A "Public Assembly Event" is defined by the National Fire Codes as a gathering of 50 or more people for purposes such as lectures, plays, concerts, sporting events, amusements, entertainment, eating, drinking, banquets and worship services.
Public assembly events are typically held in structures that are classified as "Assembly Occupancies." (Examples include: auditoriums with fixed or loose chair seating, large conference rooms, multipurpose rooms, exhibition halls, libraries and cafeterias.)
With this type of occupancy, the fire codes are concerned with safety and hazards associated with large numbers of people gathered in one place at one time. Therefore, NIH public assembly events are required to comply with specific life safety requirements. In order to assist the NIH community in meeting these requirements, the Division of the Fire Marshal, Office of Research Services provides: life safety consultations; pre-event planning; open flame permits; approvals for interior finishes and decorative materials; fire protection surveys; and, occupant load monitoring (e.g., crowd control).
The life safety of employees and visitors who attend NIH public assembly events is of paramount importance. If you are responsible for a public assembly event, it is recommended that you and your staff devise an emergency plan to help ensure that all are trained in safe emergency procedures.
The infamous 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in Southgate, KY demonstrated the importance of staff emergency preparedness and assistance in fire survival. Although the building lacked proper exits, staff members were able to save hundreds of lives by leading patrons to means of escape otherwise unknown to the guests.
Public assembly events at the NIH can be safely attended by employees and visitors by supporting the personnel who oversee the various public assembly requirements in order to avoid the following problem conditions:
* Blocked or impaired exits or means of exit access such as aisles.
* Chained or locked exits.
* Storage of combustible materials in non-approved locations.
* Improper use or control of smoking materials and open flames.
* Disregard for the fire characteristics of non-approved interior finish and decorative materials.
If you have any questions concerning safe occupancy during an NIH public assembly event, please contact the Division of the Fire Marshal, Office of Research Services at 301-496-0487.