Did You Know? Fire Sprinklers in Open Parking Garages

Terin Hopkins, Manager of Public Fire Protection

Did you know?

Fire Sprinklers in Open Parking Garages

fire in parking garage

Courtesy of Las Vegas KLAS News

Open Parking Garages  

Open parking structures have been allowed for many years to be unprotected, lacking basic fire sprinkler systems. Even when protection was provided in closed parking garages, it was only classified as Ordinary Hazard 1. The increased risks of modern-day vehicles, electric vehicles, charging stations and the impact of large-scale fires seen in recent years is changing that level of fire protection in today’s modern garages.  

Garage Fire Loss 

The US Fire Administration estimates about 650 parking garages fire occur annually each year in the United States, causing an estimated $8 million in property damage and 15 injuries annually.  

What is the Hazard Classification for Parking Garages

NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinklers technical committee had classified parking garages as Ordinary Hazard Group 1 for many decades but has reclassified these structures to address the modern-day automobile fires. This change in the 2022 edition of the standard reclassifies automobile parking and showrooms from ordinary Hazard 1 to the higher protection level of Ordinary Hazard Group 2.  

FM Global in 2021 added an even higher level of protection, reclassifying parking garages from Ordinary Hazard 2 to Ordinary Hazard 3 classification.  

Many others in the technical communities have also taken note of these fires over the last few years and now require open parking garages to be fully protected with fire sprinkler systems.  

The International Building Code and Open Parking Garages

The International Building Code (IBC)was first to add the requirement in the 2021 edition for open parking garages.  

IBC Section 903.2.10 had eliminated the blanket exception for sprinklers in open parking garages and reclassified them as Group S-2 occupancy. Requiring all new open parking garages over 55 feet in height or new open parking garages over 48,000sf in fire area to be fully protected with a fire sprinkler system. 

NFPA 88A Standard for Parking Structures 

The 2023 NFPA 88A Standard for Parking Structures Section 6.4.1 now requires all new parking structures to be fully protected with fire sprinklers. This would include both open and closed structures regardless of size but does not affect existing parking structures already built. 

What Does the NFPA 1 Fire Code Say About Fire Protection for Parking Garages?  

The 2024 edition of NFPA 1 Fire Code Section 29.1.2 and the 2024 NFPA 101 Life Safety Code Section both require all new parking garages to be fully sprinklered without any exception to size while once again not affecting existing structures.  

More about the Author:

Terin Hopkins has 34 years of experience in public safety and is currently the Manager of Public Fire Protection for the National Fire Sprinkler Association. He represents NFSA on many NFPA and UL technical committees, including NFPA 1 Fire Code.

Have a Question About Fire Protection for Parking Garages? Contact the NFSA Today

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