Fire & Intrusion

Codes update: Stuck in the middle

A building or fire "code" is a set of rules that specify the minimum acceptable level of building requirements for occupant life safety. The building code rules regulate new construction and renovations and the fire code stipulates requirements for ongoing maintenance for a structure to keep it up to the minimum level of safety under which it was built.

The ICC has written building and fire codes that have been adopted in all 50 states including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and numerous federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons as their minimum standard for building safety. NFPA has even written a building and fire code set. We're (hopefully) done with competing codes, and clearly the ICC set of codes has flourished with their International Fire Code (IFC), International Building Code (IBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC) and others. With these adoptable codes, we don't need to compile more codes; all that needs to be done now is to keep these codes current.

The process by which this is done involves you. Even if you weren't aware of that, or have been actively involved in the process, it's true. Why? Because there is a public comment period during each revision cycle and all of us are the "public." One way you can be more intimately involved is to propose a change using an online form. Changes are made to reflect new research and improved technologies, and to improve language where you feel it is needed.

The next fate of the rules to be included in the 2012 edition of the IBC/IFC codes is being decided now. Proposals have all been submitted, the public was provided time to comment on the proposals and the ICC placed these public proposals and comments on their Web site ( for all to download and read. Search the PDFs by keyword "alarm" or "detector" to find what has been proposed and how others feel about the proposed changes.The ICC committees will make their final recommendations and post them on their Web site on March 15, 2010. In fact, the Internet is used for this entire code process. This cycle of revisions will include one more step and that is the ICC Final Action Hearing (FAH) held May 14 through 23, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. While anyone can propose and comment, only code officials are allowed to vote on the final wording.

In-the-field practicality

As you know, NFPA produces many standards that are part of your state building and fire codes. These standards become part of the building and fire codes because they are referenced in these codes using an 'also required to comply with' statement. The 2010 edition of NFPA 72 has been published and believe it or not, November 23, 2010 will be the deadline for anyone submitting proposals for the 2013 edition. Unlike codes, new standards and guides are being created all the time. One of NFPA's newest efforts is named NFPA 3, Commissioning Fire Protection Systems. This document has never been printed and is so new that it is referred to as a "proposed document," which means it is not yet a guide or standard. This future standard or guide will cover the "primary responsibility for documents that pertain to commissioning activities and tasks for fire and life safety systems. This includes the requirements for planning, organization, coordination, responsibility, implementation and documentation of commissioning of active and passive systems and features that serve a fire or life safety purpose."

Download a copy of NFPA 3's proposed changes, the "Report on Proposals" at It's a public process, so the documents are free. If you see something you don't like, click the "submit a comment online" link. This is a good stage to get involved even if you have never been involved in fire alarm code and standard activities. This document has never been published and your comments will be welcome. Someday we all may be glad you took the time to check out the fire alarm section.

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