Public Safety - commonly asked questions

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  • How can I make my business safer?

    1. Fire Protection Systems: All fire protection systems are required to be inspected, tested, and found to be 100% operational in accordance with the appropriate NFPA standard (NFPA 25 for sprinklers and standpipe systems; NFPA 72 for fire alarm systems, NFPA 96, 17 and 17A for Hood and Duct systems). Qualified, trained personnel must perform this process at least once a year to ensure proper operation and maintenance. This is the responsibility of the single tenant buildings with these systems, or larger tenants (anchor stores) in multi-tenant buildings that have their own stand-alone system. For shared systems in a multi-tenant building, the responsible party would be the property owners, management companies, or condo association representative. Please have a copy of this documentation available at the time of the inspection.
    2. Exits: Check all exits for debris and storage. No storage is permitted in corridors, stairways or in areas near exits. All exists must be kept clear at all times. Doors with panic hardware or fire exit hardware shall not be locked while the building is occupied. NFPA 101:
    3. Door Locks: Check for multiple locks on doors. Doors shall open with no more than one releasing operation. Slide bolts are not permitted on doors with panic hardware or fire exit hardware. All locks shall be in working order and of the appropriate type for this occupancy. NFPA 101:
    4. Exit Lights: Verify that all exit lights are illuminated. Make sure that the battery back-up bulbs and batteries also work (if the fixture is so equipped). There is no provision in the law for paper exit signs. Batteries and bulbs can be purchased at local electrical supply stores.
    5. Emergency Lighting: Shall be checked monthly by depressing the test button on the side or bottom of the units. Also an annual test is required that involves testing the units for 1 ½ hours for continuous operation to ensure battery life. NFPA 101:
    6. Fire Doors: Verify that all fire doors operate properly and are maintained in working order. When released from an open position, they must close and latch. The use of stops, wedges and other such devices on fire doors is prohibited. NFPA 101: and
    7. Electric Panels: All storage shall be kept a minimum of 30” away from electrical panels. No openings or exposed wires shall exist. Blanks (not tape) shall be placed in open breaker spaces.
    8. Electrical Hazards: Check for electrical hazards that may exist. Multi-plug adapters and un-fused plug strips are prohibited. Check for receptacle and junction boxes without faceplates. All electrical equipment must be UL or FM listed. NFPA 1:
    9. Extension Cords: Extension cords shall not be used in place of permanent wiring. NFPA 1:11.1.5
    10. Fire Extinguishers: All extinguishers shall be checked annually by a licensed extinguisher company. Extinguishers shall be tagged and dated. They shall be mounted not more than 5’ high nor less that 4” from the floor and shall have a minimum rating of 2A-10BC. NFPA 10: 1.5.10
    11. Storage (Inside): All storage shall be kept at least 18” below sprinkler heads (if they exist) and 24” below the ceiling. Check to see that accumulation of combustibles such as paper and boxes are contained safely. Storage must be kept a clear distance (as recommended by the manufacturer) away from any heat-producing appliances such as a furnace or water heater, or a minimum of 18”. (NFPA 1: & NFPA 1:
      Storage (Outside): The storage of combustible materials outside of a building must be kept a minimum of 15’ from the building. This includes dumpsters, recycled cardboard containers, etc.
    12. Address: Your street address (numerals) shall be clearly visible from the street side of your business. The numbers must be a minimum height of 6”, must be block letters and be of a contrasting color to the background.
    13. It is recommended that you review the performance history of your business’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment. Odors of oil, gas, the smell of smoke while the machinery is operating, or the tripping of breakers controlling HVAC or any other electrical equipment is an indication of a potential problem.

    NOTE: This list has been provided for your information and use. It is not intended to be all inclusive of the issues that may be raised during an inspection.

  • What size and type of fire extinguisher do I need for my business and where should it be placed?

    Fire extinguishers are classified by a number that indicates the extinguishing effectiveness and a letter that indicates the type or class of fire on which a fire extinguisher has been found to be effective. The size, type and location of fire extinguishers needed for your business depend upon the occupancy type, the type of fires expected and the hazards to be protected. If specific hazards are to be protected, the type, size and location of the fire extinguisher may be different.

    In an office environment or retail occupancy, a multipurpose (A-B-C) fire extinguisher with a 2A-10BC rating and classification (40 lb or less) should be adequate. These fire extinguishers shall be installed / mounted on the wall in the path of egress (on the way out) and one shall not walk more than 75 feet to reach the extinguisher. Per NFPA 10: Portable Fire Extinguishers code, “Fire extinguishers shall be installed so that the top of the fire extinguisher is not more than 5 feet above the floor… In no case shall the clearance between the bottom of the fire extinguisher and the floor be less than 4 inches.” If the fire extinguisher weighs more than 40 lbs, then it shall be mounted no higher than 3 ½ feet above the floor.

  • Where are smoke alarms required in my home?

    Depending on when your home was built, the location and type of smoke alarm required may be different. The following are the minimum requirements but you are encouraged to place additional alarms within your home.

    Homes after 07/01/1990 must have hard wire (electric) smoke alarms with battery back up on each level of the home including the basement but excluding the attic. The detectors must be interconnected so that if one activates, the other alarms also sound. Alarms must be placed in each sleeping area. Sleeping area means the area in or just outside of the bedroom doors or sleeping area.

    Homes built between 01/01/1989 – 07/01/1990 must have hard wire (electric) smoke alarms on each level of the home including the basement but excluding the attic. The alarms must be interconnected so that if one activates, the other alarms also activate. Alarms must be placed in each sleeping area. Sleeping area means the area in or just outside of the bedroom doors or sleeping area.

    Homes built between 07/01/1975 - 12/31/1988 must have a hard wire (electric) smoke alarm in each sleeping area. Sleeping area means the area in or just outside of the bedroom doors or sleeping area.

    Homes built prior to July 1, 1975 must have a smoke alarm in each sleeping area. Sleeping area means the area in or just outside of the bedroom doors or sleeping area. The smoke alarm can be a battery type or hard wire (electric).

  • I need to apply for a building or fire protection system permit, what is the procedure?

    The Fire Marshal Division does not issue permits. The Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Protection (DNEP) accepts applications for permits and distributes plans for reviews as necessary for issuance of permits. Questions regarding permit application procedures or permit status should be directed to the DNEP at (410) 260-2200. The Fire Marshal Division conducts inspections for commercial permits after issuance upon request by the contractor/applicant. Requests for Fire Marshal inspections must be made by calling the Fire Marshal Division directly at (410) 260-2202. If after normal business hours, please leave a message stating the type of inspection needed and the address of the inspection.

  • I have a family member who is deaf or hard of hearing. Is there a special smoke alarm for the hearing impaired?

    Yes. A hearing impaired or “Visual Smoke Alarm” has been developed for those who cannot adequately detect the sound of an audible alarm. Visual smoke alarms operate thru the means of a powerful strobe light (177 candela) as well as a supplemental piercing audible alarm that should awaken the sleeping person to warn deaf or hard of hearing occupants of a hazardous situation.

    Members of FABSCOM assist in acquiring and distributing visual smoke alarms throughout the state of Maryland. If you are unable to locate or afford the cost of a visual smoke alarm go to to download an application.

    The committee will assist you in your efforts to acquire a visual smoke alarm. These specialized visual smoke alarms are the plug in type and they must be installed in the in the room of the deaf or hard of hearing person.

    Distributed alarms are approved by the Maryland State Fire Marshal and listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). The program is funded by individual contributors as well as the sponsoring members of FABSCOM.

  • Can I burn trash, leaves or debris on my property?

    As general rule, NO unless a permit is first obtained from the Annapolis Fire Department.

    1. There shall be no open (on the ground) burning within FIFTY (50) feet of any structure.
    2. There shall be no burning in an approved container within FIFTEEN (15) feet of any structure.
    3. Permission is required from the fire marshal’s office for outdoor burning.
    4. All outdoor burning in a container or on the ground, shall…
    5.        a.    Be properly supervised until the fire is extinguished.
             b.    Have a clear area of not less than TEN (10) feet around the burning operation.
             c.    Have adequate tools and extinguishing equipment on hand to control the burning.

    ***** If in doubt as to the safety of the project, CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT!

  • My fire extinguisher at home is probably 15 years old and needless to say has never been tested. Should I assume that it has probably outlived its usefulness and if so, how can I dispose of it?

    Fire extinguishers that cannot be recharged (which many of the small home owner types are) should be disposed of after 12 years or sooner, if external inspection of the extinguisher shows signs of wear, damage or inadequate pressure reading or fullness by weighing or lifting. Regarding disposal, the County landfill will not accept them at any time. It is recommended that one look in the yellow pages under Fire Extinguisher Sales and Service. Some may accept them for drop off, but might charge a fee. If it is of the rechargeable type and you desire to continue using it instead of obtaining a new one, it should be inspected and serviced by qualified personnel who will determine if it is suitable for continued use.

  • How often does the fire extinguisher in my business need to be inspected and maintained?

    Fire extinguishers shall be inspected at a minimum on a monthly basis or on a more frequent basis if conditions warrant. Fire extinguishers shall be subject to maintenance at intervals not exceeding 1 year. Yearly maintenance must be performed by trained personnel who have obtained a permit from the State Fire Marshals’ Office to service or repair portable fire extinguishers. A tag or label must be attached to the extinguisher that indicates the month and year the maintenance was performed and by whom. Please refer to NFPA 10, Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers for additional information.

  • Can I use a BBQ grill on the balcony of my condominium or apartment?

    You CANNOT use a charcoal or gas grill on a balcony, deck or any area within 15 feet of a condominium or apartment building that has 3 or more living units. You CAN use an electric grill or similar appliance provided no open flame is produced.

    If you live in a single-family dwelling, duplex or townhouse, no law restricts your use but it is recommended that you adhere to the above provisions for your safety and the safety of your neighbors.

  • Are small campfires and bonfires allowed?

    The only outdoor fires allowed are for personal recreational purposes or cooking food.

    • The area must be under constant supervision until the fire is extinguished
    • The location of the fire must not be within 15 feet of any structure including buildings, fences, or decks
    • The fire must be contained in a U.L. Listed appliance such as a chiminea or burn pit
    • The device must have a chimney or metal screen to contain embers
    • A method of extinguishing the fire must be available


    If you would like to have a bonfire, you must apply for a permit at the Fire Marshal’s Office, 145 Gorman Street, 3rd Floor.  This permit shall require a diagram of the bonfire area in addition to guidelines you must follow.  Additional questions pertaining to this should be directed to the Annapolis Fire Marshal’s Office at (410) 260-2202.

  • My neighbor has junk, debris and other items stored on his property which I think create a fire hazard. What can be done to remedy this condition?

    Fire codes and regulations do not apply to properties of single-family homes, duplex homes, and town homes or to the interior living unit of a residence. Such conditions may however be a zoning or health issue. As such, the Annapolis DNEP (410-260-2200) or the Anne Arundel County Health Department, Environmental Health (410-222-7364) may be able to assist.

  • Can I purchase and use fireworks in Annapolis?

    It is illegal to posses or discharge fireworks in Annapolis without a permit issued by the State Fire Marshal. The following items are not defined as "Fireworks" and are permitted for purchase and use:

    • toy pistols, toy canes, toy guns, or other devices that use paper caps that contain 0.25 grains or less of explosive composition if the devices are constructed so that a hand cannot touch the cap when the cap is in place for use;
    • toy pistol paper caps that contain less than 0.20 grains of explosive composition;
    • sparklers that do not contain chlorates or perchlorates;
    • ground-based sparkling devices that are nonaerial and nonexplosive, and are labeled in accordance with the requirements of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission;
    • paper wrapped snappers that contain less than 0.03 grains of explosive composition; or
    • ash-producing pellets known as "snakes" that do not contain mercury and are not regulated by the U. S. Department of Transportation.

    [An. Code 1957, art. 38A, § 19(c); 2003, ch. 5, § 2.]

  • How can I obtain a copy of the fire codes currently being enforced?

    Most of the codes and standards referenced by the State and City Fire Prevention Code are National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes and standards. You can come to the Fire Marshal Division office to view NFPA codes and standards but are not permitted to remove them from the office or make copies. You may purchase copies of the NFPA Codes and Standards through the Internet ( or by calling 1-800-344-3555.

    You can link to the Maryland State Fire Prevention Code ( The State and City Fire Prevention Codes amend NFPA codes and standards and have other requirements not found in NFPA codes and standards.


Fire Safety and Fall Prevention

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