There has been a lot of hype around the recent International Code Council (ICC), Final Action Hearings which took place in September in Minnesota. The discussion across the web was for the fire service to get involved to make changes to the international residential code and ensure the safety of firefighters by requiring residential sprinklers in one- and two-family dwellings.
The September Final Action Hearings were the culmination of years of work which started with thousands of code changes which were submitted by inspectors, code officials, interested parties, and citizens. The code changes are correlated by the staff of the ICC and then heard by the appropriate committee. Some of the code changes have been in the works for over 10 years as they have been submitted, rejected, and then modified to be submitted once again.
After the committee hears testimony on code proposals, there are opportunities for comments on the committee's findings. These comments are published as the agenda for the final action hearings. In a code cycle there may be two final action hearings, the previous hearing was in Rochester, NY, in 2007.
You may wonder, how does all of this affect firefighter safety? If you did not know, the ICC publishes code documents which are utilized all over the United States. The documents serve as the building, plumbing, mechanical, or fire codes (there are over 12 published documents by the ICC for code officials). The intent of many of the documents state:
101.3 Intent. The purpose of this code is to establish the minimum requirements consistent with nationally recognized good practice for providing a reasonable level of life safety and property protection from the hazards of fire, explosion or dangerous conditions in new and existing buildings, structures and premises and to provide safety to fire fighters and emergency responders during emergency operations.
Pay special attention to the last line of the intent section which indicates "to provide safety to fire fighters and emergency responders during emergency operations." Firefighter safety is a topic that was widely heard and is part of the tremendous effort of many fire service organizations to get involved in the code development process. These efforts included members of the National Association of State Fire Marshals; International Association of Fire Chiefs, Fire and Life Safety Group; the International Association of Fire Fighters, and countless state organizations, such as California, Michigan, Virginia, and numerous others. These fire service groups have worked to provide solid code changes and build partnerships to influence code change.
The following are just a select sample of the code changes that are of interest to firefighters. Keep in mind that these are part of the 2009 code documents and would be enforceable once the code is adopted by the appropriate municipality.