×
 

PH Role of the Nat'l Fire Protection Assoc in Setting Codes and Standards for the Built Environment

  • Date: Jan 01 2000
  • Policy Number: 200019

Key Words: Built Environment, Injury Prevention Control

The American Public Health Association,

Having adopted Policy Statement 9916, Public Health Role of Codes Regulating the Design, Construction and Use of Buildings,1 and recognizing the need to update and expand the policy to address other public health issues related to housing and other buildings; and

Concerned that the International Code Council (ICC) continues to compromise its process and its model codes to the detriment of public health, especially regarding home safety;2* and

Recognizing that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has a long tradition, beginning in 1896, of reducing the burden of fire on the quality of life;3 and

Noting that NFPA develops its standards and codes using widely recognized American National Standards Institute (ANSI) consensus procedures;3-4 and

Pleased that in 1999, NFPA fundamentally expanded its mission statement “to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by advocating scientifically-based consensus codes and standards, research, training and education”;5 and

Noting that, in late 1999 and early 2000, NFPA announced its intentions to develop a full set of codes for the built environment, including a model building code, NFPA 5000;6 and

Acknowledging that NFPA has taken a lead in educational efforts directed at prominent injury hazards for children and elderly persons;7** and

Recognizing that in its educational programs, advocacy, coalition participation, and standards development, NFPA has dealt with controversial, major injury-control issues;8-22*** and

Concerned that, in its potential expanded role in developing a full set of codes and standards for the built environment, NFPA will be subject to greater pressure from industry organizations to compromise requirements to the detriment of public health;6,19-23 therefore

  1. Encourages NFPA to build on its leadership role by providing a clear alternative6 to the International Codes produced by the ICC; by including public health professionals on NFPA consensus committees, by remaining true to the expanded NFPA mission statement; and by emphasizing the reduction of hazards on the quality of life through a public health approach;
  2. Encourages NFPA to expand the scope of its Life Safety Code, ANSI/NFPA 101, to be more true to its title by dealing with life safety in buildings in a comprehensive fashion;
  3. Encourages NFPA and other organizations to develop codes and standards requiring automatic fire sprinkler protection that is cost-effective for new homes and other buildings;****
  4. Encourages NFPA and other organizations to develop codes and standards requiring home stairways to be designed and constructed so that steps and railings provide at least the same level of usability and safety from falls as do stairs and railings in other buildings;
  5. Encourages NFPA, in its development of codes and standards, to utilize generally a “universal design” or inclusive design philosophy, which maximizes safety and usability for the largest range of people, including elderly persons or those of any age with disabilities;
  6. Encourages collaboration and support by organizations sharing NFPA’s goals for reduction of preventable injuries through scientifically-based consensus codes and standards, research, evaluation, training, and education; and
  7. Urges federal, state and local government organizations to adopt progressive, responsive standards and codes, that make public health a first priority.

* Unlike the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the ICC has given advantage to industry interest groups, notably the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in relation to home safety, for example, by appointing a significant number of NAHB representatives to committees while rejecting code-development committee memberships by persons with a public health background and perspective.

** Educational programs “Risk Watch” and “Remembering When” deal, respectively, with children and elderly persons. The latter program, initiated in 1999, was developed in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

*** Prominent, in relation to ANSI/NFPA 101 (the Life Safety Code), are deliberations on requirements for sprinklering of homes, life safety for persons with disabilities, and upgraded design requirements for home stairways; the latest are also being considered for ANSI/NFPA 501, Standard on Manufactured Housing. The proposed NFPA building code, due out in 2002, will also deal with these issues.

**** This recommendation is included even though there are indications of potential opposing opinions among at least two APHA sections (Injury Control and Gerontological Health). The concern is largely over the relationship of cost and benefit plus the possibility that requirements for sprinklering of some residential facilities will make them unaffordable or infeasible. For this reason, this proposed policy statement includes the words, “that is cost effective.” It is hoped that a discussion on this particular issue—and the import of these four words—will occur among APHA sections through 2000 as it is occurring (and has occurred over many years) in other organizations.

References

  1. APHA. Public health role of codes regulating design, construction and use of buildings. Am J Public Health. 2000;90(3):467-469.
  2. ICC-NAHB Task Force. Report to the ICC Board of Directors on the International Residential Code. International Code Council, Inc. and National Association of Home Builders, 1997.
  3. NFPA 1999 Directory. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, 1999, 5-8.
  4. Procedures for the development and coordination of American National Standards. New York, NY: American National Standards Institute, 1995.
  5. NFPA 2000 Directory. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, 2000.
  6. Wolf A. Not just another building code: NFPA plans a building code to anchor a complete set of codes for the built environment. NFPA. 2000;94(3):66-71. (Also see the National Fire Protection Association’s Consensus Codes Series, updated frequently at http:www.nfpa.org)
  7. NFPA Center for High Risk Outreach. Remembering When: A fall and fire prevention program for older adults. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, 1999.
  8. Hall JR. The U.S. experience with sprinklers: Who has them? How well do they work? NFPA, 1993;87(6):44-55.
  9. Hall JR. Framing the problem. Solutions 2000: Advocating shared responsibilities for improved fire protection. Washington, DC: United States Fire Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1999:4-9.
  10. Home Fire Safety Coalition. Automatic sprinklers: A ten-year study. Scottsdale, AZ: Rural/Metro Fire Department, 1997.
  11. Rohr KD. U.S. experience with sprinklers. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, 2000.
  12. North American Coalition for Fire and Life Safety Education. Solutions 2000: Advocating shared responsibilities for improved fire protection. Washington, DC: United States Fire Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1999.
  13. Proulx G, Pineau J. Review of evacuation strategies for occupants with disabilities. Ottawa: National Research Council of Canada, Institute for Research in Construction, Internal Report No. 712, 1996.
  14. Alessi D, Brill M et al. Home safety guidelines for architects and builders. NBS-GCR 78-156, Gaithersburg, MD: National Institute of Standards and Technology, 1978.
  15. Archea JC, Collins BL, Stahl FI. Guidelines for stair safety. NBS-BSS 120, Gaithersburg, MD: National Bureau of Standards, 1979.
  16. Archea JC. Environmental factors associated with falls by the elderly. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 1985; 1(3):555-569.
  17. Pauls J. Benefit-cost analysis and housing affordability: The case of stairway usability, safety, design and related requirements and guidelines for new and existing homes. Proceedings of Pacific Rim Conference of Building Officials, Maui, HI, 1998:21-38.
  18. Lawrence BA, et al. Estimating the costs of nonfatal consumer product injuries in the United States. Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Product Safety Research, Bethesda, MD, 1999:48-68.
  19. NFPA. 1999 November Association Technical Meeting Report on Proposals. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, 1999:253-255.
  20. NFPA. 1999 November Association Technical Meeting Report on Comments. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, 1999:204-209.
  21. NFPA. 2000 May Association Technical Meeting Report on Proposals. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, 1999:317-401.
  22. NFPA. 2000 May Association Technical Meeting Report on Comments. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, 2000:138-191.
  23. Dixon RG. Standards development in the private sector: thoughts on interest representation and procedural fairness. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association, 1978.

Back to Top