Preserving Safety with Three-Year Code Cycles: A Retrospective View of Five Years of Proactive Vigilance

Preserving Safety with Three-Year Code Cycles: A Retrospective View of Five Years of Proactive Vigilance

This piece was originally published in the October 2017 issue of electroindustry.

Vince Baclawski, Senior Technical Director, Codes and Standards, NEMA

At the December 15, 2011, meeting of the NEMA Codes and Standards Committee (C&S), two members reported a disturbing trend: several states wanted to move from a three-year code adoption cycle to a six-year or longer cycle. The move was in response to criticism that three-year model codes may significantly affect the construction, configuration, and cost of new residential buildings.

The moves conflicted with NEMA’s position that a longer code adoption cycle delays implementation of safety improvements and technological innovations. To counter this trend, C&S submitted a proposal to the NEMA Board of Governors for a 2013 Strategic Initiative to preserve the three-year code adoption cycle. The Board approved the proposal at its July 2012 meeting.

C&S established the Task Force on State Code Adoptions to manage the initiative. Under the leadership of Alan Manche, vice president of external affairs at Schneider Electric, the task force immediately developed strategic and action plans, both of which were approved by C&S in October 2012.

The task force hit the ground running. In January 2013, it received additional funding to oppose actions to delay code adoptions in several states, including Connecticut and Tennessee. The strategic initiative was renewed in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, it transitioned to a NEMA-wide program under the auspices of Operations and Government Relations, where it continues to reside.

Teaming Up

The International Code Council (ICC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) established the Coalition for Current Safety Codes (CCSC). Its objective mirrored NEMA’s: preserve the three-year code adoption cycle. The CCSC and its founding organizations continue to be valuable coalition partners with NEMA in achieving this objective.

During the past five years, NEMA and its coalition partners have had varying degrees of success in the drive to maintain the three-year adoption cycle in individual states, as seen on the map on page 7.

Undoubtedly, the opponents of timely code adoptions will neither go away nor change their position. It is possible that they will intensify their efforts.

How will NEMA and its coalition partners respond to this? By staying vigilant, getting alerts out as soon as an activity to stall a code adoption is identified, and quickly forming a state or local coalition to counter the opposition. We will be proactive, taking a positive message about timely code adoption to regulators, legislators, and governors.


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