Construction Projects and Fire Safety
(from Maine Townsman, January 2001)
by Stephen B. Dodge, Public Safety Inspector III, State Fire Marshal's Office

The State Fire Marshal's Office gets a number of calls from municipal officials regarding the construction of public buildings. Here are a few of the the most commonly asked questions.

Q: When is a construction permit required from the State Fire Marshal's Office?
A: All renovations or new construction of public buildings require a permit from the State Fire Marshal's Office. Barrier free review is mandated for new construction. A copy is sent to town code enforcement officer and fire chief. Exception: single story, 3000 sq. ft. business or mercantile. 

Q: Why does my municipal building (library, fire station, town hall, etc.) need an elevator to the basement and any upper levels?
A: Municipal buildings fall under Title II of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title II require "occupiable areas" on more than one level to be reached by an elevator. Mechanical rooms and levels with a maximum 6-ft. headroom (floor to joist) would be considered "non-occupiable."

Q: Why is my local library or volunteer fire department considered to be a public entity?
A: The relationship between that entity and the government must be considered. Factors such as, significant financial assistance from the town, worker's compensation, status of employees, officials appointed, etc. by the town must be considered.

Q: Do all of my bathrooms have to meet ADA design criteria?
A: Yes, all new or remodeled bathrooms must meet ADA design criteria. The only exception would be the bathroom of a private office (single user).

Q: Does my employee break room have to have a sink meeting ADA?
A: Yes. The exception would be to use a side approach and turn the sink sideways (like a party sink).

Q: Does my existing building with two steps require a ramp?
A: Yes. Under the "reasonable accommodation" aspect of ADA, a ramp 14-ft. long would be reasonable for the path of travel.

Q: Does the stove in the break room or meeting room need a commercial hood and duct system meeting National Fire Protection criteria?
A: Yes. Any stove not in your home is considered commercial. You may, however, install a microwave or an oven.