Building Information Cards

High-rise buildings in most US cities are now required to have a Building Information Card in their fire control room. A recent additional to the International Fire Code, Building Information Cards (BICs) are quick-reference guides for arriving firefighters.

When emergency responders arrive at a building, they need quick access to key building data. Does the building have pressurized stairwells?  Is diesel fuel or other hazards stored on site? Can elevators be recalled from the fire control room?  And they don’t have time to read through emergency response plan binders.

A BIC provides more than 100 data points about the facility on a single 11-by-17-inch laminated card.  The front side features a cross section view of the building depicting the locations of standpipes, stairwells, elevators, and access stairs, along with a floor plan diagram of the lobby level and location of the fire control room. The back side provides a wealth of data on building systems, the locations of hazards and shutoffs, contact information for key staff, and scores of other details.

These decidedly low-tech but highly effective tools were introduce in the early 1990s in New York City. That city began requiring them after 9/11. Los Angeles adopted a variation of them a few years later, and the International Fire Code adopted them in 2012.

While the BIC requirement has been around for several years, cities are in various stages of adopting them. In addition to NYC and LA, many cities already require them.  Some cities have only recently adopted the 2012 IFC requirements and are giving building a grace period before they expect them in place. While at least one city is requiring them only at new buildings, the majority of jurisdictions now expect to see them at all high-rise buildings, both residential and commercial.

A copy of the BIC must be kept in the Fire Control Room. However, while the primary audience is firefighters, BICs are more often used by building engineers and other staff.  Being able to see a cross section view of the building and all key system data on a single double-sided card is extremely helpful for staff training and day-to-day reference.

For more information on BIC requirements, contact AK Preparedness at 206-238-0055 x224, or