The 2010 edition of NFPA 72 will also address a variety of emergency communications systems in addition to traditional fire alarm systems. Provisions for these systems will be contained in a new chapter called Emergency Communications Systems (ECS). The types of systems included will be: in-building fire emergency voice/alarm communications systems; in-building mass notification systems; wide area mass notification systems; distributed recipient mass notification systems; two-way in-building wired emergency service communications systems; two-way radio communications enhancement systems; and area of refuge emergency communications systems.
Code revisions will address issues related to the integration of fire alarm systems and emergency communications systems. The Code will require signal priorities to be established using risk analysis. In fact emergency communications signals will be allowed to override fire alarm signals when a risk analysis demonstrates the need to allow it. (However, it would not be true to say that all mass notification signals will be permitted to override fire alarm signals.)
On the show floor, of the 350 or so companies with exhibits, less than 10 percent displayed fire alarm equipment. The bulk of the other exhibits, were suppression related, and those booths displayed shiny brass valves, hoses, pipes, pumps and controllers, for foam, gas, and water mist, for connection to assorted tanks and hydrants. These exhibits were interspersed with other booths manned by employees from various safety associations, firefighter training providers, equipment listing organizations, testing companies, trade publications and engineering firms.
With over 131 education sessions at the NFPA Conference, seven pertained to fire alarm systems, but only two dealt solely with fire alarm systems. The first fire alarm seminar topic was about understanding mass notification challenges and the second provided an introduction to NFPA 3, the new commissioning standard. Analyzing this new NFPA publication and other changes adopted at the NFPA conference will require several columns which I will continue for you next month. All in all, the 2009 NFPA Conference was, and always has been, an opportunity for members to express their opinion about proposed code changes, influence and be influenced by others in the industry, and most importantly, have their vote count and make a difference.