Overcoming code misunderstandings
NFPA Journal®, March/April 2007
NFPA 1, the Uniform Fire CodeTM is adopted in several states and communities around the country. The Uniform Fire Code is primarily a reference document that compiles requirements from approximately 117 other NFPA codes and standards into one document. Carrying this one document certainly is much easier for inspectors than trying to carry around 117 separate documents.
Where sections of other codes and standards are extracted into NFPA 1, the referenced document and section number are included at the end of that section within brackets. For example, NFPA 1, Section 14.3.2 is a direct extract from NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code® and includes that reference at the end of the section.
14.3.2 An exit enclosure shall provide a continuous protected path of travel to an exit discharge. [101:184.108.40.206.2]
There are a couple of common misunderstandings about NFPA 1 that are important to designers and Authorities Having Jurisdiction. One is that NFPA 1 is a maintenance document and only applies to existing buildings after the certificate of occupancy has been issued. This is not the case. NFPA 1 states in section 1.3 the following:
The second misconception is that NFPA 1 is simply an extract document and does not include requirements other than those already included in the referenced standards. This is also not true. NFPA 1 includes some of its own requirements that are often more stringent than those in the referenced standards. NFPA 1 includes this requirement in Chapter 1, Administration:
Let’s look at a couple of examples. NFPA 101, Life Safety Code does not require portable fire extinguishers in schools, educational occupancies as defined by both codes. NFPA 101 has no requirement in Chapter 14 for new or Chapter 15 for existing educational occupancies to install portable fire extinguishers. (See 14.3.5 and 15.3.5) However, NFPA 1, Uniform Fire Code, Table 220.127.116.11 does require portable fire extinguishers in educational occupancies.
Another example is the requirement for standpipes. NFPA 1 requires the following:
18.104.22.168 New buildings shall be equipped with a Class I standpipe system installed in accordance with the provisions of Section 13.2 where any of the following conditions exist:
This requirement for standpipes applies to any occupancy. NFPA 101, the Life Safety Code only requires standpipes in high-rise buildings, stages greater than 1,000 square feet (304 square meters), legitimate stages, and in certain detention and correctional occupancies.
Where NFPA 1 is applicable, designers, plan reviewers, and inspectors must use caution and refer to the specific applicable NFPA code or standard, the applicable building code, and the requirements of NFPA 1. In some cases, NFPA 1 may be more stringent than the applicable NFPA code or standard or the applicable building code.
Chip Carson, P.E. , is owner and president of Carson Associates, Inc., in Warrenton, Virginia. He is also a member of the NFPA Board of Directors.