QUESTION: It has been stated that an organization is permitted to submit either a Traditional Equivalency or a Fire Safety Evaluation System for a deficiency to a life safety feature. How do we decide when to use which one and what is the difference between them?

ANSWER: A Traditional Equivalency is a basic three-step process:

  1. Identify the deficiency and reference the applicable NFPA 101 Life Safety Code paragraph.
  2. Propose an alternative solution to the problem; include drawings      showing existing conditions and the proposed solution; identify the total      cost of the solution, including the source and availability of the funds;      and identify when the solution will be implemented.
  3. One of the following individuals needs to state in writing that the      proposed solution meets the intent of the code, or creates an equivalent      level of safety:
  • A fire protection engineer
  • A registered architect
  • The local AHJ over enforcement of fire safety

A Fire Safety Evaluation System (commonly referred to as FSES) is a multiple page document that places numerical values to specific life safety features of your building. It is found in NFPA 101A, Guide on Alternative Approaches to Life Safety. This document provides alternative approaches to life safety based on the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code. It is intended to be used with the Life Safety Code, not as a substitute. The Life Safety Code permits alternative compliance with the Code under equivalency concepts where such equivalency is approved by the authority having jurisdiction.

After assigning a numerical value to specific life safety features based on questions in the FSES, a sore is derived in four basic equivalency functions:

  • Containment safety
  • Extinguishment safety
  • People movement
  • General safety

If the score equals 0 or greater in each of the basic functions, then the FSES demonstrates an acceptable level of safety, and the AHJ should approve it as an equivalency.

Anyone with intimate knowledge of your facility is permitted to conduct a FSES and special degrees and licenses are not required.