Jun 22, 2020
Sponsored By SprinkGUARD
Chase Browning is a fire marshal with a lifelong history in the fire protection industry. This episode of Fire Code Tech shares the perspective of an authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) as it applies to topics like plan review, the codes and standards process, and fire investigations. Chase gives insight into what it's like to be a principal member of NFPA 13, one of the most impactful committees in existence.
How did you get into fire protection?
Would you tell me about some of your certifications?
What does it mean to be an Authority Having Jurisdiction / a code enforcer?
What does your typical day look like as a AHJ / Fire Marshal?
Would you speak about the methodology of fire investigations?
Can you speak about your history with the development of codes and standards?
What does the process of developing codes and standards look like?
Are there any resources that you would recommend to professionals?
This episode of fire code tech is brought to you by sprint guard, but more on our sponsor later on in the show. Hello, all welcome to the show. I'm Gus Gagliardi, and this is fire code tech on fire code tech. We interview fire protection professionals from all different careers and backgrounds in order to provide insight and a resource for those in the.
My goal is to help you become a more informed fire protection. Professional fire code tech has interviews with engineers and researchers, fire marshals, and insurance professionals, and highlights topics like codes and standards, engineering systems, professional development, and trending topics in the industry.
So if you're someone who wants to know more about fire protection or the fascinating stories of those who are in the field, you're in the right place. Hello. All welcome to episode six of fire code tech. On this episode of fire code tech, we have chase Browning. Chase is a deputy fire marshal. Chase has a unique perspective as a fire marshal because he was born and raised in the fire protection industry.
He has had a variety of jobs ranging from sprinkler fitter to somebody who manages a fire suppression contracting. In this episode of fire code tech, we get into what it means to be a fire marshal with chase. Also, we talk about the perspective of a fire marshal and how that differs from an engineer or a contractor.
Chase speaks a little bit about the methodology for investigating a fire. Chase talks about his role in being a principal member of the NFPA 13 committee for automatic sprinkler systems. If you're a big fan of NFPA 13, like I am, you're gonna love this. Don't forget to subscribe. So you never miss an episode and follow fire code tech on social media.
Let's start the show. Hello, chase. How's it going today? Welcome to the podcast. Welcome. Well, thank you. Appreciate being here. Awesome. Yeah. Well, I'm excited to get started and I just wanted to start out with a little bit about your background and how you got into fire protection. Cool. Well, I appreciate the opportunity to.
Be a part of your show and, and, uh, I, well, the first thing I tell people always about fire protection is, you know, I grew up in a, in a fire protection family and to kind of frame it all. I had a, you know, back back in the day, I remember I had a fire sprinkler save lives, bumper sticker on my skateboard when I was in junior junior high school.
Uh, you know, Yeah, my, my dad was a fire sprinkler fitter in the late sixties, early seventies. And so my brother and I, my older brother, we grew up in a, in a family that was, you know, doing fire sprinklers. And that was kind of how we, how we grew up. And so we had a family business for a lot of years and we just grew, you know, grew up in that environment.
And as I worked through the ranks of the. Sprinkler world, you know, starting off just, you know, doing stuff on the, on the weekends. And you know, this is before I, maybe before child labor laws, I don't know, but we was, you know, do stuff on the weekends and just kind of entered this career and fire sprinklers and did that for, for a lot of years.
And, uh, as I, you know, was involved in fire sprinklers for several decades, it, you know, I got more and more intertwined with the running to the business and. You know, all the way from, you know, layout to estimating and, and, you know, design interface and, and installation management and all, and just all kinds of stuff and, and just fell in love with became a code nerd and kind of move, move myself through, uh, into a job as a fire service doing, doing code enforcement.
So kind of went to the other side of. So, you know, the code officials say I I've left the dark side and my contractor buddy says I went to the dark side. So it depends D which stakeholder you are. Yeah. Depends on, uh, where you're coming from, I guess there, yeah. I've always had a theory that coding have a, just a different seat at the table.
And my experience, you know, I've been with the fire department now for the last six years and it's that that's, that's true. You know, it's, uh, The built environment has a lot of stakeholders and so much focus on the code official and, and the contractor, but there's other, as you know, there's other drivers, you know, the insurance, the owner wishes the.
Uh, loss prevention policies. I mean, just all kinds of different voices that make the, the, the building happen when a building is built and, and, uh, so just, you know, seeing all of that kind of happen as they grew up, kind of pulled me into the, into the, into the code world, you know, eventually. And, and that's how it kind of jumped into code enforcement.
I, I really value the, the time that I spent in the sprinkler industry, you know, I'm real comfortable on the construction site and real, comfortable in a environment that, you know, we're saying, Hey, let's take this set of, of laws and rules and codes, and let's make turn 'em into a building and let's make owner happy.
And there's a lot there. Yeah, for sure. Well, it sounds like you have a very. Good background on the side of just knowledge about the codes and your background and your upbringing was basically in fire protection. So you're, you're basically born into the field. It seems like that's not an uncommon story.
The more people I talk to, they either stumble into the field or they're they have some tangential relation to it from a family member or from somebody in their life. Yeah. I like hearing about. Your upbringing and fire protection. And that's really funny about your skateboard. Having to fire sprinklers save lives on it.
I remember my old man pointing to my brother and I on a pile of pipe and fittings and, you know, in a bystand and a ranch and said, all right, you know, we're a junior high school. He was like, okay. Pull all those fittings apart or, you know, and so it was pretty daunting, like, oh, what does all mean? I wanna mention one thing about code.
I don't know if this happens to every person in the sprinkler world that, that lives in the installation side of things for any, any time in their career. But it's happened to my old man. It certainly happened to me where you're in the middle of this project early in your career. And someone says, Hey, what's this building gonna be?
And you know, you're cranking widgets. Your job is to, you know, lay out pipe, you know, and I, I was in my early twenties and I'm running around installing this system and someone says, Hey, what's this building gonna be like, you know, I have no idea. And I, and I, and I've never forgotten that, that I, I had no clue because I was focused, you know, right on making the installation happen.
But later on in my career circumstances pulled me into, you know, needing to know more about what, when do sprinklers or stand pipes or fire alarms, when do these systems get installed into buildings and for what purpose? And so it broadened my horizons a little bit and that's kind of how I end up being more of a code nerd.
Yeah, I think that's a great point. I wanted to touch on that from what you said earlier, you know, I, I started out as a, uh, fire suppression designer for a contracting company. So understand what you're saying about the perspective shift from somebody who's more ingrained in the codes and somebody who's, you know, concerned about getting the sprinkler system designed and ready to go.
You know, there's a definitely. A perspective shift. And I feel like, you know, on one side of the spectrum, you have the person who's installing, you know, who's just worried about putting the system together, according to what the plans say and getting the job done. And then. Like, as you go to designer, it gets a little bit more broad.
You're thinking about the system and why you need the system. And then engineer and, uh, fire marshal is like even more of a wide spectrum of what systems plural and you know, why do we need these systems? And you know, what is the intent. I have the use of this building. So that's good stuff. When I was, uh, looking at you to be a candidate on the show, I saw that you had a lot of unique certifications and licenses.
I just wondered if you could speak a little bit to some of your licenses. I've uh, hadn't. Seen very many of the ICC certifications before, but, uh, yeah. Didn't know if you could gimme a little bit more on that. Okay. Yeah. The ICC, the international international code council now publishes. As you know, the international building code, international fire code.
And, you know, since 2000, when they first came out, there's been quite a sea change in solid what codes states use. And so a super majority of states across the United States and, and other parts of the world use the I codes. As a basis for how they build buildings and, and more so knowing that majority of the majority of the states use ICC codes kind of compels a lot of, of building departments and fire departments to seek out candidates that have some of these, uh, some credentials.
Uh, that are published by these, these model code groups. So I have a handful of certifications that are, you know, based on testing that anybody can get, you know, they're, I, I don't enjoy testing, but I don't know anybody that does like to test, but, you know, but to get, you know, to get a job at a fire department or a building department, you gotta, you know, you gotta bring a lot to bear cause it can be pretty competitive.
And so I've just started over the years, collecting some credential. The ICC publishes a, a variety of 'em. Currently I have a, you know, fire inspector, one fire inspector, two fire plans, examiner credential, uh, certifications, a newer one called a commercial fire sprinkler plans, examiner certification, and to do plan, review and inspections in, in Oregon.
Uh, we're required to have the same stuff that the building officials have, which is a building plans, examiner certification, and a commercial building inspector certification. So these are all things that you. That you don't have to have in, in a lot of areas of the country, but to professionally develop, I think is, is good for everyone.
And for, and for me, certainly it was always desirable to always, you know, raise a bar for myself and try to get more stuff. And there's so much expected of code officials that, you know, they're they're, the public has this, this, this expectation that code officials know. All their stuff. And, and what I always tell people is, listen, we have a, we have a requirement to, to have access to this information and have a general level of knowledge of it, but to have a, a sharp expertise on the entire building code and the entire fire code and all the standards that they reference is that's a tall order.
I've always been encouraged. My C code officials striving. Get certifications, professional certifications, many times you need them to just get the job and there's communities where you actually don't have a statutory or administrative requirement to even hold these certifications. But it's always a good idea to, to have to have professional designations.
I know NFPA has a variety of them. Most of mine are related to the ICC codes, but just to just a good idea to. Be able to, you know, have the, a minimum level of requisite knowledge and test the training to be able to do the work that you carry out day to. Those are all good points. Yeah. It's a very intimidating to have to be knowledgeable about.
I mean, just the building code is such a dense document and, you know, and then you get into the reference standards and being an and a subject matter expert in all these different fields, you know, even somebody who has had. A lot of experience you have, you're probably the, uh, exceptional case where you have had a lot of great experience in the construction side of things.
And you know, a lot of times the fire marshals don't have that sort of background. So I'm sure that helps you out a lot, but yeah, I definitely understand what you're saying about, it's a tall order to be knowledgeable about all these. Um, standards and codes. Well, one, one of the upsides to the codes and standards getting, you know, thicker and bigger, every three or four years, whenever they come out is a lot of the interpretive stuff gets addressed through the standards and codes development process.
So I remember years ago there was, you know, when like NFTA 13, the installation standard for fire sprinklers. Half the size it is now, or even less. And you know, people in its opinions vary about whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, you know, that, that the codes and standards now address tons of stuff that they don't have to some will say, and others will say, Hey, these standards, you know, now finally address these gaps that lived in these codes for years, where.
It would, you know, cover basic stuff and there would be invariably there would be pieces that the codes wouldn't address. And then of course it comes out during the design or, you know, during, even during the bidding, uh, and into design and into the installation phase of these fire protection systems that these codes don't address X, Y, and Z.
So let's, let's fix it in the codes and then you get a new chapter or you get a new section that has, you know, that addressed whatever gap that was there. So, um, I'm always encouraged by the people being involved in the code development process because it's, uh, You know, it, it hopefully is a vehicle to, to deal with the concerns that show up when there's just something missing from the, from the codes and standards.
I like that. I think it's a good thing that they keep getting denser and keep explaining more about. You know, the process, there's so many different situations that you could run into with the building, just an infinite amount of ways that you could, you know, construct the same wet pipe sprinkler system.
And so I think that more information is usually a good thing, you know, that does raise the barrier to entry for those not as well versed in the code books, but I think it's a good thing. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So I, yeah, I'm not sure who all will listen to this podcast. So I just wanted to ask, you know, from your perspective, what is a fire marshal in?
What does it mean to be a code enforcer? Well, well, it's an honor, you know, it's a, a fire and police. Are trusted members of the public and looked upon as very trusted by the public. And, you know, to be a uniform, fire personnel is, is a, is an honor and a responsibility. It, it's interesting. There's a correlation between fire sprinklers, you know, and even other fire protection systems being this, this weird, you know, um, uncommon thing that lives in a building and during construction.
Where other trades will say, Hey, uh, you know, there's, oh, there's fire sprinklers in this building. I didn't know. There's fire sprinklers in this building. And of course there's more coordination issues, et cetera. So sprinklers have this like weird like, oh, sprinklers, sometimes live in the building.
Sometimes they don't. And so they there's a silo effect. Well, fire marshals have a very similar, there's a very similar stigma that lived in the. In the fire service world where fire prevention and fire codes are this weird, like silo that lives in the fire department, where the big thrust of all of the, you know, the training and the focus of course are on the manual suppression, the operations of the fire department.
But a good, you know, progressive fire department is gonna also value preventing fire and also value making sure that that the fire codes are enforced and that, and that systems are installed with a, you know, a level of care and, and integrity. And so there, there definitely is a, you know, coming from a fire protection background.
Where sprinklers were this, you know, this extra in the job site. And, uh, then moving into the fire service where fire prevention is this extra. Uh, it was, it was, it was like, uh, not a, not a huge shift. Wow. Yeah, it was not a big shift for me. I was like, oh, okay. I get it. I know what it's like to be at a meeting.
And. It's like a fill in at the bottom. You like it sprinklers. You're dealing with the schedule and everybody gets together to talk about the schedule of the project and there's mechanical electrical plumbing. And then there's a right in at the bottom. You know what extra in this going. Oh, does somebody hand write sprinklers in there?
Same thing with prevent like, oh, We're gonna prevent fires too. Interesting correlation there. I, I will tell you though that, uh, I've always astonished at the care that our line personnel in the fire department take with the public. You know, these guys are, and gals are always goofing off in the firehouse.
Can't take very much seriously. Like when the bell rings that, you know, when the bell rings, they are there. And it's just why it's such an honor to be involved in, in public safety. Like my old fire chief would always say, when somebody, you know, has a broken sync, they can pick the plumber out of the, outta the phone book or Google.
When they have a, a broken lamp, they can call an electrician. But when they have their worst day, they don't get to pick who shows up. They don't get to pick the person that helps them with the, with the vehicle accident, some other tragedy. And so, you know, fire service, they need to be their best, man.
That's powerful. That's. That's a really interesting take. Yeah. I never thought of it that way. And most fire. Service personnel are volunteer and it really, it makes zero difference. Whe whether your fire department that shows up to help you is getting paid to do it or volunteer, they have to meet certain levels of skill and training to be able to protect the public at the level they do.
And so that environment is, you know, fire codes and prevention, all sit inside of that environment, you know, uh, Paramilitary command structure and, uh, you know, uh, an environment of, of lean into helping rather than pulling away from helping. And so I try to carry, carry that with me day to day. You know, we, we need to help the, the applicant move the project forward.
Not, not slow 'em down and nitpick people to death. Yeah. I can fall into that trap as well, reviewing, uh, submittals. So yeah, it's about being a part of a team and moving forward and, you know, having constructive comments, you know, if something's really not up to code and really is a problem. Sure. You gotta say something.
If you just don't like the way they did something and it's really in lines of what the standards allow, then you need to just move on. Yeah. I wanted to get into more of, you know, um, on the same line of the, uh, what is a fire marshal. I wanted to talk about, you know, it's your job now as. Deputy fire marshal, what is your typical day look like?
I spend most of my time split between plan reviews for fire protection system, and then the associated inspections that come along with those for construction and investigating fires for origin and cause can touch on that a little later. But, uh, in Oregon, And there's a lot of states that do this. The, the entire scope of the, of the construction is under the purview of the building department.
So, and there's some states, municipalities, et cetera, that have a, you know, a parallel path where the fire department looks at certain pieces and the building department looks at it. And there's other places where qualified person looks at it, whether it's building or fire. And in Oregon, the, you know, like in our community, in Southern our building official.
Defers the review of the fire protection system over, over to the fire department. And then we have the required certifications to do that work, but they're not looking over my shoulder when I do the plan review and second guessing, or, you know, adding up my math and all that stuff. They're looking at it going, okay, it's got reviewed, we're gonna move it forward.
Here's the comment. And they support that, but they are the permit agency. So my day to day is having stuff routed to. Us at the fire department, from the building department and we look at it and we route it back. So I, I, I spend quite a bit of time with that and, and like, you'll hear from a lot of code officials.
I, you know, we spend a good chunk of our time dealing with the same contractors that just don't seem to get better. You know, a lot of folks do that. Half the contractors just don't seem to improve on what they do. And then a. Really are shining examples of, you know, doing it better than we did it the last time.
And you, you can't let it sour you though. If you're dealing with, you know, you'll, you'll give a, a list of, of, of corrections to a contractor on a submittal. And next project, couple months later, they submitted, it's got the same issues. And so I, my day to day is full of opportunities to be patient . And remember that I've been on that side of the table.
And wow. Yeah, I definitely know what you're talking about and not letting it, you know, the experience of writing the same comments. You jaded you to, you know, the interface with the contractor. That can be a frustrating scenario when go over. This is why we can't do this. And here's the reason in the code.
And, you know, you have a list of comments and then a month months go by years, go by, and then you're working with. Same contractor again. And it's just another, just a subpar submittal. And you're like, man, this can be just rough. So yeah, I know. I resonate with that for sure. I have one submittal, like a, I dunno, a couple years ago where we just made some routine comments and I, I get teased by my colleagues cuz I, I still kind of think like a contractor.
I'll try to take a quick peek at the submittal and see if there's anything, any big ticket items. And, you know, I I'll shoot an email over to 'em and say, Hey, this is here's some, here's some stuff I, we haven't done the full review yet, but we've done enough of the review to where you can move forward with your fabrication, you know, et cetera.
Cause there's nothing that's gonna change the pipe sizing or whatever, and make sure I give them that in writing. They, they get protected. Um, we've had, 'em just say I one time where they just said, no, we're not gonna, you know, we're not gonna make that. We're not gonna make that change. You know, man. Yeah.
Well, my philosophy is if they're, if they've gotta resubmit, uh, a set of plans over any, you know, big ticket. Items, you know, whatever it is, anything that drives them to have to re you know, revise the drawing, then I'm more apt to, you know, include a bunch of smaller items because it's kind of a courtesy, you know, dorky stuff like a north arrow or, you know, something like that.
Uh, which I, I may not comment on if there wasn't anything else to revise, you know, I, I try to be pretty talent to that. but a lot of experienced designers will appreciate getting everything, even dorky, small items in one list, you know, here's everything. Yeah. We had one where they said, no, That's not something we're familiar with, so we're to not do it.
wow. That's pretty wild. Have you had that happen where they just say no, I've had to more the situation where it just comes back and they've ignored it, you know, or it's, if you get the high quality institution, they will write a reason why, you know, I actually have some. Code verification or contract document, you know, supplement to show why they didn't do it.
But yeah, the more frustrating one is just an omission and just a resubmission with where they didn't, uh, address that specific comment. That's pretty crazy. I'm a control freak. So I, I try to like, you know, I'll take the, I'll do a preliminary report or whatever, and I'll put it all like a word doc and I'll have it all numbered with references.
and the, the savvy designers will reply back, you know, and, and re respond to each item within, you know, maybe in a different color and say, Hey, all our comments are in blue or something dorky like that and, and, and respond to each one. Um, and when I was a contractor, I found that to be smart because I don't want to, I don't wanna go back and forth.
Plan reviewer off my back. And so I'm going to reply to everything and comment on, on everything and say, you know, revised is noted da da and, and provide an answer. But it's incredible how often I'll get, I'll get back a, a, a, a response that addresses a third of the items and they do it in one paragraph and a narrative.
So I'll take all those. Have a control freak, and I'll go into the word doc and I'll place their responses in the appropriate spot. And then I'll put my own responses. You know, this needs to be addressed. This needs to be addressed to try to inspire them, to use the inline response approach, because it just makes it less crazy for everybody.
Yeah, it gets, it gets pretty interesting when. Go back and forth, you're into your third revision and someone's just like, eh, I'm not gonna do it. That's pretty crazy. I can't imagine saying that to a code official. Yeah. I mean, uh, when I was in the designer's seat. Yeah. I would just wanna, it's more work every time that you have to go back and address these comments.
So why not do right the first time and limit the man hours that you have to spend on this whole endeavor? So, yeah, I like what you're saying about being organized. Responding to the comments efficiently and another good, uh, way I've seen it addressed is just like a list up front of, of, they took all the planned comments and da, da, da went one through eight or whatever of here's, all your stuff addressed.
And or when you get a resubmission, they're like, you know, here's, uh, what we addressed and changed from last time, you know? But obviously that's the, the really quality solution. And you're like, wow, these guys have it together. It's strategic too. If you, if you address everything, a plan reviewer asks and you resubmit the list plan reviewer is gonna spend the preponderance of their time reviewing the list and their eyes are not gonna be on the revised drawing.
They're gonna be like, oh, did they address all my comments? If you don't do that? They're gonna be looking at the drawing the whole time and they might find more stuff. So it's just, you know, it's just one of those things it's like, Hey, it's just good game to spoon, feed the plan reviewer and make it easy.
Add extra notes. Show your math lane. What you're doing, this is a lesson I learned. The hard way is no. Get outta jail free card to say, well, you didn't find this error the first time. Why did you find it the second time? And why am I looking at it now? Now I reviewed it. I found this the second time I was looking at it and the comment stands.
So that can be a really, uh, hard pill to swallow. So yeah, you definitely wanna close these issues out, uh, as efficiently and concisely as possible. Yeah. Only reason I'm looking at it again is because there was revisions. And so. Yeah, it's always interesting. Yeah. You touched on it earlier a little bit, but I wanted to get into more of the fire investigation side of things.
Yeah. I'm not real familiar with how that all works. You know, I've taken a look at the NFPA standard for fire investigations, but yeah, I wanted you to go through a little bit of your experience with fire investigations and maybe some of the methodology of investigating a fire in your experience. Well, it's a fascinating subject for sure.
I, I have a certified fire investigator credential, which is, uh, a professional designation from the international association of arson investigators that the whole basic concept of the fire investigation, of course, you're going in after a fire has occurred. And you're looking at, you're looking at two things, you're looking for where the fire started, which is the origin of the fire.
And you're looking at how it started, which is the. And generally you're gonna go in that order. Uh, you're gonna try to figure out where, where the fire occurred or where the ignition source came into contact with some type of fuel. And once that's determined, it's a lot easier to figure out the circumstances associated with how it started.
So origin and cause is kind of a, a phrase that you hear in the investigation world, because that's the, the thrust of what we do in the investigative fire. I've been doing fire investigation for about, about six years at my fire department. And we're, we do a lot of training for investigation. There are parts pockets of the country where the, the primary fire investigator for the public is law enforcement and there's others where it's fire service personnel.
And I I'm at a state and a department where fire service personnel investigates the, the fires for origin. And cause it can be as simple. You know, uh, you know, cause most fires all start small, uh, can be as simple as, you know, a, a, a stain or a, you know, a black garbage, you know, on the top of a stove to a completely burned down structure that burns all the way to the ground from the exact same circumstances as a small little.
Kitchen fire just, they all start small and different different factors contribute to the severity of the fire. So what we do is we generally are trained to look at, at the, uh, the effects that the fire had on the structure. And we use those, those, and those observations to try and listen to the story it tells.
You know, it, you see different, different types of patterns that are left by the fire itself, fire and smoke movement throughout the structure, et cetera. And you use the, you use those observations to hone in on. On where the fire occurred. Sometimes it's the area of the greatest damage. And sometimes it's, it can actually be the area with the, with some of the lease damage where the fire started and the fire just founded easier fuel package it moved into and just starts burning more severe on the other side of the living room.
So there's a lot, there's a lot there. And fire fires are generally classified as either, you know, accidental or, or natural, like lighten. Or intentional, which we call incendiary. Or UN or unknown and, and we basically drop fire investigations to any of those four buckets. You know, it's either accidentally caused or naturally or intentionally caused and, and the results can ver look very similar.
You walk into a burnt down structure. There's a lot, there's a lot there. You know, fire investigation is a real big piece. It's one, one thing that's really inspiring to me as a code nerd is there is a connection between fire investigation and code development that I certainly was inspired by when it was presented to me that way.
A number of years ago that we, we there's so much in the code world, focused on keeping the ignition source away from the fuel, keeping the fire from occurring, et C. And that gets baked into the codes. Um, but it's the results of the fires that tell that, tell us how to do that. You know, we, we go into the fire and we see where we got it wrong with preventing the fire.
In a lot of cases, we see where, well, if this circumstance would've been different, you know, uh, it could have prevented the fire. If this extension cord wasn't run under the mat in the walkway where we're walking over it over and over and over again for weeks, months and years. And that electrical cord gets broken down by all the foot traffic going on top of it.
You know, you can wind it a code official now and look over at a grocery store and say, oh man, that's probably where a fire is gonna start someday. If you're a trained investigator, you go, man. That's uh, oh, there's a connection between codes and, and investigation. That is crucial. That's good stuff. I, you know, I've always, uh, from schooling with fire protection, I've always, you know, seen the correlation between.
Codes and disasters or fires and you know, but I've never looked at it in the light of, uh, the positive light of, you know, we are learning from fires. We are learning from, you know, these investigations and it's actually driving the code. Further into safety. I guess that's just a fresh perspective for me on that whole process.
But yeah, I find that interesting. Well, like the station nightclub in 2003, you know, where, where, where it was a game changer and we learned so much about human behavior in a tragedy and you know, this, this nightclub fire that happens and, and everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong and people go, you know, the fire occurs.
Smoke fills up the space. It's overcrowded and people are inebriated and people start trying to move towards the exits that they came through and they gets jammed up and, and just, you know, it almost becomes predictive. If certain circumstances exist that you have a problem. And so, you know, I, I heard it said before that the codes are a, a history book that they, you know, we, we do our best to anticipate the tragedies that can happen.
And invariably, they do, and we go, well, we gotta let's fix it. And it takes years to fix the code. Look at the international fire code just now in. 2018 edition, which very few states are using has a requirement for retrofitting sprinklers, into nightclubs that have 300 occupant loads or more, and that's brand brand new.
And that's a direct connection from the station nightclub fire in 2003. And here it took 15 years. Wow. To get that baked into the codes as a minimum level of risk that we will accept as a community. If you adopt that you saying, okay, We don't accept a 302 person nightclub without sprinklers in it. It's not an acceptable level of risk.
And for 15 years, it was, that's really interesting. That's one of the fires we studied in school is the station nightclub fire. And yeah, it's incredible. There were so many things going wrong for that scenario. You know, the being over occupied, the way the excess were designed, you know, that, uh, the pirate techniques is just, was all just bad form.
You know, all, I just added up to. This terrible event, but it's, it's really interesting to hear you talk about, you know, that code process and you know, how it looks like to see these things be implemented. You know, I, I wasn't aware of that. Little tidbit about, you know, the 2018 IFFC and you know, that change for assembly occupancies.
So that's pretty cool. That tragedy is what brought about the current building code requirement for sprinklers in a, in a nightclub over a hundred occupants. It was, it was a 300, I believe, before. And the, and since the 2006, I think, I don't remember which cycle it was, but it was a code cycle after that tragedy.
Where the, the minimum, the threshold for sprinklers in a nightclub went from 300 down to 100. And that was a result of that. And now you have a retrofit requirement for 300 for existing nightclub. So, you know, this is a, a space that we're looking at. All the time for issues with safety, because you have low light levels.
You have, you know, delays, you have these group thinking where folks aren't gonna be aware of a condition until they see other folks being aware of the condition and, and all those delays that occur. Add up to injuries and, and fatalities. So it's a fascinating piece and we learn all of that from the, the post mortem or the Monday morning quarterbacking that we do after an event.
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Let's get back to the show. Well, I think that's a perfect time to transition into, um, I wanted to get. A little bit of history or your experience with, uh, the development of codes and standards. I know that you sit on a couple of. Committees for NFPA. And yeah, I was interested in hearing a little bit more about that.
I think, uh, now's a good transition time. I'm a huge fan of, of the NFPA standards development process. I think it's so public focused and public available, public accessible. It's in, it's always been inspiring to me. I haven't been involved in the committees for, for a long time. It's about, about five years I've been on, on.
Some of the committees, but I've been all affected by this process for many, many years. And, and a lot of years ago I was, you know, I tripped up on a project and, you know, skinned my knee on something and, and, uh, and got mad that the codes were written poorly. And someone said, Hey, If you don't like it, change it, you know, show up and change it.
So talking about a, a, a consensus document, you know, looking at NFPA, you know, 13 for sprinklers or 72 for alarms or the national electrical code, NFPA 70, um, and some of these, these bigger standards are all of the standards are generally consensus documents. And so, you know, the committees are comprised of.
Stakeholders from the, you know, the entire spectrum of the built environment. So you have installers, you have code enforcers, you have insurance folks, you have users of the document. So you ha you know, manufacturers there, everyone, everyone shows up to these committees. And sure everyone has their own area of focus and their own agenda and stuff that they want to, that helps their, their particular piece of the puzzle.
Nominally, at least the end result is a consensus document where everyone got their comments in including the public. So I, I'm a huge fan of the process and, and I always tell folks, get, get involved. Get involved, even if you're, you know, on the committees, the, you know, put public inputs in, you know, send in it's free.
You don't have to have an FPA membership. You can just send in a proposal and say, Hey, this stinks. Here's what needs to change. And here's my, here's my reasoning behind it. And then follow, follow your input through the process. It's, you know, it's, it's public driven. N FPA does not, does not publish or does not, does not write these documents.
The, the technical committees that are, that oversee these documents are responsible for the content in them. There's rules about formatting and style and all of this, but generally the, the, the stuff that's in there, the rules in these documents are they're born of public input and committee. So it's a important piece, a little soapbox I get on about that because there's this, this myth in the construction world that the there's some NFPA dudes or, you know, women and men sitting on a cloud somewhere.
You know, uh, you know, writing these documents and saying, yes, no, yes, no. And it's, it's not, it's us. It's, it's the public and volunteers that show up and, you know, are willing to argue over a, a semi for 30 minutes. You know, that's some unique insight to the process. Yeah. I think before I, you know, started interviewing people.
Fire code tech. I didn't understand. First of all, one of the things you touched on was that, you know, there are seats reserved for people in different user groups. Like there are seats reserved for people who like yourself are, uh, fire marshals work. Code enforces. There are seats reserved for insurance professionals.
There are seats reserved for, you know, the installers or, you know, people who own buildings. And so that's has a varied perspective. You know, we talked a little bit about perspective and how that's important and how you see the code and how you see the fire protection process. But yeah, I thought that was a good point.
You touched on. It takes a while too. You know, it takes a while for stuff to happen in the codes. It's a, it's a cool process, you know, it's, it's definitely not this, uh, preordained anything, you know, something will show up in our world and it'll take, it'll take years for it to finally get baked into the codes.
Yeah. And I think another. Good point is that, you know yeah. If you don't like it or you think something's not said, well, or not described effectively, write an FPA a note about if something's not right. Or if, if something's not the way it should be, you know, if you don't get involved and let 'em know, you know, it could go under the radar, you know, I'm lucky enough to work with the fire protection engineer.
That's. Diligent about, you know, being involved, trying to be involved with that process, looking at when an FPAs are open for public comment and putting it out to the rest of the team, you know, if you have an issue or you see something that's not right, you know, let, let a, let an FPA know, you know, right now all of the, the, you know, the, for sprinklers and alarms, all those standards are open for public comment.
You know, the N P 72 for alarms and, and all three of the sprinkler standards. 1313 D and 13 R they're all open for public comment right now. And that's a critical, critical piece. Even if you weren't, you know, if, if, if someone in the public or another stakeholder were not involved in the, in, in the inputs for the next edition, please get involved for the, for the comment phase.
Cause right now it's, you know, the, all the public inputs came. And we're, we're put together, packaged up and considered and, uh, argued over, et cetera. And what's come out of the oven is the first draft. And so there's all these first draft revisions that need comment and the committees we'll listen to. To the comment and, and it it's crucial like a big ticket item right now.
Is there a first draft revision to treat cardboard as encapsulated in storage? And that's a, that's a, that's big in the industry. If thats. Because of changes in the way. Cardboard questions about changes in the way cardboard is manufactured now. And, and it's a tendency to shed water rather than absorb it in some scenarios, uh, could be a big ticket change in fire protection.
And right now it's just a, maybe it's just a, Hey, it's a. This is the first draft revision. And depending on the, the inputs from the public and further discussion by the committee, this, this could prevail and, and move forward into the second draft, which will likely, you know, end up the 2022 edition of NFA 13.
That's really interesting. Yeah, that would be, would be huge impact on, uh, building owners for warehouses and, you know, densities and the classification of the commodities for. Uh, those type of scenarios with cardboard. I, I imagine that would, uh, throw wrench into some plans for sure. So that's really interesting to hear you talk about the things developing right now.
And I would not that that particular revision is, is based on, uh, since I, you into the weeds on this it's based on ceiling only protection for. Control mode and, and, uh, CMSA protection. So it, it kind of leaves SFR protection kind of out of the loop and, uh, in rack protection also wouldn't be affected by this, but the ceiling only, uh, for cardboard might, might change.
So it's a interesting, but the, the point being that the, the NFA 13 document is not, it's an installation guide, it's an installation standard. So it's, you know, it's generally focused towards installers, but it's not it's, they're not the primary or the, the only user of the document, the document is written for the user and the user could be.
Uh, all, you know, the insurance rep, it could be the, the designer, the building owner. It could be the AJ, the, the, the coding enforcer, any AHJ out there, it, you know, it could be a variety of folks that use the document. And so that's a, I think it's very cool. It's a very cool process. And like any other group, the committee is, you know, kind of like any church group or bowling group or anything else, you're gonna have some folks that are more vocal and more involved than others on the committee.
End of the day, you know, we want everyone involved in the discussion, but not everyone gets as involved. So, you know, you have group dynamics on the committee like you would anywhere else, but it, you know, generally it's a, it's comprised of a, as we've talked about a variety of different folks that want the best document.
I really like hearing about that. Yeah. The more I learn about the process, the more, uh, fascinated and just, uh, encouraged I am about, you know, the development of these standards and yeah, just, uh, I really like hearing about it because just like you, I'm a code nerd. And I spend, you know, most of my days, uh, looking through codes and standards and that's a huge part of my job.
So I like hearing about it, see something broken. You know, I always tell folks, write it down and let's fix it. Cuz I spent man, I spent years when I saw something in the code, even if it was broken, I thought, okay, it's supposed to be that way. You know, it's supposed to be broken because the, you know, the, the folks on the cloud writing the document, you know, wanted it that way.
But there's a human aspect to this volunteer, consensus based document development where mistakes are made, you know, there's. There's some, there's some stuff there's some issues like, you know, if you, for example, if you look at the 2019 edition at P 13, with this major reorg that happened. If you go to that spot, it'll tell you to protect, you know, exterior projections, um, over two feet and in another part of the document, it's four feet.
And so there's, there's conflicts and mistakes that can live in these documents. It, it requires all of the users and the code nerds that are seeing it to, Hey, write it down and throw in an input and they'll get sick. Yep. It takes these people who are very, uh, detail oriented to go through these documents with fine tooth comb.
And it's a lot for anybody. Take in. So I really like this, uh, code and standards development, uh, that we're getting into. So I just wanted to, you know, we've covered it, uh, pretty well, but I just wanted to get your input as somebody who is involved with, you know, one of the most major NFPA documents and, you know, it was one of the principal.
Members of one of these standards, you know, what does this process kind of, can you gimme like a breakdown of like start to finish what this, uh, process kind of looks like, you know, or maybe a high level overview of that? Sure. Well, high level overview, you know, someone sees something missing someone's in the public or something that needs to get fixed in the document or something missing or wrong or whatever.
And they submit a public input. You know, you can go to N P's website. And, um, click on the next, the next edition tab of, of any of the documents. And, and if it's open for input, submit your input. Uh, so someone can submit, submit a, a suggestion through a public input. And then, and then generally, uh, at some point the committee will get together.
Physically or virtually and review all of the public inputs and publish all of those, the results of the discussions on those inputs, you know, into a first draft, uh, revision of that document. And that first draft revision is a, basically a comp a composite of all of the changes that the public wants as processed by the committees.
Um, some of the changes get rejected. Some of 'em get accepted. The committee's supposed to substantiate all of its actions. So we reject your idea based on this merit, or we accept it based on this and that all gets pulled together into one big monster draft of the document. And then it, it, it gets sent back out to the public for comment.
And then the, the public can take all of that and say, okay, well, I don't like that. You rejected this. And I don't like your substantiation or your substantiation of why you rejected it, and this is the point cetera. And then the committee gets together again and takes all that public input or that public comment rather.
And does another examination of the documents. Okay. Did we get it right? Um, let's let's rethink this action we took last year. On our first swing at this, uh, based on this, this scolding from the public or whatever it was, you know, this comment that we said, you know, Hey, you guys, you guys didn't didn't, uh, address the real concern or you, you fixed the wrong problem based on our input.
And then the committee packages that up and moves it forward to another step in the process. And that's, uh, you know, assuming that assuming the document receives comments, which are big document, like 13 is gonna receive. Then it goes to another, another phase, which is, it basically gets adopted by the standards council, unless there's more concern over the committee's actions or the, or the way that the final draft looks and the public or any, any interest party can do a final step, which I think is important, uh, where they, where they basically make a final, a final swing at, at making a, a, an additional modific.
This is, uh, gets very technical, but it's. These are, start with a thing called a, a notice of an intent to make a motion and it's, and they say, okay, I, you know, I sent you my public input, and then I commented on your first draft of that input. And I still don't like what the committee did, uh, for the second draft on this particular topic.
So now I'm gonna make a motion to talk about this a final time on the floor of the NFPA conference in expo. Then the document basically comes up to be. Um, accepted by the membership at the conference. And, um, yeah, and it's, and I think it's important, you know, it's an important, final hearing of this concern and it happens at the whatever NFPA conference that this document's gonna be finalized at in, in a three year cycle.
You know, like I. Next year in 2021, the NP 13 will be on the floor for this part of this aspect of the process. And, and then it goes through that final kicking of the can on the floor of these different topics. and, uh, and then if the interested party still is not interested in what happened with their motion, uh, they can appeal to the standards council and the standards council will have the final say on what happens with the concern.
That's kind of the, the way the process works all the way through. And then at the end of the, of all of this, the standards council basically moves it forward for publication after all of these different layers of, of, um, what I think are, uh, consensus process. And it's, it's very, very cool. It's very hard for anyone to say, Hey man, this sure about, you know, I got bullied or I never got a chance to speak my piece.
I never heard it, uh, compiled like that, but, uh, I really. That was really great stuff. I'm glad that you got to speak about that. Yeah. So I think that I wanted to kinda end with some, a professional development question, or just always like to try to get input from the people I talk to about different resources or things that they might suggest for professionals.
So, yeah. I just wanted to ask, do you have anything that. Would be, you think would be a good resource for somebody in the industry or a place you would go for information or just. Yeah. Do you have any tips? Yeah, I always encourage, um, I always encourage folks to get involved. You know, for me, I was always try to just stay involved with stuff, whatever your role is, there's associations where folks get together and they need involvement.
They need help, you know, the enforcement side of things. You know, there's regional code groups, uh, consortiums of code officials that get together every month or two to, to make sure they're all enforcing things in a similar way or, or understanding the codes or being involved in the code process. For contractors, there's, you know, there's the different trade associations.
I know it's sprinklers. There's the national fire sprinkler association and the American fire sprinkler association. And these groups have regional date and other, you know, chapters that people can get involved in. And it can be huge for learning about the trade that we all love, you know, whether it's sprinklers or alarms or whatever, or enforcing those fire protection systems, if you're a code official.
So, um, I know NFSA and a F S a both are very involved in, in being connected to. Stakeholders in sprinklers, you know, the installers, the contractors, and the authorities having jurisdictions. So get involved locally, get involved with the code process. You know, if you've been doing contracting for a little while of plan interview for a little while, You've been frustrated by something in one of these documents.
You've, you've been wondering why it is written the way it is probably could offer something to fix it or make it better, get out there and, and, and do it. I know, I, I remember sending a public input in a number of years ago. And I was nervous, you know, and I was like, and I think the committee rejected it.
And I was like, you guys suck, you know, like, I can't believe this happened but I saw an issue and I put it out there. And so being involved is important. That's advice I would give to folks and, and reach out to your associations. Um, look online for opportunities to, you know, I, I know that some of the social media environments out there have groups now where you can ask questions, you know, there's design group, you know, inspection testing and maintenance groups, contractor, installer groups, and you can troll 'em.
You can go in there and you can be a member of 'em seriously. And just, and just read what people are, you know, read the conversations about how people are addressing. Code issues. And, uh, if when back in the day in the, in the eighties and nineties, I would've loved to have those kind of resources available where you can watch conversations about code that's.
That's pretty sweet. That's all good information. Yeah. I think, uh, some good points you touched on was, you know, NFS a and a AA is the one for fire alarms, but these communities have. They have good resources for fire protection professionals. A lot of instances, if you sign up for membership, you get, uh, access to videos or, you know, uh, certain types of training.
So these are all good places to look for information about fire protection and just, uh, a, a place to go learn. If you do have that passion for fire protection. So I think that's a great. And networking, you know, you can network with other folks that are using the codes and standards. Well, chase, I wanna be mindful of your time.
I didn't get to all the questions I wanted to ask you, but, uh, I sure appreciate you coming on the podcast. And I just wanna say, thanks. Yeah, you were welcome. And thanks for, thanks for doing this. Always, always inspired to see folks out there, you know, bringing people together and talking about talking about dorky code stuff.
it's. I'm all about it. I'm a code nerd, just like you. Thanks for listening, everybody. Be sure to share the episode with a friend, if you enjoyed it, don't forget that fire protection and life safety is serious business. The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are by no means a professional consultation or a codes in standards.
Interpretation. Be sure to contact a licensed professional. If you are getting involved with fire protection and or life. Thanks again, and we'll see you next time.