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Board of Housing and Community Development
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Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code [13 VAC 5 ‑ 51]
Action Update the Statewide Fire Prevention Code
Stage Final
Comment Period Ends 6/29/2018
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6/29/18  4:23 pm
Commenter: Stephen D. Lesinski, Virginia Beach Fire Department

SFPF/Section 403 Emergency Preparedness Requirements
 

To Whom it May Concern,

As the largest city in the Commonwealth, Virginia Beach prides itself as being one of the safest large cities in the nation. As a tourist destination , Virginia Beach permits over six hundred special events each year. Several of the events attract tens of thousands of people. This 4th of July holiday we can expect 150,000 guests at the oceanfront and another 65,000 at Mt. Trashmore Park. 

Today’s climate has changed from the past with the ever increased threat of an unprovoked attacked on the public using an array of diabolical means. As an example,  a beach concert can attract as many as 30,000 concert goers who assemble in a three block area. As soon as fencing or bike racking is used to enclose a venue we limit the public’s ability to remove themselves from a threat area.  Whether the threat is natural or man made, public safety providers have a duty to develop site plans which enable the public to evacuate an area in a reasonable amount of time. As a key player in special event planning and review, the Virginia Beach Fire Department plays a major role in site plan development. We do this by applying occupancy loads to VIP areas, increased use of emergency aisles, requiring additional emergency egresses from the venue, requirement of crowd managers, tent inspections to ensure tents meet fire resistive construction and provide for structural stability during weather events, emergency lighting and vendor inspections of fuel fired cooking appliances.

The recent tent fire at Soldier Field in Chicago resulted from a propane cooking fire. The  Las Vegas Rt.99 Concert Massacre not including the gunshot fatalities resulted in 871 injuries. Approximately 1/2 were gunshot wounds, the other half were a traumatic fractures and crush injuries from the mass evacuation.  These are just two recent  examples how things can awry.

The Statewide Fire Prevention Code, particulaly Section 403,  gives authority to local governments to intervene during the special event planning process. I urge the board to reconsider their adaption of the code review process in it’s current state. It will cripple the fire marshals of the commonwealth and jeopardize public safety in many ways.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback during this review process.

 

Stephen D. Lesinski

District Chief/Chief Fire Marshal

Office of Community Risk Reduction

Virginia Beach Fire Department