NFPA's new regulations for standards development

After participating in a complete cycle of the code development process for NFPA 101 using NFPA’s new regulations for standards development, I felt it would be beneficial to devote a column to describing the process.

NFPA instituted the new regulations starting with the Fall 2013 code cycle. Most of the information presented here is from two documents that can be found at www.nfpa.org/Regs. They are from, “An Introduction to the NFPA Standards Development Process and Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards.”

Each NFPA code or standard is revised every three to five years. When a document is up for revision, it goes into one of two revision cycles scheduled each year, either the Annual or Fall Cycle. The revision cycle takes about two years to complete and consists of four steps:

1. Input Stage (formerly known as the Proposal Stage)
2. Comment Stage
3. Association Technical Meeting
4. Council Appeals and Issuance of Standard

Input Stage

As a standard enters a revision cycle, NFPA issues a call for public input and the Public Input (PI) period begins. Anyone can submit a PI to make changes to the document. Though a PI can be submitted on paper, the best way to submit it is electronically through the NFPA website. After the PI period closes, the Technical Committee (TC) meets in what is called the First Draft Meeting to respond to the PI. The TC will use PI as a form of advice with which to develop the first draft of the standard. All motions at this meeting only need a simple majority to pass.

The committee has two options for dealing with PI. First, the committee can Resolve the PI. This is a nice way of saying the PI is rejected and no change to the code or standard will occur. The second choice is to Create a First Revision, a change to the standard, using one or more PI’s as a basis for the change. The TC can also Create a First Revision on its own. The TC has another action it can take, which is to Create a Committee Input. This is similar to creating a public input. It does not result in a revision to first draft, but acts as a trial balloon for purposes of seeking public comment to address at the next meeting of the TC.

Shortly after the First Draft Meeting, the First Revisions are balloted to the TC. Those, which receive the minimum 2/3 affirmative votes, are incorporated into the First Draft Report. This is a fully integrated draft of the standard, which also contains First Revisions that do not pass ballot of the TC and the Committee Inputs. Unlike the process in cycles prior to Fall 2013, those PI’s that are Resolved (rejected) during the First Draft Meeting are not balloted.

Comment Stage

The First Draft Report is made available for Public Comment. The comment period is open for many weeks. If no further Public Comments are received, the standard (now known as a Consent Standard) goes directly to the NFPA Standards Council for issuance. If PC’s are submitted, then the Technical Committee holds a Second Draft Meeting. At the meeting, the TC uses available Committee Input and Public Comments to develop the Second Revisions to the document. Similar to the First Draft Meeting, committee actions require only a simple majority to pass.

Shortly after the Second Draft Meeting, the Second Revisions are balloted to the TC. Those that receive the minimum 2/3 affirmative votes, are incorporated into the Second Draft Report. It is a fully integrated second draft of the standard. It also includes Public Comments with corresponding Committee Actions and Committee Statements, Correlating Notes and their respective Committee Statements, Committee Comments, Correlating Revisions, and Ballot Statements.

NFPA Technical Meeting

The Second Draft Report is posted to the NFPA website and is available to the public for review. At the Technical Meeting or Technical Session of NFPA held in June, the completed document, represented by the Second Draft Report is brought to the floor for approval by the voting membership. Those wishing to file a motion to change the document must notify NFPA in advance of the established filing deadline of their intention to make a motion at the Technical Meeting. This is called a Notice of Intent to Make a Motion (NITMAM). A committee appointed by the Standards Council will review all NITMAM’s.

Those certified as valid are put on the Technical Meeting agenda and published in advance of the membership for review. The motions are referred to as Amending Motions. They can take the form of a motion to accept in-whole or in-part a Public or Committee Comments (those rejected by the TC), reject in-whole or in-part Second Revisions, including related portions of First Revisions. An amending motion could also seek to have the entire document returned to committee. NITMAMS related to accepting Public Comments may only be submitted by the submitter of the comment or their designated representative. Those NFPA documents receiving no NITMAMS become Consent Standards and are submitted directly to the Standards Council for issuance. Each NITMAN is dealt with at the NFPA Technical Session. After debate of the motion is completed, a simple majority of the voting membership is needed for the motion to pass. Successful amending motions may then need to be balloted by the TC for confirmation. Whether or not the successful motion goes to the TC depends on the type of motion. Refer to Table 1 in the “Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards” section for information on when the TC is balloted.

Council appeals and issuance of standard

The standards, whether a Consent Standards or otherwise, go to the NFPA Standards Council for issuance. After any appeals have been addressed, the Standards Council can issue the standard, which then becomes effective 20 days from the council action.

This new process has been approved by ANSI as meeting the requirements of “ANSI Essential Requirements: Due process requirements for American National Standards.” This document establishes minimum requirements for the development of voluntary consensus standards.

Many of us that have dealt with the NFPA standards making process for many years view the previous process as a true voluntary consensus standard development process, allowing wide participation, providing many opportunities to participate, and seeking a balance of interests. In my limited experience with the new process, it seems to maintain the best aspects of the consensus standard tradition, while taking advantage of modern technology. If there is a negative to the process, it is has been the difficulty I have had in adjusting to the new terminology, e.g., “resolving public inputs” and “creating revisions.”

I am used to “moving to reject” or “moving to accept,” and it is a hard habit to break. One item that I think is a positive, but some may view as a negative, is the NITMAM procedure. It certainly serves to eliminate frivolous and redundant motions, thus greatly speeding up the debate at the technical session. It does, however, seem to limit debate because of the additional effort needed to get a motion on the agenda for the technical session.

Samuel S. Dannaway, PE, is a registered fire protection engineer and mechanical engineer with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Maryland Department of Fire Protection Engineering. He is past president and a Fellow of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. He is president of S. S. Dannaway Associates Inc., a 15-person fire protection engineering firm with offices in Honolulu and Guam. He can be reached via email at SDannaway@ssdafire.com.

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