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 (www.iccsafe.org) 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.
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 www.nfpa.org. 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.
Another kind of NFPA document is a "Guide" which may someday become a standard. I suggest you investigate an important Guide by visiting NFPA's Web site and searching for NFPA 730, the Guide for Premises Security. The Report on Proposals link will download a pdf document showing all the proposals and what the committee has accepted, rejected or modified so far and the reasons why. If you disagree or wish to encourage acceptance of alternate language, then just click on the "submit comments online" link.
The next edition of this guide comes out in 2011 and the closing date to submit a comment on any of the proposed changes was also in this month. Its companion is a standard called NFPA 731: Standard for the Installation of Electronic Premises Security Systems and is on the same time schedule as 730.
I strongly urge you to become involved. The industry needs your input and that of other competent and knowledgeable fire and security professionals. Because much of the process is done online, it's easy. And who among us doesn't feel compelled to put in our two cents worth now and then? I'm writing this to let you know how simple yet important it is for ICC and NFPA to hear from each of you.
Another way to be involved is to be active in your state and national alarm associations like the Electronic Security Association (ESA). They have a new Web address at www.esaweb.org.
As a committee member, I can tell you we have made several significant changes to the 2010 edition of NFPA 72, as well as each and every standard and code mentioned above. So if I've failed to convince you to become involved using one of the formats above, now you know that you can always contact your alarm association and get their help in causing a change for the better. To reach the ESA or any of their committee chairpersons, visit their Web site at www.esaweb.org or telephone them at (888)447-1689.
More "new for 72" chapter 21
Three new chapters were created for the new 2010 edition of NFPA 72: Chapter 12 - Circuits and Pathways, Chapter 21 - Emergency Control Functions and Interfaces, and Chapter 24 - Emergency Communications Systems.
The vast majority of this 'new' Chapter 21 is comprised of existing rules taken from other sections of the 2007 edition of NFPA 72. However, a new section was added that covers elevators used for firefighters (21.5) and elevators used for occupant evacuation (21.6).
Section 21.9.3 now allows exits which are electrically locked to keep people in the building, to continue to keep the occupants locked in for a maximum of 10 minutes if the FACP is provided with enough standby power and control functions to ensure these exits will be operable within 10 minutes of the FACP losing its primary power.
Greg Kessinger SET CFPS is SD&I's longtime resident fire expert and regular contributor to the magazine. He holds many ESA accolades, committee positions and is an expert in fire alarm technologies as well as a trainer and educator. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.