division of Permits Management at 202-245-4715. The inforgraphic includes the National Park Service logo and is labeled "NPS-NCR Fire and Emergency Management".

Assembly tents require thant each exit door have a 2A:10BC fire extinguisher, exit sign, and emergency lights inside the tent. A portable generator, a 30BC fire extinguisher must be five feet from the tent or structure. A 40BC fire extinguisher with an electrical generator and secondary contrainment/drip protection must be 10 feet from any tent or structure. Candles are not permitted inside the tent. The tent required NFPA 701 fire retardant material certificate or label.

Cooking tents require a K-rated fire extinguisher and a 2A: 10BC fire extinguisher inside the tent. Cannisters must be located 10 feet from the tent or opening. Candles are not permitted inside the tent.
 

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Last updated: March 31, 2021

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