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NFPA 232 standard update.

The hotly contested debate about continuing to include records center compartmentation in the upcoming revision of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) NFPA 232 Standard for the Protection of Records 2000 Edition took two surprising twists late last month.

As explained in the recent Information Management Journal article "Records Under Fire" (November/ December 2002), NFPA 232 defines compartmentation as "the subdivision of a building into relatively small areas so that fire or smoke can be confined to the room or section in which it originates." It requires that firewalls separate storage compartments and that in records centers, the maximum storage volume of records should not exceed 250,000 cubic feet in a single compartment.

The NFPA technical committee (TC) working on the revision of the 2000 standard had at one point entertained a motion to remove compartmentation from the standard. In the end, however, the TC decided by an 11-7 vote during its fall meeting to keep compartmentation. The first surprising turn occurred when the vote was sent out for ratification by a letter ballot, as required by NFPA. The letter ballot for the standard did not pass, as the vote was evenly split, 12-12, which meant that compartmentation would not be included in the revised standard.

The second surprise occurred during the subsequent NFPA meeting in Atlanta on November 20, when the NFPA accepted a new motion to reinstate compartmentation. During the discussion about the new motion, Diane Carlisle, CRM, ARMA International's director of professional resources and TC representative, addressed meeting attendees, stating that ARMA supports compartmentation in the standard.

All is not settled, however. NFPA rules require that even though the motion was accepted, the TC must be balloted again about the matter. According to Carlisle, the ballots asked 1) if committee members accepted or rejected the recommendation to reinstate compartmentation, and 2) about the suitability of the previous (2000) version of the standard to stand if part one of the ballot does not pass.

This time, the two-thirds majority was not achieved by either the proponents or opponents of compartmentation. This means that the current 2000 standard, which also includes compartmentation, remains in effect while the matter is automatically appealed to the NFPA standards council. This council determines whether and in what form the revised standard shall be issued.

Prior to the announcement of the ballot results, however, a written appeal of the matter was submitted to the NFPA Standards Council on December 10, 2002, on behalf of 18 appellants--PRISM International and 17 commercial storage providers. The NFPA Standards Council has set a hearing for January 15, 2003, for consideration of this appeal and the results of the most recent ballot of the technical committee. Carlisle and ARMA President Juanita Skillman, CRM, FAI, will attend the hearing. In addition, ARMA has prepared a written response to NFPA on this matter. To read ARMA's response, go to www.arma.org/pdf/nfpa_response.pdf. More information, including a copy of the appeal, can be found at www.nfpa.org/Codes/StandardsCouncil/Appeals/Hearings/hearings.asp.
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Title Annotation:National Fire Protection Association
Publication:Information Management Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2003
Words:507
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