Proposed Changes to NFPA 72/2013

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

Q. Will we still be able to install systems with more than one device per zone, or are point addressable/point ID fire alarm systems going to be mandated?

A. Any new proposal—and there were a great many—that attempted to require one device per point or require only addressable systems to be installed in new installations was (quite correctly) defeated.


Q. Will our supervising station operators now be able to verify fire alarm signals by calling commercial accounts before we dispatch, like we do now with our residential customers?

A. A lot of effort and attention was given to formulating new language that would permit alarm signal verification during a 90-second window. This should help reduce fire department dispatches on ‘false alarms.’ Look for something like this to be included in the new 72.


Q. Are DACTs going to be allowed to die a respectable death and become “obsolete technology” in a dignified manor?

A. No, there is new language that will require DACTs to transmit a test signal every six hours instead of every 24. The committee reasons that since the telephone companies only provide eight hours of standby power to their exchange equipment, the every six-hour test signal requirement will mean the fire alarm systems will more likely be able to detect one of the phone company’s standby power failures. Or, maybe this is just an insidious plot to motivate alarm companies to transition from the old DACTs.

Q. What changes to audible signaling were made?

A. When using voice EVAC systems, the temporal-three tone may now be used whether the subsequent voice message is to “relocate” or “evacuate!” Prior to this, T3 was specifically forbidden to precede a relocation message; a steady tone was required so that the listener didn’t get a ‘mixed message.’ The prevailing reasoning for this new allowance is that if one can hear a fire alarm signal, they should leave or move to where they don’t hear it anymore.


Q. Will there be a lot of changes to the 2013 edition of the code?

A. No, not a lot, but a few important ones. However, the code usually does its best to make it seem like a lot. For example, the following type of update (which changed just a few words) was applied over and over again in the new edition. Can you spot the change between these two sentences? Example 1: Communications between sending and receiving units in all directions where multiple communications pathways are provided shall be verified. Example 2: “Verify communications between sending and receiving units in all directions where multiple communications pathways are provided.” So, has the rule changed with the new wording? No. However, NFPA will place a vertical line in the margin next to all such ‘changes to the code’ and many will be amazed at all the ‘new rules’ in the next edition. I called out NFPA the last time they added over three and a half feet of vertical lines indicating a “new rule change” when they substituted the term “sleeping areas” for “bedrooms.” New rule? Hardly. Impressive use of lines? Very. I realize a code change must be indicated with a line in the margin, but how about adding a second line, or different style of vertical line, if the change to the wording results in an actual ‘rule’ change to how a system is designed, installed or maintained?



Greg Kessinger is SD&I’s longtime resident fire alarm and codes expert and a regular contributor to the magazine. He can be reached at