Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Housing and Community Development
Board of Housing and Community Development
Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code [13 VAC 5 ‑ 51]
Action Update the Statewide Fire Prevention Code
Stage Final
Comment Period Ended on 6/29/2018
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6/28/18  9:03 pm
Commenter: Ernie Little, Virginia Fire Prevention Association

Virginia Fire Prevention Code- rewrite

My name is Ernie Little, a retired Battalion Chief and member of the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association, Virginia Fire Prevention Association, and International Code Council. This document is the second part of my comments regarding the proposed amendments to the 2015 SFPC. There are two parts, first dealing with fire and building code development and the second indicating samples of instances where the proposed amendments have instances incorrect references, formatting issues, mismatched section titles that do not appear to relate to what is in the associated code section, typos in what code section is being amended, and other issues that could and should have been caught when the document was proofread.

Code development:

The International Code Council (ICC) family of model codes, which include the IBC and IFC, are developed using a nationally accepted code development process. This process is consensus driven and allows input from a wide variety of stakeholders to “vet” possible code changes and allow the positives and negatives of the changes to be heard by all. These codes, each on their own, are comprehensive, are coordinated and compatible with each other, and are developed according to the same process in the same forum. All codes reference consensus standards developed by Standard Developing Organizations (SDO’s) which keep them current with the most current codes and standards developed by these organizations. The ICC code process has been used by stakeholders representing an assortment of local and state government agencies and other organizations and individuals from Virginia that want to have a safe and sound built environment that they and the citizens and visitors to the Commonwealth can live and visit. The codes that are developed through this process are widely accepted and recognized as being technically correct, correlated, legally sound, and enforceable on the part of building and fire inspectors.


I have spoken to many involved in the 2015 Virginia code development process that have indicated to me that the code development process used in the USBC and SFPC amendments for the state 2015 code cycle was difficult and “rushed” to make allow the various code development work groups to meet the deadlines imposed upon them. I understand, through the same conversations, that the 2015 proposed amendments contain both consensus and non-consensus items from the work groups as well as other changes made by the Virginia Department of Housing and Development staff. With that said it understandable that the proposed amendments could be flawed and contain typos, incorrect references, and disassociated section titles and section material that could can and will cause significant issues dealing with life safety in the buildings and structures located in the Commonwealth. To me this is not acceptable and the proposed amendments need to be reviewed for the abovementioned issues and corrected before final action on the proposed amendments takes place.


In my review of the proposed SFPC amendments I found many instances of where they contain one or more issues dealing with the SFPC and USBC scope, Chapter and section formatting, incorrect references, lack on consistent code language, mismatched section titles, and typos that need correction. I provide the following as sample of the problems I found during my review.

General comments:

  • Section 202, definitions, has created a new definition for a “special expert”. It is suggested that this definition be changed to be the definition of “subject matter expert”, which would indicate that the individual has a high level of understanding in the subject area he or she is giving opinion or testimony for.
  • Section 606.9.1 was contains a change that deleted the words “clearly identified”. Clearly identified emergency switches are vital in the mitigation of an emergency situation involving refrigeration equipment to keep workers and emergency providers safe. The section should be revised to read “606.9.1- Refrigeration system emergency shutoff. Clearly identified emergency shutoff switches shall accessible at all times and maintained in operable condition at all times.”  The deletion of the words “clearly identified” leaves no requirement for the emergency shutoff switches to be identified.
  • Section 1003.1 Applicability. The section was reworded however to state that the requirements specified in Sections 1003 through 1015 shall apply to the maintenance of the building. The section is in the means of egress Chapter of the code and it unclear if it is referring to maintenance of the building or maintenance of the building’s means of egress. I would recommend the section be reworded to read, “1003.1 Applicability. The general requirements specified in Sections 1003 through 1015 shall apply to the maintenance of the building’s means of egress.”
  • 1005.1 General. This section is intended to require all portions of the means of egress to be designed to comply with the applicable building code. The word “building” was not included in the amended section and needs to be added to correct this deficiency.
  • 1016.2 Egress through intervening spaces. The words “where permitted by that code” needs to be added to the end of the proposed amendment. These words are needed to provide guideline to the fire inspector to be aware that the building code has regulation to how the egress is to be arranged in such spaces.
  • 5003.9.9 Shelf Storage. Shelving shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable code. The section in the 2015 IFC, had specific requirements for shelving for the storage of hazardous materials. The code change made the section only deal with maintenance of the shelving. I could not find anything in the 2015 IBC or 2015 USBC amendments that addressed the construction of shelving for hazardous materials.
  • There are several instances in the amendments of the SFPC chapters that deal with hazardous materials where reference is made to “be maintained in accordance with the applicable building code” where the SFPC is referring to the use, storage, or operation involving hazardous materials. These requirements do not deal with the construction of a building or structure and appear to be outside the scope of the USBC. These SFPC sections should be left as shown in the 2015 IFC and not be amended.

Incorrect reference:

  • Section 107.7 Department records contains an incorrect reference to General Schedule Number Ten of the Library of Virginia for fire prevention related information. The correct reference is General Schedule Seventeen of the Library of Virginia. General Schedule 10 was removed in August of 2014 and the retention of fire prevention records was moved to General Schedule 17 on that date. The correct reference, General Schedule 17, should be used in the code section.
  • Section 704.1 states that new floor openings must comply with the International Building Code. This is an incorrect code reference and the requirement should be that they comply with the Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC). The International Building Code is not enforced in Virginia.
  • Section 2909.6 Finished products. This section contains a reference to Chapter 57.1 at the end of the amendment. This reference is incorrect and should be Chapter 57.
  • In Chapter 65, the document states to “C. Change Sections 6505.1 and 6504.2.” contains an incorrect code section. The actual Sections to be amended are 6504.1 and 6504.2. The reference to 6501.1 is incorrect as that section does not exist.

Formatting issues:

  • Table 5003.1.1(1) shows has the permissible fireworks line with strike thru. This line is being added and the strike thru needs to be removed from the first three columns of the proposed amendment under permissible fireworks to properly show what is being added.

Lack of consistency:

  • Section 604.14 contains the phrase “as required by the building code” which is inconsistent with other amended sections which use “in accordance with the applicable code”. The phrase needs to be changed to maintain consistency throughout the document in such cases and also provide reference to the “applicable” building code as without this word there could be confusion as to which building code contained the maintenance requirements.
  • Section 3003.2 Approval required. The code section is in disagreement with Table 107.2. The requirement for a tent permit in Table 107.2 is that the tent must be larger than 900 square feet in size AND have an occupant load of 50 or more. The amendment does not contain the words “and have an occupant load of 50 or more”. The proposed change would provide consistency within the amendment package on this issue.

Mismatched section titles:

  • Section 903.3 section title is “Installation requirements” however the section states that sprinkler systems shall be “maintained” in accordance with the applicable building code. As written this section has an incorrect title and needs to be changed to “Maintenance requirements” to make it contain the requirements referred to in the title of the section.
  • Section 907.4.2.3 has a title of “color” however the section reads that manual fire alarm boxes shall be maintained as installed unless otherwise approved. The 2015 verbiage deals with a manual fire alarm box has to be red in color and does not deal with maintenance. The new verbiage does not make sense when compared to what it is replacing.

I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the SFPC code update process and my support to the positions and comments other fire related organizations, such as the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association, Virginia Fire Prevention Association, Virginia International Association of Arson Investigators, and individuals that share my concerns regarding the SFPC process and proposed amendments. I ask that we remember that building and fire officials, building and fire code inspectors, plans reviewers all have a charge to assure that our building and structures provide a healthy, affordable, safe environment protecting those that live, work, and visit the Commonwealth of Virginia to be safe in them.

CommentID: 65610