Proposed Changes to NFPA 72/2013

NFPA 72/2013 and new changes will be voted on at annual conference next month

May’s column generated some questions regarding NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, under review. If your question isn’t answered here, don’t despair. There will be plenty of time to sort it out before the 2013 Edition of NFPA 72 is adopted by your state or jurisdiction.


Q. Who is responsible for testing elevator recall and fan/damper shutdown for smoke control system operation?

A. Not the fire alarm installer. We only verify the proper operation of our control functions. If the control function interface device (i.e. relay) is “disabled or disconnected during testing, we must verify that the disabled or disconnected emergency control function interface device has been properly restored.” Wording is being added to the 2013 Edition of NFPA 72 that states: “Testing of the emergency control functions themselves is outside of the scope of NFPA 72.” Annex material explains that if you wish to test an interfaced smoke control system, then you should follow the adopted rules for testing smoke control systems, such as NFPA 92A. For testing elevator operation, ASME 17.2, “Guide for Inspection of Elevators, Escalators and Moving Walks” should be used. To understand the requirements for testing the entire building as a single safety system you should read NFPA 3, “Recommended Practice for the Commissioning and Integrated Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems.”


Q. Are magnets allowed to be used for smoke detector sensitivity testing of certain types of detectors? Who has the final say on how a specific device is to be tested if not addressed in the Test Methods table in NFPA 72?

A. If the manufacturer’s installation instructions for a listed device states a magnet can be used to sensitivity test that smoke detector then yes, you can. And I hope the new language will finally be clear enough for those inspectors who insist on using smoke bombs and smoke machines to test duct detectors, yet not allow magnets listed for the purpose to be used for sensitivity testing.


Q. Is the requirement to test fire sprinkler system water flow at a rate of flow “equal to that of a single sprinkler of the smallest orifice size in the system...” being removed?

A. Yes, it will be replaced with the requirement to test waterflow in accordance with NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems.


Q. What about the requirement to use a decibel meter during routine annual testing of fire alarm systems?

A. The NFPA technical committee dropped this requirement to verify audibility using a meter, from the 2013 Edition. The audibility test will now be a simple go/no-go process for the technician. The committee reasons “it is not the responsibility of the alarm technician to measure the operation against the original system design.” You must inform the customer if any device is not functioning or is missing. It is the building owner’s responsibility to consider changes to their facility might affect the audibility of alarm notification appliances, not the visiting fire alarm technician.


Q. Will more paperwork be required when the 2013 Edition gets adopted?

A. Yes. If you monitor single-family residential systems, you will have to notify the homeowner in writing, at least once a year that they are required to have their system tested annually. This may not be enforceable, but it can limit your liability. A proposal to require a service agreement to be in place for all code-required commercial fire alarm systems was rejected.


Q. Are fault isolation modules finally going to be required?

A. NFPA 72 may now have language limiting the number of addressable devices to 50 per SLC. For example, an entire seven-story building on a single Class B pair of conductors doesn’t seem right, I know. Some think that this number (50) is a bit restrictive and totally random. I predict the final word has yet to be heard on this proposal (see 72-269a and 72-293 on


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