Free Online NFPA, IBC, and ADA Codes and Standards

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on Jun 27, 2018

Finding applicable codes for security work can be a costly task, with printed books and pdf downloads costing hundreds or thousands. However, a number of widely referenced codes are avavailable free online if you know the right places to search.

This post provides link to a number of free code resources common to security including:

  • NFPA 70
  • NFPA 72
  • NFPA 80
  • NFPA 101
  • International Building Codes (IBC)
  • ADA 

NFPA Online Free

The NFPA provides the standards used as code basis for multiple aspects of security integration, including the National Electrical Code, authoritative Life-Safety guidelines for access control, and multiple related standards for Fire Alarms, Firewalls, and Fire Doors.

The NFPA provides free online reference access to all ther latest versions of all standards after free registration is completed. The most relevant NFPA standards used in security include:

NFPA 70: NEC, The National Electrical Code

In most of North America, the most comprehensive guide is NFPA 70, most commonly called the 'NEC' or National Electrical Code. While the scope of the codes mainly apply to high-voltage electrical work of more than 100 Volts, security work and devices like PoE or small gauge cabled hardware using less voltage are also given prime attention.  We examine NEC in detail in our Low Voltage Codes and Video Surveillance note, but the source code can be accessed here:

NFPA 101: Life Safety

One of the most important guidelines of electronic access is NFPA 101, the foundation behind how to install access and still preserve safe egress. We examine those elements closely in our Codes Behind Access Control post, but free access is available here:

NFPA 80: Fire Door Modifications

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Because fire doors have important functions to prevent the spread of fire and to withstand direct flames for some time, modifying them for electronic access use is limited. In most cases, NFPA 80 describes the extent and size of cutouts or holes allowed in a fire door, or the acceptable behavior of that hardware given the location of the door. The link below offers direct access to the section:

International Building Code

Taking central importance in legal building design, and retrofit systems like access, IBC is often cited by local jurisdictions as the authority on how to construct systems safely. As we cover in Building Occupancy Codes and Access Control Tutorial and our Codes Behind Access Control notes, the actual version that is adopted can vary by year, with verbiage and citations change between them. Below are the most common versions cited today:

Accessibility Codes

Finally, codes that govern how to implement access controls, intercoms, and even workstation design can be found in the Americans with Disabilities Act, that we cover in Disability Laws, ADA and Access Control note.  The most recent versions of those guidelines and mandates can be accessed here:

Fair Use Copyright Applies Here

In general, free online code resources are read-only and users are not able to download, notate, or print copies for offline circulation. If users want this, then standards and codes are available for purchase, often at prices ranging from ~$100 for a single standard to upwards of $5000 for a full set of comprehensive codes. For example, NFPA explains:

"These online documents are "read-only" - they cannot be downloaded or printed, because NFPA relies on the revenues from individuals who purchase copies of these documents to fund our mission. But these "read only" documents are available to anyone who wants to familiarize themselves with a code or check a requirement."

Under terms of 'Fair Use', citation and republishing of excerpts for public commentary or criticism is allowed, but wholesale republishing of the codes or standards can only be done under conditions given by the authoring agency.

[Note: This guide was originally written in 2016, but substantially updated in 2018.]

8 reports cite this report:

Maglocks Usage Statistics 2019 on Jul 01, 2019
Maglocks divide access control specifiers perhaps more than any other component. Many are concerned about life safety codes, but others cite...
Access Control Request to Exit (RTE) Tutorial on May 13, 2019
For access controlled doors, especially those with maglocks, 'Request to Exit', or 'RTE' devices are required to override electrified locks to...
Door Operators Access Control Tutorial on Apr 17, 2019
Doors equipped with door operators, specialty devices that automate opening and closing, tend to be quite complex. The mechanisms needed to...
Cable Trenching for Surveillance on Jan 21, 2019
Trenching cable for surveillance is surprisingly complex. While using shovels, picks, and hoes is not advanced technology, the proper planning,...
Backup Power For Maglocks Guide on Aug 20, 2018
When the main power fails, many believe maglocks must leave doors unlocked. However, battery backed up maglocks are allowed according to IBC /...
PoE Powered Access Control Tutorial on Jan 19, 2018
Powering access control with Power over Ethernet is becoming increasingly common.  However, access requires more power than cameras, and the...
Multipoint Lock Access Control Tutorial on Oct 17, 2017
Doors are notoriously weak at stopping entry, and money can be misspent on wrong locks that leave doors quite vulnerable. While closed and locked...
Delayed Egress Access Control Tutorial on Oct 04, 2017
Is it ever legal to lock people into a building? The answer is: Yes... under specific situations. With so much of access control driven by life...
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