The Fire Code is a comprehensive document for issues related to life safety from fire to building occupants, property protection, and enhanced emergency responder safety. In fact, there are 15 different items listed under the scope of the Code including but not limited to inspection of buildings, fire investigation, plans review, fire and life safety education, design, installation and maintenance of fire protection systems, storage and use of hazardous materials, conditions impacting fire fighter safety and the design and maintenance of egress systems. Together, the items addressed by the Code provide a single resource that can be utilized by a fire inspector during their day to day jobs.
Chapter 1 of the Code provides many of the ‘ground rules’ for the scope, application and enforcement of the Code. While Chapter 1 provides comprehensive provisions and direction on how the Code should be administered and enforced, these administrative procedures and requirements are frequently customized by the jurisdiction as part of the code adoption process. The remainder of the Code cannot be applied without first understanding the foundation set forth in the provisions of Chapter 1. For those familiar with some other NFPA codes and standards, Chapter 1 of NFPA 1 is quite a bit longer due to the scope of the Code and the responsibilities of a fire inspector.
One of those responsibilities with respect to the application of NFPA 1 is to issue permits. The Code requires a permit for more than 80 different types of operations and activities so a fire inspector must be aware of where and what activities are occurring in its jurisdiction that could affect fire and life safety. They are predicated upon compliance with the requirements of NFPA 1 and constitute written authority issued by the AHJ to maintain, store, use, or handle materials; to conduct processes that could produce conditions hazardous to life or property; or to install equipment used in connection with such activities. By requiring permits and approvals, the AHJ can ensure that the activities or operations are performed safely. In some jurisdictions, the AHJ may allow the permitting of some of these activities through other departments in the jurisdiction. As an example, the AHJ may allow all permits for new construction to be applied for and issued at the building department. In these circumstances, the AHJ still maintains the permit, plan review, and inspection authority granted in this Code.
Permits are sought via an application to the AHJ and may be accompanied by any data or information as required by the AHJ as well as the appropriate fee. AHJs have the responsibility to review all permit applications and issue permits as required. Where an application for a permit is rejected by the AHJ, the applicant is to be advised of the reasons for such rejection. The reasons for rejections should be detailed sufficiently so that the applicant can understand what actions are required to resubmit the permit application and potentially receive approval. Other permitting requirements include, but are not limited to the following (See also NFPA 1 Section 1.12 for all provisions related to permitting and approvals):
Permit activities regulated under NFPA 1 may also be regulated by other government bodies. One example is the installation of underground petroleum storage tanks. In many jurisdictions, a separate environmental protection agency may be charged with responsibility to review the environmental factors of petroleum storage tank installations. The AHJ for NFPA 1 may wish to withhold fire code permit approval until confirmation is received that an approval from the environmental permitting body has also been received. The fire code inspector however, is not to be held responsible for enforcement of the regulations of other regulatory agencies unless specifically mandate to enforce those agencies’ regulations. Where additional permits, approvals, certificates, or licenses are required by these other organizations, they must be obtained by the applicant before work on the activity can begin. The fire inspector/AHJ serves an invaluable role in the permitting process. Many activities and operations cannot start or continue without issuance of a permit, and without an AHJ approval there is no permit.
Those serving in a fire inspector role are required to meet the minimum professional qualifications established in NFPA 1031, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Inspector and Plan Examiner. One way to accomplish this is with a Certified Fire Inspector (CFI) certification. These programs were created back in 1998 in response from local jurisdictions for a certification program based on the competencies in NFPA 1031. Starting in NFPA 1, 2018 edition, compliance with NFPA 1031 is mandated for all fire inspectors and plans examiners. The NFPA CFI I and CFI II certification programs are one way to demonstrate compliance with this requirement, promote professionalism in the role of a fire inspector, help demonstrate and understanding of the application and use of codes and standards, and improve job performance. For more information on these programs and how to enroll, visit their page.
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The following four proposed Tentative Interim Amendments (TIAs) for NFPA 285, Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components; NFPA 701, Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films; and NFPA 1994, Standard on Protective Ensembles for First Responders to Hazardous Materials Emergencies and CBRN Terrorism Incidents; are being published for public review and comment:
Anyone may submit a comment on these proposed TIAs by the closing dates listed above. Along with your comment, please identify the number of the TIA and forward to the Secretary, Standards Council by the specific closing date.
The audio distribution industry has exploded in recent years due to the trend towards open-office concepts. But with the recent adoptions of NFPA 72, Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, and the development of UL 2572 certification of mass notification systems, audio distribution is also fast becoming a potential life safety concern.
At NFPA’s 2018 Conference & Expo, Jonathan Leonard, president of Lencore Accoustics Corp. and an NFPA member, discussed five important tips that professionals should keep in mind when designing mass notification systems to help keep people safe. Listen in as Jonathan explains what you need to know:
Did you know that NFPA Conference & Expo attendees and NFPA members have access to all 2018 NFPA Conference & Expo education session recordings, including this one? Learn more about audio distribution and mass notification technologies by watching Mr. Leonard’s full session video and browse the full list of additional education sessions .
For more information about NFPA 72, and related codes and standards, visit www.nfpa.org/72.
Can classroom doors be locked to prevent an intruder from entering? Can a fire alarm system be disabled to prevent it from being used to draw people outside? These are among the more frequently asked questions we’ve received from school administrators and community officials working to protect their schools from acts of targeted violence.
While the response to these types of questions is fairly straightforward and direct from the code perspective, the answers don’t easily translate to those who aren’t familiar with fire and life safety codes. The approach to retrofitting a class room door with a lock, for example, is more complex and nuanced. This can be particularly frustrating to school administrators who are reaching beyond their traditional roles to ensure the safety and security of students, faculty, and staff.
In an effort to give schools the guidance and direction they need and help clarify the challenges around these issues, we developed a new resource to help them effectively, reasonably, and cost-effectively move forward. This document also works to keep schools from making well-intentioned but misguided decisions, particularly as they continue to receive calls from businesses and organizations selling products, resources, and strategies for keeping everyone safe.
We’ll be doing our best to get this document directly into the hands of schools, but your support in distributing it will help ensure that it gets to the people who need it most. Please share this document with school administrators and local officials in your communities and jurisdictions to help them make informed decisions. If you have any questions about the information addressed in this document, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments section of this blog.
What constitutes equivalencies in NFPA 101â, Life Safety Codeâ, for the open kitchens found in today's health care facilities? And what is the role of NFPA and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) when it comes to applying code requirements?
Other topics addressed in this issue's "In Compliance" include a preview of important issues related to the 2020 edition of the National Electrical Codeâ;new changes to NFPA 72â, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Codeâ, for occupant evacuation elevators; and how issues related to smoke compartments in health care occupancies are addressed in NFPA 101 and NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems.
The lead item, by Robert Solomon, director of Building Fire Protection & Fire Protection Systems at NFPA, begins with an account of a question received by NFPA’s technical questions service (TQS) and expands into a fundamental explanation of how NFPA codes are applied and what constitutes an AHJ. The question, from a user of NFPA 101, involved a health care occupancy open-kitchen equivalency that had been accepted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CSM. The equivalency did not strictly follow the requirements of the 2012 edition of NFPA 101, however, and the user raised further questions about whether they had to follow the letter of the code, or if the CMS ruling was sufficient.
“In this particular case, CMS is the AHJ, and it is ultimately the prerogative of CMS to apply and interpret the code as they see fit,” Solomon writes. “While the TQS offered by NFPA can assist AHJs, designers, installers, and others who rely on the code contents to apply and understand the requirements, [NFPA has] no regulatory authority to make final decisions, override judgments of others, or offer opinions that are contrary to what our codes and standards require.”
“In Compliance,” along with all other NFPA Journal departments, columns, and features, is available online and through our free mobile apps.