Specific purpose and proper protection
NFPA Journal®, January/February 2008
The technical committee members who write the code requirements specifically write the Annex material in the code as explanatory material. In fact, the introductory paragraph to each Annex states that the Annex "is not a part of the requirements of this NFPA document but is included for informational purposes only. This annex contains explanatory material, numbered to correspond with the applicable text paragraphs."
The most recent edition of the Manual of Style for NFPA Technical Committee Documents indicates that, "Annexes shall be permitted to be added to a document to facilitate the use of the document; therefore, their relation to the document shall be clearly set forth." In its Annex the manual further states, "Annexes are provided for clarification, illustration, and general information."
The preceding language makes apparent that neither the NFPA nor the technical committees developing the National Fire Alarm Code® intended for any individual or jurisdiction to adopt the Annex material as required language.
Essentially, technical committees will develop a Code requirement and then develop Annex A material to describe one or two ways that the technical committees feel will meet the intent of the requirement. The Annex material does not intend to offer the only way to comply; rather, it simply intends to offer examples of how to comply. If the Annex gives two options, making them both mandatory makes no sense.
The technical committees do not write the Annex material in Code language as a requirement, so when a jurisdiction tries to make it enforceable, confusion results.
Because NFPA never intended to make Annex material mandatory, no person or jurisdiction should do so. In fact, NFPA strongly discourages this practice.
NFPA always reminds the technical committees to work toward adopting minimum requirements. This will allow the users of the Code to obtain the most efficient and cost-effective methods of providing fire alarm and detection systems in all applications. However, the Code may not offer appropriate fire alarm and detection requirements necessary to meet all the fire protection goals of a particular entity, including those for government facilities. In such a case, the entity needs to either develop proposals to change the next edition of the Code or develop their own special requirements in addition to those outlined in the Code. The Annex material may give the entity suggestions that will help them add to their requirements.
A government facility may offer a unique challenge when dealing with very secure admittance requirements. In Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIF) and RFshielded areas, designers have difficulty in providing fire detection and fire alarm systems. The difficulty arises due to compromising emanations that can occur on copper circuits.
These secure areas may require special interfaces to prevent "eavesdropping" on the activities within the secure area. In addition, technicians may require special clearances before they may test or service the fire alarm system in the secure area. The Code does not cover these special concerns. To address them, a government entity will need special requirements and, possibly, even special equipment to supplement the fire alarm system installations for these secure areas.
To ensure that these special areas have proper protection while still remaining secure, the entity will need to develop additional documents to supplement the National Fire Alarm Code. In this specific case, the government documents may need to override some of the Code requirements.
Wayne D. Moore, P.E., FSFPE is a principal with Hughes Associates and immediate past chair of the NFPA 72 Technical Correlating Committee.