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Time for Proper Nourishment and Digestion

codes forumThe 2008 ICC Codes Forum is rocking and rolling in Sunny (and somewhat raining) Palm Springs California.  The codes forum is being cast via the web to provide access to anyone via the world wide web.  If you have been on site or viewed during the web you have some some unique things happen over the first six days.  There has been great code changes and some questionable ones.  If you are new to code development here’s how it works:

A code change is submitted to the ICC to add, delete, change, or modify the current code.  The code changes are listed in several manuals based on the document it will modify.  The changes area heard via the appropriate committee based on the posted schedule.  During the even two hearings are occurring at any given time. 

 If you tune into the hearings via the web-castyou can see several things occurring.  First the proponent of the code change will testify based on the proposed changes.  Others in support of the change will follow.  Then those against will do the same.  After a chance for rerebuttile, the committee will debate the change and recommend its final destination (approved, disapproved, or as-modified).  The last action is if any member of the ICC wishes for a floor vote.  At the codes forum anyone can vote that is an ICC member.  The process is different at the final action hearings (we will provide details in the future). 

The ICC process has been under much debate since over 2500 code changes were submitted.  The process is up to 2 weeks as currently posted.  With the amount of code change and discussion, the hearings have consistently ran long.  I know that the ICC board is looking for ways to optimize the code development process and streamline some of its process.  Regardless of what is happening, being a part of the process (live or via the web-cast) is a great way to understand the “intent” behind the code. 

We have serveral links to some the hotter code changes in our discussion forum.  Share your viewpoints for those who may vote in September.  What can the ICC do to make the code hearings more effective and accessible to its membership? 

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Arsnman4 February 23, 2008, 8:12 pm

    The code development process is indeed a truly remarkable learning experience for those of us who use and enforce the code. There are differences in the development process for the major code bodies though.

    The International Code Council’s process claims to be consensus formatted process which is only true in this regard. Anyone can submit a code proposal or change proposals to existing code but the committees who vote on those proposals are strictly made up of code officials only and they have the final say as to what goes into the code. Does this really meet the true definition of consensus? The answer is yes but only as it relates to a group’s majority decision of a body of code officials.

    The other major code body the National Fire Protection Association has a consensus process where anyone can submit proposals and the committees who vote on the proposals are made up of a true consensus (majority group opinion) of all interested and affected parties including users, officials, engineers, architects, business and industry, health care and education to mention a few.

    With both of these formats to choose from it has continued to leave me wondering which code is really best if challenged. Prior experience has proven to me that when either of code bodies codes has been really challenged in the courtroom, the NFPA’s code has faired better than those of the former SBCCI and BOCA, which were two of the three forefathers of the now ICC, mainly due to the definition and legal interpretations of consensus.

  • NJFireMarshal (Retired) March 21, 2008, 8:56 am

    Your description of the ICC process is incorrect.

    First, the committees are not comprised only with code officials. Engineers, architects and the regulated community is also represented. ICC developed the committees in that manner to provide for a braod based consensus on the committees. (There is a push to go back to just code officials being on the committees).

    Second, the committees do not have the final say. The final decision on any proposed change is not made at the code development hearings where the committee votes. The decision is made at the final action hearings where the governmental membership has the right to vote.

    Third, there is an appeal process to those final action hearing decisions just as there is an appeal process in the NFPA code & standard development process.

    I see nothing wrong with code officials making the final decision on a code intended to protect occupants, the public and emergency responders. Their only interest is in serving and protecting the public.

    If you are going to make statements that the NFPA standards do better in court than the model codes, (ICC or legacy), then I think you should provide specific examples because I am not aware of any factual basis to that statement. If it was true the legacy groups and/or ICC would have published any such issue and addressed it. Since you refer to BOCA and SBCCI specificly, your statement does not comport with the fact that both those sets of codes relied heavily on references to NFPA standards.

    Which brings up another point. Prior to NFPA 5000, (which has had minimal application in the USA and has not been tested in court to my knowledge), NFPA had two codes, NFPA 101 The Life Safety Code and NFPA 1 The Fire Code. NFPA 101 is used throughout the nation in conjunction with the model codes due to health care requirements, and has been used in many states along side a model building code with no problems. NFPA 1 was primarily a code that pointed to dozens of NFPA standards prior to the 2003 edition and the 2003 edition was developed using a lot of code language from the Western Chiefs Uniform Fire Code, just as the ICC International Fire Code did.

    That means prior to the ICC series of codes NFPA’s standards were primarily applied due to a reference from the model codes you malign with your comment. And even now the NFPA standards come into play by reference from the adopted code whether it be the ICC codes, NFPA 101 or NFPA 1. They work together, not against one another.

    I participate regularly with both organizations, I work within both systems of code development and I believe they both serve an important need. I also believe both systems have positives and both systems have negatives. I think we can spend better time strengthening the positives of each system and working to eliminate the negatives rather than maligning either process.

  • Arsnman4 March 21, 2008, 9:30 pm


    I strongly agree with one of your response comments “I think we can spend better time strengthening the positives of each system and working to eliminate the negatives”
    I do not agree with your statement “the model codes you malign with your comment” since the posting was making comment to the break that was referenced and my evaluation of the process I witnessed on-line and also to debate the true term consensus, not to bash the I Codes as you suggest. I was incorrect, I see. I should have referred to the IFC and not the entire ICC……..sorry.

    As posted, consensus refers to majority decision. The majority decision (as should have been previously stated) in the IFC development process is made up of a CLEAR majority of fire service interests (IFC has 7 of 13 fire interests). The appeals process you refer to (IFCC has 17 of 18 fire interests) so please forgive me, I must apologize; I could be mistaken with my original posting. I was busy keeping up with the rhetoric while typing.

    Personally, I have no problem with fire service interests making code development decisions or final decisions for that matter, when it comes to protecting the public and firefighters. I have been involved and walked the talk for years. I have and continue to argue that the fire service needs to get more involved with the code development process and not just the apparatus, equipment and clothing standards. I see it happening now in more recent years and that’s a good thing.

    In regards to the specific legal stances relating to the different model codes, as stated, it was personal experience. I had situations twenty some years ago where the code being enforced at the time was argued in court proceedings and the BOCA and SBCCI references to NFiPA were argued. I recall the defense making quite a prolific argument referring to copyright and why the code extricated material etc. I recall the jest being something to the effect that why didn’t we use the codes that the extrication was made from. Needless to say the jurisdiction did just that the next cycle. Forgive me but memory of the exact cases is cloudy, but that statement stuck and still does today when I contemplate which code to use.

    Now getting back to the maligning…………….If I was ever intending to malign, I would just say a code or process stunk, (being nice here) I would not use alleged hidden meaning script to say what I meant.

    I honestly believe the International Codes are getting better. If code adoption lobbying ever becomes about truly protecting the public and emergency personnel and not selling books, I’ll be more compassionate but hey that’s my opinion. I strongly supported the unification campaign years ago and was sad when some body backed off.

    I applaude and deeply respect all my colleagues who involve themselves in the development process because we all honestly believe we are serving a greater cause. It’s always the politics that screw things up.

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