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What is the Difference Between Codes and Standards in the Fire Safety Industry?

What is the Difference Between Codes and Standards in the Fire Safety Industry?

Starting a new business can be stressful enough dealing with inventory, managing personnel, keeping track of taxes, marketing your goods or services, customer service after the sale, and really the list goes on. If your business is a brick and mortar facility, then you will also have to learn and apply various guidelines that may govern your type of business, including codes and standards within the safety industry. When an employee or customer enters your facility, you have a degree of responsibility for their safety when in your business.

So, what are the differences between Codes and Standards?

Codes are:

  • WHERE safety guidelines are to be applied, and
  • WHAT kind of guidelines are required to be applied

Standards direct:

  • HOW the codes are to be applied.

Let’s look at how the codes and standards related to the safety industry, and specifically fire safety protection are applied, or the where, what, and how of these codes and standards.

Fire Safety Codes

Note: Fire Safety Codes stem from a model building code developed by the International Code Council (ICC) and adopted for use as a base code standard by most jurisdictions in the United States.

WHERE: All public buildings and places such as office buildings, hospitals, retail facilities, malls, warehouses, etc. In these locations fire protection is mandated.

WHAT: Depending on the building type, size and location, there will be different requirements for the type of fire protection that will be required. For example, some buildings will require there be portable fire extinguishers, other may require wheeled fire extinguishers, and some standpipe and hose systems.

In addition, a different extinguishing agent (wet or dry chemical) may be required based on the potential fuel sources that are in the areas where a fire extinguisher is located.

Fire Safety Standards  

Note: The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a trade association that creates and maintains private, copyrighted standards and codes for use and adaptation by local governments.

How: Standards are set for how portable fire extinguishers, wheeled fire extinguishers, standpipes and hose systems, dry and wet chemical extinguishing system are to be installed.

  • Portable Fire Extinguishers: NFPA 10 sets forth requirements for the placement, signage, and use of portable fire extinguishers to ensure that they function as intended as the first line of defense for fires found and acted upon when the fire is of a limited size.
  • Wheeled Fire Extinguishers: Wheeled fire extinguishers are standard equipment for many commercial and industrial settings that are larger in scale and require a greater fire fighting capacity to help keep fires that could originate in these facilities before they get out of control. Examples are large construction sites, chemical plants, storage facilities, refineries, ship docks, and offshore facilities.
  • Standpipes and Hose Systems: NFPA 14 sets forth requirements for the installation of standpipes and hose systems so that when activated the system will work as described to deliver adequate and reliable water supplies when combating a fire.
  • Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishing Systems: NFPA 17 sets forth minimal standards to ensure that dry chemical fire extinguishing systems will perform as intended for the duration of their use, or life.
  • Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishing Systems: NFPA 17A sets for standards applicable to the design, installation, operation, testing, and maintenance of wet chemical fire extinguishing systems, and includes minimal requirements for restaurant and institutional plenums, hoods, ducts, and associated cooking appliances.