To achieve 100 pounds per square foot Load Test: No Liability Disclaimer will be part of this process.
A typical example is a 5′ x 5′ foot square platform which would need 2500 lbs of sand or water bags for 1 or more hours with measurements for deflection done before, during and after. This process is repeated every 5 years for the life of the Fire Escape System.
But there is an alternative to Load Testing and that is Certification, “Other Evidence of Strength”.
Certification is achieved when all the major structural fasteners have been replaced or reinforced as well as wall connections have been verified or duplicated. Nationwide inspections have shown that 99% of fire escapes have never been maintained other than occasional painting. Most fire escapes are over 50 years old and have never been re-bolted, structurally tested or checked for lead paint. Any repairs needed in the last 25-75 years were, at best, temporary band aids. Welding was common practice while internal rust was often left un-repaired and welded shut.
Re-Evaluation is still required by the Design Professional or Others Acceptable to AHJ.
In some cases the AHJ will want to witness the Evaluation to confirm and accept the Fire Escape Confidence Test (Certification) in Lieu of Load Test. Other Evidence of Strength is shown by:
100% of all major fasteners being re-bolted or reinforced
no internal rust in any connection
all deteriorated metal replaced or reinforced
all connections sealed with 35-50 year silicone
all cement and or thru-bolt connections are verified and or duplicated
This full refurbishment of any Fire Escape System should be done every 25 years or as needed especially if not properly painted. In most cases the AHJ will allow Certification (other evidence of strength) to be accepted for the next 15-25 years in Lieu of Load Test if the owner keeps the fire Escape System fully painted every 7-10 years or as needed. The AHJ could order a Load Test due to lack of maintenance. The Fire Escape System is still required to pass an evaluation every 5 years and Certify. No Liability Disclaimer will be part of this process.
Past practice was a Opinion Affidavit with Disclaimer of Liability. This practice was done by Design Professional or others, not necessarily acceptable to AHJ, who would submit the typical statement on their letter head . “To the best of my information, knowledge or belief the fire escape is in conformity with the state code.” This practice over the past 25-75 years relies on visual inspection criteria, not structural testing. Recent Court Cases have proven that the Design Professional and the AHJ are and will be held Liable if a Load Test or Certification was not required as per code. A Design Professional or Others Acceptable to AHJ must submit the following Disclaimer Letter and attach it to every Opinion Affidavit delivered to AHJ when Load Testing or Certification is not done: “This Opinion Affidavit (evaluation) is an opinion on the day of evaluation and is not to be construed as a Load Test or Certification. Any and all liability associated with an injury or death will be on the owner and or AHJ. The owner will defend and hold harmless the Design Professional or others from any and all Liability.”
As a rule of thumb. All new fire escapes that are 5-25 years old should be load tested since most will pass Evaluation.
All remaining fire escapes that have not been repaired regularly in 25-75 years should be Refurbished to avoid Load Testing for the next 15-25 years. All methods require owner to paint fire escape regularly or as needed otherwise AHJ will and can order a Load Test before the 15-25 years are up.
Again, all fire escapes in the USA now need to be inspected every 5 years as per the new IFC Fire Code for 2012.
Load Test or Certification,
Which method is right for you?
NFPA Life Safety Code 101. “The AHJ* shall accept by Load Test or Other Evidence of Strength (Certification)” *AHJ = Authority Having Jurisdiction