Safety Layering

Funded by an Assistance to Firefighters Grant, the NASFM Fire Research and Education Foundation has developed fire risk indexing tools for fire departments and others to utilize in determining the fire risk of a given building using the criteria from NFPA 101A or the International Building Code. These tools provide clear indications of the level of risk (compliance) using software applications specific to the code being used. Special thanks to the State Fire Marshals’ Offices of Georgia and Louisiana for supporting this project and pilot testing the software.

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The National Association of State Fire Marshals identified a need for enhanced knowledge and appropriate tools for jurisdictions wishing to analyze the fire risk of buildings in their jurisdiction. A pilot program was developed using a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Assistance to Fire Fighters Grant Program). This pilot program includes training modules on Layers of Fire Protection Analysis, Fire Risk Indexing, and two of the existing tools available, NFPA 101A and Section 3412 of the International Building Code.

Safety Layering is a concept used in virtually every regulation used to develop, construct, and maintain buildings and facilities. The concept of using layers of protection stems from the knowledge that no single layer of protection can provide one hundred percent success; as additional layers are added to any protection scheme, the chances of disaster are diminished. Identifying the most appropriate layer to use, i.e. sprinklers, fire alarm systems, passive protection, portable extinguishers, etc. requires knowledge of the hazard to be protected and the strengths and weaknesses of each layer.

The International Code Council and the National Fire Protection Association have promulgated documents to assist us in identifying the number and type of layers necessary to protect certain hazards. These can be found in the International Building Code, Section 3412, the International Existing Building Code, and NFPA 101A, Guide to Alternative Approaches to Life Safety. While these documents cannot supplant a true engineered risk assessment and analysis of protection schemes, they do provide a guide to jurisdictions and other users to use in assessing specific risks in the community. Utilization of the code documents will be far less costly than an in depth engineering analysis.

In an effort to promote the concept of safety layering, and to explore ideas to make fire risk indexing easier for jurisdictions with limited resources, the National Association of State Fire Marshals, through their Research and Education Foundation, explored several ideas and concepts. They determined that a software application (app) that was intuitive and easy to use would be advantageous to jurisdictions and the communities they serve. Because this is a new application, a pilot project was launched to create a “proof of concept”. This involved interpreting a narrow set of regulations from the two codes into useable software. The requirements from NFPA and ICC relating to existing business occupancies were chosen for this project. Each regulation is intended to be used as a risk indexing analysis, and they both use similar components; however, the methods used to calculate the end result are distinct and cannot be merged.

The results of the project are included in this website. There are three training programs:

  • An overview of the layering concepts, including Layers of Fire Protection Analysis (LOPA) and Fire Risk Indexing
  • An instructional presentation about how to use the NFPA version of the software and
  • An instructional presentation about how to use the ICC version of the software

These software applications have undergone considerable testing. We want to thank the Georgia State Fire Marshal, Dwayne Garriss, and the Louisiana State Fire Marshal, Butch Browning for providing staff and subject buildings for some of these tests. Software issues identified during these tests have been addressed, and the applications are now ready for use. They are, however, limited to existing Business Occupancies.

We hope that users find these applications useful and helpful in enhancing the overall safety of the community they serve.