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Fire Codes: A Foundation of Safety for a Rapidly Changing World

The world’s tallest skyscrapers that are transforming city skylines from Shanghai to Dubai are impressive for their architecture and engineering, but perhaps their most important design element lies in the safety of these modern marvels.

Chief among these safety features is fire protection. There are myriad codes and regulations relating to fire safety in commercial buildings, from standards on portable fire extinguishers to the installation of stationary pumps for fire protection — the U.S.- based National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) alone has more than 300 consensus codes that have been adopted in whole or in part in countries throughout the world.

As rapid urbanization around the globe continues to spur construction of high-rise residential and commercial structures, hospitals, schools and other buildings — an expected 2.4 billion more people will live in urban areas by 2050 with over 90 percent of them in Africa and Asia — applying the strictest safety measures for fire protection is paramount to safeguarding life and property.

Development in these emerging markets creates both opportunities and challenges for fire service. Since there is not one widely implemented fire code that governs international new construction and building remodeling — and enforcement of existing codes varies widely by country and local jurisdiction — reducing costs often trumps improving safety.

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