PART IV: OCCUPANT LOAD/OVERCROWDING
The occupant load is the total number of persons that might occupy a building or portion thereof at any one time. This is the worst case scenario or the maximum probable number of occupants at any given time. The occupant load is the number of persons for whom means of egress and other provisions are required and shall be determined on the basis of the occupant load factor in NFPA 101, Table 126.96.36.199.
During normal operations, occupancy of certain areas may not occur or are modified based on furniture layout. The occupant content is also calculated based on Table 188.8.131.52 but it takes into account the normal use and furniture layout in order to calculate the maximum number of occupants. The occupant content is the actual number of total occupants permitted to occupy a floor area in accordance with the maximum capacity of the exits serving that space and calculated area. The occupant content may be the same as the occupant load or may be a lower number depending on furniture layout and exit capacity.
The occupant load number is reviewed during building plan review and adequate code provisions determined based on that number. The occupant content number is calculated during the occupant content permit phase after the owner has installed all furniture. The occupant content sign is approved by the Fire Marshal and must be posted in a conspicuous place.
Overcrowding conditions exist when the maximum number indicated on the occupant content sign is exceeded. The fire inspectors routinely check for overcrowding conditions during operating hours. If there is an overcrowding, a citation carrying a $200 or $500 fine will be issued to the owner. This fine will be increased substantially this year to discourage this practice. In addition, the Fire Marshal’s office will begin suspending the business license/certificate of use for repeat violators.
Any changes to the furniture layout or square footage available must be approved by the Fire Marshal’s office. The owner can apply for new occupant content permit in the Building Dept.
It is imperative that the personnel stationed at all doors monitor closely the number of people inside the club at all times. There must be someone counting people going in and people going out to determine the number of occupants inside. The employees and performers must also be added to the count prior to opening.
The personnel shall never allow the maximum number to be exceeded. If the club has reached maximum capacity, then the patrons should not be allowed to enter. The personnel shall hold the doors until enough people have exited the club.
In the event that the maximum number has been exceeded for whatever reason, then management must take immediate action to correct the situation.