Let Your Voices be Heard

Amendments considered for NFPA 72


Now consider this other proposal which would require that plans show the "Location of all supply and return air diffusers (where automatic detection is used)." Is there a problem that will be fixed if the air supply or return-air registers were required to be shown on the plans? Do you think this is a practical idea? What if the grill is directional, would this also need to be indicated on the plans? What if the HVAC contractor makes a change to the diffuser's location or direction? Will you still pass your inspection or will another review be "needed?" Where does the code end, and industry practice begin? The rules in NFPA 72 now require that you do not install smoke detectors in the air stream of these air supply diffusers and otherwise locate detectors where they would not be adversely affected by air currents created by HVAC systems. Requiring HVAC-installed devices to be indicated on a fire alarm plan opens the door for plan reviewers to guess what effect they might have. The way it is now, too many plan reviewers erroneously believe that there is an actual rule requiring a "three foot" separation, between these devices and smoke detectors. A solution without a problem; or overdue?

Here are some other examples of proposals that may seem confusing. For example, a new proposal states: (8.4.9.3.3)

"Voltage drop calculations for strobes shall be provided in a lump-sum/end-of-line method."

I guess if using this method of calculating wire gauge has been proven to increase the level of occupant safety then I would have to agree that this method "shall" be used. However, this cannot possibly be the case, because another proposal negates this and states that if you don't use the first method, then you "shall" do it another way: (8.4.9.3.4.) "Voltage drop calculations for strobes prepared using point-to-point method shall allow for a 1 volt safety margin."

So which is it? Shouldn't the rule say you can calculate voltage drop using one of two methods and then list these two as the A and B choices?

If these examples have stirred you to submit comments, here are the NFPA dates you should be aware of: Comment Closing Date: 8/30/11; ROC (Report on Comments) Published and Posted: 2/24/12; (NITMAM) Notice of Intent to Make a Motion Closing Date: 4/6/12 (NFPA wants to know if you're going to take up voting time at the Association Meeting.); Association Meeting [for NFPA Members (at least 90 days prior)] to vote on documents with Amended Motions: 6/4-7/12; appeal closing date regarding Association Meeting Documents: 6/27/12 (your absolute last chance to change their minds.)

Many of the proposed changes are relevant and necessary. Several will correct issues you've had to deal with for years. Some proposed changes you may find confusing and attempt to 'fix' things that don't need fixing, or are counter productive. That's why it is important the general public submit comments on the proposals submitted by others. If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem. You can download the proposals to NFPA 72 from their Web site, www.nfpa.org, as well as the required Comment Form. This is OUR industry, let our collective voices be heard.

Greg Kessinger is SD&I's longtime resident fire expert and regular contributor to the magazine. Reach him at greg@firealarm.org.