Guide on Alternative Approaches to Life Safety (NFPA 101A-2019)

Creepy hospital hall way adhering to NFPA 101A 2019 for health care occupancy in relation to life safety.

NFPA 101A-2019: Guide On Alternative Approaches To Life Safety, 2019 Edition offers guidance for life safety in particular facilities. It is meant to supplement, not replace, the Life Safety Code, NFPA 101-2018.

Life safety, in encompassing various building elements and systems designed to protect and evacuate a building’s occupants in the case of an emergency, is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, while this is true today, life safety was not always at the forefront for buildings owners and other people in charge. A few tragic examples exemplify the hazards brought forth by this level of neglect.

Over 100 years ago, 145 workers perished from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. This event is infamous, as many of these deaths were preventable. The Manhattan factory was full of neglected safety features, including locked doors and fire escapes.

Jump ahead 30 years, and the Cocoanut Grove Nightclub fire in Boston claimed the lives of 492 people, injuring hundreds more. The reason why this fire was so disastrous: Cocoanut Grove only had one entrance, and, to prevent patrons from leaving without paying their tabs, the other six doors to the building were locked.

While these events are in no way positive, they and similar tragedies in American history did shine a light on neglected safety concerns. After the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory burned, worker safety laws and regulations were developed. In the years following the Cocoanut Grove Nightclub fire and similar events, the country saw the expansion of codes and standards oriented towards fire protection and building egress. In fact, after the Cocoanut Grove fire garnered national attention, the Life Safety Code was rewritten into language suitable for adoption into law.

Egress in relation to occupancy is the focus of the Life Safety Code. The current edition of the Life Safety Code, NFPA 101-2018, addresses the minimum building design, construction, operation, and maintenance guidelines necessary for limiting the danger to life brought on by fire, smoke, heat, and toxic fumes, and the importance of this American National Standard is not overlooked. In fact, the Life Safety Code is currently used within every U.S. state, and 43 states have adopted it statewide.

NFPA 101A-2019 is intended to be used in conjunction with the Life Safety Code. This guide consists of several alternative approaches to life safety. As noted in NFPA 101A-2019, “Each of these approaches, where approved by the AHJ [Authority Having Jurisdiction], is recognized in Annex A of the Life Safety Code, as a method that can be used in determining equivalent compliance with various chapters of the Code.”

Each chapter of NFPA 101A-2019 contains a different system for life safety independent of the others. These various chapters contain a respective fire system evaluation system for:

  • Health Care Occupancies
  • Detention and Correctional Occupancies
  • Board and Care Occupancies
  • Business Occupancies
  • Educational Occupancies

There is also a chapter focused on Evacuation Capability Determination for Board and Care Occupancies in NFPA 101A-2019.

NFPA 101A-2019 revises the 2016 edition of the same American National Standard. Most of the changes made to the current document were made to better align it with NFPA 101-2018.

NFPA 101A-2019: Guide On Alternative Approaches To Life Safety, 2019 Edition is available on the ANSI Webstore.

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