To: Head of Fire Departments
From: Stephen D. Coan, State Fire Marshal
Date: December 19, 2000
Re: Abandoned or Dangerous Building Regulations 780 CMR and 527 CMR

As a result of recommendations made by the Vacant/Abandoned Building Work Group consisting of representatives of the Fire Chiefs' Association of Massachusetts, the Board of Building Regulations and Standards, local Building Officials, and the Department of Fire Services, the enclosed regulations, effective December 12, 2000, provide for a uniform method of securing and/or marking certain abandoned or dangerous buildings. Both regulations, which were filed on an emergency basis, are subject to a public hearing within 90 days.

780 CMR 121.7 establishes standards for making a building safe or secure if such building has been identified under 780 CMR 121.2 or 121.3 by the Building Official as being dangerous to life or limb or that the building has been abandoned and open to weather. 780 CMR 121.8 requires that such buildings, that are especially unsafe in the case of fire, also be marked by the Building Official, in cooperation with the head of the fire department.

527 CMR 10.13 establishes the uniform standards for the markings required under 780 CMR 121.8.

Implementation of these regulations requires a cooperative effort between the Building Inspector and the Fire Chief. If a building is abandoned or dangerous and ordered to be secured by the Building Inspector, the Fire Department, once notified, has an important role in the inspection and securing procedures in 780 CMR 121.7, particularly with respect to the identification of hazards in the case of fire. The Fire Chief also has an important role in the marking procedures, including a final inspection of the subject building prior to final placement of the markings.

If you have any questions on these regulations, please contact Code Compliance and Enforcement Section at (978) 567-3300 or the Western Massachusetts Office at (413) 587-3181.


Amend 780 CMR § 121 by adding two new subsections: (1) 121.7 and (2) 121.8.

780 CMR 121.7 Standards for making buildings safe or secure: Any owner of a building who has been notified that said building shall be made safe or secure under 780 CMR 121.2, or any building official acting under the authority of 780 CMR 121.3 or 121.5 upon refusal or neglect of said owner to comply with such notice, shall:

(1) Remove all hazardous materials, as defined in M.G.L. c. 21K s.1, from the building until such time as the building is secured or reoccupied unless storage is lawfully permitted and the building is equipped with an automatic sprinkler system which is maintained and fully functional.
(2) Remove all combustible materials unless the building is equipped with an automatic sprinkler system which is maintained and fully functional. Combustible materials shall include any fixture not permanently attached.
(3) Remove all materials determined by the head of the fire department or local building inspector to be hazardous in case of fire.
(4) Secure all floors accessible from grade utilizing one of the following methods so long as such method is approved by the head of the fire department and local building inspector in writing:
(a) Secure all window and door openings in accordance with the U.S. Fire Administration, National Arson Prevention Initiative Board Up Procedures, continuously until such time as the building is reoccupied; or
(b) Provide 24 hour watchman services, continuously until such time as the building is reoccupied; or
(c) Provide a monitored intruder alarm system at the perimeter of all floors accessible from grade, continuously until such time as the building is reoccupied.


10.13: Emergency Planning and Preparedness

(1) 527 CMR 10.13 is hereby further amended by adding, after section 10.13 (6), the following new section:

(7) Marking or identifying certain buildings that are especially unsafe in the case of fire

(a) Any building determined to be especially unsafe in case of fire , under the provisions of 780 CMR 121.2 shall be identified and marked by the building official, with the cooperation of the head of the fire department, to indicate the degree of hazard.
(b) In marking such buildings, the following symbols shall be used:

This symbol shall mean that interior hazard exists to such a degree that interior operations shall be conducted with extreme caution.

This symbol shall mean that severe structural deficiencies or severe interior deficiencies exist to such a degree that operations shall be from the outside except for when a life hazard exists.

(c) Markings shall be applied on the front of the building at or above the second floor level, where practical, between openings such that they are visible from the street. Markings may be applied to the sides or the rear of a building if the head of the fire department deems such placement necessary. Markings shall also be applied in a conspicuous place near every entrance and on penthouses. Markings shall not be applied over doors, windows, or other openings where they may be obscured by smoke or fire.
(d) Markings shall be a minimum of 24 inches by 24 inches. Markings shall either be on a placard with a reflective background or painted with a reflective paint of contrasting color directly on the surface of the building. Stripes and borders outside of the marking shall be a minimum of 2 inches wide.
(e) All markings shall bear a date as to when applied or the date of the most recent inspection.
(f) Prior to receiving a mark, all buildings shall be inspected thoroughly by the head of
the fire department.

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