Fire Command Room Features

In the City of Houston, the Fire Command Centers in high-rise buildings have been required to have Fire Depository Boxes before the information being placed in the national model codes. These fire depository boxes include the majority of the items listed under number 13 of code reference 508.1.5 below and additional details. The Fire Depository Box plays an essential role in assisting the Incident Commander with the building’s life safety systems.

Houston Fire Code
506.3 Fire depository box. A fire depository box shall be provided within all high-rise occupancies, as defined in the Building Code, or other facilities as may be required by the fire code official. Fire depository boxes shall be installed and maintained in accordance with Houston Fire Department LSB Standard No. 06, “Fire Depository Boxes.”

To learn more about Fire Depository Boxes please visit Setting Up Your Fire Depository Box for HFD

Note: There are few drawings included in the fire depository box that suppression Chief Officers prefer to be mounted on the wall inside the Fire Command Center. The following drawings allow Incident Command to effectively operate a fire or other emergency without having to dig through a binder in the FDB. These drawings will be referred to as the Life Safety Plan. Please see the information below.

The details below are preferred to be laminated 11×17 drawings or larger. Please see examples below.

Life Safety Plan

The life safety plan incorporates a few of the required features of the Fire Command Center numbers 12 and 13 and elements of the Fire Depository Box into three working drawings. A site map detailing the items below, an elevator bank diagram, and a diagram of stairways showing re-entry floors and roof access. The site map should indicate “North Direction.”

  1. Building Address and the number of stories above and below grade.
  2. Hydrant locations
  3. Fire Department Connection (FDC) location(s) and system pressure(s)
  4. Building entrance locations
  5. Each stair location including designation and floor/levels served and which stair(s) have roof access
  6. All exit locations
  7. Elevator designation and car numbers
  8. Fire Command Center location (if applicable)
  9. Fire Depository Box location
  10. Fire alarm panel, emergency voice communication, smoke control panel (if applicable to multistory buildings not considered a high-rise)
  11. Fire pump location
  12. Sprinkler control valve locations (for non-high-rise buildings that may have one control valve for an entire system)
  13. Utility shut-offs including electrical, natural gas and diesel

2. Elevator diagram of floors served

3. Stairwell diagram of floors served

508.1.5 Required features. The fire command center shall comply with NFPA 72 and shall contain the following features:

  1. The emergency voice/alarm communication system control unit.
  2. The fire department communications system.
  3. Fire detection and alarm system annunciator.
  4. Annunciator unit visually indicating the location of the elevators and whether they are operational.
  5. Status indicators and controls for air distribution systems.
  6. The firefighter’s control panel required by Section 909.16 for smoke control systems installed in the building.
  7. Controls for unlocking stairway doors simultaneously.
  8. Sprinkler valve and water-flow detector display panels.
  9. Emergency and standby power status indicators.
  10. A telephone for fire department use with controlled access to the public telephone system.
  11. Fire pump status indicators.
  12. Schematic building plans indicating the typical floor plan and detailing the building core, means of egress, fire protection systems, fire-fighting equipment, and fire department access, and the location of firewalls, fire barriers, fire partitions, smoke barriers, and smoke partitions.
  13. An approved Building Information Card that contains, but is not limited to, the following information:
    13.1. General building information that includes: property name, address, the number of floors in the building (above and below grade), use and occupancy classification (for mixed uses, identify the different types of occupancies on each floor), estimated building population (i.e., day, night, weekend);
    13.2. Building emergency contact information that includes: a list of the building’s emergency contacts (e.g., building manager, building engineer, etc.) and their respective work phone number, cell phone number, and e-mail address;
    13.3. Building construction information that includes: the type of building construction (e.g., floors, walls, columns, and roof assembly);
    13.4. Exit stair information that includes: number of exit stairs in the building, each exit stair designation and floors served, the location where each exit stair discharges, exit stairs that are pressurized, exit stairs provided with emergency lighting, each exit stair that allows reentry, exit stairs providing roof access; elevator information that includes: number of elevator banks, elevator bank designation, elevator car numbers and respective floors that they serve, location of elevator machine rooms, location of sky lobby, location of freight elevator banks;
    13.5. Building services and system information that includes: location of mechanical rooms, location of building management system, location and capacity of all fuel oil tanks, location of emergency generator, location of natural gas service;
    13.6. Fire protection system information that includes: locations of standpipes, location of the fire pump room, location of fire department connections, floors protected by automatic sprinklers, location of different types of automatic sprinkler systems installed (e.g., dry, wet, pre-action, etc.); and
    13.7. Hazardous material information that includes: location of hazardous material, the quantity of hazardous material.
  14. Work table.
  15. Generator supervision devices, manual start, and transfer features.
  16. Public address system, where specifically required by other sections of this code.
  17. Elevator fire recall switch in accordance with ASME AI7.1.
  18. Elevator emergency or standby power selector switch(es), where emergency or standby power is provided.
  19. A means to automatically switch an alarm signal to an approved central station. (Building Code Amendment)
  20. Two handsets per each 10 stories in building height (Building Code Amendment)


Chief Officers within the department have requested a simple feature be added to the Fire Command Center. This feature may be added to the code amendment for the next code cycle. It would be a great idea to add the below feature to your Fire Command Center in advance.

  1. Dry Erase Board. (36 inch by 60 inch or larger) as seen in the picture below.

The dry erase board allows for Incident Command to track personnel and occupants’ locations during an active emergency event. It basically helps them to what we call in the fire department “Run a Fire”.

A simple dry erase board.

Example use of the stairway intermediate landing to track fire crews during an actual fire at a high-rise building.

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