Fire Side Chat: Steps Set Stage for Standard Sign-Off

Fire/Life-Safety standards endure much analysis and scrutiny by a number of committees and interested parties en route to ratification. As these decisions affect installing professionals, it is wise to be familiar with the process and participate where and when appropriate.

Welcome to the second and concluding discussion on the code and standards-making process within the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Part 1 covered the first- and second-draft meetings, which we will now expand upon and get into how the cycle resolves itself.

If there is a particular document proposal you are interested in, I urge you to follow it through the entire standards process. This is especially important because even if you have no changes to send in others may have done so. It is also vital to review the First Draft Report (Report of Proposals for those documents that are still on the old format). Let’s probe deeper and demystify this process.

Having Your Say in the Process

The NFPA Standards Council will no longer accept a Notice of Intent to Make a Motion (NITMAM) if one has not submitted a Second Draft comment. There is one exception we will look at in a moment. Simply stated, one cannot wait for an association meeting to address a change in a document. Thus, if in the First Draft Report an item has been changed from “red” to “green” and you feel that the item should still be “red,” a Second Draft comment needs to be submitted for the corresponding Technical Committee’s consideration. If they do not accept “red,” then you may file a NITMAM.

The exception noted above involves acceptance of a First Draft proposal. In this case, let’s say it was you who submitted a change from “red” to “green.” If the Technical Committee accepted this change, you would not need to submit a Second Draft commit. But if someone else did, or if the Technical Committee through its own actions changed “green” back to “red,” then you could file a NITMAM.

Part 1 of this subject also discussed Technical Committees (TCs), but did not cover Correlating Committees (formerly called Technical Correlating Committees). Their purpose is to provide correlation between chapters of a large document (see box for list of such documents). The majority of documents produced within the ANSI/NFPA process are handled by a single TC. There are, however, a number of large documents or similar multiple documents that have a Correlating Committee (CC). A CC may also be responsible for several documents.

In both cases, the CC assures there are no correlation issues between chapters or documents within its control. The term “technical” was removed as a CC is not supposed to be making technical changes to a document. Thus, if in one article of say NFPA 70, “red” is “red” but in another “red” is “green,” it would be up the CC to make certain that this is supposed to be this way, or to make a change within one of the articles so that it correlates with the other. The CC, however, could not on its own change “red” to “green” throughout the document.

After the TC has voted on the Second Draft document, if there is a CC it would then go to those members for their review and vote. As with the TCs, a simple majority will prevail during the meeting to move an item, but a two-thirds acceptance is required in the letter ballot. Following the conclusion of letter ballot voting by those two committees, the Second Draft Report is released. This document should be reviewed by those who are interested in the results. As mentioned, there is a set of rules specifying who may submit a Notice of Intent to Make a Motion.

This process was set up by the Standards Council eight years ago to streamline the process at the Association Technical Meeting when NFPA went from annual and fall meetings to a single annual session. This procedure allows everyone to know what items are going to come before the membership and which will not. That way one may decide whether they need to attend the Association Technical Meeting.

Making Motions More Than a Notion

All NITMANs (see box for a simplified summary of who may submit) are reviewed and voted on by the Motions Committee, which is made up of members of the Standards Council and overseen by the chair of the Standards Committee. Those that are accepted become Certified Amending Motions (CAMs), and are published prior to the NFPA Annual Meeting and the Association Technical Meeting. This report should be reviewed prior to an Association Technical Meeting if there is concern a document to be voted on still has unresolved issues.

During the “Tech Session,” the maker of a motion is given three minutes to state their case. The chair of the Technical or Correlating Committee then has three minutes to state the committee’s position. At this point, anyone may get up, for or against, to speak for up to three minutes. The members present usually allow about 30 minutes of discussion before the question is called if the debate has not concluded by then.

The vote is then taken via an electronic device given to each NFPA member attending the Tech Session. A simple majority of members present is required to pass or defeat a motion. However, this is not the end of the process.

If a motion passes, it goes back to the TC and CC. A two-thirds vote is required for the amending motion to be accepted. Thus, while the general membership may feel a motion has merit, the committee still has a final say in the matter. The Standards Council that oversees the rules awards preference to a committee due to its greater familiarity with the subject matter as compared to general membership.

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About the Author


Shane Clary, Ph.D., is Security Sales & Integration’s “Fire Side Chat” columnist. He 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 Pancheco, Calif.-based Bay Alarm Co.

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