A lot of confusion exists around what makes an NFPA code or standard different from a handbook. While NFPA codes and standards provide the requirements, the handbooks take a deeper dive to understand the reasoning behind those requirements.
NFPA codes and standards impact almost every building, process, service, design, and system installation. More than 300 codes and standards are all available for free online access, and they are regularly updated to reflect changing industry needs and evolving technologies, supported by research and development, and practical experience.
One of the most notable features about NFPA’s code development process is that it is open and consensus-based. What that means is that anybody can participate in the development of these important documents. All NFPA codes and standards are periodically reviewed by more than 9,000 volunteer committee members with a wide range of professional expertise.
To assist the enforcer or user of the documents with better understanding how to apply the requirements, NFPA offers handbooks for some of these codes and standards.
The handbooks provide users with answers to the how and why questions surrounding the requirements that might not be easily found in the standard itself. The commentary and explanatory features give users the perspective of the technical committee and allows them to feel like they were in the committee meetings listening to the experts who develop the requirements. Gaining this understanding and perspective can provide users with the tools that they need to do their job and help give them a competitive edge to more efficiently and cost effectively navigate through the aspects of their jobs that are impacted by these requirements.