Updated: May 8, 2022
How does someone become a fire plans examiner?
ICC certifications are essential for building inspectors, plans examiners, and building officials. Certifications demonstrate that the inspector or plans examiner is properly trained in their field of expertise and can effectively apply the code to construction projects. Becoming a certified fire plans examiner requires passing an International Code Council (ICC) certification exam. The entire process requires three basic steps:
1. Learn what the ICC requires for fire plans examiners
The 2018 ICC fire plans examiner exam requires the applicant to be knowledgeable in the International Building Code (IBC), International Fire Code (IFC), and NFPA 13. The IBC is the most commonly adopted model code for commercial buildings of all types. The IFC is similar to the IBC in many ways but provides specific guidance in relation to the requirements for fire prevention and fire protection systems using prescriptive and performance-related provisions. The most technical of the publications for the fire plans examiner exam is NFPA 13. NFPA 13 provides technical information for the design of fire protection systems while the IBC and IFC provide more general life safety guidance. From these code standards, an examinee must be able to answer questions from the following categories:
01 Administration 5%
0101 Research and Testimony 2% Research fire protection requirements for special construction, operations, and materials. When directed by the fire code official, provide expert technical testimony on fire codes and standards.
0102 Consultation and Explanation 2% Assist in coordinating the activities of the fire code official with the building official, zoning official, registered design professional, owner/developer, contractor, and public utilities.
0103 Recordkeeping 1% Prepare and maintain a record of each fire protection plans examination which is conducted, including notices and orders issued, showing the findings and disposition of each.
02 Occupancy 15%
0201 Occupancy Type 2% Verify that the occupancy type of the building is correct.
0202 Type of Construction 3% Verify that the specified type of construction of the building is correct.
0203 Occupant Load 4% Verify code compliance of the specified occupant load for individual rooms.
0204 Specific Occupancy and Use Hazards 3% Verify code compliance to protect against hazards of specific occupancies and use.
0205 Evaluate Special Fire Protection Features 3% Verify that special fire protection features, such as fire-resistive materials and surface treatments, and clearance of combustibles surrounding the building are specified where required.
03 Hazardous Materials 20%
0301 Management Plan 2% Review the hazardous materials management plan and inventory statement for compliance with code requirements for the prevention, control, and mitigation of dangerous conditions related to storage, dispensing, use, and handling of hazardous materials.
0302 Material Safety Data Sheets 2% Verify that material safety data sheets are submitted on hazardous materials, and specify the material classification hazard. Verify correct classification of hazardous materials and maximum allowable quantity.
0303 Control Areas 3% Verify that control areas are specified where required, and are designed and constructed in accordance with the code.
0304 Special Hazards 3% Verify that occupancies with special hazards, such as hazardous production material (HPM), semiconductor fabrication, dry cleaning, and woodworking, comply with specific code requirements for these hazards. Verify that explosion control is provided where required.
0305 Flammable and Combustible Liquids and Gases 5% Verify that storage, use, and handling of flammable and combustible liquids and gases is specified, and complies with special code requirements.
0306 Storage of Combustibles 5% Verify the general fire protection and safety requirements for combustible storage.
04 Fire Protection 35%
0401 Water Supply for Fire Protection 5% Verify that water supplying fire protection systems is sufficient for designed fire flow, with control and monitoring equipment as required by code. Verify that hydrants are located and sized as required. Verify compliance of fire department inlet and hose connections.
0402 Sprinklers, Standpipes, and Alternate Automatic Fire Extinguishing Systems 12% Verify that sprinklers, standpipes, and alternate automatic fire extinguishing systems are specified where required; are designed by qualified persons to the appropriate standard; are designed for the specified class of service; are listed for the specified class of service; and are listed for their specified use. Verify compliance of construction and equipment specifications for layout, installation, operation, and monitoring.
0403 Fire Alarm and Detection Systems 11% Review that fire alarm and detection systems are specified where required, are designed by qualified persons to the appropriate standard, are designed for the specified class of service, and are listed for their specified use. Verify compliance of construction and equipment specifications for layout, installation, operation, and monitoring.
0404 Portable Extinguishers 2% Verify compliance of size, class, and location of portable extinguishers.
0405 Smoke Control Systems 5% Verify that mechanical and passive smoke control systems are specified where required and are designed by qualified persons to the appropriate standards.
05 Egress Safety 25%
0501 Emergency and Standby Power 2% Verify that emergency and standby power is provided for systems egress and occupant safety, and are listed for the specified use.
0502 Egress Doors 6% Verify that egress doors are provided where required, are of adequate size, swing, fire protection rating, and compliance of panic or fire exit hardware.
0503 Stairs, Ramps, and Balconies 6% Verify that stairs, ramps, and balconies comply with code requirements, including rise/run of steps, width, length, guards, rails, and landings.
0504 Exit Access 7% Verify that the egress route complies with code requirements for width, clearances, maximum travel distance, fire protection, illumination, and signage. Verify that any dead-end corridors comply with code requirements.
0505 Access to Buildings, Windows, and Roofs 2% Verify that the building and its windows and roof are accessible for emergency access by the fire department. Verify stairway access to the roof when required by code, with street-level signage. Verify that the site plan specifies location of premise identification and, when required, fire-department key boxes.
0506 Hazards to Fire Fighters 2% Verify that posting of signage for hazardous materials is specified on the plans where required. Verify that protective barriers are specified where necessary for the safety of emergency personnel. Verify that building elements that may be hazardous to emergency personnel are identified.
2. How to study for the fire plans examiner (F3) exam
Knowing how to tackle answering questions from all of the required sections is a daunting task. Practicing answering fire code questions is essential for a plans examiner or someone about to take an exam. In the field, a plans examiner should be able to answer general questions about occupancy, hazardous materials, fire protection, and egress safety. During an exam, test takers must be able to navigate the International Building Code and International Fire Code fast enough to answer all of the questions within the allowed time of 210 minutes. Building Code Masters has several practice exams for plans examiners to test their skills and learn the most essential questions and scenarios they will be presented with. Practice exams for fire plans examiners can be found through the provided links below:
3. How to take the ICC fire plans examiner exam
When taking a fire code examination, it is essential to be able to navigate the code fast enough to find all of the answers in the text. Most ICC examinations are open book and because of this, obscure and hard to memorize material will be included in all of the examinations i.e. large tables and mathematical formulas. The 2018 fire plans examiner exam requires applicants to be able to answer the following questions in the allocated time:
Number of questions: 60
Time limit: 3 1/2 hours
This means that examinees will have roughly three and a half minutes per question. It may appear as a generous amount of time but some questions will be longer and more in depth than others which requires a plans examiner to be able to have section locations of the books memorized. Having chapter locations memorized and pacing oneself will lead to passing the exam. Practice exams from Building Code Masters prepare test takers for the time crunch and memorization of the most important sections of the code. Whether the exam is focused on building, mechanical, electrical, or plumbing, Building Code Masters has all of the study materials available to help test takers learn how to become better educated building inspectors, plans examiners, and building officials.
For a complete list of practice exams and study materials, CLICK HERE.