NFPA’s open process results in enhanced life safety
One reason NFPA codes and standards have been so widely embraced is the attention we pay to making sure they coordinate with one another. This creates a system of documents that work in a consistent and comprehensive way to make compliance by code users easier and enforcement by code officials simpler.
The NFPA Standards Council carefully considers the scope of each document as each project begins to make sure it does not conflict with other NFPA documents. The Standards Council also coordinates the code cycles of closely connected documents so that revisions in all of them take place together, strengthening the whole system.
A perfect example of the way this works will occur this spring when NFPA 1, Uniform Fire Code™; NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®; and NFPA 5000®, Building Construction and Safety Code®, are considered at our technical session. These three documents, working in concert, establish the best system of safety requirements for all types of buildings.
As with all NFPA codes and standards, the technical committees that develop NFPA 1, NFPA 101, and NFPA 5000 bring knowledge and experience from diverse disciplines to ensure that they meet current safety needs.
During this past code cycle, major events have given rise to several important revisions that the Standards Council approved through Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs). These include a requirement for fire sprinklers in new nightclubs and similar assembly occupancies and in existing facilities that accommodate more than 100 people. They also include new requirements for inspection of exits, assignment of crowd managers, and prohibition of festival seating under certain circumstances. The Technical Committee on Assembly Occupancies has endorsed these changes as proposals for both NFPA 101 and NFPA 5000.
Another major change endorsed at the technical committee level that will be debated in June would revise NFPA 101 and NFPA 5000 to require fire sprinklers in all new one- and two-family dwellings. Coordinating the development of these two documents means that they will benefit from the same technical arguments for change, and not end up with inconsistent requirements.
There will also be a discussion of a code change, already approved by the Technical Committee on Health Care, that would require sprinklers in all existing nursing homes.
All of these issues taken together are a good example of NFPA’s process at its best. We bring to the table the best people to discuss and debate the best ways to keep the public safe. In making their decisions, they consider recent and historical fire experience and changes in technology.
If an emerging problem is deemed to require action in the middle of the code cycle, as was the case with the changes affecting nightclubs after The Station fire, a technical committee can approve a TIA, which, if also approved by the Standards Council, takes effect immediately and automatically becomes a proposal for the next edition of the code. All of these changes are discussed in the open to allow for input from affected or interested parties, even if they aren’t members of NFPA or participants in our process.
Through this openness, flexibility, and coordination, NFPA produces a set of codes and standards that are used and supported all across the
By participating in this process, each of us contributes to our life-saving mission. With our increased understanding of fire and the other hazards we address, constant technological advances to counter those hazards, and our unprecedented opportunity to share information and experience, the NFPA system has the potential to do more in the coming years to make the world safer than we have ever done before.