Fire and Life Safety: NFPA 72: 2013—‘Déjà vu All Over Again’

May 18, 2012
2013 edition of the National Fire alarm and Signaling Code NFPA 72 is undergoing publication

(This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Security Dealer & Integrator magazine.)

The above quote from Yogi Berra (describes back-to-back homeruns made by Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle) and seems appropriate given the 2013 edition of NFPA 72 The National Fire alarm and Signaling Code is already being finalized. The latest 2010 edition began to be updated less than one year after publication.

So, unless changed by a floor vote this June at the NFPA Expo & Conference, here’s the lowdown on some of the changes heading our way in the next NFPA 72 edition.

Coming to the newest fire alarm signaling code

1. Terminology: Lots of new terms you didn’t know you needed.

2. Most of the documentation/paperwork requirements will be placed in Chapter Seven. This will allow all rules effecting the documentation, design drawings and calculations to be found in a single chapter. However, Chapter 24—Emergency Communication Systems, will retain its own rules.

3. The phrase, “Inspection, Testing and Maintenance Personnel” will finally be replaced with the phrase, “Inspection, Testing and Service Personnel.”

4. A customized Record of Completion form may be used to better describe the installed system and non-applicable items are not required.

5. The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) has submitted wording that would require the remote station to inform the local fire authority whenever required monitoring has been discontinued; and the local service company to report fire alarm systems that have been out of service more than eight hours.

6. Explanatory material will be added to the Annex stating: “The testing requirements prescribed in NFPA 72 for fire alarm and signaling systems end at the emergency control function interface device.” Meaning that we will test the relays that should cause the elevators to recall, but that we will not have to verify/test the elevator control equipment itself (“integrated testing”). Also: “Whenever an emergency control function is observed to not operate properly during a test of an emergency control function initiating device, the problem should be reported to the building owner or designated representative. The failure of the emergency control function should be reported as a possible failure of the fire safety feature and not necessarily of the fire alarm system.” We will no longer be responsible for testing other equipment and systems outside the scope of NFPA 72. [The new Annex material will now add the brand new NFPA 3, Recommended Practice for the Commissioning and Integrated Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems.]

7. Wording is being added to acknowledge that: “There are some detectors that use magnets as a manufacturer’s calibrated sensitivity test instrument.” As always, any test method indicated in the equipment installation instructions will meet code.

8. NFPA 72 will no longer require a decibel meter to be used during annual testing. Only the Acceptance and Reacceptance tests will specify using a sound level meter to test audible appliances.

9. As of the 2010 edition of NFPA 72, annual testing of a household fire alarm system became mandatory. The next edition will have a requirement for the installation company to notify the customer of this requirement. And if monitored, the alarm monitoring company must remind the homeowner annually.

10. Test and Inspection forms are getting a major overhaul. Expect new supplementary and form addendum sections to better cover larger, more extensive alarm systems.

Professional fire alarm installers who attend the NFPA meeting in June and plan to vote on the floor must be members at least 90 days before the meeting. Although it takes time to weed through proposal submissions, and/or provide one, it behooves active fire alarm professionals to stay on top of the code and standard development processes. It is with our input meaningful changes that can enhance public safety will be incorporated into our fire codes. It also keeps changes that only enhance the interests of select groups from becoming mandatory for everyone.