A primer on how NFPA standards are developed and revised, and by whom
NFPA standards are developed through an open-consensus process in which anyone (except NFPA staff) can participate. We receive lots of questions about how this time-tested process works from individuals who are not familiar with it as well as from those that are involved in some aspect of it.
In answer to these questions, here is a broad overview of how NFPA standards are developed and the parties involved:
What is the NFPA standards development process?
NFPA facilitates the development of more than 300 standards that cover myriad aspects of building, life, fire, and electrical safety. Each of the standards is revised every three to five years, with each revision cycle opening with a call for Public Input (publicly suggested changes in text to the current edition of a standard) and concluding with the publication of the First Draft Report, which documents the responsible technical committee(s)’s actions and responses to all Public Inputs.
Next, the Public Comment period seeks review and suggested changes to the First Draft text. After the committee(s) review and action on the Public Comments, their recommended text changes and responses to all Public Comments are published in the Second Draft Report for additional public review.
Then, at the NFPA Technical Meeting each June, there is an opportunity to challenge a proposed change to a standard through a Notice of Intent to Make a Motion (NITMAM), which is submitted in advance of the meeting. Anyone may attend and debate motions, then the NFPA membership in attendance votes to either support the debated motion or the technical committee’s recommended second draft text as presented.
The outcome from the public process and committee actions along with the Technical Meeting results are presented to the NFPA Standards Council who decides, based on all evidence, to issue the standard or return the standard to the technical committee for further work if necessary.
Can a standard be changed before the next revision cycle?
Yes, anyone may submit a Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA), which serves as an emergency recommended change to a standard in advance of the next revision cycle. Among other requirements, all TIAs must include the proposed text to be changed, added, or deleted and a statement of the problem and substantiation for the TIA must be provided, including identifying why the TIA is of an emergency nature requiring prompt attention.
Because of the emergency nature of TIAs and the limited public review all TIA’s require three-fourths (75%) approval of the respective Technical and Correlating Committee members to be recommended for issuance by the NFPA Standards Council.
Is there an appeals process for standards and TIAs?
Yes, all appeals within the NFPA standards process are considered by the NFPA Standards Council. The Standards Council hears any process-related appeals, including those related to standards or TIAs. Appeals are an important part of the process, ensuring that all NFPA rules have been followed and that due process and fairness have continued throughout the standards development process. The Standards Council looks at the written record and conducts hearings when a hearing is granted, during which all interested parties can participate. Appeals are decided on the entire record of the process.
It’s important to note that when appeals are made to the Standards Council, the focus of the appeal is based on whether the standards process was executed correctly, and to assess whether the technical committee followed the process correctly, adhering to the NFPARegulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards at each step.
Appeals to the Standards Council are not a further opportunity for technical debate on a topic, to introduce new information, or to review the technical merit of content within the document. Technical debate and actions are addressed through the public process and by the appropriate Technical Committee of subject matter experts.
After deliberating on all appeals related to a standard, the Standards Council either proceeds to issue the standard or to determine any further action as required, including sending the topic back to the respective technical committee for further attention.With respect to appeals on TIAs, the Standards Council determines whether to issue the TIA.
Under limited and extraordinary circumstances, a final appeal of the Standards Council action, called a Petition, can be made to the NFPA Board of Directors. In these cases, the NFPA Board of Directors may take necessary action to fulfill its obligation to preserve the integrity of the standards development process.
The new NFPA standard or TIA becomes effective 20 days following the Standards Council’s action of issuance.
Who does what?
NFPA Board of Directors
The NFPA Board of Directors, which has general charge of all activities of the NFPA, issues rules and regulations that govern the development of NFPA standards and appoints the 13 members of the NFPA Standards Council. Members of the Standards Council are thoroughly familiar with the standards development process of the association and are selected from a broad range of interests.
In extraordinary circumstances the NFPA Board of Directors may take necessary action in review of Standards Council action (through the Petitions process) to fulfill its obligation to preserve the integrity of the standards development process.
NFPA Standards Council
The NFPA Standards Council is responsible for overseeing NFPA standards development activities, ensuring compliance with the Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards; appointing members to NFPA Technical and Correlating Committees; and serving as the appeals body over matters related to the standards development process. Additionally, members of the Council serve as presiding officers for the yearly NFPA Technical Meeting.
The NFPA Standards Council is responsible for considering all appeals relating to the NFPA standards development process.
NFPA Technical Committees
Appointed by and reporting to the Standards Council, NFPA Technical Committees serve as the primary consensus bodies of subject matter experts responsible for developing and revising NFPA standards. Collectively comprised of more than 9,000 volunteers, the technical committees are responsible for the technical debate and requirements for the more than 300 NFPA standards.
NFPA Technical Committees are the balanced consensus bodies of technical experts that are responsible for the development of technical requirements within NFPA standards, responding to all Public Input and Public Comments, and processing all proposed TIAs.
An NFPA staff liaison is assigned to each NFPA technical committee and acts as the neutral facilitator for the NFPA standards development process. Each staff liaison is responsible for monitoring the activities of the technical committees to which they’ve been assigned, ensuring the process and procedures move forward in accordance with the Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards. NFPA staff is not permitted to participate in the NFPA standards development process, including serving as members on technical committees and submitting public inputs or public comments.
Here is more detailed information and resources about how the NFPA codes and standards process works: