Topic: NFPA Codes & Standards Process Updates


NFPA 1: When is Fire Department Access Required? #FireCodeFridays

Special thanks to Zack Fischer, one the interns spending a summer at the NFPA working in our Technical Services and Engineering divisions, for his contributions to this blog. Zack is studying for his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and is scheduled to graduate in May 2020. Without access to the situation, fire departments couldn't do their job very well. They need access to every inch of the facility needing care. The overall idea of “fire department access” is whether or not a fire apparatus is able to access a building or facility close enough to effectively use fire hose lines, fire hydrants, and any other connections. Fire department access requirements may vary all across the United States. To be sure what your state or counties fire access rules are, check your local fire prevention division and/or NFPA's Code Finder. In NFPA 1, fire department access is addressed in Chapter 18, and provisions exist to allow fire departments to efficiently combat fire, keeping buildings and people safe. On top of the rules set in place by NFPA 1, authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) may require additional fire protection requirements when necessary. They are also allowed to modify existing requirements in situations where standing requirements are onerous and impractical to meet. Fire department access and fire department access roads must be providing as well as maintained in accordance with Section 18.2 of the Code. Regarding access to structures, the AHJ has the authority to require an access box(es) to be installed in an accessible location where access to or within a structure or area is difficult because of security. The access box(es) must be of an approved type listed in accordance with UL 1037, Standard for Antitheft Alarms and Devices. The AHJ also has the authority to require fire department access be provided to gated subdivisions or developments through the use of an approved device or system. The owner or occupant of a structure or area, with required fire department access must notify the AHJ when the access is modified in a manner that could prevent fire department access. Fire department access roads must be up to code to provide effective firefighting and allowing for a quick response time. Before designing or determining compliance of the fire department access, the first step is to determine when and where the Code mandates these. (Check out this post to learn more about the design criteria and specifications required for fire department access roads.) In section 18.2.3, NFPA 1 requires approved fire department access roads be provided for every facility, building, or portion of a building constructed or relocated. Acceptable fire department access roads will consist of roadways, fire lanes, parking lot lanes, or a combination thereof. If any one of the following conditions exist, the AHJ may modify whether or not a fire department access road is required: One- and two-family dwellings protected by an approved automatic sprinkler system in accordance with Section 13.1 of NFPA 1 Existing one- and two-family dwellings Private garages having an area not exceeding 400 ft2 Carports having an area not exceeding 400 ft2 Agricultural buildings having an area not exceeding 400 ft2 Sheds and other detached buildings having an area not exceeding 400 ft2 The intent is to not require fire department access roads to detached gazebos and ramadas, independent buildings associated with golf courses, parks, and similar uses such as restrooms or snack shops that are 400 ft2 (37 m2) or less in area, and detached equipment or storage buildings for commercial use that are 400 ft2 (37 m2) or less in area. Interestingly, the Fire Code Technical Committee addressed an issue regarding fire department access as their First Draft meeting last fall, leading to a revision which was voted into the First Draft of the next edition of the Code (you can view the First Draft Report here). Where the Code now states that sheds and other detached buildings having an area not exceeding 400 ft2 may be exempt from fire department road access, the Technical Committee made a change as follows: “(6) Sheds and other detached buildings, not classified as a residential occupancy, having an area not exceeding 400 ft2”.   The proposed change addresses "tiny homes" and similar structures, therefore requiring the application of Sections through in the Code that otherwise may have exempted these structures from fire department access roads. The growing trend of 'tiny homes', which are residential occupancies, can create a hazardous situation where homes are located close together or where multiple homes are located on a single property. By calling out small detached buildings that are also residential occupancies, this ensures that their fire department access not be compromised. In summary, almost every building is required to have one fire department access road. Some might even need additional ones if an AHJ says so. Many factors go into determining fire department access, from structure and road requirements to AHJ input. These factors are all listed in NFPA 1, and following these codes will provide safer living conditions and save lives! As a fire inspector or AHJ enforcing NFPA 1, what issues have you seen with fire department access? Does the Code miss any scenarios that would beneficial to update or review to accommodate common compliance issues around fire department access? Comment below, we would like to hear from you! You can follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. 
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Inquiring minds want to know which NFPA Emergency Response and Responder Safety standards will be consolidated and when - here's the plan as of today

Two months ago, it was announced that the NFPA Standards Council approved a plan to consolidate 114 NFPA Emergency Response and Responder Safety standards into approximately 43 topical documents, allowing emergency responders better access to the packaged standards information that they need to do their jobs. Since that announcement, we have fielded many calls and emails about the five-year consolidation project which aims to combine 20-25 standards annually, in their proper cycle. To answer questions that may be on your mind, and to maintain an open dialogue with our stakeholders and volunteers, we are sharing the anticipated standards groupings and draft timetable with you. Please know that the consolidation draft handout is for the purpose of providing current information to all our stakeholders and volunteers. Throughout the project we will continually monitor the impact, and make changes, as necessary. The plan to merge related documents into all-inclusive standards, with existing guidance as separate chapters, is in response to the concerns voiced by first responders and Technical Committee members over the last decade. The consolidation project aims to address long-standing emergency services standards conflicts, and alleviate some of the planning and scheduling difficulties that TC members and representatives experienced over the years. By consolidating the number of standards, Technical Committee members can work more cohesively on a variety of topics and emergency responders will have more convenient access to a library of topic-specific content that is critical for their roles. “Now is the time to take the wealth of knowledge in our standards, and combine it in a way that is relevant, inclusive and accessible for responders today. This undertaking blends the critical information that responders need to know to keep safe; and delivers the information in a format that is complete and convenient,” NFPA Vice President and Chief Engineer Chris Dubay said in April when the plan was announced. If you have questions or concerns as you acquaint yourself with the consolidation effort, please feel free to pose your questions below in the comment section or email
Fiath Berry NFPA 2018 Raking up after the chipping crew

Wildfire safety messages now included in national reference guide

For many years, NFPA has convened an Educational Messages Advisory Committee to develop consistent fire and life safety messages for the general public on a wide variety of topics. The newly revised 2018 edition of the Educational Messages Desk Reference now includes wildfire topics for the first time. The Committee's goals include maintaining NFPA's philosophy of clear, simple, accurate, technically sound and – whenever possible – positive messaging about fire and burn safety. The rules governing the Committee ensure that there is diverse representation among members as well as the ability for public input and comments. In my first term as a Committee member, I was happy to contribute a set of wildfire messages for review, and gratified to learn that several public commenters have been asking the Committee to include such messages in the new edition. The Desk Reference is available for free download on The wildfire messages are in Chapter 17 and include information about Wildfire Prevention, Protecting Homes from Wildfires, and Community-wide Wildfire Safety. The guide also contains some great tips about how to tailor messages to target audiences. Fire and life safety educators in fire departments and schools throughout North America use this guide – my hope is that the new messages will assist them in communicating best practices to cope with the growing threat of wildfire. Get your free electronic copy and learn more about the public comment process by visiting NFPA's Public Education web pages.Photo Credit: Faith Berry, NFPA
1-18 Cover Front

NFPA 1: Summary of changes to the new 2018 edition, #FireCodeFridays

It can be hard to keep track of code development and stay up to date with the latest and greatest editions of codes and standards as they are released. NFPA 1, like a majority of NFPA codes and standards, is revised on a three year revision cycle. Believe it or not, the newest edition, 2018, is out and available for adoption and use. The 2018 edition was finished over the summer and became official early this fall. It was issued by NFPA's Standards Council on August 17, 2017, with an effective date of September 6, 2017 and an edition date of 2018. (Even harder to believe, the Fire Code Technical Committee begins its work on the 2021 edition this coming spring…no rest for the weary here!) Lots of changes are included in the new edition. These changes respond to the needs and requests of our stakeholders by addressing new technologies, industry challenges, fire fighter safety, and even topics that have never been addressed by the Fire Code in the past, but where guidance is needed to keep occupants, buildings and fire fighters safe. Like all new editions of NFPA 1, this edition includes new definitions in Chapter 3, updates to referenced publications in Chapter 2, as well as hundreds and hundreds of revisions to the code sections extracted from 50+ other NFPA codes and standards that combine to make this document the comprehensive resource for fire inspectors. These extract updates reflect the most up to date requirements from the editions of these codes and standards as referenced in Chapter 2. Technical changes (other than those changes to extracted text) to the 2018 edition of NFPA 1, Fire Code, include, but are not limited to, the following: New Section provides guidance for the AHJ on compliance with subsequent editions of referenced publications. New 1.7.2 adds NFPA 1031 and NFPA 1037 as mandatory professional qualification standards for fire inspectors, plans examiners and fire marshals unless otherwise approved by the AHJ. New 10.2.7 establishes minimum fire prevention inspection frequencies for existing occupancies. Revisions to 10.11.1 provide additional criteria for premises identification. Revised 11.12 on photovoltaic systems to address marking for rapid shutdown, updates for roof access and ground-mounted PV installations. New 16.7 on rubberized asphalt melters. Updates to dimensional criteria for fire department access roads as well a new listing requirement for electric gate operators and systems. New 31.3.10 provides requirements on the outside storage of biomass feedstock. New 34.10.4 address the outside storage at pallet manufacturing and pallet recycling facilities. New Chapter 38 provides fire safety requirements for marijuana growing, processing and extraction facilities. New 50.7 addresses mobile and temporary cooking equipment (food trucks are included in its application). Complete rewrite of Chapter 52 to reflect new and current technologies for energy storage systems. New Chapter 55 on cleaning and purging of flammable gas piping systems mandates reference to NFPA 56. New Annex F on Fire Fighter Breathing-Air Replenishment Systems. Stay tuned for future blogs where I will dive deeper into each of the major changes. For now, you can view the 2018 edition of the Code for free at Also on that page, under the ‘next edition' section you can track the development of the 2018 edition and how and why the Technical Committee voted to put the new revisions into the 2018 edition. Which changes do you see as impacting your jurisdiction the most? Does your jurisdiction have plans to adopt the 2018 edition of NFPA 1? Share your stories below. ***NFPA Members: Don't forget, join me on Wednesday, Dec 13 at 1PM Eastern as I discuss seasonal fire safety requirements from NFPA 1. During the live event I will also be answering follow-up questions submitted through NFPA's online community, Xchange. Join in and be part of the conversation!*** Thanks for reading, stay safe! You can follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. 
FF gear in washing machine

Should NFPA develop an all-new standard on PPE contaminant control or roll the requirements into NFPA 1581?

The NFPA Standards Council has received a New Project Initiation Request from the fire service asking NFPA consider developing an ANSI Accredited Standard to establish the minimum requirements for the effective contamination control of fire department personal, their personal protective equipment (PPE), accessories, and equipment.    Firefighter health risks associated with PPE contaminant exposure reflects one of the most pressing concerns within the fire service. A number of organizations, including the Fire Protection Research Foundation, continue working to identify methods for adequately cleaning firefighter gear and mitigating those risks. As a result of multiple efforts, including “Campaign for Fire Service Contamination Control” – a one-year project conducted by the Fire Protection Research Foundation that's nearing its completion – we now have some answers. The next step is identifying how to best deliver those requirements, guidelines and recommendations in our codes and standards. Two options are currently on the table: NFPA can develop an all-new contamination control standard, which identifies best practices for cleaning PPE, as well as how gear should be handled after possible exposure to contaminants.  Alternatively, the information could be rolled into our existing standard, NFPA 1581, Standard on Fire Department Infection Control Program. To make the decision that best reflects the fire service's needs and preferences, we need to hear from you! Tell us if you think this issue warrants its own standard or should be addressed in NFPA 1581. Feel free to share your thoughts in this blog, but remember it is important that you provide your feedback through our technical process so that your voice is heard and officially weighed into the Standards Council's final decision.
Incidental book store cafe

#101Wednesdays: When is an "incidental use" incidental?

A topic that sometimes prompts a bit of animated discussion when I teach NFPA's three-day Life Safety Code Essentials seminar is incidental uses. It is not always clear when a portion of a building should be treated as an incidental use or as its own occupancy. In today's #101Wednesdays post, I will attempt to provide some guidance. Before getting into the NFPA 101 requirements, it's important to recognize we live in a world in which the Life Safety Code co-exists with building codes. In most cases, the building code is the International Building Code (IBC), which is promulgated by the International Code Council. Both the IBC and NFPA 101 use the term incidental; however, the term has different meanings in each code. In NFPA 101, incidental refers to “minor” uses that are accessory to and/or support the predominant occupancy and do not warrant their own occupancy classification. This concept in the IBC is known as accessory occupancies. In the IBC, the term incidental uses refers to what NFPA 101 calls hazardous areas. The concepts are very similar, but the terminology is different. Be sure to understand how each term is used in each code so you're not comparing apples to oranges. Classification of occupancy is addressed by Chapter 6 of NFPA 101, and it is based on how a building is used. The Code's requirements are predicated on occupancy classification, which directly relates to occupant characteristics and their associated risks. It is common for buildings to be comprised of more than occupancy; these are known as multiple-occupancy buildings (see 6.1.14 of NFPA 101, 2015 edition). Multiple occupancies are then treated as either mixed multiple occupancies ( or separated multiple occupancies ( In each case, the requirements applicable to all involved occupancies must be evaluated. However, permits some, but not all uses to be considered incidental. For example, where an office building (business use) has an office supply closet (storage use), the AHJ is permitted to judge the storage use to be incidental to the predominant business use and classify the building as a business occupancy, not a multiple occupancy (business and storage). The requirements of Chapter 38 (new business) or 39 (existing business) apply, as applicable, and the AHJ ignores the storage occupancy requirements of Chapter 42. If that same office building has a cafeteria with an occupant load of 50 or more, however, that is an assembly occupancy, and the building must be treated as a multiple-occupancy building (business and assembly). Here is how it works: Certain uses that are permitted to be considered incidental subject to the determination of the AHJ are specified by mercantile, business, industrial, and storage uses. Examples of each might include: Incidental mercantile: newsstand in an office building lobby (business occupancy) Incidental business: supervisor's office in a distribution warehouse (storage occupancy) Incidental industrial: repair shop in a bicycle store (mercantile occupancy) Incidental storage: raw materials storage in a manufacturing plant (industrial occupancy) For these uses, no measurable threshold in terms of area or occupant load applies. Whether one of these uses is incidental or its own occupancy is strictly up to the AHJ. This requires sound, reasonable judgment. Other nonresidential uses having an occupant load fewer than that established by each occupancy classification's definition are also considered incidental. Determining whether these areas are incidental requires no judgment. The occupant load based on how the area is used is determined, and if the occupant load is less than that established by the occupancy's definition, it's incidental. Examples of these might include: Incidental assembly: café with an occupant load of fewer than 50 in a book store (mercantile occupancy) Incidental educational: tutoring for fewer than four students through the twelfth grade in an office building (business occupancy) Incidental day care: child care service for fewer than four kids at a health club (assembly occupancy) Incidental health care: limited skilled nursing care for fewer than four patients in an assisted living facility (residential board and care occupancy) Incidental ambulatory health care: oral surgery and recovery provided to fewer than four patients in a dentist's office (business occupancy) Note that residential uses (one- and two-family dwellings, lodging or rooming houses, hotels and dormitories, apartment buildings, and residential board and care) can never be considered incidental. This is to ensure that the requisite protection for sleeping occupants, namely smoke alarms, is always provided. An on-call physicians' sleeping room in a hospital is NOT incidental; rather, it's usually a lodging or rooming house occupancy, and the requirements of Chapter 26 apply in addition to the requirements of Chapter 18 or 19 for health care occupancies. Also be aware that even though an area is incidental, it might still need to be protected as a hazardous area by automatic sprinklers, 1-hour separation, or both (e.g., a soiled linen storage room in a hospital). It's interesting to note that the IBC takes a different approach to accessory occupancies. The IBC states that occupancies can be considered accessory if they are ancillary to the main occupancy of the building and do not exceed 10 percent of the floor area of the story in which they are located and do not exceed the allowable area for nonsprinklered buildings for each accessory occupancy. For example, in a 500,000 ft2 building used predominantly as a warehouse, up to 10 percent of the area (50,000 ft2) could be used for offices (assuming Type I construction), and the office area could be considered an accessory occupancy subject only to the requirements applicable to the storage use. To me and to the Safety to Life Technical Committees, 50,000 ft2 of offices is a lot of business use area to treat as accessory (IBC) or incidental (NFPA 101). This is not to disparage the IBC; it's only to point out the different protection philosophies provided by each code. I hope this overview of incidental uses in the Life Safety Code has been useful. Thanks for reading, and until next time, stay safe! Got an idea for a topic for a future #101Wednesdays? Post it in the comments below – I'd love to hear your suggestions! Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to and click on “Free access to the 2015 edition of NFPA 101.” Image above courtesy of
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