Q. Are there still more blank chapters in NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm & Signaling Code, than existed in the 2010 edition?
A. The NFPA 72 Committee decided to add 15 blank chapters to the code in 2010 and reserved them for future use. They reasoned that it would allow new chapters to be added to the standard without having to renumber existing chapters, making the code more “user friendly.” There are now 14 blank chapters in the 2013 edition being “reserved” for future content. Why? You may ask, considering the abundance of numbers after Chapter number 11—you know, like 12 and up.
The ‘Household’ chapter originally was its own standard. It was combined into NFPA 72 many years ago as Chapter 2 when there were a total of seven chapters. ‘Household’ was moved to the last chapter in the 1996 edition and became Chapter 8 when a new chapter was created for “Public Fire Alarm Reporting Systems.” Up until the 2010 edition, every time a new chapter was created, it was inserted numerically ahead of the ‘Household’ chapter which caused all chapters after the new one to be renumbered, but ‘Household,’ then Chapter 11, was kept as the last chapter in the book. Someone at NFPA thought that this renumbering of the chapters was confusing the users of NFPA 72 (yes, they thought renumbering chapters every three years was the confusing part). That is why the “Reserved” chapter system was implemented. It was explained that by using the “Reserved” chapter numbering system, existing numbered chapters could remain the same throughout future editions of the standard. So, in the 2010 edition of NFPA 72, the ‘Household’ rules (by now renamed “Single- and Multiple-Station Alarms and Household Fire Alarm Systems”), were moved one last time, to become Chapter 29. One of the blank “Reserved” chapters of NFPA 72 was used in the 2013 edition, Chapter 7, and titled, ‘Documentation.’ This meant ‘Household’ wasn’t required to move again in the 2013 edition and it can still be found at the back of the book, with one foot out the door.
Q. Are these new chapters being created as a result of new rules?
A. For the most part, no. At first glance, it seems so, since NFPA still marks existing rules as “new” by placing a black vertical line in the margin, even when these rules have only been moved from another chapter. Chapter 7’s contents were primarily created from existing material taken from other chapters. The new ‘Documentation’ chapter was created by culling existing information from several of the other chapters and also from the Annex.
Annex material is not adopted by state building and fire codes as part of the standard. Annex material is provided for clarification of the rules of the standard and sometimes illustrates the intent of the chapter’s text. Remember that NFPA 72 is not a code, but a second-tier standard, referenced by a state or jurisdiction’s adopted code—most often, the IBC/IFC. To keep from presenting material that may conflict with the existing mandatory requirements of already adopted building and fire codes, each section of the Documentation chapter had to be made optional, or conditional. This is why sections of the new ‘rules’ in the documentation chapter begin with some version of: “Where required by governing laws, codes, or standards, or other parts of this Code, the requirements of this chapter, or portions thereof, shall apply.” (Also see 1.2.4 and A.1.2.4)
Q. Is a special documentation cabinet required to be used?
A. Yes, a cabinet labeled “System Record Documents” must be used with new commercial fire alarm systems to house all the required software, documentation, calculations, forms, manuals and reports. Section 188.8.131.52 states: “With every new system, a documentation cabinet shall be installed at the system control unit or at another approved location at the protected premises.” The cabinet’s contents must be accessible only to those authorized to review or maintain them. This means it will be in a secure area or have a locking door.