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Board of Housing and Community Development
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Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code [13 VAC 5 ‑ 51]
Action Update the Statewide Fire Prevention Code
Stage Final
Comment Period Ends 6/29/2018
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6/12/18  10:26 am
Commenter: Anthony McDowell, president, Va Fire Chiefs Assoc

Attachment 1 to VFCA petition
 

Dear Chairman Ainslie:

 

This letter is the first of two companion documents intended to support the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association’s petition to the Board of Housing and Community Development to reconsider its approval of the Statewide Fire Prevention Code, as published on April 30, 2018 in the Register of Regulations.

 

As noted under that petition, we have requested the Board reconsider their approval of those sections and allow only the consensus document created by workgroup 2 that consists of Chapters 1-10 be adopted, and that all other provisions that were removed in the subsequent chapters and sections be reinserted to allow time for consensus to be reached in the next code cycle. If the Board still feels that a total rewrite during this code cycle is necessary, we would respectfully request additional time to allow the stakeholder review process to finish its consensus work which will ensure a workable Statewide Fire Prevention Code that will protect all the citizens of the Commonwealth.

 

Because of the word limit allowed in posting public comments, we are submitted these two separate letters that provide specific examples of the problems associated with the Final Regulations as approved.  These examples do not constitute a comprehensive assessment of the full document, but rather provide a sample of the most egregious and concerning issues in the Statewide Fire Prevention Code as proposed.

 

The following are examples from Chapters 2 through 8:

 

Chapter 2 Issues:

 

The definition of “maintained” creates a conflict within various portions of the code given the definition includes, “continuance as installed”. The phrase “in an appropriate manner” is undefined, subjective, and will lead to inconsistent enforcement.

 

Chapter 3 Issues:

 

301.3 – The Board changed the language as noted: “the owner or owner’s agent shall may request that one [certificate of occupancy] be issued by the Building Official…” This is poor code language as the regulations are not voluntary in nature. The building officials used the same language as in the USBC, however that is found in the administration section of the USBC and is directed at how the code is administered. It is found in Chapter 3 of the SFPC because it relates heavily to the safety of the structure and occupants and is a requirement for complying with the SFPC in many areas.

304.1.2 – This new language removes a recognized standard and creates a condition to be corrected based on judgement rather than the prescriptive and specific criteria contained in the referenced standard. 

313.1; 318.1 – The phrase “applicable NFPA 13 standard” may be misinterpreted and is not what was agreed to in the workgroup meetings over 2017. The FSB proposal would have allowed any NFPA 13 compliant system to meet the exceptions in this and other sections of the SFPC. As written with “applicable” the only standard that can apply to the exemption is the one listed in the USBC under which the building was constructed. The broad use of all of the NFPA 13 design standards allows more flexibility and meets the intent of the code in these sections to allow the condition with the system that is designed to fully protect the building. Differing standards may have required more or less in terms of notification and alarm systems and may not have been included in the design. In that case, additional modification to the system would be needed to meet the “applicable NFPA 13 standard” versus any edition of the standard. This is also inconsistent with other code provisions in Chapter 8 which creates additional confusion.

316.6.1 – “Approved” is a defined term and should be italicized. This is a problem throughout the Final Regulations.

317.3 – This section in the Final Regulations is not what was approved by the C&S Committee from the “consensus” document presented on 9/18/17. The language here is as proposed in the DHCD draft and not what was reviewed and endorsed by the Workgroup on 4/23/17. 

Chapter 5 issues:

503.1.1 – This section was changed from the consensus proposal approved at the C&S Committee meeting on 9/18/17, and was changed from appropriate terminology to “applicable NFPA 13 Standard” creating the same conflict noted in Chapter 3 313.1 and 318.1.

 

Chapter 6 Issues:

 

603.3.3.2.4 – This code sections scope has been changed and this edit removes operational issues associated with tanks that may not be regulated by the USBC. This reduces a safety provision of the SFPC.

603.3.3 – This change removes an operational reference standard – NFPA 31 – which includes operating regulations such as mixing oil based fuels with gasoline (NFPA 31 4.6.1).

603.6.2, 603.6.4, & 603.6.5 – There are inconsistencies within these sections. Corroded chimneys can be regulated and repaired, but the connectors that are corroded don’t have to be. The change to 603.6.4 and 603.6.5 removes the ability of the fire code to mitigate a dangerous condition.

604.1 & 604.2 – There are conflicts between these two sections: one says “shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable building code”, and the other says “maintained in accordance with sections 604.2 through 604.2.16”. There was consensus in the workgroups to have 604.1 say, “in accordance with this section” which would eliminate the conflict.

604.1.2 – There are conflicting terms in the same section which are supposed to mean the same thing. If they are written differently, it gives the impression they are two different conditions or situations. This creates confusion.

604.2.2 – The wording “maintained for emergency alarm systems as required by the applicable building code (emphasis added)” only require maintenance to be performed on system which are required by the USBC. Any elective alarm systems would not have to meet the inspections, testing, and maintenance requirements of the SFPC.

604.2.6 & 604.2.8 – This code section as edited creates confusion. “shall be maintained in accordance with NFPA 70 when required by the applicable building code” reads literally that when the building code requires maintenance, it shall be done in accordance with NFPA 70. The building code does not require maintenance, therefore maintenance should never be required.

604.2.12 – This section should reference the subsequent sections as they are the specific sections for egress illumination.

605.11.1 – The strikethrough removes too much of the section. All of the sections referenced in that paragraph are applicable to access and pathways. The “through 605.11.1.3.3” should not have been stricken. Exception 2 was also not stricken in the consensus document which was approved by the C&S Committee on 10/18/17. This exception is an operational issue which does not involve construction and deleting it removes some flexibility of the fire official to achieve compliance and allow the owner flexibility.  This section in the Final Regulations is not consistent with the consensus document approved by the C&S Committee on 10/18/17.

606.9.2 – “Approved” in the section should be italicized since it is a defined term.

606.13 – The “consensus” Fire Services Board change document presented to the C&S Committee, and published in the Final Regulations, is inaccurate when compared to the FSB change and the consensus comments in the workgroup summary.

 

Chapter 8 Issues:

 

803.1 – The section is poorly written or inappropriately edited and is confusing as written. Also, there are no maintenance provisions in the USBC so it is not possible to maintain anything in accordance with the building code.

803.5.1; 803.5.1.1; and 803.8.1 – These deletions were only considered “consensus” by the FSB Code Committee if table 803.3 was retained in the SFPC. This change does damage to the SFPC and weakens the code by allowing wall coverings which are not regulated by the SFPC to be unregulated by the SFPC as well.

803.6; 804.1; 804.3 – These sections, when combined with the definition of “maintained” will not allow any modification of these materials since they must be maintained “in continuance as installed”. This is pulling the definition into use as these materials shall be maintained and the definition says “in continuance”.

Section 805 – several subsections; 807.5 – Use of the phrase “the applicable NFPA 13 standard” was not in the consensus document which was approved by the C&S Committee on 10/18. The phrase “applicable NFPA 13 standard” may be misinterpreted and is not what was agreed to in the workgroup meetings over 2017. The FSB proposal would have allowed any NFPA 13 compliant system to meet the exceptions in this and other sections of the SFPC. As written with “applicable” the only standard that can apply to the exemption is the one listed in the USBC under which the building was constructed. The broad use of all of the NFPA 13 design standards allows more flexibility and meets the intent of the code in these sections to allow the condition with the system is designed to fully protect the building. Differing standards may have required more or less in terms of notification and alarm systems and may not have been included in the design. In that case, additional modification to the system would be needed to meet the “applicable NFPA 13 standard” versus any edition of the standard. This is also inconsistent with other code provisions in chapter 8 which creates additional confusion.

See workgroup summary notes p. 522 for sections 805.1.1.2 -> 805.4.2.2 noted as “consensus for FSB edit” which did not include the “applicable” term.

The FSB proposed language is consistent with other sections in the SFPC which were not edited; 904.11; 904.6; 912.6; 913.5 among others.

 Section 806, 807, 808 – Title – The title change was agreed to in the workgroup meetings, and 806 was included in the consensus changes presented to and approved by the C&S Committee on 10/18. The changes are not reflected in the Final Regulations.

 

These examples do not constitute a comprehensive assessment of the full document, but rather provide a sample of the most egregious and concerning issues in the Statewide Fire Prevention Code as proposed.

 

Sincerely,

Anthony E. McDowell

VFCA President