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Issue Brief: ICC Outdoor Pallet Storage Fire Code
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Update & Background

In 2013, the NWPCA learned a 'simple' proposal was submitted to modify the international fire code developed by the International Fire Code Council (ICC). The document proposed a new section that would cover the outdoor storage of pallets.

Unfortunately, that proposal wasn’t simple, and it would have severe negative implications for our industry. The ICC is one of two major organizations that develops building and fire codes that are enforced by state, county, and city officials and fire marshals. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is the other leading code development organization.

UPDATE:  NWPCA submitted its draft proposal to the NFPA in July.  NWPCA's Dr. Brad Gething and consultant, Bill Koffel, participated in the NFPA Technical Committee October "NFPA I First Draft Meeting (A2017) from Thursday, October 8, 2015 and Friday, October 9, 2015 in San Diego, California.


The understood goal of the 2013 ICC proposal was to reduce the threat of fire from spreading to adjoining properties as well as structures on-site. It included several measures that would reduce the overall storage capacity in the storage yard (by up to 60% in the worst cases) and contained stipulations that could significantly hinder how pallet facilities conduct daily business. NWPCA staff and more than a dozen members attended a code hearing in Atlantic City at the end of 2013. The delegation made it clear to the code officials that the industry was not consulted in the development of the code, and passage would cause undue harm to many family-owned small businesses. The message resonated with the ICC voting block and, with the help of a code consultant retained by NWPCA, NWPCA and its members were successful in getting the proposal rejected. At the 2013 hearing, NWPCA pledged to be more engaged for the next code development cycle that started in 2015.

NExt Steps

Honoring that commitment, NWPCA is taking action toward the development of a code proposal of its own. The Board of Directors has charged the NWPCA Standards Committee with the task of developing the ICC code proposal. Furthermore, the association has hired the same consultant, Bill Koffel, who was instrumental of the achievement in 2013 to help guide us through the code development process.

Bill Koffel, president of Koffel Associates, leads a fire protection and life safety engineering design and consulting firm, and is recognized as an expert in the fire protection and life safety aspects of codes and standards. Mr. Koffel remains active in the development process of the industry’s governing codes, standards and design guidelines including International Code Council (ICC), NFPA, Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) and Underwriters Laboratory (UL). A former code official with the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office, he is also a past president of the SFPE.

The Standards Committee convened at NWPCA’s annual conference in Tucson, Arizona to begin the process of developing a proposal for both fire codes that is effective in reducing the threat of pallet fires, yet works within the operating parameters of most pallet businesses. Mr. Koffel participated in the meeting and provided valuable insight into the key parameters that code officials look for in proposals. Mr. Koffel stresses the importance of industry participation in the code development process. “In my 30 years of code consulting, I have found that when the affected industry engages to inform and educate those involved in the code development process, the resulting code tends to be more effective and less burdensome than had they not participated in the process.”

When asked about his impressions of the industry, Koffel said, “I was struck by the variety among the businesses, whether that be in the size, geographic location or how they run their operations in order to be successful. It truly is a diverse industry.” This diversity is an asset to the industry, providing it ample flexibility so it can meet the needs of shippers across the globe. In terms of developing a fire code that will apply across every manufacturer and recycler, it presents a significant challenge.

In addition to submitting a proposal to the ICC, NWPCA is reaching out to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), who also develops fire codes that are enforced by fire marshals. While the ICC and NFPA develop different codes, there is typically overlap between the two of them. NFPA develops codes through working groups and NWPCA can use the feedback received in these working groups to produce a more informed proposal that suits the requirements of fire officials, increasing the likelihood of proposal acceptance.

The NFPA draft proposal deadline was July of 2015, while the ICC deadline was January of 2016.


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