National Fire Codes

NFPA & IFC Code Requirements

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) was founded in 1896, with a focus on sprinkler technology and electrical safety, the body has since broadened its scope to include numerous items of concern. Many, if not most, firefighters are familiar with NFPA standards such as 1901, which covers fire apparatus; 1001, which covers firefighter professional standards; and 1971, which relates to structural and proximity gear. But with more than 300 codes and standards from which to choose, it stands to reason that certain documents may not be universally familiar.

One such set of regulations is NFPA-1221/1225: Standard for the Installation, Maintenance, and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems. While lesser known than many standards, NFPA-1221/1225 has a direct impact on every department and on every call. Contained within the pages are best practices on everything from computer-aided dispatch (CAD) to staffing and facility design. Also included are sections covering communication and signal wiring, operations, telephones, dispatching systems, testing, records, data security and public alerting systems.

It is important to note that the NFPA or IFC (International Fire Code) does not require an emergency communication system to be installed. Rather, it provides the design, installation, and maintenance requirements and guidelines for systems (if they are required by local codes or other governing authorities or if an owner decides to voluntarily implement an emergency communication system within a building or area.)

The requirements vary by building type and occupancy, and the local jurisdictions may have additional requirements. Always check with the local code enforcement office and/or fire marshal’s office.

Certain states or jurisdictions have adopted the NFPA-72/1221/1225 code which requires specific Public Safety standards be met to support two-way radio communications within buildings. (Additional requirements may be mandated by the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction)

The requirements vary by building type and occupancy, and the local jurisdiction may have additional requirements. Always check with the local code enforcement office and/or fire marshal’s office.

Basic Determination

The general requirements for most jurisdictions are that BDA systems are required for buildings that have one floor below grade or two floors above. For most jurisdictions, BDA Systems are required in all new construction per these requirements. Many jurisdictions even necessitate retrofits of older buildings falling under these requirements.

Requirements for BDA systems are enforced by local jurisdictions. It is important to check with your county Fire Marshal to be sure of requirements per your area. Organizations like the NFPA and IFC set the standards for in-building signal coverage laws. Building owners are responsible for the cost of installing BDA systems.

In short, All new and existing buildings shall have approved radio coverage for emergency responders within the building based upon the existing coverage levels.

This includes all new, permitted construction. Existing high rises and other commercial properties may also fall under the codes, depending on the local AHJ and ordinances. Existing buildings undergoing extensive remodel and/or expansion shall be coordinated with the jurisdictions Building Official to determine if the installation of an in-building radio system is needed.

Certain structures may be exempt from the code. It is important to check with the local AHJ if you have questions. The following may be exempt:

  • Structures that are three stories or less without subterranean storage or parking and that do not exceed 50,000 square feet on any single story.

  • Wood-constructed residential structures four stories or less without subterranean storage or parking which are not built integral to an above ground multi-story parking structure.

  • Should construction that is three stories or less which does not exceed 50,000 square feet on any single story include subterranean storage or parking, then this ordinance shall apply only to the subterranean areas.

Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)

  • Definition: “An organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure.” This is usually the local Fire Marshall or designator.

  • AHJs vary in their strict adherence to code and their level of enforcement. Many jurisdictions have codes in place that go beyond those set by the NFPA/IFC, so it is important to partner with a fire protection provider that understands the specific regulations.

  • The AHJ is the ultimate authority of the NFPA/IFC codes

  • The design of the system shall be approved by the AHJ