In my first column in this magazine ( "How serious is the problem of Fire Protection in Latin America," Vol. 17, No. 5), I mentioned that from my point of view our future has to scramble around the adoption and adaptation of NFPA, as already seen in several countries in the region.
By Jaime A. Moncada, PE *
At that time I also mentioned that effective and efficient fire safety can not be obtained by decree. It is obtained when the user understands that fire safety is important. It is obtained when there is a group of designers and installers ethical, trained and offer quality as its final product. It is obtained when there is a serious and capable competent authority. Once these factors are present, we can then expect a lasting solution to our current situation.
My first lesson on how to modernize a standard fire prevention in Latin America occurred at a meeting in San Juan de Puerto, in mid-2006, invited by the Department of Prevention of the Fire Department of Puerto Rico. There they said, "Here everyone uses NFPA - then how do we adopt a fire prevention code that is based on NFPA".
Following this question, we had a second meeting, this time at the offices of NFPA, where experts from the engineering department of the NFPA recommended adopting the NFPA 1, Code Fire Prevention (Fire Code), as we explained that this also included the adoption of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code (Life Safety Code) and administrative guidelines necessary for the functionality of a local ordinance.
As Ordinances have developed Fire Prevention: Many of our countries tend to develop their own local technical regulations, and that is where I think we are wrong. In the typical process, the regulatory agency of a Latin American country establishes a committee for the purpose of developing technical fire regulations.
This committee develops these regulations, usually based on the NFPA has already developed. Sometimes these committees interpret well the NFPA standards, but sometimes not. It is also common that these rules are drawn up taking partial prescriptions standards of a third country, adding personal opinions and criteria, or requirements have only anecdotal or commercial support.
We must accept that in Latin America, in the present state of our development in fire protection engineering, is the rare case where we can make a technical limitation that is most appropriate and with a better cost-benefit than what is already in a NFPA .
Therefore, during the development of the standard, we risk groups of manufacturers seeking to introduce products and systems of a particular origin, or guilds, who want to lower protection requirements, modify the purpose of the rule, without participation democratic and consensus of all sectors of the community.
But the worst is that these committees usually are temporary and the regulatory agency of our countries do not have an established to answer questions interpretive infrastructure, and to amend the standard and constantly update. Therefore, this process ends with technical standards that are incomplete, outdated and wrong many times, when our aim should be standards that are technically correct, consistent, consistent, and are supported on each other.
What is the scope of a Fire Prevention Ordinance: The scope of an ordinance includes establishing acceptable minimum standards of fire safety, high cost and proven benefit for any type of building.
This range can be summarized in three main objectives are (depending on occupancy, in a different order of priority): human safety, property protection and continuity of production operations.
101 NFPA is primarily concerned with human security and NFPA 1 of the other two objectives. As I wrote earlier in this journal, the first step in the process of assessing the fire safety of a building, is to establish "protect" and "that means protect" 1. Generically, these criteria are found in 1 and 101 NFPA standards. The second step includes "how to protect it", that is the definition of effective methods of design, installation, maintenance, testing and reception.
I refer to NFPA technical standards, such as NFPA 13 (automatic sprinklers), NFPA 72 (detection and alarm), NFPA 20 (fire engines) and similar defining fire protection systems.
Hoping to establish a strategy for legislators in Latin America, my recommendation is that a Human Security Ordinance and Fire Protection Local, is based on direct adoption of NFPA 1. This standard adopts the NFPA 101 completely, requiring that "the means of escape of any new or existing building must meet this standard and NFPA 101" (NFPA 1-2009, 14.1 Art).
However, and this is very important, I prefer that local authorities modify Chapter 1 (Administration) NFPA 1. Each municipality or country should have the opportunity to confirm or re-define "protecting" and if necessary, asking for more and better protection gradually over time. It should also define who and how it will legislate the use of this ordinance. Consequently my preference is that locally the following points are defined, through the modification of this first chapter of the NFPA 1:
1. Scope: It uses covered by this Ordinance and which would be excluded.
2. Application: What kind of existing buildings must meet this standard and that time will have to adapt to the new Ordinance.
3. Conflict: As with other national standards conflicts are handled.
4. Modifications: As this rule is modified in the future.
5. Competent Authority: Who is the Competent Authority. Visa who plans and who inspects farms.
6. Compliance: As the Competent Authority will carry out compliance with this standard.
7. Duties, Powers and Responsibilities of the Chief Municipal Fire Prevention and Fire Department.
8. Skills of designers, installers and maintainers: What role could play the CEPI Certification courses and NFPA.
9. Appeals Board: Who could interpret this Ordinance and resolve a registered against a decision of the Competent Authority appeal.
10. Fees and Charges: How does a review, inspection, etc.
11. Records and Reports: What documents are required and where they should be saved.
12. Permits and Authorizations: What kind of permits and authorizations are required.
13. Certificate of Proficiency: What operations require permits fitness.
14. Plan Review: That should include and how are reviewed.
15. Violations and Penalties: Set fines.
16. Technical Assistance: The Competent Authority may require review by a third in complex buildings.
In cases where a jurisdiction adopt, as part of its Ordinance, NFPA 1 in extent, modifying only Article 1, NFPA can support, offering use without payment of royalties and copyright giving NFPA 1. NFPA could also support the training of inspectors Fire Prevention Department of the Municipality or Fire.
Fire Resistance Criteria: An additional issue is that neither the NFPA 1 and 101 fully establish the criteria for fire resistance should meet a building. This issue is difficult to enforce in our countries because there is little information on the fire resistance of most local construction methods. However, I suggest that the Ordinance should use lots by reference Chapter NFPA 7 5000-2012, Building Code Building and Safety (Building Construction and Safety Code). In this chapter are allowed heights and areas for any type of building, depending on their type of construction. That is, a building with a structure with good resistance against fire may have many floors and a large built-up area, while a building with little resistance, he limits his height and area.
Conclusion: We must accept what already happens in every project that is being carried out in Latin America. Regionally, the NFPA standards are used as reference base for each construction project that has a component of fire protection. Furthermore, in those projects where you have to meet a local technical standard, it is almost a rule that compliance also includes the equivalent NFPA. So why not resist the temptation to develop more local technical standards and instead we channel these efforts in the development of an Ordinance Human Security and Protection progressive and modern Fire, such as direct adoption to the NFPA 1, with amendments previously suggested.
* Jaime A. Moncada, PE is director of International Fire Safety Consulting (IFSC), a consulting firm in fire protection engineering based in Washington, DC. and with offices in Latin America. He is protection engineer graduate fires at the University of Maryland, co-editor of the Handbook of Fire Protection NFPA, vice president of the Society of Engineers Fire Protection (SFPE) and conducts professional development programs NFPA in Latin America . The email Ing. Moncada is firstname.lastname@example.org.