A Roadmap of AST Codes and StandardsAudio version
Publication: Petroleum Equipment & Technology Archive
Issued: January 1997
Author: Geyer Wayne B. , PE, POE
Do not assume that a particular jurisdiction has adopted all the codes of a particular code body, UFC or NFPA 30 for instance, just because the jurisdiction says it has adopted them. In fact, the local AHJ can adopt all or parts of a particular code as law if it so chooses. For instance, until recently, the City of Chicago would not allow aboveground gasoline dispensing tank systems, even though the State of Illinois had adopted NFPA 30A as its standard. In this case, the local AHJ (Chicago) adopted more stringent codes than those adopted by the state, based on the City’s concerns for densely populated areas.
Codes from the four national organizations are recommendations, and become law when the local AHJ formally adopts them. However, the word “recommendations” can be somewhat misleading because: (1) they are generally enforced as law on a local level; and (2) you will be held legally responsible for the consequences of not using code “recommendations,” both on a short and long term basis. This includes the adoption of industry-recognized recommended practices (RPs).
Other than the codes, recommended installation practices in the petroleum equipment industry for ASTs come principally from Petroleum Equipment Institute’s (PEI) RP200. These practices are widely considered prudent to follow, whatever the codes may be. More often than not, RP200 more than satisfies the requirements of the various codes for ASTs. Yet, RP200 can’t be assumed to cover all local AHJ codes.
The bottom line is that in all cases, AST installations must meet the approval of the local AHJ. In other words, the fire service can insist that motor vehicle fuel dispensing systems be installed underground, regardless of what the code allows, based on concerns for public safety.
In the case of the Uniform Fire Code, not only must the local jurisdiction adopt the UFC but the AHJ must also adopt the additional appendices.
Over the last several years, fire-rated, or insulated, ASTs have received a great deal of positive attention from fire regulators, particularly for fuel storage and dispensing applications. This recognition has been translated into an easing, in some instances, of the ordinances governing AST installations, particularly with insulated tanks.
Different codes use different terminology to describe insulated tanks. The National Fire Protection Association refers to an insulated AST as “fire-resistant,” while the Uniform Fire Code terms it “protected.” All ASTs that are termed insulated, fire-resistant or protected must pass a two-hour fire rating. Still another term commonly used for fire-rated tanks is “thermally protected.” (For more on fire-rated ASTs, refer to my article in the last issue of PE&T.)
One code for all? Recently, the IFCI, BOCA and SBCCI have formed a new organization—the International Code Council (ICC)—which aims to meld the model fire codes into a single code, International Fire Code (IFC) in North America by the year 2000. The NFPA is participating as a partner to ICC, rather than an ICC member. This undertaking is described in the Nov./Dec. issue of Tank Talk, published by Steel Tank Institute (“Codes Galore”):
“Committees composed of representatives from NFPA, BOCA, SBCCI, IFCI and various fire chief and fire marshal organizations will develop the new code. The committee will appoint at least 50 percent of their members from the fire code enforcement community (i.e., the authority having jurisdiction). In forming a common code, these committees will be used to recommend language changes and resolve any inherent conflicts between the various codes.”
The question of who gets to vote on codes has served as a major barrier to NFPA’s membership in ICC—and therefore, a barrier to the final structure of the International Fire Code and its committees. At the time of this publication, sources say the NFPA and ICC have resolved all remaining issues and only final signatures are required. An ambitious plan is in the works so that the first draft of the IFC can be released by Summer of 1997.