Detection Code Changes Deliberated

The creation of and changes to fire/life-safety codes, standards and regulations does not occur in a vacuum. Fire systems professionals should minimally keep on top of how these rules and guidelines are developing; even better, actively participate in the process. Find out about key proposed ICC fire code changes.

When last we convened I brought you the latest and most incisive developments from the International Code Council (ICC) Group B Code Hearings that were recently held in Dallas. This month we conclude dissecting proposals considered for the International Fire Code (IFC) as well as review several others submitted for the International Residential Code (IRC).

While a number of the changes discussed in this and last month’s article may be viewed as having a positive impact to the IFC and IRC, there may be a few that are not. If you have a different opinion as to the direction the committees took during the hearings in Dallas, be part of the process and submit a comment.

5 Fire Code Changes Worth Noting

As described in June’s column, more than 360 proposals were acted upon for the IFC, with some 30 pertaining to fire alarm systems, their installation and how they are to be dispatched on. There were in excess of 470 proposals up for discussion on the IRC, with nine involving fire alarm and carbon monoxide (CO) detection.

Proposals of interest within the IFC include the following:

F-178 — Adds a new Paragraph 907.8.6, Problematic Systems. This proposal was submitted by the Fire Code Advisory Committee and allows a fire department to require systems producing unwanted alarms to be provided with central station service. This would require a service contract be in place and a certification document issued in accordance with NFPA 72. This action was prompted based on the assumption that one of the issues causing unwanted alarms is systems not being maintained. By requiring documentation a service contract would also be required. An issue with this concept is the service contract must cover any service required and not be written in such a manner as to still require authorization to proceed with the service. This is generally the case with a time and material contract.

F-180— This accepted proposal moves the requirements for CO detection from the existing Section 908, Emergency Alarm Systems, to a new Section, 915, Carbon Monoxide Detection. The existing provisions found within Section 908 for CO detection were not changed.


F-182— This makes a revision to existing paragraph 908.7 so as to require CO detection within all Group E (education) occupancy rooms that have either fuel-burning appliances, fuel-burning fireplaces or forced air furnaces. During the past year there have been several reported cases of CO poisoning at Group E occupancies. There are also bills in several states that would require CO detection with Group E occupancies within the states that the bills are being considered. This proposal, if it stands through the Final Action Hearing (FAC) later this year, would place this requirement in the states that adopt IFC as their fire code.

F-348 — Provides for a modification to paragraph 407.8 to strike the word “fire” and insert the word “smoke” in relation to detection within Group I-2 Condition 1 facilities. As now written, only smoke detection could be used in these occupancies. The former language allowed heat detectors to be used as well. Smoke detectors are life-safety devices and provide early warning of a fire whereas heat detectors will only active once the temperature in the area of detection rises above a set point. This proposal also made a revision to paragraph 907.2.6.2 in which nursing homes, long-term care facilities and detoxification facilities were changed to Group I-2 Condition 1 facilities.

F-359— Adds a new paragraph, 907.2.11.3, Installation Near Cooking Appliances. It parallels the requirements added to the 2013 edition of NFPA 72 regarding the use of smoke detectors and alarms near cooking appliances. The following provisions have been added to IFC:

  • Ionization alarms are not to be installed less than 20 feet horizontally from a permanently installed cooking appliance
  • Ionization smoke alarms with an alarm-silencing switch shall not be installed less than 10 feet horizontally from a permanently installed cooking appliance
  • Photoelectric smoke alarms shall not be installed less than 6 feet horizontally from a permanently installed cooking appliance

The same rules are in effect for smoke detectors. This proposal also added a new paragraph 907.2.11.4, Installation Near Bathrooms, which provides that a detector shall be installed not less than 3 feet horizontally from the door or opening of a bathroom that contains a bathtub or shower.

4 Residential Code Changes of Note

The following proposals related to fire and CO detection systems were approved during the discussions on the IRC:

RB-154 — Modifies Section R314 so that combination smoke/CO alarms or detectors may be used in place of a smoke alarm or detector and a CO alarm or detector. This provision was added as technology is leaning toward increased use of combination alarms or detectors.

RB-155 — Modifies paragraph R314.2, removing the requirement that a smoke detection system installed within a single-family dwelling in place of smoke alarms be monitored. This proposal also modified paragraph R315.2 in regard to CO detection systems. The requirement for the monitoring of these systems was placed within the IRC as to make certain the systems would be repaired if a trouble condition to the system was detected. The proponents of this proposal stated this added cost to the homeowner while offering no real benefit.

RB-156 — Adds the same language to IRC that F-359 provided to IFC.

RB-160 — Modifies Section 315, Carbon Monoxide Alarms, by reducing the locations within a single-family dwelling unit that CO alarms or detectors are required to be installed. This proposal also allows that the siting requirements found within NFPA 720 need not be followed. I see this proposal being challenged during the Final Action Hearings (FAH) later this year. Of concern are the lower requirements found within NFPA 720, which provides a Standard of Care in regard to the placement of CO alarms and detectors. There should not be a lowering of the standard in an effort by the housing construction industry to save a few dollars in construction costs.

How to Keep Up With ICC Actions

ICC codes are on a three-year cycle, so you should occasionally check ICC’s Web site ( to see when proposals for the next cycle will be due to be submitted. Unlike the U.S. Congress, you do not need to be a member to submit changes or to speak to the issues at a hearing.

If you are interested in sending in a comment on any of these proposals, you may do so. One does not need to be an ICC member to submit a comment, which can be done through this page on ICC’s Web site: The 2012 Report of the Public Hearing on the 2012 Editions can be found at All of the results and committee statements as to why a proposal was accepted or denied are contained within this publication.

Shane Clary, Ph.D., has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is Vice President of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pacheco, Calif.-headquartered Bay Alarm Co.

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