City seeks public input on changing commercial tent regulations

Monday, May 21, 2012 | 8:26 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The city is looking to change fire code requirements and the permit process for commercial tents and other temporary structures. A public input meeting about these changes will be held Tuesday evening.

Until recently, the Fire Department had not been consistently carrying out the required safety inspections of temporary structures, Battalion Chief Steven Sapp said.

This was because of a communication issue between the Building and Site Development Division, which issues the permits, and the Fire Department, Sapp said.

He said a temporary measure has been put in place to increase communication between the city departments regarding tent permit applications.

The city’s current tent policy is based on the 2009 editions of the International Fire Code and International Building Code.  Businesses are required to apply for a permit before erecting temporary structures larger than 400 square feet.

The fire department is supposed to make certain that all structures meet the safety codes outlined in chapter 24 of that fire code. Current code requires:

  • Clear documentation of the tent’s construction materials.
  • Proper anchoring of the tent.
  • Documentation of the tent being treated with a flame retardant.
  • Maintenance of fire extinguishers and clear routes of exit.
  • Official approval of all flammable gases and generators located within 20 feet.
  • Safety protocol for all cooking equipment in and around these structures.

In addition to increased inspections, proposed changes meant to streamline the inspection process include:

  • Allowing tents not used for cooking to be placed within 20 feet of lot lines, buildings, other tents, parked vehicles and internal combustion engines.
  • An increase in the maximum size of tents allowed to operate without the explicit approval of a fire code official from 700 to 1,000 square feet.

The City Council report calling for additional review of the tent permit process began before a beer tent collapsed in St. Louis, which left one person dead. The report mentions the 2008 collapse of a tent during a local church service and a 2011 Indiana State Fair stage collapse incident.

The meeting will be at 5 p.m Tuesday in room 1C of the Daniel Boone City Building.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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