Fire Code Changes Informed By Outside Factors

  June 26, 2014

Changes to fire codes are sometimes driven by external factors. Here are a few recent additions to fire code that were driven by changes outside of the existing codes.

Fire evacuation chairs are not a new concept, but track-type evacuation chairs had previously been excluded from the code because there was no industry standard for such a device. Any item called out in code must have an accompanying standard by which it can be listed. In 2013, the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) published RESNA ED 1: 2013, American National Standard for Evacuation Devices — Vol. 1: Emergency Stair Travel Devices Used by Individuals with Disabilities. Once that standard was formalized, the 2014 editions of NFPA codes were able to include requirements for track-type evacuation chairs.

A change in available testing is impacting what types of toilet partitions and other interior surfaces are now code compliant. Now, surfaces with polypropylene or high-density polyethylene have to comply with NFPA 286, Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Evaluating Contribution to Wall and Ceiling Interior Finish to Room Fire Growth. Instead of the previously accepted "tunnel test," the new test simulates small interior fires, such as a trash can fire or a chair on fire. The change might pose challenges in sourcing interiors materials with these ingredients, but it does not mean that they can't be used in interiors. The manufacturers will have to catch up to code and change formulations to pass the test.

Another example of an external factor driving changes in code is research which found that the hard of hearing, children and people who are even mildly alcohol-impaired are less likely to be awoken by a traditional fire alarm tone than by a low-frequency tone. This lead to changes in the 2010 edition of NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, which now requires low frequency sounders in sleeping spaces, such as hotels and dorms.

For more on recent changes to fire code, visit here.


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