NFPA 101: Life Safety Code


Ladies and gentlemen, welcome David Fox!

Is it ironic that the Life Safety Code is labeled as 101? Everything that is in this code is certainly something that I think could be offered in a college 101 course, if there were such a course path for these codes. This code is revised every 3 years and the latest edition for 2012 was just finalized. It’s so new that you can’t get your hands on it yet, but soon (October 14th).

Though it is not legal code, it is written as such so that any authority having jurisdiction can easily adopt and implement it. Besides, it provides a lot of best practice material. The Life Safety Code is one of the unique codes in the NFPA arsenal that if it is adopted into local code, both new construction and existing structures must comply. In most cases for other codes, anything new only applies to new construction. NFPA 101 is in use in every state in the U.S. and has been adopted statewide by 43 states (see graphic to the right from 2009). So, if you aren’t following it now, you might want to double-check that your aren’t breaking the law. You don’t want to pay any fines for non-compliance in the event of an inspection which can be hefty and can grow in numbers exponentially and nobody wants to pay the ultimate price in the event of an emergency.

This past week I sent out a tweet about one small part of this code – emergency lighting. It’s just one of the numerous monthly inspections that my crew is responsible for at KA. Every month, we check battery back-up fixtures in stairwells and around the facility. We also perform a safety inspection which is primarily focused on electrical safety but certainly is not limited to just that. Pretty much the only thing that we aren’t responsible for is checking the emergency generators for the property. The Department of Homeland Security has this new campaign called, “If You See Something, Say Something.” You can definitely use that in the most general sense when performing any inspection. If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t – but don’t stop there, go research it and inform responsible parties. Learn.

Though I cannot recite every word, I’m slowly getting up to speed on the bullet points of the code and every other code out there. It can be mind-numbing for sure, but at least one person in every facility should be deemed the competent party and hit the books. There are many resources available in the form of fast facts or quick sheets. Use them and keep them on hand. Pass the knowledge on to others.

  • OSHA Fact Sheets – yes, they even have a fact sheet about Black Widow spiders, just in case you need it
  • Office of Compliance – these are from the department that oversees safety in the offices of Congress
  • List of NFPA Codes & Standards – nearly every code is viewable online for FREE from NFPA directly after creating an account

This is not the kind of information that makes you more powerful as an individual. This is the information that makes a team powerful. Not everyone sees the same errors or sees them the same way. Not everyone knows something at all. And complacency is not an option when it comes to anyone’s safety.

It is my hope that I’ll make this a thing and have some articles every so often about safety things in our industry. Every day is anew in the safety world and this is just one way that I can help since this is some of my duty as a safety committee primary member at my day job.

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  1. Excellent article Dave.  We definately need to be more proactive regarding the various codes and standards that apply to our work.  For too long, too many in our industry have taken the approach that it’s someone else’s job or have thought that these things don’t apply to us because we’re special. 
    Steve Vanciel,  Orlando, FL

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