SAFTSE received an email questioning the validity of our post,” Water Barrels Bite the Dust in Connecticut.” The email asked us to confirm with the State Fire Marshals of CT that water barrels were an option for ballasting, so we contacted William Abbot, the State Fire Marshal of Connecticut. What an informative and enjoyable conversation! Fire Chief Abbot explained that the State of Connecticut has adopted, and is in the process of moving forward from 2012 IFC to 2015 IFC regulations. The basis for “Anchorage required” training for Connecticut fire inspectors came from the following code regulations.

3103.9 Anchorage required.
Tents or membrane structures and their appurtenances shall be adequately roped, braced and anchored to withstand the elements of weather and prevent against collapsing. Documentation of structural stability shall be furnished to the fire code official on request.

According to Fire Marshal Abbot, the key phrase is the last sentence in the code, “structural stability shall be furnished to the fire code official on request.” A bit of history: this regulation is the same in the 2012 IFC version. If my math is correct, we had five years to catch up on the code. Better yet, during that time span, we should have sat down with our local Fire Marshal and shared a cup of coffee and discussed the regulations. Only a suggestion!

The code, “Anchorage required” training for the Connecticut state inspectors, emphasized structural stability and adequately anchoring tents and membrane structures to withstand weather-related issues.  Fire Chief Abbot expressed that if a water barrel can maintain adequate stability and prevent collapsing under reasonable expectations, a water barrel is acceptable.  Fire Chief Abbott did state that the rumor may have started from a fire inspector deciding during a recent inspection that a water barrel would not be acceptable without giving an adequate explanation.

I asked Fire Chief Abbott what he would consider adequate anchoring.” He stated that the company who applies for a permit must provide construction documentation with suggested guidelines for anchoring. The problem here is that while there are guidelines available for engineered tents, there is no consensus documentation for non-engineered tents. We then discussed how the Common Wealth of Kentucky addressed non-engineered tents and membrane structures using “The Formula” and evacuation.

SAFTSE can put an end to the rumor that water barrels are banned in Connecticut. But a water barrel must provide adequate ballasting to prevent the tent or membrane structure from collapsing under reasonable expectations. There you have it – a rumor put to rest with a conversation with a Code Enforcement Official who explained the guidelines for a Connecticut anchorage requirement.

I want to thank Rob Neal from the ICC Government Relations Services for reaching out to us about our blog post. Also to Fire Chief Abbott for being candid and supporting the solution that education, communication, and collaborative safety between the Code Enforcement Officials and Special Event Partners is a priority for life safety when producing special events.

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