Fire & Life Safety Codes and Standards
With hundreds of different devices and systems on the market, it is imperative for fire and life safety professionals to be knowledgeable about the codes and standards that apply locally in order to ensure code-compliant inspections and testing.
Such knowledge, in turn, needs to be as ongoing and evolving as the dynamic code development process itself. Revisions to codes and standards typically take place every three to five years. With these periodic revisions, significant changes that affect inspection, testing and maintenance are often applied as a result of the vitally important, interactive relationship among manufacturers, researchers, engineers and other experts in the fire and life safety industry.
Codes and Standards: An interactive effort
To illustrate how that interactive relationship affects code development, recent research conducted in tandem with the Fire Protection Research Foundation indicated that, at certain concentration levels, antifreeze solutions are combustible. Acceptable parameters for antifreeze solution concentrations were, therefore, established as a result of that research. This in turn, created a need for listed antifreeze solution concentrations that are within those same parameters. The NFPA 25 technical committee responded to this situation through a revision in the 2014 edition of that document. That revision stipulates that all antifreeze systems installed prior to September 30, 2012 do not require a listed antifreeze solution until 2022, provided they meet certain requirements in the meantime. This code revision addresses a vital need for older antifreeze systems to be brought within acceptable solution concentration limits while, at the same time, allowing manufacturers and testing laboratories sufficient time to manufacture, approve and release listed antifreeze solution concentrations that fall within those acceptable limits.
In that instance, we see how researchers, code developers, manufacturers and other industry experts worked together to come up with a significant revision to an important inspection and testing standard. Without a doubt, staying abreast of revisions to codes and standards is key to providing up-to-date and informed inspection services, not to mention helping to ensure that older requirements are still being adhered to.
A recent study* demonstrated that although some inspection requirements are long-standing, failure to follow through on those requirements remains a significant concern. One example in that study revealed a surprisingly high statistic of 4.5 percent with regard to missing signage, most notably hydraulic information signs. The service company that is able to utilize code knowledge to address such oversights, while being ready to apply new or revised code requirements where needed, has a powerful competitive advantage.
Keep in Step: Using Available Resources
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the International Code Council (ICC) are two major code-making bodies dedicated to developing and publishing codes and standards critical to the fire and life safety industry.
Through these and other industry-related organizations, inspection professionals can receive information related to codes and standards updates and changes. Newsletters, webinars, conferences, journals and electronic notifications, are all resources that inspection professionals can utilize to stay informed. It is also advisable to maintain individual or corporate memberships with key professional organizations and associations, as there are numerous membership benefits that can keep one apprised of current, upcoming or proposed changes that may impact a facility or service company.
Additionally, advancements in how the industry has utilized technology have led to more advanced online reporting tools that include applicable code references. These references provide specific language in the event a device does not pass inspection. This, in turn, serves as an excellent informational source for service companies and property owners, while creating a much-needed impetus for repair or replacement.
Keep in Step: Helping Your Local Authorities
The fire and life safety industry encompasses a wide array of systems and devices. Fire alarm/signaling systems, portable extinguishing equipment, water-based fire protection systems, life safety systems, gas/chemical extinguishing systems and security/access control systems all play a vital role in providing a safe building environment. A well-rounded knowledge of code requirements across that broad spectrum of disciplines is pivotal toward establishing a strong relationship with the authorities having jurisdiction in your area. With that depth of knowledge, your local authorities will have a valued and informed source that they can turn to and will have increased confidence in the reliability and compliance of your inspection and testing documentation.
Keep in step with codes and standards development through regular utilization of codes and standards resources. Fire and life safety service companies who do so will significantly enhance the quality of their inspection and testing service.
*2014 BuildingReports Fire & Life Safety Inspection Benchmark Report, August 2014