In our blog last week, Georgia State Fire Marshal, Dwayne Garriss, shared the history of the state fire code. This week, Dwayne will share with us why the state made the decision to move to the 2012 Life Safety Code and a few of the major differences we can expect to see in the updated code.

Why Change the Codes Now?

As we mentioned in our last blog, the foundation of the Georgia Safety Fire Law is based on the Truman Fire Prevention Conference. One of the main applications that came from conference was the importance of having current codes. The state of Georgia has historically been slow to adopt new codes, as the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner has traditionally been worried about conflicts that would arise between older federal requirements and newer state requirements for healthcare facilities. This has been a real concern since the Department of Community Health contracts with state inspectors to provide healthcare facility inspections. The Fire Marshal did not want to put inspectors in the position of enforcing two potentially conflicting sets of requirements. This is one of the changes that Dwayne is making – adopting newer codes ahead of the federal government – so the state of Georgia is on the leading edge.

Dwayne actively works on the National Association of State Fire Marshals Model Codes Committee to encourage all states to move up to current codes in the hopes that the feds will follow. The Association helped to get the 2002 codes adopted and the feds agreed to finally adopt them, as well. Now, the Association is starting to advocate for the feds to move to the 2012 codes, as they are four code cycles behind.

Another catalyst for the state of Georgia to make the move to the 2012 Life Safety Code stemmed from the Insurance Services Office (ISO). The ISO provides data, underwriting, risk management, as well as legal and regulatory services to property / casualty insurers. The organization has a special focus on community fire protection efforts and the effective evolution of building codes. In July 2013, the ISO released a new rate schedule that gives the ability to insurance companies to give a reduction in insurance premiums on commercial and residential properties. One of the criteria to be eligible for the reduction includes the requirement for current codes to be adopted within five years of their release.

What are Some of the 2012 Life Safety Code Differences?

One of the major differences in the 2012 Life Safety Code addresses quality of life issues within healthcare facilities, such as assisted living facilities. The code differs from prior versions in four areas that help to improve the quality of life at these types of facilities:

  • Seating is acceptable on one side of hallways, which would allow for a reduction in corridor width down to six feet. This exception encourages residents and guest of the facility to come out of their rooms and socialize.
  • Fireplaces in community rooms that are open to the hallway are now an acceptable practice.
  • Kitchenette areas open to corridors are now acceptable. This aides in socialization, as the smell of food often entices residents to come out of their rooms.
  • Older codes were extremely strict about interior finishes, where the updated code allows for more exceptions to the rule. Interior finishes (for example, a world’s best grandma banner) can sometimes be seen as part of the resident’s identity, which can be a contributing factor to quality of life.

Other differences in the 2012 Life Safety Code include sprinklers being a requirement for apartments (with no exceptions), as well as the requirement for residents to have carbon monoxide detection.

Taking Code Considerations Seriously

The Georgia Fire Marshal’s office gave a lot of consideration to the adoption of the 2012 Life Safety Code and what it would mean to the residents and businesses of the state. According to Dwayne, “We see a lot of states just adopt codes and then deal with the fallout later….Georgia tries to look at what we are trying to achieve. We are in the business of getting residents and businesses compliant and keeping them safe. We are in the business of protecting life and property; with life being the number one priority.”

If you need assistance with complying with the fire code, an experienced code consultant can help. To learn how, fill out the contact form below:

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