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International Fire Code: Important Changes You Need to Know

The International Code Council (ICC) conducted hearings April 21-30 on proposals to several international codes, including the International Fire Code (IFC) and the International Residential Code (IRC).

The IAFC Fire and Life Safety Section (FLSS) participated in ICC’s Fire Code Action Committee to develop a number of IFC proposals heard during this hearing. In a call to action to IAFC members, Chief Adolf Zubia, FLSS chair, spoke of the urgency of this meeting in making sure recent advancements in the codes were maintained and highlighted a number of issues being considered.

The results of the meeting were mixed. While several advancements supported by the FLSS were made, it's a reminder that fire sprinklers continue to face opposition and need continued vigilance. Following are a few highlights.

A measure to require existing assembly occupancies with an occupant load of 300 or more to be retrofitted with fire-sprinkler systems (F22-13) was approved. This proposal is consistent with the FLSS mission statement and effectively responds to a NIST recommendation resulting from its investigation of the Station Nightclub fire.

A proposal (F-223-13) to require high-rise buildings to be retrofitted with fire-sprinkler systems within 12 years was withdrawn. However, an alternative proposal (F-347-13) to place the requirement in an appendix for jurisdictions to adopt at their discretion was approved. The IAFC supported the more stringent measure and recommends that chiefs choose to adopt this appendix when their jurisdiction adopts the 2015 IFC for the safety of both responders and civilians.

A proposal (F-346-13) to create appendix in the IFC with design and installation parameters for firefighter breathing air systems (FARS) was approved. These systems are being installed in many jurisdictions across the country to enhance firefighter safety in buildings that stress fire department resources due to their size or height, but there is no guidance in the form of a national code or standard. This change presents a significant opportunity to make firefighting in large buildings safer.

A measure (F226-13) to require automatic sprinkler systems throughout existing Group R-1 hotels and motels unfortunately failed, but could be reheard in Atlantic City if a Public Comment is submitted by July 15.

Fortunately, a proposal (F151-13) to reinstate an inappropriate and unnecessary tradeoff, allowing the removal of portable fire extinguishers in Group B occupancies that are equipped with quick response sprinklers, was withdrawn, meaning it won’t be heard at the Public Comment Hearings in Atlantic City.

Visit the ICC website for a complete listing of the results from the April hearings.

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