Excerpted from the Significant Changes to the 2006 International Codes series.
The Significant Changes series of books have been developed by the International Code Council and published by Thomson-Delmar Learning to accommodate the transition from the 2003 to the 2006 editions of the International Codes.

To purchase books in the series, visit the Code Council website at

  Although the Station fire involved a nightclub, the reduced sprinkler thresholds in the 2006 edition have been extended to include all uses classified as Group A-2 occupancies. Even restaurants that do not serve alcoholic beverages are impacted, but to the surprise of many, the restaurant industry did not oppose the change. Consequently, there was essentially no debate of the impact of reduced sprinkler thresholds on restaurants during the code development process, and even fast food restaurants with large seating areas or an indoor playscape will require sprinklers because of this change.

The reduction of the sprinkler threshold for Group A-2
occupancies from 300 occupants to 100 occupants reflects a compromise that was reached among several competing proposals during the 2003–2004 code development cycle. Some proposals recommended requiring fire sprinklers in all Group A occupancies, which essentially ties the requirement to an occupant load of 50, based on the definition of Group A, while others recommended tying the sprinkler threshold to consumption of alcoholic beverages or the presence of live entertainment.

In the end, the 100-occupant threshold was selected, in part because it correlated with the threshold for requiring panic hardware in Group A occupancies in Section 1008.1.9 of the 2003 edition (which was changed to 50 in 2006). The other aspect of this decision was a belief by many that smaller assembly occupancies have a reduced life-safety risk because they can be readily evacuated.

International Fire Code  
SUBJECT: Group A-2 Automatic Sprinkler Systems

CHANGE TYPE: Modification

903.2.1.2 Group A-2. An automatic sprinkler system shall be provided for Group A-2 occupancies where one of the following conditions exists:

1. The fire area exceeds 5,000 square feet (465 m2);
2. The fire area has an occupant load of 300 100 or more; or
3. The fire area is located on a floor other than the level of exit discharge.

Following the Station Nightclub fire in February 2003, in which 100 people were killed and more than 200 people were injured, model code regulations governing assembly occupancies were subjected to a great deal of scrutiny.

Even though the consequences of the Station fire were largely attributed to multiple code violations that were present on the night of the fire, particularly improper interior finish materials and the use of indoor pyrotechnics without proper precautions, the International Codes responded by changing the threshold for mandatory sprinklers in Group A-2 occupancies from 300 occupants to 100 occupants. The approach emphasizes the value of fire sprinklers as back-up protection for cases where
other safety controls fail.


Assembly occupancies intended for the consumption of food or drinks, such as this restaurant, will now require an approved automatic sprinkler system when the occupant load is 100 or more. (Photo courtesy of Denis Shell, Orange County, California, Fire Authority.)


Source: Building Safety Journal | June 2008


Home | Membership | ICC Store | Codes & Standards | Government Relations
Training | Certification & Testing | Public Safety | Jobs & Code Talk | Newsroom & Magazine
Contact Us | Privacy Policy
© 2008 International Code Council