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Procedures for development and revision of codes and standards associated with fire safety in the USA

Summary

The process of codes and standards development, and subsequent regulation, in the USA is very different from that in most other countries: it is managed by private (not‐for‐profit) companies and is via a consensus process. With regards to codes, primary code development occurs through International Code Council (ICC), for building, fire, and mechanical codes, and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), for electrical and life safety codes. With regards to standards, the key fire test standards used in codes are also developed by companies, primarily American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International and NFPA. All meetings at which codes and standards are developed are open to interested parties and/or observers. This study describes the way the major codes and standards are developed and amended, by the organizations referenced. Participation by all stakeholders is strongly encouraged, and the opinions of any interested parties are an essential component of the process. However, producers (or manufacturers) cannot represent more than a fraction of voting members in the committees and, in fact, in the case of ICC, only public officials are permitted to vote on the final action. At ASTM, technical committees are created by the organization and anyone can become a member. However, voting is restricted and balanced to ensure that producers cannot be a majority. No codes are developed by ASTM. Each committee chooses its projects to develop standards, within an overall scope; committee membership is not limited. The technical committee handling fire issues is ASTM E05, but other committees also develop fire test standards and specifications, including fire tests. At NFPA, technical committees are formed, and its members appointed, by the NFPA Standards Council, and committees are kept small. Appointments are made based on technical expertise and interest categories (one of which is manufacturers). Members in none of the interest categories can exceed one third of the committee membership. Every committee decision can be appealed (commented on), and the committee must consider the comments. The committee decisions can be appealed again, and the issues are debated in front of the general membership at meetings. Fire tests are issued by the technical committee on fire tests, while other committees deal with various codes and standards that can be adopted for regulation, including the National Electrical Code (NEC) (NFPA 70) and the Life Safety Code (NFPA 101). Most technical committees deal with a single document, but the technical committee on fire tests deals with all the fire test methods. In contrast, multiple committees handle separate sections of the major codes. Virtually, the entire country adopts the NEC and many states (as well as the healthcare industry) adopt NFPA 101. Almost all of the major codes with fire implications are developed at ICC. This includes the International Building Code, International Fire Code, International Mechanical Code, International Residential Code, International Existing Building Code, and International Wildland Urban Interface Code. Codes are revised on a 3‐year basis, with code development committees appointed for each cycle, on the basis of expertise, interest category, and geographical location, to ensure full balance. Stakeholders are invited to argue for or against code proposals in front of the committees. Committee decisions can be appealed (commented on) by the public, and the comments are argued in front of code officials who are members of ICC, without a committee present. The only ICC members who are allowed to vote on this final action are those public officials present, including code and fire officials. The final action must be upheld (or not) by an online vote where the only voters are public officials who are ICC members. Codes incorporate standards (including fire test standards) and contain the pass/fail requirements for the various test methods (since such criteria are normally absent from the test method standards). In some cases, codes may also include some detailed clarifications of ways to conduct or modify the test methods, if such clarity is needed. Once the new edition of any code is finalized (by ICC or NFPA), each of the states in the United States is entitled to adopt one or more code as regulation or to modify any code to incorporate local needs or special considerations. In many states, cities or jurisdictions are also entitled to modify any state code but they would not be allowed to have a local regulation that is less severe than the state regulation.

Authors:   Marcelo M. Hirschler
Journal:   Fire and Materials
Year:   2017
Pages:   n/a
DOI:   10.1002/fam.2449
Publication date:   15-Jun-2017
Facts, background information, dossiers
  • Single
  • NEC
  • healthcare
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