Brothers and sisters, building codes have a direct impact on you.

The goal of this website is to educate IAFF members on the importance of participating in code writing and adoption process. IAFF members are encouraged to use their firsthand knowledge of fire behavior to help write the fire and building codes that make sure our homes and workplaces provide the highest levels of protection against fire.

Why Are Building Codes Important for Fire Fighters?

As the end user of all building codes, fire fighters rely on the codes to keep them and building occupants safe in case of emergencies, and therefore should have a voice in the code development process. If you don’t get involved in the building code process and advocate for your safety and the safety of your fellow fire fighters, then who will? Don’t let others in the building industry speak on your behalf.

How to Use This Resource

This resource gives IAFF members the tools and resources they need to become an active player in the codes and standards process by providing:

  • Real-world examples that show how fire and building codes can prevent line of duty fatalities, building collapses and other tragedies
  • The latest news on modern building design trends and construction materials and how they influence fire behavior and firefighting tactics
  • Guidelines on how to write, submit and review codes submitted to both the NFPA and ICC
  • Summaries on the latest research in fire behavior and standards testing

This page summarizes the fire behavior research studies that can be used to support safer building codes. Learn how this research is conducted and how your experiences as a fire fighter can add to the body of knowledge on fire behavior and fire suppression tactics.

This page also provides links to the teaching videos on the IAFF’s Learning Management System (LMS) on a variety of building code issues including green building initiatives, learning from past tragedies, the code development process for the ICC and NFPA, and how get involved in local code hearing meetings.

Fire Behavior Research

Writing new building and fire codes requires background data from reputable research organizations that conduct controlled burns to measure the effects of lightweight building materials, furniture upholstery, building materials, home design, and roof support structures on fire behavior. Always remember to check the source of the research before including the results in your code proposals. Credible research organizations do more than just set materials on fire; they control for multiple environmental factors in order to measure the direct impact of a building material or firefighting tactic. Fire ratings of building materials and furnishings must be evaluated using specific standards by certified labs only.

A fire research facility at Underwriters Laboratories (used with permission by UL)
UL researchers on the scene at a fire training academy (Photo used with permission by UL)

Research studies may also take place in fire training facilities to simulate real world situations and the use of accelerants, occupancy loads, building maintenance issues, and ventilation techniques.

As IAFF members, you have first-hand experience of the fire environment and firefighting tactics which is something that no study can simulate. Use your knowledge to supplement the data from fire behavioral studies to support building and fire codes that result in structurally sound buildings that provide occupants enough time to escape and fire fighters enough time to do their jobs safety.

Fire Behavioral Studies

Below are research studies on building components, flame spread, smoke behavior, and fire fighter fatalities due to structural collapse. Browse through studies below and think about how the data can help you advocate for safer codes your city or town:

Teaching Tools

As a fire fighter, you have the knowledge and skills are that needed to write and advocate for building codes that protect life, property, and create a safer working environment for yourself and your coworkers. Being active in the building code process is the one of most effective ways you can perform your job.

There are two main ways you can get involved in the building code process in your local city or town:

  • Propose changes to the current code
  • Participate in local code hearings and committee meetings

This page provides an overview of the code writing and adoption processes for the ICC and the NFPA, and gives tips on how to become involved in code hearing meetings in your local jurisdiction.

Proposing Changes to the Current Code

The first thing you should do is develop a relationship with your local fire marshal. They can share with you information on upcoming building code meetings, help write proposed code changes, and can help you find research to back up your code proposal.

The next step is to find out if your local jurisdiction adopts the ICC code or NFPA code. The ICC and NFPA have different code adoption processes. Below is a brief overview of the steps involved:

International Code Council (ICC)
Anyone can submit a code proposal to the ICC during the revision period, which typically occurs every 3 years. The revision schedule can be found here.

National Fire Protection Association
Anyone can submit a recommendation to change the code during the public input period. Click here for a list of standards and codes that are currently accepting public input. Click here to view the full list of NFPA standards.

Participate in Local Code Hearings and Committee Meetings

Participating in local code hearing meetings in your town or city can be the deciding factor in getting your local government to adopt new codes. Sometimes just showing up at the meeting along with your fellow fire fighters, which shows a unified dedication to fire safety through improved building codes, is enough to influence advisory committees to take the safety of first responses into account when adopting new codes. The presence of local union members at a committee meeting has helped many jurisdictions adopt new code language and reject appeals by building owners who try to get exception from fire and building code compliance. You can learn more about getting involved in your local code hearings by viewing the following video:

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring advanced notice of building and fire code advisory meetings, but every state has different procedures for their meetings. The easiest way to find out your state’s meeting schedule is to contact your local fire marshal.

Presentation Tips

Keep in the mind the following tips when presenting your case at a codes meeting:

  • Know your audience. If committee members are local politicians, mention how failure to adopt new codes places their first responders and constituents at risk. If the committee members are home builders, present more technical information.
  • Read all the relevant research and be ready to back up your argument with the data. Click here for research reports on fire and building codes.
  • Talk with subject matter experts, including fire marshals or sprinkler industry representatives. Click here for a list of fire safety partner organizations.
  • Keep your speech brief and to the point, usually speakers are given two minutes to argue their case. If you want more time to present videos or PowerPoint slides, contact the committee in advance.

The following list of fire and trade industry organizations have expressed an interest in working with IAFF to improve our fire and building codes. Working together helps to strengthen the case for safer buildings through more robust codes.

Click the organization heading of interest to view more information by category. Once expanded, click the desired organization to access more information about that partner.

Fire Safety Research Organizations

Research findings from Underwriters Laboratory quantify what fire fighters on the ground have observed: that modern homes and furnishings burn more quickly, flames spread more rapidly, and produce more smoke than older construction and older “legacy” furniture. Fire fighters must also be prepared for the emerging hazards associated with popular LEED-certificated “green” buildings that are designed to achieve environmental sustainability.

The best way fire fighters can mitigate these hazards is to become involved in the building and fire code processes to make sure that your local building and fire codes address the safety concerns associated with lightweight building materials, modern furnishings, and green building designs.

Lightweight Building Materials

Lightweight building materials are composite materials that have a higher strength to weight ratio compared to more traditional building materials and typically include foam insulation, engineered wood products, drywall, and fiber cement siding.

Floor and roof systems made with engineered wood are common in many newly constructed homes.

Engineered wood is made from binding strands, particles, fibers or veneers of wood together using glues and adhesives to make particleboard, plywood, and oriented strand board. Many of the glues and resins used to bind the wood particles together are flammable, causing the material to burn faster than solid wood. The glues can also off gas noxious vapors when burned. The use of engineered wood results in an increased fuel load of a fire.

Parallel chord truss systems, I-beams, and flooring materials made from engineered wood burn more rapidly than natural wood.

As the engineered wood trusses burn they lose mass quickly, compromising the integrity of the floor system leading to a floor collapse without warning. Studies conducted by Underwriters Laboratories found that floor systems constructed with natural wood can last up to 20 minutes in a fire before collapsing, while engineered wood floor systems last only 5 minutes. More information can be found on the UL Fire Safety Research Institute website or the Education section of this site.

Modern Home Layouts and Furnishings

New building materials and home designs have created new hazards for fire fighters. Open floor plans, expansive rooms, and high vaulted ceilings are popular trends in modern home construction, but these large open spaces cause fires to spread more rapidly compared to homes with smaller, closed off rooms. New furnishings are often made with engineered wood and synthetic foam padding treated with flame retardants.

Green Buildings

Green homes and commercial structures are built to achieve standards in environmental sustainability through design, construction materials, operations, maintenance, and reduced energy consumption. This presents emerging hazards to fire fighters who respond to fire events in green buildings.

*Click an image for more information.

Unprotected Steel Joists and Columns
Rooftop Gardens
Solar Panels
High Efficiency Foam Insulation
Rainwater Collection Systems
High Volume / Low Speed Fans
Tall Wood Buildings

This page describes the importance of getting involved in the building code proposal process. Learn from real world examples on how redundancy through fire codes can create a safe work environment for fighters.

Learning From Past Tragedies

Reviewing the lessons learned from past accident investigations demonstrates the important role building codes play in keeping fire fighters safe on the fire scene:

How can the fire service make sure that tragedies like these never occur again? By getting invo with local fire and building code adoption and enforcement procedures to make sure our codes:

  • Reflect the most current research on fire safety
  • Address emerging hazards associated with green building design and lightweight building materials
  • Are adopted by local jurisdictions
  • Are properly enforced with consequences for property owners who do not comply
  • Are robust and incorporate all aspects of fire safety

Click here to learn how to get involved.

How Building Codes Improve Your Work Environment

Fire fighters often ask why they should be concerned with building or fire codes if their job is put out fires. But as show in the graphic below, codes impact a fire fighter’s work environment in many different ways.

  • Are fire fighters concerned about ventilation? Required ventilation systems can be found in the codes.
  • Do fire fighters care if automatic suppression systems are installed and maintained? You can find the installation and maintenance requirements in the codes.

All of the topics outlined the building code regulations graphic can impact a fire fighter’s work environment and their safety. And each one is addressed in the codes and standards. By changing the building code, you changing your work environment and creating a safer work environment for yourself and your coworkers.


When all three elements of fire safety (detection, prevention, and suppression) are addressed in building codes, the result is a safer building for occupants and a safer workplace for fire fighters. Every available level of fire protection is needed to achieve a safe building. This is called redundancy; a concept in safety engineering that ensures a system works correctly even if one part fails. The same concept can be applied to building codes. A building code that only addresses fire suppression but not fire detection and prevention is not an effective code and can lead to building collapse and loss of life.

This page provides resources and information useful for the fire inspector community.

Vision 20/20: National Fire Loss Prevention Agenda Updates

With funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Fire Fighters Grant program, the Institution of Fire Engineers U.S. Branch has established a steering committee comprised of noted fire service and related agency leaders to guide a national strategic planning process for the fire loss prevention that results in a national plan that will coordinate activities and fire prevention efforts. This project involves a large number of participants representing all areas of fire prevention as well as other advocates and stakeholders to the plan and its recommended outcomes.

This project is committed to action, with a few strategic recommendations being converted to a national plan that stakeholders will be asked to support with documentation of specific actions and benchmarks instead of a long list of recommended practices. This project will not create recommendations in a vacuum. Other existing efforts that have identified significant progress toward achieving prevention goals will be taken into account to avoid competing efforts.

Click here for the latest Vision 20/20 Project Updates.

Safety Inspection Forms

Below are generic safety inspection forms and checklists available to download. Please make note that these forms are intended to be used as guides to assist fire inspection personnel in identifying general fire and life safety hazards. Other possible code requirements may apply. Be sure to check the applicable code language in your jurisdiction as they may differ depending on the edition of the code adopted and local modifications. The IAFF would like to thank the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Office providing the following checklists.

Checklists available for download:

Fire Prevention Week/Educational Materials for Locals to Use in School Visits

The NFPA’s Fire Prevention was established in 1927 commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that killed more than 250 people and left 100,000 homeless. For one week each October, fire fighters across the U.S. engage their local communities in educational campaigns that center around a theme for that year.

Associated resources from IAFF and NFPA:

The Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, established by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) develops and updates the five National Model Construction codes for Canada. The National Model Construction codes may be amended or supplemented to suit local needs and published as provincial codes.

The Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes

The Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) develops and maintains Canada’s five National Model Construction codes: The National Building Code, the National Fire Code, the National Plumbing Code, the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings, and the National Farm Building Code. The majority of fire and life safety requirements are part of the National Building Code, which addresses the design and construction of new buildings and the renovation of existing buildings, and the National Fire Code of Canada that provides minimum fire safety requirements for buildings, structures, and areas where hazardous materials are used.

There are eleven standing committees established by the CCBFC that are responsible for sections of the code and advises the CCBFC on technical issues and recommended changes. Members are appointed to standing committees by the CCBFC chair, and include stakeholders of regulatory, industry, and general interests. Meetings of CCBFC and its standing committees are open to the public. Meeting locations and schedules can be found here.

The Code Development Process

Proposed changes to the code can be submitted any time by general public or the CCBFC standing committees. Changes must be submitted to the Canadian Codes Centre and follow the submission guidelines posted here. In general, each request should answer the following questions:

  • What is the problem?
  • What is the proposed solution and how does it address the problem?
  • Which of the stated objectives and functional statements of the Code will the proposed solution assist in achieving?
  • What are the cost/benefit implications?
  • What are the enforcement implications?

Each code proposal is reviewed by the appropriate standing committee, who may reject the proposal, amend the wording of a proposal, defer it pending receipt of more information, or approve the proposal. The provinces and territories then have the opportunity to review the proposed changes to determine if there is any policy or administrative concerns.

After the provinces and territories review the code proposal changes, the changes are made available for public review annually every fall. Additional public comments can be made at this time. Public review of code proposals are announced in the NRC quarterly newsletter Construction Innovation found here. The standing committees review all public comments and may defer, withdraw, or revise proposals based on public feedback. Once all public comments are addressed and standing committee approves the changes, the provinces and territories review the final submission before it is approved by the CCBFC.

The IAFF is currently lobbying the Canadian Government to improve fire fighter safety by making it a stated objective of the National Building Code. For more information, click here.

The Canadian General Standards Board

The Canadian General Standards Board is a federal government organization that develops standards and conformity assessments for a variety of industries, including building and construction. Standards are developed by committees of volunteers who are experts in their field and represent a balance of interested parties, and public and private stakeholders. The Board is responsible for over 900 standards, specifications, and conformity assessment programs.

In comparison to a code, a standard is narrower in scope and covers a limited range of issues. Standards are not legal requirements unless they are referenced by a code. For example, the National Building Code of Canada references over 200 standards, making those standards legal requirements in the jurisdictions where the code is adopted.

To learn more about the standard development process for the CGSB, click here.

Members of the public may comment on a standard when it is up for public review. To view standards currently available for public review, click here.

IAFF representatives are appointed by the General President to participate in the development and implementation of comprehensive deployment and staffing standards for professional fire fighters, as well as standards development for protective clothing and equipment, qualification and certification, and safety and health through the National Fire Protection Association, the Canadian Standards Board and the International Codes Council.

For information on IAFF Standards and Codes Representatives, contact your local president or district vice president.

NFPA Codes & Standards (can be viewed at no cost)

If you have a question about building codes or building construction, or want to submit a photo of a building code violation, please email us at: [email protected].