As a fire fighter, you have the knowledge and skills 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 one of the most effective ways to 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 tips on becoming involved in code hearing meetings in your local jurisdiction.

Proposing Code Changes

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

The next step is to determine if your local jurisdiction adopts the ICC or NFPA codes. 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 three 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 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 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 responders 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 exceptions 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 meeting procedures. The easiest way to determine 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. Contact the committee in advance if you want more time to present videos or PowerPoint slides.