These NFPA Codes are the Top 5 Most Commonly Referenced

By Andrew Erickson

August 27, 2022

The NFPA, the National Fire Protection Association, publishes a tremendous number of detailed "consensus codes and standards". Each code focuses on a particular aspect of fire prevention. Collectively, the NFPA codes are a trove of useful information that has been hard won by studying the cause of fires in the past.

Some codes are referenced more than others. Let's take a quick overview of some of the most commonly referenced codes:

NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace

Summary from the NFPA's website:

NFPA 70E requirements for safe work practices to protect personnel by reducing exposure to major electrical hazards. Originally developed at OSHA's request, NFPA 70E helps companies and employees avoid workplace injuries and fatalities due to shock, electrocution, arc flash, and arc blast, and assists in complying with OSHA 1910 Subpart S and OSHA 1926 Subpart K.

The popularity of this code probably has more to do with worker safety than it does with fires. There's a reason that OSHA approached the National Fire Protection Association to write a code about electricity.

Obviously, electricity is one possible cause of fires. The truth is simply that many of the injuries and deaths targeted by the code for prevention do not involve fire safety directly.

Oddly enough, some elements of fire prevention, such as water sprayed from a fire sprinkler, are worse than useless against exposed electricity.

While this code may not directly relate to Digitize and our mission of enhancing life safety through fire prevention, it's obvious what makes this code the most commonly searched among safety professionals.

NFPA 70: National Electrical Code

This code, which simply drops the "E" from the code discussed above, trends more in the direction of fire prevention. The National Electrical Code is well known to every general contractor in the business.

It forms the backbone of electrical system design and construction in the United States. States and local municipalities extend the code in a variety of ways.

Accordingly, the summary from the NFPA is quite brief:

Adopted in all 50 states, NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC) is the benchmark for safe electrical design, installation, and inspection to protect people and property from electrical hazards.

NFPA 101: Life Safety Code

I was getting a little nervous as I worked my way down to the third most popular code in the list. The first two were about electricity. "Life Safety" is a pretty broad topic.

Here's the description:

The Life Safety Code is the most widely used source for strategies to protect people based on building construction, protection, and occupancy features that minimize the effects of fire and related hazards. Unique in the field, it is the only document that covers life safety in both new and existing structures.

Since I work for Digitize, a fire alarm monitoring company, I was pleased to see that fire once again is the focus for this particular code. Still, it's quite a general title and description, so I starting paging through the 2021 edition.

To the untrained eye, NFPA 101 looks quite similar to NFPA 1. Most of what you see in the Table of Contents is about structure definitions and design safety.

After the early chapters, there is a long series of chapter pairs: one for a "new" structure, and another for an "existing" version of the same structures. Day care centers, two-family dwellings, and many other structure types are covered.

NFPA 13: Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems

The industry benchmark for design and installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems, NFPA 13 addresses sprinkler system design approaches, system installation, and component options to prevent fire deaths and property loss.

Here's another "detail code" (my phrasing) that makes a lot of sense when you understand the related codes. The Fire Code (NFPA 1) and the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (NFPA 72) both devote a fraction of their texts to sprinkler design.

For such an important subcomponent of a fire safety system, there's plenty to talk about. There is a nearly infinite array of different building types and designs. Any set of instructions covering such variety must necessarily have a lot of detail.

For anyone who has undergone a fire inspection, Chapter 9 covering Sprinkler Location Requirements, should come as no surprise.

What's also interesting is the discussion of more advanced sprinkler types and the acceptable minimums for the water source. You wouldn't want more complex sprinklers to fail in an emergency. You certainly can't ever have a sprinkler system run dry when it's needed most.

NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code

Frankly, this is what I expected to find near the top of this list when I started my research. It's #5, largely because all manner of design and construction professionals must make decisions based on its contents.

At Digitize, NFPA 72 is a bit of a "bible" for us. It governs much of what we do. Our central fire alarm monitoring systems support compliance with many aspects of this code.

NFPA 72 provides the latest safety provisions to meet society's changing fire detection, signaling, and emergency communications demands. In addition to the core focus on fire alarm systems, the Code includes requirements for mass notification systems used for weather emergencies; terrorist events; biological, chemical, and nuclear emergencies; and other threats.

Rather than go into great detail here, I encourage you to read my Overview of Chapters 1-10 of NFPA 72.

Give Digitize a call to discuss your project

All consensus codes and standards are complex. For beginners, they're confusing.

Because we deal with these sorts of codes every day in our product design work, we know how to help you during your project - even if it probably won't involve purchasing in the near future.

If you have a question, we can help you. We don't have every NFPA code memorized, but we have enough familiarity that we can point you in the right direction with references to specific code sections. Because the codes are freely available from the NFPA, the only challenge here is finding the right section(s) to read.

Give Digitize a call at 1-800-523-7232 or send a quick email to

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and...Read More