How the ICC Sees the Code Process

Those in the fire/life-safety industry should be conversant in the processes both ICC and NFPA use for code and standards development. As the ICC process is open to all for the submittal of changes or additions, those who use its codes should not be shy about submitting proposals if they see a need for a change. Read on to better understand how ICC functions.

It’s time to wrap up our fascinating foray into the code adoption process that the International Code Council (ICC) follows.

In the January column, I took the discussion as far as how the Code Action or Development Hearing works. Now, we will cover the second half of the process, through the Public Comment Hearing (PCH) and the final adoption of a new edition to a code.

Anyone Can Peruse Code Proposals

After the final votes and actions are recorded from the Code Action Hearing there is a posting on the Web ( of the Report of the Committee Action Hearing. It goes online about a month after the Code Action Hearing at which time any member of the public may download the report. Around a month after that, the ICC also makes available a CD of the Report.

The public has a little less than two months to review and submit comments detailed in the Report regarding the Committee Action Hearing’s proceedings. This is similar to the comment stage the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) follows within its process. The comments may reject changes that were agreed to or accept the original proposal that was submitted, yet not accepted by a committee during the Committee Action Hearing.

The committees may also provide some suggestions to the original submitter as to what may be done to a proposal for it to be accepted during the next round. In this case, the original submitter or others may send in a comment addressing the points brought forth by a committee. It is also during this time that Code Action Committees, Ad Hoc Committees and Code Technology Committee may convene to discuss and vote on any comments they may wish to end prior to the closing date.

Once the deadline for comments has passed, ICC will process them for public review. They will be posted to the Web approximately six weeks after the closing date, along with the agenda for the Public Comment Hearing. This will allow all interested parties to review the comments that have been submitted. The majority of proposals that do not pass during the Committee Action Hearing do not come back up as a comment. However, those that do resonate may have more than one comment submitted. In the end, it is still a busy hearing when all parties gather for the Public Comment Hearing.

Once the agenda and comments have been posted an interested party can decide if they need to attend the Public Comment Hearing or not. If an item is not on the published agenda, it will not appear though some other means at the hearing.

At this point, there is a significant difference between the ICC and NFPA processes. For NFPA, the Report of Comment meeting (now the Second Draft Meeting) still has the full Technical Committee present to discuss and vote on all comments that have been submitted. For ICC, the various code committees will not hear or decide the final actions.

At the Public Comment Meeting, it is the voting membership that has the final vote. The submitters still have two minutes to speak on their comment, and one minute in rebuttal. Those in opposition also have two minutes to make their point and one minute in rebuttal. Unlike the Committee Action Hearing, the Code Committee does not then ask questions or debate the issue. The vote is through electronic means, in which each voting member is issued an electronic voting device. At the end of the debate on an item, the presiding officer or moderator will call for the vote. At the end of the vote, usually 10-15 seconds, the results are displayed and the agenda moves on to the next item.

More on Voting & Appeals Process

ICC is undergoing a change in its voting process. Under the present rules, a voting member must be present at the hearing to vote. This assures they have also heard all the discussions, both pro and con. There is a proposal that would allow offsite voting to occur up to two weeks after the hearings have concluded. While this would increase the participation of the voting membership, if they have not heard both sides of the discussion their vote may be uninformed and there could end up being block voting.

These proposals to the change in the voting process are being promulgated through the Access Steering Committee. There have been several counterproposals from the Fire Service Membership Council. However, the ICC Board announced on Dec. 20, 2012 it has adopted the original proposal and will proceed with the two-week online voting, starting with the 2013 cycle as a test during the Public Comment Hearings.

At the conclusion of the Public Commit Hearing, the adopted changes are incorporated into the next edition of the various codes ICC publishes.

There is an appeal process within ICC, through the Appeals Board. ICC policy allows for anyone to file an appeal to an action or inaction. The Appeal Board is made up of a board vice president and three members named by ICC’s CEO but who are not board members. After an appeal hearing, the chair shall submit a report to the CEO, who in turn shall submit the report and recommendations to the board for final action. The appeal process within ICC is not utilized as frequent as the appeal format used within the NFPA process.

Once the new code editions are published, they still need to be adopted at a state or local level to become the current enforced code. While all states now adopt the International Building Code (IBC), the same is not true for the other codes produced by ICC. In the case of the International Fire Code (IFC), depending on the state or states you operate in, NFPA 1, Fire Code may be the adopted code instead of the IFC. In all cases, you need to check for any state or local amendments that may have been made within the jurisdiction(s) in which you perform work.

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