Fire Codes in The United States of America
As the United States was settled, a patchwork of various codes came into effect across the various towns, cities, and counties. In time, it was recognized that uniformity was preferable. At least at the state level, there could be regulation and enforcement. "Best practices" could also be recognized. As this patchwork of codes began to coalesce, the best parts of earlier codes were adopted into a series of three model building codes (developed over three disparate regions - the east coast, the south, and the west coast). Since the early 1900's, these three models have been the basis for all building and fire codes in the United States. (Model codes have no actual authority, unless adopted in whole or part by a locality, such as a town, county, city, or even state). The East Coast and Midwest followed the Building Officials Code Administrators International (BOCA) National Building Code. The South and Southeast followed the Southern Building Code Congress International Standard Building Code. The West Coast followed the International Conference of Building Officials Uniform Building Code.
The development of building and fire codes in the U.S. Territories proceeded differently. For islands areas, especially in moist tropical climates, hurricanes or tropical storms, not fire, are often the most dangerous disasters. Also, many of the Territories were influenced by international (non-U.S.) regulations and codes. In some territories, only recently has the adoption of standardized codes been completed.
Today, all fifty U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and every U.S. Territory has adopted ICC model codes at the state or jurisdictional level in whole or as a basis for their building or fire codes. Thirty-Nine states have also adopted the NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®. By enforcing these codes, Fire Code Officials (usually Fire Marshals), ensure that buildings are protected, exits are accessible, extinguisher and alarm systems are working properly, and all systems and services are correctly maintained in order to provide for maximum occupant and building safety.