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Local Fire and Life Safety Code

Fire and life safety is especially challenging in high rise buildings. While many buildings were constructed under modern codes that contained key fire and life safety elements in their design and construction, older buildings were built before the advent of such code features.

The City of Chicago's Life Safety and High Rise Sprinkler Ordinances is designed to provide additional fire and life safety measure in pre-1975 high-rise buildings as well to ensure all high rise buildings observe more stringent and effective safety measures.

Fire safety measures required by the ordinance include active and passive means of combating fires. This includes the building's ability to contain a fire to its place of origin using passive means, such as fire-rated walls, doors and ceilings, and the ability to extinguish a fire by active means, such as Fire Department intervention or a sprinkler system. Fire Safety is also determined by the endurance of existing fire barriers, such as doors or walls, and the ability of the building’s structural frame to withstand exposure to fire without failure.


Sprinklers have been the most notable requirement introduced to existing buildings. Sprinklers will be required in pre-1975 or pre-fire ordinance buildings.  Sprinkler retrofitting requirements consisted of 3 phases over 12 years.  All nonexempt buildings are to be fully sprinkled by 2017.

Life Safety Evaluations

All high rises that are exempt from having sprinklers are required to submit a Life Safety Evaluation (LSE). The purpose of the evaluation is to review the existing life safety features of the building and establish a commitment to repair any deficiencies. LSE’s were to be completed by 2012.

Voice Communications

All pre-1975 high rise commercial buildings are required to have both a one-2ay and a two way voice communication system in order for the Fire Department to communicate with building occupants in the case of an emergency and for emergency response teams to communicate with a central incident command.

Life Safety Data Sheets

Existing high rise buildings are also required to provide basic information to the Fire Department regarding the building's standpipe and sprinkler system as well as the building's use, ownership and management.