|The New NFPA 72® — the 2013 Edition
by Todd Warner, product manager for the fire alarm product line (January, 2013)
|NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, sets the industry’s minimum safety criteria for the installation, testing, and maintenance of fire detection, signaling, and emergency communications systems. In recent years, the scope of the code has grown to cover requirements for mass notification systems used for public notification of events, such as weather emergencies, terrorist alerts, and potential nuclear power plant emergencies.The latest revision of NFPA 72 is the 2013 edition (available in print as well as electronically). It’s tough to beat the quantity and significance of the changes of the 2010 edition, which was a major reorganization of the document, but the new code has some very interesting updates that impact the industry. Some of the changes forecast the technological future of the industry, like the continual evolution of signal transmission. Staying abreast of new code updates that regulate our industry is important, since they impact our business. But the main reason to stay abreast of the changes to the code is so our industry professionals, who install and maintain these systems, can continue to provide the highest level of safety.The new edition was voted on in June of 2012 by the NFPA membership at their annual convention in Las Vegas, then approved by the NFPA Standards Council, becoming effective on August 29, 2012. Following are the most notable organizational and technological changes that are of interest:Documentation Chapter Added
The most noticeable change is the addition of a chapter dedicated to documentation. For years, code users have turned pages in an effort to find all the references to documentation. With the 2013 edition of NFPA 72, a user need only turn to Chapter 7, Documentation. Many of the recommendations previously found in the annex now appear in the chapter as requirements. The following list represents the minimum documentation requirements for all systems:
Minimum Documentation Requirements:
Most of these documents are familiar to users of the code; however, references to a written narrative only appeared in the annex previously. The purpose of the narrative is to provide a description of the work to be performed. This narrative could be very complex or be as simple as “install three additional smoke detectors for coverage of the newly installed meeting room.” The level of detail in the narrative will depend on the scope of the work performed. It is important that the technician understand the intent of the designer in order to perform proper installation, programming, and maintenance of the system.In addition to these minimum requirements, the code includes detailed requirements for design, installation, and completion documentation. Although every project might not require all of the details outlined, the intent of providing the additional documents is that they can be used as needed. The more complex the system, the more important these documents become, especially after the system has been operational for a number of years.
In the 2010 edition, the Record of Completion form was modified to be comprehensive, including every possible system option, but it was found to be too cumbersome for many users. So for 2013, the code allows the Record of Completion to be altered to contain only the elements applicable to the installed system. This subtle change makes this important document more useable. A provision allows for an electronic Record of Completion as well. Extensive annex material has been developed to assist code users in preparing all required documentation.
These documents are required to be maintained for the life of the system and updated whenever revisions or alterations are made to the system. Because these documents are vital, the code now requires that they be housed in a separate documentation cabinet labeled “System Record Documents” located at the control unit or other approved location. Keeping these important documents in a dedicated cabinet also removes combustible material from the fire alarm control unit cabinet.
Fundamentals Chapter Reformatted
Testing Tables Updated
New Terms Added
The term accessible is used throughout the code, but it has never been defined. This omission can be especially troublesome, because what the technician thinks the term means and what the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) thinks it means may not match. Therefore, accessible (as applied to equipment), accessible (as applied to wiring methods), and accessible, readily (readily accessible) were extracted from NFPA 70, National Electrical Code®. Additionally, the term accessible spaces were added. The new code defines this term as “Spaces or concealed areas of construction that can be entered via open-able panels, doors, hatches, or other readily movable elements (e.g., ceiling tiles)”. This provides guidance where the term is applied to detection coverage in Chapter 17. Adding these definitions to NFPA 72 clarifies the intent of the terms where they are used within the chapters of the document.
False alarms are much more common than reported fires. This may lead to complacency, alarm fatigue, misappropriation of resources (already strained by budgetary cutbacks), or possibly disabling of fire alarm systems or devices. It is well understood that a false alarm is an unwanted alarm, but the term is used to describe many different events. The practice of combining all unwanted alarm events under a single heading (false alarm) becomes problematic when attempting to analyze data related to those unwanted occurrences. In an effort to support the collection of data that will reduce unwanted alarms, a major change in terminology has been introduced that will affect how “false” alarms are reported. An unwanted alarm is “any alarm that occurs that is not the result of a potentially hazardous condition.” To further enhance this term, four sub-classifications have been introduced:
These four subcategories provide the causes of the false alarms within the term. These subcategories are therefore fairly intuitive and are expected to be used in reporting unwanted alarms. When data is collected using this new terminology, it will relate to specific events. With an analysis of event-related data, decisions that result in a reduction of unwanted alarms can be made.
New Methods for Supervising Stations Introduced
Todd Warner is a product manager for the fire alarm product line in the Chapel Hill, North Carolina, office of Brooks Equipment Company. He is NICET Level IV certified in fire alarms and is a member of the NFPA 72 Technical Committee on Fundamentals of Fire Alarm Systems. Copyright ©2012, all rights reserved.
The New NFPA 72® — the 2013 Edition