Spotlight Presentation: Changes to NFPA 72
|2008 WORLD SAFETY CONFERENCE & EXPOSITION PREVIEW
We look ahead to the 2010 edition of the NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code, with an overview of changes currently being developed.
NFPA Journal®, May/June 2008
By Ray Grill, P.E., FSFPE
The technical committees responsible for NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm Code®, are already hard at work revising the code for the 2010 edition, which will come before the NFPA membership at the technical session held in conjunction with the 2009 NFPA World Safety Conference & Exposition® (WSC&EIM). Revisions continue to focus on making the document more user-friendly and more flexible where appropriate, and on introducing new technologies and thinking about fire alarm system design, installation, and maintenance.
This article identifies some of the more significant changes proposed for the 2010 edition. Remember that the proposed changes identified here are subject to revision. The final reports of the committees on the proposals are scheduled for publication by June 20, 2008, and the closing date for public comments on the committee actions on proposals is August 29, 2008.
Incorporation of mass notification
Since the 2007 edition of NFPA 72 was published, the Standards Council has created the Emergency Communication Systems (ECS) Committee, which will have primary responsibility for documents on the risk analysis, design, application, installation, and performance of emergency communication systems, including mass notification systems, and their components. When establishing this committee, the Standards Council made it clear that communication systems covered under NFPA 1221, Emergency Services Communications Systems, are outside the scope of the new committee.
In the 2007 edition of the code, guidelines for mass notification systems were incorporated into Annex E. The work of the ECS Committee has led to the proposed establishment of a new Chapter 12, which will contain requirements for all emergency communication systems. This also entails 87moving the criteria for emergency voice evacuation and communication systems currently in Chapter 6 to a new Chapter 12.
Chapter 12 would address in-building communication systems, as well as wide-area signaling. Introduced in the 2007 edition of NFPA 72, wide-area signaling is defined as signaling intended to provide alerts or information to exterior open spaces, such as campuses, neighborhood streets, cities, towns, or communities. This concept brings technologies not previously addressed by the code under the purview of NFPA 72.
The committee has debated the issue of intelligibility for the last three code cycles of NFPA 72. The code has always required voice communication systems to be intelligible, but it has not mandated a specific level of intelligibility or manner of testing. Historically, the determination of intelligibility was made by listening to the system during testing and approval.
The focus on communication systems and the need for the intended audience to understand the information transmitted by these systems renewed interest in incorporating into the code specific criteria for the level of intelligibility required and methods for measuring that level. The Notification Appliances Technical Committee has proposed incorporating a minimum level of intelligibility through the adoption by reference of ISO 7240 Part 19. ISO 7240 applies to fire detection and alarm systems, and Part 19 addresses the design, installation, commissioning, and service of sound systems for emergency purposes. In this document, the common intelligibility scale (CIS) is replaced by the standard speech transmission index (STI).
The committee is hard at work sorting through the complexities of the intelligibility issue relative to the development of standards that can be reasonably implemented and enforced. Numerous comments are expected on this issue, so stay tuned.
All of the performance and wiring requirements for circuits are being moved from Chapter 6 to a new chapter. This move will allow for broader application of the requirements beyond protected premises fire alarm systems. For example, both the new Chapter 12 and Chapter 6 will be able to reference these requirements.
Revisions are also being proposed to delete all the old class and style tables and designations. New classes focusing on performance of the pathway are proposed that would apply to all types of circuits, or pathways, used in fire alarm and emergency communication systems. The committee is using the term “pathway” in lieu of “circuit” in recognition of the use of fiber, radio, and wire.
A number of proposals address the issue of system survivability. Historically, system survivability has been required when partial evacuation or relocation of occupants is necessary as opposed to total evacuation. The proposed changes establish different levels of survivability and criteria for each level.
Fire safety functions
Criteria applicable to fire safety functions currently in Chapter 6 will be moved to a new chapter titled, “Emergency Control Functions.” This new chapter will include the criteria applicable to the interconnection of fire alarm and emergency communication systems to other fire-safety systems or devices. The systems NFPA 72 currently addresses include elevators, HVAC systems, door closing systems, door unlocking devices, and exit-marking audible notification systems.
Changes in fundamentals
There are a few noteworthy changes proposed for Chapter 4, which will be called “Fundamentals.” The criteria in Chapter 4 are generally applicable to all types of fire alarm systems. Proposed changes include requiring battery capacity to have a 20 percent safety margin, which will have to be proven by battery calculations, and the complete revision of the Record of Completion for clarity and ease of use. The committee also proposed a definition for shop drawings and revised the annex material identifying what should be included on shop drawings.
It looks as though the 2010 edition of NFPA 72 will include some significant changes. A more detailed review of the proposed changes will be presented at the WSC&E in Las Vegas in June. This will provide a great opportunity to get a jump on the new code.
Ray Grill, P.E. FSFPE, a principal with Arup Fire, chairs the NFPA Technical Committee on Notification Appliances.