The Standards Council of theNFPArecently issued amendments to the association's two key safety codes. Precipitated by recent nightclub tragedies in both Rhode Island and Chicago, the amendments institute requirements that are believed at this time to be among the nation's most stringent.

Effective in mid-August, the new requirements, also known as amendments, will strengthen NFPA safety codes: NFPA 101, Life Safety Code®, and NFPA 5000™, Building Construction and Safety Code™. The requirements call for fire sprinklers in all new nightclub-type facilities, and for existing nightclubs with occupancies exceeding 100. Also issued were restrictions to festival seating when occupancies exceed 250 (unless a life-safety evaluation is performed), a requirement for crowd managers for all places of assembly, and requirements for regular egress inspection and record-keeping for existing nightclubs.

"History will show the importance of these code changes," said James M. Shannon, NFPA president and CEO. "Once again, we see the NFPA codes and standards system being responsive to these kinds of terrible tragedies."

Appointed by NFPA's board of directors, the Standards Council is a 13-member body charged with overseeing the association's codes and standards development activities and regulations.

Before the Standards Council made its decision, however, recommendations for changes to the codes from various parties, including members of the public, had earlier this year been submitted to NFPA's Technical Committee on Assembly Occupancies, the technical experts responsible for this subject. After exhaustively studying all recommendations over the last several months, the technical committee reached agreement on the above amendments and recommended to the Standards Council in late July that the amendments be issued to the 2003 editions of both codes.

The genesis of these amendments is traced back to discussions that originated at a public forum and special meeting of the technical committee, held on March 13 in Boston. This meeting was held in response to the E2 nightclub crowd crush incident in Chicago and The Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, RI, both of which occurred in February and collectively resulted in 121 fatalities.