As an architect, engineer, building owner, or building manager it is important to keep up with all the different codes and standards that apply to your building. Whether you are constructing or maintaining a building, there are a ton of codes to follow. Not only are there hundreds to keep in mind and remember, but they are constantly being updated. This makes it nearly impossible to keep up with the changes. However, the one code that corresponds with many of the other codes- such as building, electrical, fuel-gas, mechanical, plumbing, energy and fire codes- is the Life Safety Code.
Published by the National Fire Protection Association, the Life Safety Code (NFPA 101) is the most commonly used code that uses strategies to protect a building’s occupants throughout a building’s life cycle. As a building and its environment evolve, so do the risks and threats. That means the codes and standards must also change as well. NFPA 101, like other NFPA documents, is updated every three years. The latest edition of the code came out this year in 2015 and the next edition will be out in 2018.
The Life Safety Code focuses on the protection of people based on a building’s construction, protection, and occupancy features that help to reduce the effects of fire and other risks on a person’s life. The code’s requirements address egress path marking and exit signs, fire protection features, sprinkler systems, alarm systems, emergency lighting, smoke barriers, and special hazard protection in all types of buildings.
NFPA 101 is the only code that addresses life safety code in both new and existing buildings. So, when a new edition of the code is adopted into a local code, both the new and existing buildings must meet the terms. When other codes receive updated editions it is typically only required in new buildings.
Although the Life Safety Code is not a legal code, you can be fined if your building is not in compliance. It is currently being used in every state in the United States, so check with your local Authority Having Jurisdiction to find out what edition of the code your area is using. You don't want to have to pay fines for a non-compliant building, or worse-being responsible for injuries that happen from a building being non-compliant.