OSFM Home > Fire Service >Response to Emails and Letters regarding the State Fire Code

Response to Emails and Letters regarding the State Fire Code

Letter from Kelly P. Reynolds

KELLY P. REYNOLDS &ASSOCIATES, INC.

BUILDING CODE CONSULTANTS PLAN REVIEW SPECIALISTS TECHNICAL SEMINARS

March 11, 2013

Larry Matkaitis
Illinois State Fire Marshal
the State Fire Marshal State of Illinois
1035 Stevenson Dr.
Springfield IL 62703

Dear Fire Marshal Matkaitis :

I just received your bulletin dated August 15, 2012 from the Northwest Building Officials regarding applicability of the Life Safety Code and submit the ~ollowing comments:

1. In the bulletin it states that in comparison, the International Building and International Fire Code are not as restrictive towards exit requirements as the 2000 Life Safety Code . Is that comparison available for review? I would like a copy.

2. Here is an example of comparing the two codes: The Station Nightclub Fire in Warwick, RI on February 20, 2003 that killed 100 people and injured others had an occupancy load of under 300 people. Under the 2000 Life Safety Code , fire sprinklers would not be required until that threshold was met. However, under the International Building Code and International Fire Code , the threshold for fire sprinklers is when the occupancy load is 100 people. Had this code requirement been enforced, the loss of life would have been nil and less injuries .

3. The 2000 Life Safety Code IS NOT a building code and therefore cannot be compared to the International Building Code . The International Building Code is a "performance" document that pern1its alternative methods of construction and design to achieve an equal or greater built-in level of fire and life safety. Over 80% of the building code requirements are fire and life safety. The Life Safety Code is a "specification" document without many alternative methods available . You canriot construct a building by the Life Safety Code itself. One is a document for exiting and life safety while the other also includes structural, environmental and building functions.

4. Finally, why has your office adopted a code that is 13 years outdated? Should the 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code be adopted to reflect the technical changes since 2000?
I respect your office and valuable service you provide to the State. However, a further examination of the codes being adopted enforced needs to be studied further.

Sincerely,

Kelly P. Reynolds
President

cc: Ronald E. Piester -ICC President NWBO Chapter

Original Letter [PDF, 2.4Mb]

OSFM Reply to Kelly P. Reynolds's March 11, 2013 Letter

March 25, 2013

Mr. Kelly P. Reynolds
Kelly P. Reynolds & Associates, Inc.
616 Executive Drive

Willowbrook, IL 60527-5610

Via Email to: CODEXPERTS@AOL.COM

RE: OSFM Reply to Your Correspondence

Dear Mr. Reynolds,

I am responding to your letter dated March 11, 2013 regarding the applicability of the Life Safety Code (LSC) in Illinois and Office of the State Fire Marshal's (OSFM) "bulletin" dated August 15, 2012. (The bulletin to which you refer is the "Notice to Local Officials: Applicability of the Life Safety Code ("Notice to Local Officials"). The bulletin is disseminated by the OSFM to local officials on a regular basis to inform and remind them of their code enforcement obligations under state law.

More specifically, the Illinois Fire Investigation Act [425 ILCS 25] requires the OSFM to adopt rules to ensure safety for the citizens of Illinois. That same law provides that local units of government shall enforce the OSFM's rules except in localities which have adopted fire prevention and safety standards "equal to or higher than" such rules adopted by the OSFM. Subsequently, and under this authority, the OSFM has adopted the NFPA's LSC into the Illinois Administrative Code to serve as the rules of the state applicable to fire prevention and safety. Accordingly, local units of government are obligated by law to apply the OSFM-adopted LSC or fire prevention and safety standards equal to or higher than the LSC. As a side note, the Fire Investigation Act has been in place for over one-hundred years (since 1909) and the OSFM has been adopting fire codes for the State of Illinois in accordance with the Act ever since.

Periodic notices from the OSFM to local units of government to explain their obligations under the Fire Investigation Act result from the findings of the "Cook County Administration Building Fire Final Report", commonly known as the "Witt Report". After the Cook County Administration Building fire in October 2003, the State of Illinois commissioned James Lee Witt and Associates to provide an independent evaluation of the fire and the state's code authority. One of the findings of both the Witt Report and the Illinois Code Task Force, which was formed to follow through on the Report's findings, was that modifications were necessary in the methods used by the OSFM to notify municipalities of their
responsibilities relative to state fire codes. The Witt Report identified a general confusion as to applicable state laws and fire codes by municipalities across the state. One of the most notable findings was a misunderstanding, or complete lack of knowledge, by municipalities that the Fire Investigation Act requires local authorities to enforce either the state-adopted life safety code or a code that is equal to, or more stringent than the state-adopted code. As a result, the OSFM has conducted past mailings, and will continue to conduct future mailings, informing all fire chiefs, city managers, mayors and county officials of the requirements imposed by state law.
Below, I have addressed the four specific comments and/or questions contained in your correspondence:

1. In your first comment you wrote:


In the bulletin it states that in comparison, the International Building Code and International Fire Code are not as restrictive towards exit requirements as the 2000 Life Safety Code (and as a result, you requested a copy of such comparison).

With due respect, it appears that there may be some misunderstandings on this point. The Notice to Local Officials does not analyze or make any statements relative to the exit requirements of the IBC or IFC in comparison to the LSC. (I have supplied a link to the document at the end of this letter). Instead, the Notice to Local Officials cautions Illinois communities that may believe their adopted building code is providing requirements that are equivalent to those found in the OSFM-adopted LSC. Mere adoption of the IBC or the IBC and IFC in-tandem, will not result in requirements that are equivalent to the OSFM-adopted LSC. This is because building codes serve a different purpose in the built community than does the OSFM-adopted LSC. Typically, building codes are forward-looking and not retroactively enforceable in existing buildings as is the LSC. The statements to this effect that are contained in the OSFM notification document are shown below (emphasis added):

. There are multiple issues and requirements to be examined when comparing locally adopted codes to the OSFM-adopted LSC. However, one major issue causes many locally adopted codes to be less stringent than the LSC: the LSC requires compliance in both new and existing occupancies. While certain LSC requirements pertaining to existing occupancies are less stringent than those applicable to new occupancies, the State Code does not exempt or "grandfather" any existing occupancies from code compliance. This is not usually true with locally-adopted building codes and some fire prevention code requirements, as they are forwardlooking and apply only to new construction after the date of adoption. Even when other nationally-recognized codes have some requirements applicable to existing structures, they often do not impose the same degree of stringency as the LSC.


. It is a commonly held belief that the International Code Council's (ICC) International Building Code (IBC) and/or International Fire Code (IFC) are equivalent to the NFPA LSC. However, comparisons of the specific requirements of the ICC codes to the LSC indicate that this is not accurate, especially regarding existing occupancies.


2. Your second statement uses the 2003 Rhode Island Station Nightclub Fire as an example of an occupancy where the International Building Code and the International Fire Code would have required protection of the building by an automatic fire sprinkler system while the 2000 LSC would not have.

You state that because the nightclub had an occupant load of fewer than 300 people, the 2000 LSC would not require protection by automatic sprinklers while the sprinkler threshold occupant load limit of 100 presented by the IBC and IFC would require sprinkler protection and thus would have negated the loss of life.


Let's make sure we are comparing apples to apples, or in this case, the same editions of the codes in question. When you state that the IBC and IFC would require sprinkler protection in the Station Nightclub (an A-2 occupancy) at an occupant threshold of 100 occupants you must be referring to editions of the IBC and IFC that were published after the Station Nightclub fire occurred and therefore, could not have been in effect at the time. Similar to the LSC, neither the IBC nor the IFC required sprinkler protection for A-2 occupancies (including nightclubs) with an occupant load of less than 300 prior to the 2006 edition of those codes. The change to lower the occupant threshold for sprinkler installation in nightclubs was made in ICC and NFPA codes as a direct result of the Station Nightclub fire.

An important clarification of this comparison is that the ICC occupant threshold at which sprinklers are required is only applicable to newly constructed or significantly remodeled nightclubs subject to either the IBC or IFC. The requirement is not made retroactive by ICC codes. Therefore, even if a community had adopted the earliest edition of the IBC and/or IFC in which the occupant threshold for sprinkler installation was lowered to 100 (the 2006 edition), the requirements would not have been retroactive to any existing nightclubs. A more accurate statement would be: if a building similar to the Station Nightclub was constructed after a community had adopted the 2006 or newer edition of the IBC or IFC, such a building would be required to be protected by fire sprinklers if the occupant load exceeded 100. But the fact is that in 2003, at the time of the Station Nightclub fire, neither the ICC codes nor the LSC required the installation of a fire sprinkler system in an assembly occupancy with an occupant load of fewer than 300.
Your Station Nightclub example brings up an important issue regarding retroactive enforcement of the ICC codes versus the LSC. All of a community's nightclub buildings that were in existence prior to the adoption of the 2006 or later ICC codes would not be subject to a retroactive sprinkler requirement. The OSFM views this as one of the major differences between the LSC and the ICC codes. The ICC codes are "forward-looking" and do not impose the same requirements upon existing occupancies as are required by the LSC. In the specific case of a Station Nightclub-type occupancy, the adoption and enforcement of any edition of the NFPA LSC since and including the 2006 edition would be more stringent than the same edition of the ICC codes in two respects:

a. Starting with the 2006 edition of the LSC, the occupant threshold for installing sprinklers in new nightclub buildings is "zero". The LSC requires all new assembly occupancies that are to be used as nightclubs to be protected by fire sprinkler systems regardless of occupant load. The ICC codes impose a sprinkler requirement only when the occupant load of a newly constructed nightclub is 100 or greater.


b. The 2006 and newer editions of the LSC impose a retroactive requirement on existing nightclubs to require automatic sprinkler protection when the occupant load exceeds 100. The ICC codes do not impose any retroactive requirement for sprinkler protection in existing nightclub occupancies regardless of occupant load. A nightclub similar to the Station

Nightclub could have an occupant load in the thousands and if its construction preceded a community's adoption of an updated edition of the ICC codes, would not be subject to any retroactive sprinkler installation requirements by those ICC codes.


As a result, your example of the Station Nightclub illustrates why the OSFM does not believe that adoption and enforcement of the IBC and/or IFC provides equivalent safety to that required by the LSC (as required by the Fire Investigation Act for communities that choose not to enforce the OSFM-adopted LSC). This is particularly true with respect to sprinkler protection in existing occupancies.

3. In your third statement, you indicate that the LSC is not a building code and therefore cannot be compared to the International Building Code (even though, as you have pointed out, over 80% of the IBC's building requirements address fire and life safety issues). You further point out that you cannot construct a building by the LSC itself. You note that the LSC is a document for exiting and life safety and the IBC is a document for structural, environmental and building functions.


The OSFM is in partial agreement with your position. The LSC is not a building code. The OSFM is not statutorily authorized to adopt and/or enforce a building code in Illinois. As a result, the OSFM has never claimed that the LSC adopted and enforced by our agency is a building code. Furthermore, the OSFM has never attempted to advise or dictate building code requirements or the adoption of a specific building code to local units of government.

As noted above building codes are mentioned in the OSFM's Notice to Local Officials merely to caution Illinois communities that may be relying solely on their adopted building code to provide requirements that are equivalent to those found in the OSFM-adopted LSC. This caution is because building codes (as you state) indeed serve different purposes than the OSFM-adopted LSC and typically building codes are forward-looking and not retroactively enforceable against existing buildings as is the LSC.

Although the LSC is not a building code, it is not true that the requirements of the International Building Code and the LSC cannot be compared. The IBC (or IFC for that matter) may not compare favorably with the LSC's requirements, particularly for existing buildings, but it is certainly possible to analyze and compare the codes to determine if equivalent requirements are set forth. It is the OSFM's position that when comparing requirements between the LSC and the ICC's IBC and/or IFC, the LSC contains more stringent requirements, particularly with respect to existing occupancies.

4. Your fourth statement inquires why the OSFM has adopted a code that is outdated and whether the 2012 edition of the LSC should be adopted to reflect the technical changes since 2000?


The OSFM is in full agreement that the currently adopted 2000 edition of the LSC should be updated to adopt the latest published edition of the LSC – the 2012 edition. The Illinois administrative rule process requires state agencies to proceed through formalized rule change procedures for any modifications to an existing administrative rule. The OSFM is currently going through the rule changing process to adopt the 2012 edition of the LSC.



If you have further questions regarding the content of the OSFM's Notice to Local Officials, the requirements of the Fire Investigation Act or the administrative rules of the State of Illinois, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Larry Matkaitis
State Fire Marshal

cc: Mr. Ronald Piester – ICC President
NWBO Chapter

Link to OSFM Notification to Local Officials: Applicability of the Life Safety Code:
http://www.sfm.illinois.gov/documents/Municipality%20Notice%20Regarding%20Applicability%20of%20Life%20Safety%20Code.pdf

Link to Fire Investigation Act:
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=1633&ChapterID=38

Link to 41 Ill. Adm. Code 100 (adoption of the NFPA Life Safety Code):
http://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/admincode/041/04100100sections.html

Original Response [PDF, 284Kb]


 

Email from Charles Keslin

From: "Charles Keslin"
Sent: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 4:45 AM
Subject: RE: OSFM Notification

Everyone,

Please note that the attached notice is old, dated August 15, 2012. The Office of the State Fire Marshal does not have authority through the referenced statute to; "adopt and/or enforce a state wide building code throughout the State of Illinois".

The statute only allows the State Fire Marshal to adopt rules to investigate fires.

Also, think about it a minute. Is this notice not in direct conflict with the Capital Development Board posting of adoptions in accordance with statute? Go to: http://www2.illinois.gov/cdb/business/codes/Pages/BuildingCodesRegulations.aspx

Wouldn't our Capital Development Board be telling us we had to adopt the Fire Marshal's State Building Code, instead of stating:

"The Capital Development Board's Division of Building Codes and Regulations (formerly the Illinois Building Commission) acts as an advisory body assigned the responsibility to assist in streamlining building requirements in Illinois. The Division primarily acts as an informational resource to be used by the various building industry elements, the general public and various governmental units...(20 ILCS 3918)"

and then listing all of our codes adopted, which the majority are not the one that the State Fire Marshal is trying to "Bully" your jurisdiction into adopting with obvious false propaganda.

Sincerely,

Charles R. Keslin, P.E., C.B.O., C.P.E.

Reply from the State Fire Marshal

March 25, 2013

Mr. Charles Keslin
2915 Raleigh Court
Naperville, IL 60564


Via Email to: chuck@keslininc.com

Original Email [PDF, 168Kb]


OSFM Reply to Keslin's March 12, 2013 E-mail



Dear Mr. Keslin,

I am responding to your email "blast" dated March 12, 2013 in which you addressed information contained within the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal's (OSFM) notification to local units of government regarding their enforcement obligations under the Fire Investigation Act. Based on your message, it appears you have confused the statutory and administrative rule requirements of the State of Illinois that apply to fire and life safety codes, with those that are applicable to building codes.

Specifically you wrote: The Office of the State Fire Marshal does not have authority through the referenced statute to; "adopt and/or enforce a state wide building code throughout the State of Illinois".

The OSFM agrees. The Fire Investigation Act does not give authority to the OSFM to adopt and enforce a building code throughout the State of Illinois. Accordingly, the OSFM has not and is not attempting to adopt a building code. Nor has the OSFM ever stated or implied that the adoption of the NFPA Life Safety Code is intended to serve as, or substitute for, a building code. The notice that was disseminated to local officials ("Notice to Local Officials: Applicability of the Life Safety Code") contains no statements indicating that the OSFM intends the NFPA Life Safety Code to be adopted or applied as a building code. The reference to building codes in OSFM's notification was to caution Illinois communities that may be relying solely on their adopted building code to also provide requirements that are equivalent to those found in the OSFM-adopted Life Safety Code. This caution is because building codes serve different purposes than the OSFM-adopted Life Safety Code and typically building codes are forward-looking and not retroactively enforceable against existing buildings as is the Life Safety Code.
You then wrote that "the statute only allows the State Fire Marshal to adopt rules to investigate fires". This statement is inaccurate. In addition to giving the OSFM fire investigation powers the Fire Investigation Act [425 ILCS 25] also empowers the OSFM to adopt and promulgate rules necessary to protect the public from the dangers of fire and collapse in buildings and structures. This language appears in paragraph 9 of the Act (emphasis added):
Sec. 9. No person, being the owner, occupant or lessee of any building or other structure which is so occupied or so situated as to endanger persons or property, shall permit such building or structure by reason of faulty construction, age, lack of proper repair, or any other cause to become especially liable to fire, or to become liable to cause injury or damage by collapsing or otherwise. No person, being the owner, occupant or lessee of any building, or structure, shall keep or maintain or allow to be kept or maintained on such premises, combustible or explosive material or inflammable conditions, which endanger the safety of said buildings or premises.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal shall adopt and promulgate such reasonable rules as may be necessary to protect the public from the dangers specified in the preceding paragraph. Such rules shall require the installation, inspection or maintenance of necessary fire extinguishers, fire suppression systems, chemical fire suppression systems and fire alarm and protection devices. A copy of any rule, certified by the State Fire Marshal shall be received in evidence in all courts of this State with the same effect as the original.
All local officers charged with the duty of investigating fires shall enforce such rules, under the direction of the Office of the State Fire Marshal, except in those localities which have adopted fire prevention and safety standards equal to or higher than such rules adopted by the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
The Fire Investigation Act has been in place for over one-hundred years (since 1909) and the OSFM has been adopting fire codes for the State of Illinois in accordance with the Act ever since. (For your convenience, a link to the entire Fire Investigation Act is provided at the end of this correspondence).

Your correspondence also questions whether the notice disseminated by the OSFM is in direct conflict with the Illinois Capital Development Board's posting of building code adoptions in accordance with statute. I believe that you are confusing two separate issues and separate Illinois laws. The OSFM's adoption and enforcement of the Life Safety Code (made in Illinois Administrative Code at 41 Ill. Adm. Code 100) is authorized by the Fire Investigation Act as identified above. The Capital Development Board is given responsibility under separate laws to maintain a database identifying locally adopted building codes. More specifically, Public Act 92-489 requires municipalities and counties adopting new building codes or amending existing building codes to provide identification of that code to the Illinois Capital Development Board (formerly the "Illinois Building Commission"). The Act further requires that the Commission (now CDB) identify the proposed code (by title and edition) or the amendment to the public on the Internet through the State of Illinois web site. Thus the posting of locally adopted building codes on the CDB website which you refer to in your email.
A subsequent law, Public Act 096-0704 amended the Capital Development Board Act. This Public Act mandates that as of July 1, 2011 newly constructed commercial buildings must be inspected by qualified personnel. The Act also stipulates that unless a local unit of government has adopted a building code, the 2006 or later editions of the ICC's International Building Code (IBC) and other ICC codes as well as the 2008 or later editions of the National Electrical Code serve as the governing construction codes.

In your email, you ask the following question: "Wouldn't our Capital Development Board be telling us we had to adopt the Fire Marshal's State Building Code?" The answer to your question is "no". The CDB would not inform anyone that they were required to adopt the Fire Marshal's State Building Code because no such code exists. As has been explained above, under the authority of the Fire Investigation Act the OSFM has adopted the NFPA's Life Safety Code as the statewide applicable rules for fire prevention and safety. This adoption in no way represents a state building code. Realize that the Life Safety Code is compatible with nationally recognized building codes, including the ICC's IBC. The IBC has been adopted by many Illinois communities and also serves as the default building code for areas of Illinois that have not adopted their own building code. The LSC however, is not a building code.

Since you reference the CDB's website and imply that there could be a conflict between the CDB local building code database and the adoption of the Life Safety Code by the OSFM, you should take note of the document posted on the CDB website that explains Illinois Building Code requirements. That notice includes the following statement (emphasis added):

Note that Public Act 096-0704 does not negate any other statutorily authorized code or regulation administered by State agencies. This includes, but is not limited to, the Illinois Plumbing Code, the Illinois Environmental Barriers Act, the Illinois Accessibility Code, the International Energy Conservation Code, and administrative rules adopted by the Office of the State Fire Marshal (including the NFPA Life Safety Code).

(Again, for your convenience, a link to this document on the CDB website is provided at the end of this correspondence).

Most of the above language of this CDB notice has been taken verbatim from Public Act 096-074 Section (g):

This Section does not regulate any other statutorily authorized code or regulation administered by State agencies. These include without limitation the Illinois Plumbing Code, the Illinois Environmental Barriers Act, the International Conservation Code, and administrative rules adopted by the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Last, I must address and take exception to one other statement in your email. You have written that the content of the OSFM's notice to local units of government represents "the State Fire Marshal trying to Bully your jurisdiction into adopting with obvious false propaganda".

As has been addressed above, state law, specifically the Fire Investigation Act requires the OSFM to adopt rules to ensure safety for the citizens of Illinois. That same law requires local units of government to enforce the OSFM's rules except in localities which have adopted fire prevention and safety standards equal to or higher than such rules adopted by the OSFM. Subsequently, and under this authority, the
OSFM has adopted the NFPA's Life Safety Code into Illinois Administrative Code to serve as the rules of the state applicable to fire prevention and safety. Accordingly, local units of government are obligated by law to apply the OSFM-adopted Life Safety Code or fire prevention and safety standards equal to or higher than the Life Safety Code.

I will further note that regular notices to local units of government to explain their obligations under the Fire Investigation Act result not from any "bullying" effort but rather from the findings of the "Cook County Administration Building Fire Final Report", commonly known as the "Witt Report". After the Cook County Administration Building fire in October 2003, the State of Illinois commissioned James Lee Witt and Associates to provide an independent evaluation of the fire and the state's code authority. One of the findings of both the Witt Report and the Illinois Code Task Force, which was formed to follow through on the Report's findings, was that modifications were necessary in the methods used by the OSFM to notify municipalities of their responsibilities relative to state fire codes. The Witt Report identified a general confusion by municipalities across the state as to applicable state laws and fire codes. One of the most notable findings was a misunderstanding, or complete lack of knowledge, by municipalities that the Fire Investigation Act requires local authorities to enforce either the state-adopted life safety code or a code that is equal to, or more stringent than the state-adopted code. As a result, the OSFM has conducted past mailings, and will continue to conduct future mailings, informing all fire chiefs, city managers, mayors and county officials of the requirements imposed by state law.
Accordingly, the OSFM stands by the statements made in the "Notice to Local Officials: Applicability of the Life Safety Code". If you have further questions concerning the content of the notice, the requirements of the Fire Investigation Act or the administrative rules of the State of Illinois please feel free to contact me directly.

Sincerely,

Larry Matkaitis
State Fire Marshal

Link to Fire Investigation Act: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=1633&ChapterID=38

Link to 41 Ill. Adm. Code 100 (adoption of the NFPA Life Safety Code):
http://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/admincode/041/04100100sections.html

Link to Public Act 092-489
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/pubact92/acts/92-0489.html

Link to Public Act 096-0704
http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=096-0704&GA=96

Link to CDB Website Document "Illinois Building Code Requirements Take Effect July 1, 2011"
http://www2.illinois.gov/cdb/business/codes/Documents/AnnouncementStateBuildingCodeEffectiveJuly2011.pdf

Original letter [PDF, 395Kb]