Getting to Know You
Boning up on the 2009 edition of the Life Safety Code.
NFPA Journal®, March/April 2009
Before applying a new edition of any NFPA code or standard, it is important that you review the changes to that edition. This process usually involves sitting down with the new edition and comparing it to the previous one, being very deliberate as you note the changes and updates to the document.
The 2009 edition of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, has been published and includes several substantive changes from the 2006 edition. If your jurisdiction is considering adopting the 2009 edition of the Life Safety Code, your thorough review of the changes to the code should begin immediately.
Each subsequent edition of any NFPA code is a refinement of the editions that came before it. Sometimes changes are made simply to make the code more user-friendly, while other changes reflect added or strengthened requirements based on the investigations of fires and the lessons learned from those incidents. Still other changes may be the result of studies done by universities, testing labs, or government research facilities, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology and National Research Council Canada.
The latest version of the Life Safety Code begins with a couple of pages that describe the origin and development of the code. This material amounts to a summary of the important changes in the code since its inception. The last paragraphs of this section describe the significant changes in the 2009 edition, and are highly recommended reading. In addition to providing a bit of the code’s history, these pages describe some of the significant changes in the more recent editions of the code.
Each change from the previous edition is identified by a vertical line in the margin. This line indicates a change in that section, but does not indicate whether the change was a word change or an entire new section. A dot in the margin signifies that a section was removed from that location in the code.
Two new annexes have been added to the 2009 edition. It is important to remember that annexes are not a mandatory part of the code, but are explanatory material for the purposes of illustrating the requirements of the code. For example, Annex B, “Elevators for Occupant-Controlled Evacuation Prior to Phase I Emergency Recall Operations,” addresses the use of elevators before the operation of smoke detectors in elevator lobbies, machine rooms, or elevator shafts (if provided due to the presence of sprinklers in the shaft). Remember, elevators are automatically recalled by the smoke detectors. They are not required to be recalled automatically by operation of a building’s fire alarm system. So the elevators will operate and can be used to evacuate persons with mobility impairments after the building fire alarm has activated.
This annex is written in mandatory language so that a jurisdiction can adopt it if desired. In addition, this annex may be helpful for building owners and operators to use in developing an evacuation strategy designed for people with mobility impairments.
Annex C, “Supplemental Evacuation Equipment,” is included for informational purposes only. It provides guidance on the use of supplementary evacuation equipment from buildings.
I will discuss some of the key changes to the Life Safety Code in future columns, but in the meantime, I would urge you to read and evaluate these two new annexes carefully. While they are not mandatory parts of the Life Safety Code, they may provide useful information for anyone who refers to the code.
Chip Carson, P.E., is president of Carson Associates, Inc., a fire engineering and code consultancy. He is a former member of NFPA's Board of Directors.