4 Common Fire Code Violations

Knowing what’s considered a fire code violation can be complex and challenging. In most cases, violations take place simply because business owners aren’t aware of what the fire code requirements are. Most cities have a defined compliance process but depending on the local, county, and state rules, some may have fewer or more technicalities to consider.

The good news is that most common fire code violations are easy to identify and equally as easy to remedy! Below are the four most common violations.

1. Obstructed Exits and Passageways

The biggest problem isn’t with the everyday exits but with emergency exits. Since emergency exits are (hopefully) used rather infrequently, items end up being stacked up in front of them either obstructing the exit or hiding it. In the worst-case scenarios, emergency exit doors are sometimes chained and locked. 

To state the obvious, no items of any kind should impede the pathway to any exit doors inside or outside of your facility. Keep all emergency exits and corridors, free of chairs, filing cabinets, small tables, and any other type of miscellaneous storage items that could potentially cause injury to people or block them from getting out.

In the event of an emergency, if people can’t get out of your building or facility you’ll likely end up having to deal with a lot more than just a fine. If you know this is happening in your building, you should immediately let facility personnel know so they can do something about it. 

2. Unilluminated Exit Signs

Much like a blocked exit can cause problems in the event of an emergency, so can exit signs that aren’t illuminated. An average exit sign isn’t enough! It’s extremely important that they are illuminated and placed in a position where they can be easily seen in the event of an emergency. 

It is recommended that exit signs stay illuminated at all times, including when the building is not occupied or is closed to the public. If a fire emergency occurs during off-hours, there may be employees or contractors, such as cleaning crews, in the building. 

It’s also important to note that your facility may lose power, so all exit signs should also have backup batteries. This will ensure they are illuminated for a minimum of 90 minutes in the event of a power outage.

3. Expired Fire Extinguishers


Sometimes, our inspectors come across fire extinguishers with expired inspection tags. Fire extinguishers are designed to give the ability to put out a small fire, which is why it’s crucial to ensure that all of your fire extinguishers are up to date on their inspections. Much like emergency exits, fire extinguishers should also be in plain sight, not obscured from view, and have nothing blocking access to them. They should be mounted to a wall surface in order to protect them from damage. If you happen to notice the gauge needle on your fire extinguisher pointing in the red area rather than the green area, notify your local fire marshal’s office immediately. To save time, you can hire a fire protection company to perform your monthly fire extinguisher inspections.

4. Painted Fire Sprinkler Heads

When performing an inspection, fire marshals will check to see if there is adequate clearance around each sprinkler deflector. They will also check to see if the sprinkler heads have been painted. Manufacturers are the only entities allowed to paint fire sprinkler heads, so it’s important for painters to cover all of the fire sprinkler heads (especially when using a sprayer). 

If the ceilings aren’t too high, you can easily identify the issue by performing a simple visual inspection at ground level. Any fire sprinkler heads that have been painted over will need to be replaced by a professional fire protection contractor to ensure that water will be able to disperse without obstruction.

What are the Next Steps to Prevent Fire Code Violations?

The best way to avoid fire code violations, as well as the time and cost of correcting the violations, is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. 

  1. Install a professional, up-to-date fire alarm system and keep it well maintained throughout the year. 

  2. Access your city’s building information system so that you can look up what your jurisdiction’s violations are and any permit applications you may need to complete for your address. 

  3. Check your local fire department’s public records for any information pertaining to your building and make sure you have a valid certificate of occupancy.

If that information proves hard to find (fire codes can sometimes have more than 50 different types of permit requirements), we recommend that you consult with your local fire marshal who will be able to access all of the above information for you. They will also be able to assist you in your efforts, notify you of any common violations and make recommendations to correct them.

We know how important it is to keep your employees, visitors, and buildings safe. We can install and update your fire alarm systems to ensure that they are not only up to code but will alert both the building's occupants in case of emergency AND the fire department. Click here to contact us for more information on fire inspections, fire prevention, and fire alarm monitoring!