NFPA Journal®, January/February 2005
by Wayne D. Moore, P.E., FSFPE
Despite numerous requests by authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), NFPA’s entrance into the security systems arena was delayed since the early 1990s. Today, however, NFPA is poised to take a strong role with the development of a consensus-based standard and a guide to premises security that are up for adoption in June.
The history of the on-again, off-again standards began in July 1994, when the Standards Council voted to establish a Burglary/Security Alarm Systems Project. When the NFPA Board of Directors directed the Standards Council to reconsider the project in March 1995, the Council solicited input from the security industry and, in July voted not to proceed with the project because there appeared to be no interest in moving forward. Later that year, the insurance industry reinitiated its request on the broader subject of premises security, which led to a panel discussion at the November 1995 NFPA Fall Meeting. In January 1996, the Standards Council again voted not to proceed with the project because it did not perceive a clear consensus about it.
In June 1999, however, the insurance industry asked the Standards Council to reconsider and that November, the NFPA Board of Directors endorsed a full set of codes for the built environment, including a new Premises Security Project. In April 2000, the Standards Council reaffirmed its decision to proceed with the project, and by July, it approved the project’s initial scope.
In January 2001, the Standards Council revised the scope to give the Technical Committee on Premises Security “the primary responsibility for documents on the overall security program for the protection of premises, people, property, and information specific to a particular occupancy.” And by April 2001, the Standards Council had appointed the committee’s start-up roster.
The early stages
In the early stages of the project, the security industry expressed concerns about a fire-oriented organization developing security standards, as it didn’t “have the security expertise to develop security standards.“ The security industry was also worried that such a standard might “open up the industry to litigation.”
To help assuage these fears, NFPA made sure that all those affected by the proposed guidelines and standard knew the work was underway, making drafts available for public review and comment in the ANSI Reporter, the Federal Register, the American Society for Industrial Security’s (ASIS) Security Management magazine, NFPA Journal, the NFPA Web site, Security Systems
A standard and a guide
The technical committee decided to develop two documents: NFPA 730, Guide for Premises Security, which addresses the application of security principles based on occupancies, and NFPA 731, Installation of Electronic Premises Security Systems, which addresses the installation of security systems equipment. Separate task groups were formed to develop each document, which the technical committee reviewed.
NFPA 730 proved to be the most difficult to gain consensus among the committee membership. Originally begun as a code, the document was first transformed into a recommended practice and then became a guide. In the NFPA process, a “guide” is defined as “a document that is advisory or informative in nature and that contains only non-mandatory provisions…the document as a whole is not suitable for adoption into law.”
NFPA 730, based on risk assessment principles, is performance- and occupancy-based and covers basic information needed to make security-based decisions, including referenced publications, definitions, general security, vulnerability assessment, exterior security devices and systems, physical security devices, interior security devices and systems, security personnel, and security planning. The document also provides guidance for security protection in such occupancies as educational facilities, health-care facilities, one- and two-family dwellings, lodging facilities, apartment buildings, restaurants, shopping centers, retail establishments, office buildings, and industrial and parking facilities. And the last chapter provides security guidance for special events, regardless of occupancy.
Unlike the occupancy-based NFPA 730, NFPA 731 is an installation standard with specific requirements for the various systems found in the security arena. It is the first proposed standard in the history of security systems the primary purpose of which is “to define the means of signal initiation, transmission, notification, and annunciation, as well as the levels of performance and the reliability of electronic security systems.”
The standard, which is similar to NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code®, took an 11-member task group of representatives from the Central Station Alarm Association; the SIA; the National Electrical Contractors Association; the insurance industry and testing laboratories; the Oxnard, California, Police Department; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and the U.S. Secret Service two years to develop. It was formulated in response to the frustration many police officials feel when forced to respond to false alarms from poorly installed or misapplied security systems, the design, application, and installation of which they have little or no input. Many departments have begun implementing local ordinances to levy fines against the owners and, in some cases, monitoring companies of systems that reach a predetermined number of false alarms. In some extreme cases, the police even refuse to respond to premises when their security alarm signal systems “cry wolf” too many times in a week or month.
The technical committee decided that the first edition of NFPA 731 would only address protected premises from the property line to the interior of the premises and that it would not address the operation of a central station as it relates to security-signal monitoring. The committee was aware of other applicable UL, SIA, and industry standards that affect the installation of security systems and referenced or incorporated those requirements into NFPA 731.
The primary focus of the first edition of NFPA 731 is on intrusion detection systems and the reduction of false alarms due to poor installation and application. To this end, the document addresses access control and closed circuit television (CCTV), the integration of these systems, and the interface of premises security systems with life-safety systems, establishing the minimum required levels of performance, extent of redundancy, and quality. NFPA 731 does not require a level of premises security or establish the only methods by which the requirements are to be achieved.
NFPA 731 also proposes—for the first time in the security systems industry—requirements for those involved in security system design, noting that only “persons who are experienced in the proper design, application, installation, and testing of premises security systems shall develop specifications in accordance with this standard.” Among those the standard deems qualified are trained and certified equipment manufacturers’ personnel, personnel licensed and certified by state or local authorities, and personnel certified by an accreditation program acceptable to the AHJ.
NFPA 731 requires that system designers be identified on the system design documents and that evidence of their qualifications be provided to the AHJ when requested.
Security and the NEC®
NFPA 731 specifically requires that “installation of all wiring, cable, and equipment shall be [done in] a workman-like manner in accordance with NFPA 70, National Electrical Code....” Although NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC), has always covered the installation of premises security systems, many installers ignored its requirements because AHJs were not aware of them.
NFPA 731 includes requirements for systems encountered when providing electronic premises security and intrusion detection systems, including perimeter and space detection for exterior and interior applications. To reduce false alarms, it requires that “the maximum interval of time between the opening of an entry door and reaching the mechanism that is used to disarm the system…be no greater than one-half of the entry delay time programmed for the system.” And to reduce false alarms in exterior detection systems, NFPA 731 requires that signals from exterior detection devices not be retransmitted to the AHJ unless an intrusion has been physically verified either on-site or by video.
NFPA 731 provides requirements for applying and installing electronic access control equipment, including portals, readers, locking systems, and position sensors, as well as egress and integration with other security and fire systems.
It also includes requirements for CCTV system cameras, camera placement and picture quality, reflectance, lens speed, enclosures, hardware, mounting, environment, and coaxial and fiber-optic cables, as well as analog and digital imaging systems. Requirements for holdup, duress, and ambush systems include both public and private duress alarm systems and manual duress ambush systems.
Because the law enforcement community feels that maintaining intrusion detection systems is paramount to reducing false alarms, NFPA 731 establishes the minimum requirements for inspection, testing, and maintenance of premises security systems and for test methods, test frequency, and impairments.
NFPA 730 and NFPA 731 are up for adoption by the membership at the June 2005 NFPA World Safety Conference and Exposition® (WSCE) in Las Vegas. The technical committee has addressed the comments it received from the public and industry, and its response will be published in the Report on Comments, which will be also presented at the 2005 WSCE. If approved by the membership, both documents will be issued in August or September 2005.
As often happens when new documents are being developed, some people see NFPA 731 and NFPA 730 as threats to business as usual and argue that the process is flawed or that the documents are not complete. Since the publication of the drafts of NFPA 730 and NFPA 731 and the submission of the committee’s Report on Proposals, it’s become evident that there is opposition to the standards among some members of the security industry, who have tried to delay and dilute them. However, these individuals rarely submit proposals or comments to better define the guidance or requirements. We hope they will realize that every technical installation and application document is a work in progress and that proposals and comments are always welcome. Fortunately, most in the security community realize the unregulated status quo is unacceptable and continue to provide valuable input into the documents’ development.
We are confident that the NFPA process will not only improve security in the built environment but will provide those in the security industry the opportunity to be heard.
Wayne D. Moore, P.E., chairs the Technical Committee on Premises Security and is director of Hughes Associates’ New England regional offices.