Recently, State Fire Marshal Steven Coan announced that " Massachusetts has experienced a record low number of fire deaths for the third year in a row". We at the Department of Public Safety (DPS) wish to congratulate Marshal Coan and all fire service personnel for again achieving this noble goal. Additionally, Department personnel wish to thank the men and women of the fire service for efforts offered to this agency over the years.
Since the mid 1970's members of the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (a division of the DPS) and its staff have worked with fire services to produce building regulations that promote fire safety in building design and construction. The Fire Prevention, Fire Protection (FPFP) committee is an advisory body comprised richly of fire service personnel and other industry professionals who offer assistance to Board members on matters specific to fire safety advances in building design and construction techniques. FPFP members have contributed greatly over the years in the production of each version of the State Building Code, since its inception on January 1, 1975 to present. As a result, Massachusetts enjoys the benefits of comprehensive regulations that helps provide an enhanced level of fire safety in all buildings and structures in the Commonwealth.
Building code provisions define criterion for fire safety in terms of building size in relation to construction material, known as height and area limitations, prescribes restrictions of combustible interiors that may contribute to fire loads, establishes requirements for the installation of fire sprinkler and alarm systems and establishes methods to determine the number and size of safe exits from buildings based on an assumed occupant load. In years past, the Building Officials and Code Administrators (BOCA) code has been used to define the framework for the Massachusetts code. Towards the end of the 1990's, BOCA joined with other model code organizations to form the International Code Council (ICC). A main goal of the ICC is to establish code requirements that may be utilized not only throughout the country but throughout the world. ICC published its first set of International Codes in the year 2000. Currently, Massachusetts is in the process of adopting the 2003 as the model for the commonwealth. In doing so, Massachusetts gains the wisdom of sources external of the state, then overlays guidance afforded by a series of advisory committees, such as the FPFP, to determine the final content of the Massachusetts version of the international code.
History has demonstrated that buildings designed and constructed according to modern code requirements prove safe under adverse conditions. Codes that are developed via consensus processes as described above benefit from the talents and varied perspectives of building and fire service personnel, design, construction, and industry professionals as well as other parties interested in building safety. It is unlikely that building code requirements will ever be perfect or satisfy the desires of all those involved in the process. However, it is clear that fire safety in buildings can truly be recognized as a joint effort. It is hoped that the results of such efforts lead to future years where Massachusetts is praised for reductions in fire death and injury in buildings.