Fire Codes and Standards
In the United States, fire codes are developed primarily by two model code organizations, the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The terms building codes and fire codes have been used synonymously over the years, but fire codes were originally developed to regulate the hazardous material or processes that may be present in an occupancy, including combustible construction. Fire codes have continued to develop into comprehensive documents which are now intertwined within the building codes. Fire codes regulate fire department access roads, accumulation of trash and debris, maintenance of both active and passive fire protection systems, maintenance of egress and exits and much more. Fire codes determine, within the building code, which occupancies are required to be provided with sprinkler protection and/or fire alarm systems, and at what threshold. Fire codes are also often used as the maintenance code for buildings in other than one- and two-family dwellings. Once the Certificate of Occupancy is issued and the building is in use, the building code no longer can be applied unless new construction begins. This is based on the scope of the building code. Fire codes are used to insure building owners maintain what the building code required at the time of construction and are cross-referenced throughout both codes.
Fire standards are and have been developed by many organizations. Many fire standards involve the testing and evaluation of the ignition, burning, or combustion characteristics of certain materials. Most of these standards are inclined towards the testing of the flammability of interior and exterior building parts, as well as common household and commercial furniture. These fire and flammability standards are instrumental in the establishment of building codes, insurance requirements, and other fire regulations that govern the use of building materials. The fire standards also define the appropriate criteria for the storage, handling, and transport of highly flammable substances. Other fire standards include testing and evaluation of equipment used for fire suppression, firefighter equipment, communications, training, and reporting.