Get Clued in on 9 Proposed ICC Code Changes

Conscientious fire systems professionals realize they not only need to keep abreast of current codes and standards but also keep their ear to the ground to be prepared when requirements change. Cut through the din of hundreds of recent proposed ICC fire code changes with this overview of those that matter most.

Fellow fire systems professionals, I bring you the latest insider scoop from the International Code Council (ICC) Group B Code Hearings held in Dallas April 21-30. During those 10 days two codes that have a direct impact on fire alarm and carbon monoxide (CO) detection systems were discussed: the International Fire Code (IFC) and the International Residential Code (IRC).

During the Committee Action Hearings in Big D, proposals to existing codes were debated and voted on. In this and next month’s “Fire Side Chat,” I will review a few of the key proposals discussed that could have a significant bearing on the way fire alarm and CO detection systems are installed in the future. Note that these changes are not yet cast in concrete. Anyone may submit a comment to ICC (you need not be a member) regarding any of the proposals acted on in Dallas.

Sorting Out Hundreds of Proposals

More than 360 proposals were acted upon for the IFC. Of these, around 30 concerned 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. Of these, there were nine that involved fire alarm and CO detection.

Proposals of interest within the IFC include the following:

ADM-43 — Adds paragraph 107.3, Recordkeeping. Will require that records be kept for three years for all testing and maintenance of fire protection systems. The records are to be kept onsite or at an approved location. The fire authority may prescribe the form and format that the records are to be maintained.

F-152 — An addition to paragraph 907.1.2, Fire Alarm Shop Drawings, in which the design minimum audibility levels for occupant notification is added to the minimum requirements for fire alarm shop drawings. This parallels requirements added in the 2013 edition of NFPA 72.

F-157 — A revision to Exception 1 to paragraph 907.2.3, Group E. The change was the threshold from an occupant load of 30 to 50 people before manual stations are required in a Group E occupancy. This may affect smaller daycare centers and other educational facilities.

F-162 — Section 907.10, Single- and Multiple-Station Smoke Alarms was added, which now requires that smoke alarms shall be tested and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. In addition, smoke alarms installed within a Group R or I-1 occupancy shall be replaced not more than 10 years from the date of manufacture or if the date of manufacture cannot be determined.

F-163 — Adds a new paragraph 907.2.11.5, Smoke Detection Systems for Groups R-2, R-3, R-4 and I-1 occupancies in which a smoke detection system may be installed in place of smoke alarms. This allows a smoke detection system to be installed as an alternate to single- and multiple-station alarms in dwelling and sleeping units. This was previously allowed within IFC under the alternate materials and methods provision. The proponent stated that this will allow for addressable systems to be used, which would provide automatic sensitivity testing and an indication of trouble with a detector to a central location.

F-170 — A modification to Section 907.4.2.1, which covers the location of manual pull stations. The change adds language that manual pull stations are not required in buildings were the travel distance to an exit exceeds 200 feet if the building is provided with an automatic fire sprinkler system.

F-171 — Adds three new definitions to the code intended to specify terms for public use and common use to avoid confusion for where visible notification appliances are required. These definitions bring IFC to be consistent with Section 215.2 of the ADA. 1) Common Use: interior or exterior circulation paths, rooms, spaces or elements that are not for public use and are made available for the shared use of two or more people. 2) Public-Use Area: interior or exterior rooms or spaces that are made available to the general public. 3) Employee Work Area: all or any portion of a space used only by employees and only for work (corridors, toilet rooms, kitchenettes and break rooms are excluded).

F-174 — Adds a new paragraph 907.6.3, Initiating Device Identification, which requires that all new systems be installed in a manner so as to provide initiating device identification. There are four exceptions to this new requirement: 1) Systems installed in single-story buildings of less than 22,500 square feet of area. 2) Fire alarm systems that only include manual pull stations and water-flow, and no more than 10 additional initiating devices. 3) Special initiating devices that do not support individual device identification. 4) Fire alarm systems or devices that are replacing existing equipment.

This proposal also added a new Section 907.6.3.1 that requires initiating device status to be annunciated at the protected premise. The proponent of this proposal was the ICC Fire Code Action Committee. It closely followed a number of similar proposals submitted by the International Association of Fire Chiefs during the previous cycle of NFPA 72. The addition is seen as a method to assist responding fire departments in going directly to where the alarm is coming from within a protected premise. It is also viewed by some as an aid in the reduction of unwanted alarms.

While now approved for adoption as part of IFC, the concept of unique zone or address annunciation was not approved for use within NFPA 72. In the case of a code versus a standard, the requirements within a code, such as IFC, will preempt the requirements found within a standard, such as NFPA 72. For those states that adopt IFC, the requirement for unique device annunciation will become a requirement. In those states that do not, the language within NFPA 72 would still prevail.

F-176 — Adds paragraph 907.6.5.3, Alarm Signal Verification, which will allow alarm signal verification where allowed by the fire chief. The verification process must be in compliance with NFPA 72. This still requires the fire department dispatch be called at the same time as the protected premise, which is the current regulation within NFPA 72.

This proposal was also submitted by the ICC Fire Code Action Committee. It links into the code provisions added to the 2013 edition of NFPA 72 in regard to alarm verification. Those provisions require the fire department be called immediately, but allows for the protected premise to be called concurrently to verify if the alarm is valid or not. This concept has been supported by the International Association of Fire Chiefs the past three years, and is part of its program to reduce the number of unwanted alarms. There still may be an attempt to allow for the protected premise to be called before a call is made to the fire department during the comment stage to the code.

Again, if you are opposed to any of these changes, you may submit a comment to ICC for consideration at the Final Code Action Hearings that will be held later this year in Atlantic City, N.J. I will discuss this process as well as a few more proposals that were adopted in the IFC and IRC next month.

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.

Codes Facing Proposed Changes

  • International Energy Code
  • International Existing Building Code
  • International Fire Code
  • ICC Performance Code
  • International Residential Code
  • Property Maintenance Code
  • Swimming Pool and Spa Code
  • Wildland-Urban Interface Code

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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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