There are many factors that can come into play when determining a building's fire and safety code compliance. Please see below for some of the common questions that the Building & Fire Safety team has received in the past.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use candles?
The use of candles is generally not permitted, except under certain, approved circumstances.
Open flame devices are allowed in assembly occupancies under the following circumstances:
- When used for a ceremonial or religious purpose other than handheld candles by occupants in seating areas
- On stages and platforms as a necessary part of a performance. A flame effects permit is required
- Approved food preparation operations
The use of candles in all other occupancies is deemed hazardous to life and property. The Authority Having Jurisdiction shall maintain safe conditions and shall have candles removed. Candle burning is NOT allowed in health care, day care centers, dormitories, rooming and lodging, education, business, mercantile, industrial or storage occupancies unless specifically approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction.
I want to have a different kind of lock installed on my office. What are the rules?
Individuals must be able to leave any space in a building and proceed to the exterior without special knowledge, tools, or keys. The following are the two most applicable sections of NFPA 101 (2012) when considering the types of locking arrangements for most doors.
Please note: The exceptions that are listed are only found in chapters dealing with specific types of large assembly buildings, detention facilities, and certain types of healthcare, and shall be allowed only when approved by this office.
220.127.116.11 Locks, Latches, and Alarm Devices
Door leaves shall be arranged to be opened readily from the egress side whenever the building is occupied.
Locks, if provided, shall not require the use of a key, a tool, or special knowledge or effort for operation from the egress side.
18.104.22.168.5 Key-Operated Locks
Exterior door assemblies shall be permitted to have key-operated locks from the egress side, provided that all of the following criteria are met:
- This alternative is permitted in Chapters 11 through 43 for the specific occupancy.
- A readily visible, durable sign in letters not less than 1 in. (25 mm) high on a contrasting background that reads as follows is located on or adjacent to the door leaf: THIS DOOR TO REMAIN UNLOCKED WHEN THE BUILDING IS OCCUPIED.
- The locking device is of a type that is readily distinguishable as locked.
- A key is immediately available to any occupant inside the building when it is locked.
A latch or other fastening device on a door leaf shall be provided with a releasing device that has an obvious method of operation and that is readily operated under all lighting conditions.
The releasing mechanism for any latch shall be located as follows:
- Not less than 34 in. (865 mm) above the finished floor for other than existing installations
- Not more than 48 in. (1220 mm) above the finished floor
I want to hold an event. What rules apply?
Events that use rooms or areas (including outdoor spaces) in ways different than what they were designed for, or involving more than 300 persons in a space or area without fixed seating requires event approval.
University of Nebraska Building & Fire Safety is dedicated to the safety of all individuals and to the efficiency of well‐planned and executed events. The following events and activities require review, approval, and, in some cases, inspection:
- Indoor events involving 300 or more persons
- Events involving tents
- Outdoor events enclosed by a fence
- Fireworks of any kind
- Any use of flame or flame effects
Please visit the Event Planning page for more event planning information.
Set-up / Floor Plans
The placement of stages, seats, equipment (including wiring), and security arrangements affect the exits and access to exits.
Standard set-up plans exist for many buildings that have large assembly spaces in them. These plans are maintained by the management of the respective facilities. Set-up plans for other spaces, spaces that are not routinely used for public assembly (including lobbies and atriums), or any plans that are different from existing standard plans must be reviewed and approved, in advance, by University of Nebraska Building and Fire Safety for conformance with life safety regulations.
Please view the Event Planning page for more information related to floor plan approval procedures.
You can also email us any requests for approvals, or any questions you might have.
Can I put up a holiday tree in my office?
The use of live or cut trees is generally discouraged, and allowed only under certain approved circumstances.
General requirements for Natural Cut Trees
- Cut trees shall not be permitted in the following occupancies: assembly, dormitory, and hotels
- Cut trees permitted in buildings with automatic sprinkler system in the following occupancies:
- Apartments, within dwelling unit only, business, day-care, industrial, mercantile & storage
- Balled trees permitted in the following occupancies: ambulatory health care, apartment buildings, business, day-care, healthcare, industrial, mercantile & storage.
- Health Care balled tree shall have the burlap surrounding the root ball removed
Provisions for Natural Cut Trees
- Where a natural cut tree is permitted, the bottom end of the trunk shall be cut off with a straight fresh cut at least 2” above the end prior to placing the tree in a stand to allow the tree to absorb water
- The tree shall be placed in a suitable stand with water
- The water level shall be maintained above the fresh cut and checked at least once daily
- The tree shall be removed from the building immediately upon evidence of dryness
- Combustible vegetation and natural cut trees shall not be located near heating vents or other fixed or portable heating devices that could cause it to dry out prematurely or to be ignited
Provisions for Flame Resistance or Fire Retardance (Artificial Trees)
Artificial vegetation and artificial Christmas trees are allowed in all occupancies.
- They shall be labeled or otherwise identified or certified by the manufacturer as being flame retardant or flame resistive
- Such flame resistance or flame retardance shall be demonstrated by each individual decorative vegetation item, including any decorative lighting, in an approved manner
- Vegetation and Holiday trees shall not obstruct corridors, exit ways, or other means of egress
- Only listed electrical lights and wiring shall be used on natural or artificial combustible vegetation, natural or artificial Christmas trees, and other similar decorations
- Electrical lights shall be prohibited on metal artificial trees
- Open flames such as from candles, lanterns, kerosene heaters, and gas-fired heaters shall not be located on or near combustible vegetation, Christmas trees, or other similar combustible materials
- Combustible vegetation and natural cut trees shall not be located near exits.
What is the maximum capacity of the room?
Capacities vary, depending on the use of the space and the capacity of the egress (exit) system.
The Fire Codes do not assign a maximum capacity to a room or space, except in a few specific instances, which are not common. What the Code does do is to assign a capacity factor, based on the occupancy type and the area of the space under consideration. This factor is used to verify that the egress path and exit access from that space are compliant for the proposed use.
Actual maximum capacity is based on two considerations:
- The first consideration is the aforementioned capacity of the egress system. For example, if a room has only one exit out of it, or multiple exits that are not sufficiently far apart, capacity would be limited to 49 persons.
- The second consideration is exit access within the space. Furniture and equipment must be arranged in such a manner that minimum clearances of exit paths and aisles are maintained. This consideration is usually the more limiting factor.
We encourage you to contact us for a quick analysis of your scenario or if there is a question regarding the maximum capacity of a room, a detailed plan of the room, and any proposed furniture/equipment layout.
What can I store in the corridors of my building?
Storage in exit pathways, including corridors, stair enclosures and hallways, is a persistent problem on all University of Nebraska campuses. While corridors, stair enclosures and hallways are a seemingly convenient space to store items during office moves or renovations, storing materials in egress paths can create a serious hazard.
Corridors, stair enclosures and hallways are not assigned to departments and administrative units; any use must not adversely affect safety or put the university at risk of regulatory action. Corridors, stair enclosures and hallways used for egress must remain free of hazardous materials, equipment, storage, and other materials and debris to assure safety. Allowed use must not obstruct access or visibility of safety equipment, lighting, exit and other signs.
The primary hazard involved is access to exits. Because building occupants must have clear exit pathways or routes and enough space to exit a building in an emergency, the Life Safety Code (NFPA 101) requires a minimum width for exit pathways. In addition, any portion of a building that is open to the public or has employees who are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is required to have exit access of at least 36 inches; the minimum clear width for doors is 32 inches.
The Life Safety Code also requires that exit routes not decrease in width going toward the exit. Exit routes may not be used for any purpose other than an exit, may not be obstructed by any means, and any objects that project into an exit route may not reduce the width of the exit route to less than its minimum required width. When items are stored in corridors, they often will be placed along the wall; however, important safety devices such as fire extinguishers, automated external defibrillator (AED) wall mounted units, some escape masks, and fire alarm pull stations, are often mounted on walls. Access to safety devices must not be obstructed by improperly stored or placed items. Important signs that show exits and evacuation routes, as well as braille exit and staging area signage, must also be clear of improperly stored items. Blocking such signage may prevent individuals with disabilities from safely evacuating the building. Similarly, persons who use a wheelchair may be hindered by storage in the halls. The University of Nebraska Fire Marshal encourages all offices to make sure all exit routes are kept clear so potential evacuations can be as safe and swift as possible.
In general, the following restrictions apply to all corridors and stair enclosures:
- NO storage is allowed in corridors of buildings not equipped with automatic sprinklers.
- NO storage is allowed within a stairway or stair enclosure.
- Nothing may obstruct the required minimum width of a corridor. That would include items that could be easily moved or tipped over.
Keep in mind:
- Corridors may never be used as routine work spaces or for general storage.
- Maintain a clear area around corridor eye washes, emergency showers, and fire extinguishers. Anything that interferes with the use of corridor safety equipment is prohibited.
- Never store or use hazardous materials in a corridor.
Upon notice from the University of Nebraska Fire Marshal, unauthorized items shall be removed promptly, within the following timeframe:
- Immediately, if material is hazardous (compressed gases, hazardous chemicals, etc.)
- Within 30 days if the item is non-hazardous
- Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request authorization to place equipment or material in a corridor or request an inspection of an area.
Examples of Permitted Items
Examples of items that may be permitted, subject to approval by the University of Nebraska Fire Marshal, include:
- Empty containers of liquefied cryogenic gases (e.g., nitrogen) secured to the wall with a top-ring tether
- Empty compressed inert gas cylinders, for service storage only (e.g., argon, helium, neon, nitrogen, krypton, carbon dioxide), secured to a substantial, fixed surface, in an acceptable manner
- Seismically secured non-combustible or low combustible filing cabinets and storage cabinets with latching doors (no hazardous materials storage)
- Low combustible chairs and table for breaks if a break room not available on the floor, provided they are arranged so they do not interfere with the egress path
- Low combustible chairs and tables for waiting areas, within reason, given space available
- White boards, bulletin board, art, signs, display cases, and similar wall hung items that are low or noncombustible and occupy a reasonably small percentage of the wall
- Food, drink, and similar vending machines that are secure from tipping
Conditions for Allowed Items
- All items must be located along one side of the corridor and located so that it does not block access to electrical panels, emergency equipment or obstruct signage
- Large equipment may not be placed on tables or stacked on top of other equipment
- Extension cords are not allowed; all equipment shall be plugged directly into an outlet
- Large heavy objects must be adequately secured
- Table, chairs and other furnishings must be of low combustibility
- Equipment may not reduce required corridor width, typically 44 inches but greater in some cases (confer with NU B&FS)
- Maintain clearances as follows:
- Emergency Showers: 24 inches from non-electrical and 60 inches from electrical equipment
- Doors: 18 inches from pull side and 12 inches on the push side from the door latch for accessibility (see ANSI A117.1)
- Fire extinguishers: 18 inches left and right and nothing below
- No closer to the ceiling than 18 inches in buildings equipped with a sprinkler system; 24” in buildings that are not
- Doors from occupied rooms must meet building code swing clearance requirements. (confer with NU B&FS)
- Electrical/Access panels/drinking fountains: Six (6) inches from edge and 3 feet minimum total width of the access panel or fixture; nothing allowed above or below
Examples of Non-permitted Items
Examples of items that are not permitted include, but are not limited to:
- Mechanical equipment with exposed/unguarded belts pulleys and gears
- Any item that produces steam, odors, aerosols
- Refrigerators, lab equipment, etc.
- Exceptions (In Approved Limited Access Corridors Only), with exceptions:
- Centrifuges with sealed rotors for BSL-1 and non-infectious materials
- Refrigerators and freezers, when the location and use does not jeopardize emergency egress
- Other lab equipment in limited access corridors when the location and use does not jeopardize emergency egress
- Case by case approval for biological safety and fire prevention is required
- Workstations (typical desk and chair/computer/loose and combustible materials)
- Overstuffed sofa, futons and similar highly combustible furniture. Combustible materials outside enclosed cabinets. This includes shelving, journals, papers, books, recycle, and boxes
- Recycle and waste containers except those approved for public areas
- Equipment and property to be picked up by Surplus (temporary storage)
- Temporary storage associated with construction (unless specifically planned, designated and authorized)
- Copy machines
- Cardboard or wooden boxes
- Pallets of chemicals
- Trash or recycling receptacles
- Compressed gas cylinders containing toxic or flammable gases
- Water bottles larger than 5 gallons
- Flammable liquid storage cabinets
- Decorative materials