About free access

Important information about free access to NFPA codes and standards

What are codes and standards?
A “code” or “standard” includes a wide variety of technical works that prescribe rules, guidelines, best practices, specifications, test methods, design or installation procedures and the like. The size, scope and subject matter of codes and standards varies widely, ranging from lengthy model building or electrical codes to narrowly scoped test methods or product specifications. NFPA facilitates the development and updating of more than 300 codes and standards related to fire, life and electrical safety.

How are codes and standards used?
For the last century, local, state, and federal governments have relied on private non-profit organizations like NFPA to develop the codes that are adopted into law to protect public safety. Codes and standards are also referenced by private and government organizations.

Who bears the cost of developing codes and standards?
The cost of developing the codes is covered not by taxpayers but by the standards organizations themselves, who recover those costs through their ownership of the copyrights in the codes and standards by selling them.

Does NFPA provide free access to Its codes and standards?
Yes. Even though NFPA owns those copyrights, NFPA strives to make its documents as accessible as possible, because we believe this is the best way to accomplish our mission. For more than 10 years, NFPA has offered free access to all of our codes and standards on our web site.

How can codes be accessed for free?
To read a current edition of any NFPA code or standard, simply sign in at nfpa.org/freeaccess.

Can the codes and standards be downloaded or printed?
This is a read-only site—documents cannot be downloaded or printed, because we rely on the revenues from people who want to own their own copies to fund the mission of NFPA. But for users who need to familiarize themselves with a code or check a requirement, this kind of access is invaluable.

Can the codes and standards be viewed on mobile devices and tablets?
Yes. The codes and standards are optimized for these devices.

Does NFPA’s free access satisfy those who say all codes should be freely available?
It should satisfy the wishes of those who feel that, as a matter of legal principle, all mandated regulatory requirements should be available at no charge to the public online.

What else is NFPA doing to provide greater access to its codes and standards.
NFPA has invited the agencies responsible for code promulgation in every state to link to NFPA’s free access site, and hope that federal agencies will, too. We will do all we can to make sure that the public knows about our free access policy. We have always been convinced that a greater understanding of NFPA codes and standards will improve fire and electrical safety for everyone.

Why doesn’t NFPA just give away their codes and standards?
It is essential that NFPA maintain copyright and the ability to charge for the codes and standards. Most of the money we need to fund our process and other vital mission activities comes from the sale of codes. We also derive funding from the sale of related products and services.

Why couldn’t industry pay for the development of codes and standards?
This would create significant problems, since one of the strengths of the system as it has always existed is that it provides NFPA with an independent source of revenue. Nobody can influence the process by threatening to withhold funds, because they system is funded not by a few big interests, but by the thousands of users who pay for their copies of the code.

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