Topic: NFPA Codes & Standards Process Updates

Two workers in hardhats

Standards are Evolving – Here’s How You Can Join the Movement

This spring, as we continued celebrating ANSI’s belated 2021 World Standards Week and gear up for further 2022 celebrations in October, we are reflecting on the history of how our codes and standards came to be and how they continue to evolve in our digital world. With over 125 years under our belt at NFPA, we have evolved the way we disseminate codes and standards. From our nineteenth century start to 2022 where we are leading the industry with an accessible, digital codes and standards platform, I would argue our organization has always been at the forefront of innovation. But where did we start? And why is joining the digital transformation valuable? Keep reading to learn more about where we were and where we are going. March 1896 – After a group of organization leaders representing sprinkler and fire insurance interests noticed inconsistencies in the installation of sprinkler devices, the group came together to create a set of sprinkler installation rules titled “Report of Committee on Automatic Sprinkler Protection.” That set of rules is now known as NFPA 13, “Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems.” November 1896 – After the first standard was declared in March 1896, a subsequent meeting was held where articles for a new association were created. Thus, the National Fire Protection Association was born. From there, the organization began introducing new members and standards for different devices. This core group committed themselves to building an organization that’s devoted to eliminating death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. As codes and standards became, and continues to be, the backbone of what NFPA does, the organization became the leading information and knowledge resource on fire, electrical and related hazards. Throughout the 1900s – Organizations in the stock fire insurance, fire departments, and sprinkler manufacturing and installation fields became members of NFPA and vowed to live by the standards set forth to reduce the burden of fire and related hazards. These codes and standards united multiple organizations to begin working with safety at the forefront of their daily operations. Since then, NFPA has continuously worked with the brightest minds to create standards that provide safety professionals with the guidelines needed to do their jobs safely and efficiently. Over the years, this organization has developed dozens of physical book editions, constantly publishing the newest information for our standards. As the years went on, NFPA sought out ways to ensure the information in these books were actively being optimized to share the latest information in the most accessible format. Redefining standards in a digital landscape September 2020 - NFPA is now redefining what it means to work together and access the codes and standards that have been crafted over the years. As part of a commitment to always provide our stakeholders with the best fire and life safety information and knowledge, NFPA’s next step was to modernize the way our codes and standards are accessed. While our world is evolving to welcome more digital accessibility, codes and standards are one of the best ways to unify our industry and join the digital transformation journey so many professions are experiencing. With NFPA LiNK®, a digital platform where users can easily access all the current NFPA codes and standards they need from their favorite electronic device, NFPA is redefining how we use and access these documents every day. As the pioneers in our industry, NFPA is at the forefront of digitizing our industry while continuing to deliver the guidance that make our world safer. Learn more about how your team can join the digital transformation at nfpa.org/link.
Capitol building

NFPA praises the introduction of bipartisan bill to reinforce copyright protection of safety codes

NFPA, a self-funded nonprofit that develops over 300 fire, life and electrical safety codes and standards, praised the recent introduction of the bipartisan Pro Codes Act, introduced by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Darrell Issa (R-CA). NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley said, “The safety codes and standards protected by this legislation help protect the lives and property of every American and people around the world. For 125 years, our standards have been developed through an independent, consensus-based process that doesn’t cost taxpayers a penny. We’re grateful for Reps. Deutch and Issa’s leadership in helping ensure that we can continue our critical work, which has resulted in one of the longest-standing, most successful partnerships between the public and private sector in U.S. history. Their efforts will help reduce loss of life and foster economic growth, and we encourage their fellow members of Congress to join them in swiftly passing this bill.” Rigorous national safety standards protect citizens from the tragedies of fires and electrical hazards. For more than a century, NFPA has developed these standards independently, transparently, and affordably. But this critical, well-functioning model is under threat from special interests who want to end the protection that NFPA believes copyright law provides for the development of public safety standards. NFPA derives its funding by publishing, selling and licensing standards. “We don’t depend on subsidies or contributions from government or those affected by our standards. This ensures we can be independent and put safety first. However, the continued assault by special interests on copyright protection threatens the ability of NFPA and organizations like us to fund our important work. That will lead to a disjointed and expensive patchwork of safety standards in the U.S. and around the world,” said Pauley. “Ensuring copyright protections for safety standards isn’t for the sake of any one organization. It safeguards a public-private partnership model that truly works to advance safety and save lives.” More information on the value of Standards Development Organizations can be found on the NFPA website.
Research Foundation endowment

Fire Protection Research Foundation celebrates 40 years of reducing risk in the world by collaborating with industry experts and informing audiences

Celebrating four decades of investing in safety Last week, the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF or Foundation), the research affiliate of NFPA, marked its 40th year of managing projects that summarize best practices, identify gaps, and further the development of technologies that reduce risk in our world. When the Foundation was established in 1982, the objective was to protect people and property by improving fire protection systems and life safety messaging for practitioners, policy makers, and the public. The scope of the FPRF’s work has increased significantly over the decades given the all-hazards role of responders, new and persistent building and life safety challenges, evolving outreach needs, and emerging issues domestically and abroad. Like NFPA, the Foundation is an independent, nongovernmental, self-funded organization. It has its own separate board of trustees and a small but effective team that manages dozens of projects at any given time. These efforts cover everything from fire suppression systems, emergency response, public education, detection and signaling, industrial hazards, wildfire, electrical services, and the built environment. Collaboration is key to the Foundation’s 40-year success. Working with NFPA staff, FPRF trustees, professionals, and organizations around the globe, the team plans, facilitates, and releases research that helps to inform diverse audiences. In fact, FPRF research has been downloaded in more than 160 countries because of the valuable insights found within. A primary responsibility of the FPRF is to support the NFPA mission of eliminating loss in the world, and they can’t do that in a vacuum. The team relies on project sponsors to fund efforts; contractors to do the research; and advisory panels to provide subject matter expertise.  To shed further light on the 40-year FPRF milestone and the important work being done, with the help of so many others, we asked a couple of Foundation trustees to share their thoughts on efforts to make the world safer from harm. First responder skills and safety Gavin Horn, a research engineer with Underwriters Laboratories Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI), recently concluded two terms as an FPRF trustee. During that time, he watched executive director Amanda Kimball and her predecessor Casey Grant oversee forward-thinking research that will have long-lasting safety benefits. Horn explains, “Research is important for first responders and firefighters, in particular, because it helps to provide a deeper understanding of risks that are faced on today’s emergency response calls and those that might be faced in the future. The world that firefighters respond to is continuously evolving, and sometimes those changes can have important impacts on how emergencies might unfold and how they might be resolved.  Research – along with on-the-job experience – is important as we strive to learn about risks and help first responders to understand how to mitigate an emergency effectively and safely.” Horn has been involved in several NFPA standards committees over the years including the Special Operations Protective Clothing & Equipment technical committee as well as the relatively new committees that developed NFPA 1700, Guide for Structural Firefighting (Fundamentals of Fire Control within a Structure Utilizing Fire Dynamics). He is also involved in work underway now for NFPA 1585, Standard on Contamination Control (Emergency Responder Occupational Health).  Both NFPA 1700 and NFPA 1585 have a strong basis in fire service research and have benefited from FPRF projects. The former FPRF trustee also shares that Fire Fighter Equipment Operational Environment: Evaluation of Thermal Conditions and Fireground Exposure of Firefighters: A Literature Review are two key documents that help to frame the typical environments in which firefighters work. These reports, per Horn, provide insights for firefighter training, PPE specification and selection, and help manufacturers with design. FPRF findings also provide a foundation for researchers to work from.  Scientific research and engineering expertise “Research provides the knowledge needed to ensure a safe, secure, and prosperous society. Timely knowledge from technically sound research is more important than ever as the world changes at an unprecedented rate, producing new and more complex risks. The ability to make informed decisions for policy and practice relies on scientific research to understand risks and produce practical solutions to manage them,” Lou Gritzo, Ph.D. explains. Gritzo is one of nine current FPRF trustees. The vice president of Research for FM Global became familiar with the Foundation 16 years ago when he was invited to get to know the organization by then NFPA president Jim Shannon. He has been a FPRF trustee for a year and served on the Foundation’s research advisory board for five years prior to taking on the trustee role. He also serves as the FM Global management contact for the Property Insurance Research Group and the Energy Storage Research Consortium – two advisory groups that are part of the respected FPRF consensus-building process.  In other words, he has had a front row seat to how the Foundation works and makes an impact. Gritzo points to the Foundation’s work on Li-Ion batteries as a perfect example of a series of projects, performed in partnership with the right stakeholders and technical communities, that resulted in an understanding of risks and the development of viable solutions. He hopes that audiences understand that the Fire Protection Research Foundation serves an indispensable purpose of bringing stakeholders together to develop new knowledge in a credible and timely manner. “Innovation moves faster than standards and the codes that adopt them, and the risks of today include problems that are almost always too complex for any single entity to solve at a sufficient pace. Moving forward, the ability to see these emerging risks and assemble the right talent base and stakeholders to address them in partnership, will be key to keeping pace,” he said. More on FPRF funding and deliverables With an eye toward the future, the self-sufficient FPRF works to raise the necessary funds for research in a couple of ways. The Foundation derives its funding from management fees from consortia projects; direct labor rates for grant-funded projects; attendance fees at FPRF-hosted symposiums; sponsorship of their popular online webinars; and occasional projects that are handled directly by FPRF staff. The Foundation also hosts the Suppression, Detection and Signaling Symposium (SUPDET®), which every three years becomes a joint conference with the International Conference on Automatic Fire Detection (AUBE) hosted by the University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany). To learn more about SUPDET, how the Fire Protection Research Foundation works, current FPRF projects, research reports, recent RFPs, upcoming webinars, and more, visit www.nfpa.org/foundation. In addition to regular blogs about upcoming and recent FPRF webinars, Foundation staff will be blogging about important research efforts underway in its 40th year. Be sure to check out the NFPA Today blogs regularly and bookmark www.nfpa.org/foundation to keep apprised of new content.

Latest action on firefighting PPE standard underscores the need to better understand and to participate in the standards process

In June of this year I wrote a blog explaining how individuals could get involved in the conversation about NFPA standards and firefighter PPE. That blog provides a good overview for reference, and this piece provides a further update related to one particular standard - NFPA 1971, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, 2018 Edition. Since that time, a few additional pieces of the NFPA process have occurred and I believe this is a good time to review the overall timeline of this issue and how the various parts of the process play a role. The topic at hand centers around the concern of PFOA’s in firefighter turnout gear.  Proponents with the concern around PFOA’s have focused on a particular test – an ultraviolet light degradation test that is used to accelerate aging of the moisture barrier as part of overall performance testing.  During 1999 and the early 2000’s there were significant concerns raised by first responders about the degradation of moisture barriers in the field and, as a result, the UV degradation test was added to the standard in the 2007 edition.  The committee statement read in part “… that moisture barriers should be tested for resistance to degradation by light and has proposed a new test …”  For reference, the test was added with a technical committee vote of 30-1 and a correlating committee vote of 21-0 supporting the addition of the new requirement. Since the 2007 edition and over the past three editions, covering 15 years, there have been no recommended changes proposed to modify or delete the requirements for this UV test. Enter the TIA In May of 2021, a Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) was filed to remove the UV test from the standard.  A TIA is a part of the NFPA process where the standard may be revised on an emergency basis between its normal revision cycles.  It is “tentative” because, if it passes the technical committee, it only remains in effect for that edition of the standard and is automatically submitted as a proposed language for the next edition of the standard.  It is “interim” because it is happening in between the normal revision cycles.  TIA’s also must receive a three-fourths affirmative vote of the technical committee and correlating committee (versus the normal two thirds affirmative during a regular revision cycle) because amending a standard in this way means it doesn’t go through the usual two rounds of public review.  Both the Technical Committee and the Correlating Committee reviewed the submitted material as well the public comments received on the TIA.  The TIA failed to gain the necessary support of the Technical Committee on technical merit and emergency nature and failed to gain the necessary support of the Correlating Committee on both correlation and emergency nature. It is clear from the voting comments that there are strong technical views on both sides of the issue.  Those views are also quite diverse among the various interests on the committee.  Take just one example – those on the committee that represent the fire service.  Ten fire service representatives on the technical committee voted on the TIA – two voted in favor of the TIA and six voted against the TIA, with two votes to abstain.  See the complete ballot results and ballot statements from the technical committee members and for the Correlating Committee members. For the NFPA process, what is important to understand is that the technical experts – the Technical Committee members charged with reviewing the submitted information – did not have agreement on accepting the deletion of the UV test. Appealing to the Standards Council As part of the NFPA process, participants can appeal Technical Committee actions on TIA’s to the NFPA Standards Council.  The Standards Council is made up of 13 volunteer members (none of whom are NFPA staff), who oversee the NFPA standards development process.  The Standards Council is NOT a technical body.  The Council does not have the expertise that is found on NFPA Technical Committees.  They exist to ensure the integrity of the NFPA process and to ensure the Regulations for the Development of NFPA Standards are followed.  For more information on the NFPA process and the overall roles and responsibilities of the various bodies see “A Primer on how NFPA Standards are Developed and Revised, and by Whom.”   An appeal was made to the NFPA Standards Council asking them to reverse the decision and vote of the Technical Committee and accept the TIA.  After hearing the appeal and reviewing all of the evidence, the Standards Council voted to deny the appeal.   You can review more information on that decision in my blog posted in September. Throughout the processing of the TIA, several serious safety concerns were raised by firefighters and others on both sides of the technical issue. Ultimately, the NFPA Standards Council determined that the balanced consensus Technical Committee and the Task Group (chaired by a representative from the fire service) that had recently been established by the committee to address this issue were in the best position to review all the technical and scientific information and to determine a proposed technical solution that provides the vital lifesaving performance requirements of firefighter PPE, including the moisture barrier, and addresses the health risks to first responders. Petitioning the NFPA Board of Directors An additional, and extraordinary step in the NFPA process allows a petition to be made to the Board of Directors to review a decision by the Standards Council. In accordance with NFPA regulations, petitions to the Board are intended to address extraordinary circumstances where the integrity of the standards development process was believed to have been violated or action by the Board is otherwise necessary to protect the organization.  A petition was filed with the Board of Directors asking for a review of the Standards Council’s decision on the NFPA 1971 TIA. The petition asked the NFPA Board to override the decision of the Standards Council, the vote of the Correlating Committee, and the vote of the Technical Committee and to issue the TIA to delete the UV light degradation test requirement and test method.  On November 2, 2021, the NFPA Board Petitions Subcommittee reviewed the record and on November 4, 2021, denied the petition, upholding the Council’s decision and the results yielded by the standards development process. This is a good spot to pause and discuss the importance of the steps in the process.  In this instance, had the NFPA Board Petitions Subcommittee or the Standards Council upheld the petition or appeal, respectively, they would have substituted their technical judgement for that of the Technical Committee.  Remember that neither the Board nor the Standards Council are technical bodies.  Nonetheless, arguments made in the Board Petition, as well as the appeal to the Council, focused on technical evidence and an assertion that the Technical Committee was simply wrong.   The appeal was denied by the Standards Council and the decision was upheld by the Petitions Subcommittee not because the UV test is technically appropriate or not, but because in this instance neither the Standards Council nor the Board Subcommittee found reason to overturn the technical committee’s decision.   The NFPA process is an open, balanced process, where the responsible technical committees of experts appointed by the NFPA Standards Council make the technical decisions and the Standards Council and Board are appellant bodies ensuring that the NFPA process is followed in accordance with the Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards. Where does the issue go from here? This issue is important to many stakeholders. The best way to effect changes in NFPA standards is by participating in the NFPA process and proposing changes to the standard.  I previously outlined this process in my blog from June 3, 2021.  The Technical Committee gives consideration and review to all public submissions that come through the process.  It’s also important to note that ANYONE (other than NFPA staff) can submit a proposed change to the text of the standard through the process. IMPORTANT NOTE - As of the writing of this blog – there are no proposed changes relating to this UV test for the next edition, nor are there any proposed changes addressing the use or prohibition on the use of PFOAs for the next edition. Anyone who believes the standard should be changed to address these topics is strongly encouraged to submit proposed changes (public input) to the next edition of the standard (which will be a consolidated standard as NFPA 1970). You do not have to be an NFPA member or on an NFPA Technical Committee to provide input.  Anyone (except NFPA staff) can propose a change to the standard by suggesting specific wording and providing a technical rationale through our online submission system, which is accessible at nfpa.org/1970next.  Time is short as the deadline for Public Input is November 10, 2021. In the following months, the Technical and Correlating Committees will consider all of the proposed changes received by the deadline and will develop a First Draft of NFPA 1970.  NFPA anticipates that the First Draft Reports will be posted for public review in the Fall of 2022. Throughout the process, the latest information on this standard can be found at nfpa.org/1970next.
Sprinkler head

Are You Up to Speed on Changes within the 2022 Edition of NFPA 13?

The recently released 2022 edition of NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems contains a number of significant changes. While the 2019 edition of the standard underwent a dramatic reorganization, it was a relatively quiet cycle for technical revisions. The 2022 edition of the standard; however, makes up for that with many updates that will affect all the different users of the document. Here I will list a handful of the most notable changes featured in the new edition. With 275 First Revisions and 234 Second Revisions made during the revision cycle this is by no means an all-inclusive list. The most important change in a document tends to be the one we are dealing with at the exact moment on a particular project but with that said, here are some that might come up more than others. Single point density This is perhaps as big a fundamental shift in the application of NFPA 13 as we have seen in a long time. For decades users have been familiar with using density/area curve to calculate sprinkler density, but the 2022 edition does away with the curves (with an exception for existing systems) in favor of specifying a single-point method of density calculation. An entire article could be dedicated to this issue, but the short version is that not all points along the curves had truly been proven. Some supported it with the argument that at the time of their introduction they could be quite useful based on water supply, but today there is a wider selection of sprinklers with various K-factors that can allow for added flexibility. Rack storage updated again Chapter 25 on the protection of rack storage using in-rack sprinklers has been completely rewritten and reorganized. This chapter consolidates all the in-rack sprinkler design criteria into one chapter. Users can now determine all their protection options for in-rack sprinklers—and the accompanying ceiling sprinkler system—without having to leave the chapter. One notable technical change involves the fact that multiple row racks will need to be limited to a depth of 20 feet or they will need to be considered solid shelving; driving a need for in-rack sprinklers. Remote areas - considering walls This next topic addresses a new paragraph of text added to the standard specifying that where a sprinkler is located next to a full-height wall, the area on the opposite side of the wall cannot be counted toward the total design area even if the sprinkler’s assigned area of discharge would theoretically extend beyond the wall. This could result in additional sprinklers being required to be included in the determination of remote area demands. Some argue that this is a clarification of what has always been intended while others disagree. Either way, this makes it clear as to the approach that must be taken. Nitrogen System Updates Several additions have been made throughout the standard to better address the use of nitrogen for use with dry-pipe sprinkler systems. A key consideration here is the allowance for more favorable friction loss values for new dry pipe systems where nitrogen is used, provided the supply meets a certain set of criteria. Working plans checklist Modifications to the working plans checklist include several new or adjusted items. Those submitting plans, as well as plan reviewers, will need to give this area some additional attention. More hydraulic information signs The standard has been revised to require hydraulic design information signs to be placed in more locations on systems than was previously required. Rather than just at the alarm valve, dry pipe valve, preaction valve, or deluge valve, signs must now be provided at every system riser and every floor control assembly in addition to the locations previously required. This will have additional impact on system ITM as the signs will need inspection as part of NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems requirements.
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