Tents and membrane structures are commonly used at festivals, golf outings, and similar events. Proper guidance in the fire code is necessary to ensure safety of the occupants and users of the area. Prior to applying code requirements the user should classify the scope of the structure in accordance with the proper definitions.
Tent: A temporary structure, the covering of which is made of pliable material that achieves its support by mechanical means such as beams, columns, poles, or arches, or by rope or cables, or both. A tent is not supported by air or the contents it covers (NFPA 1 3.3.247 or IFC 2402)
Canopy: A structure, enclosure or shelter constructed of fabric
or pliable materials supported by any manner, except by air
or the contents it protects, and is open without sidewalls or
drops on 75 percent or more of the perimeter (IFC 2402).
Membrane: A building or portion of a building incorporating an air-inflated, air-supported, tensioned-membrane structure; a membrane roof; or a membrane-covered rigid frame to protect habitable or usable space. An air inflated or supported (cable or frame) structure not otherwise defined as a tent or canopy (NFPA 1 3.3.240 or IFC 2402)
Code Basis for Tents, Membrane, and Canopy StructuresThe code requirements vary based on the adopted code of the jurisdiction. The adopted fire code will give additional guidance. Submittals shall be in accordance with the adopted code and include sufficient information to address the issues that are regulated by the code.
Chapter 25, NFPA 1 2006 Edition
Chapter 24 of the International Fire Code, 2006 edition
NFPA 101, 2006 edition, discusses special provisions in multiple sections of the code. Specific guidance can be found in Chapter 11, which includes:
Section 11.9 Permanent Membrane Structures
Section 11.10 Temporary Membrane Structures
Section 11.11 Tents
Section 11.2 Canopies
NFPA 102, Standard for Grandstands, Folding, and Telescopic Seating, Tents, and Membrane Structures 2006 edition
Checklists and other resources for Inspectors
Central County, CA Fire Prevention Bureau Tent and Canopy Inspection Requirements
Dallas, TX Tent Application
Logan City Utah, Tent and Membrane Structure requirements
Phoenix, AZ, tent application including fee schedule
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