This past week I attended the ICC code action committee hearings in Dallas. My purpose was to testify against some damaging code change proposals on behalf of the Patient Fire Safety Coalition.
It was my first time being involved with the ICC codes. Being part of the fire service in Florida, I have become intimately familiar with the NFPA codes. Getting a grip on the International Fire Code, how it works and how to use it, provided a challenge. It is a good experience, although not a code that I will use often in my daily job as a Fire Inspector, it is a tool that is definitely good to have a working knowledge of, especially since most of the nation seems to base their codes on the IFC.
Testifying at the code action committee hearings, was a stressful undertaking for me. I was in a room full (about 200 people) of individuals that had more experience than me, were smarter than I was, more familiar with the material than me, and had more "skin in the game" than I did. I have taught many classes, and given countless presentations, but I have never been more nervous than when I stepped up to the mic to give my arguments at the code action committee hearings. It is kind of embarrassing, I am a grown man, yet in the presence of these knowledgeable people, and the task at hand, I felt like a little girl at her first talent show.
I have found that the greatest growth comes when, and only when, we are required to act outside of our comfort zones.
For the record, two of the code change proposals that we opposed went in our favor and two did not. We will oppose these at the ICC Committee Conference in October (Atlantic City, NJ). I would encourage all those in the business of fire prevention and fire codes to attend these events at least once. It is a valuable experience that provides a new depth of understanding to the code development process.
I will also say, that seeing the ICC in action has given me a new appreciation for the thoroughness of the NFPA. Some of the arguments brought forth at the ICC were to take care of, or put into the code, issues that the NFPA has long required. The IFC is more broadly adopted and therefore more easily applied to communities across the country, however, the NFPA seems to be more clearly written, with more precision, and guidance, and more enforceable.
I do want to encourage those in the fire service to become involved in the code development process at some level (even for just one round), ICC or NFPA, to gain a greater perspective on the importance of fire prevention and life safety in everything that we do.
"...stepping out of your comfort zone sometimes is the most courageous thing of all." - Steve Peifer