NFPA 1: Referencing NFPA 72 and fire alarm requirements in NFPA 1, #FireCodeFridays (Monday edition)

Last week I spent Monday through Wednesday attending NFPA's 3 day classroom training on NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code in Orlando, FL (followed by a few days of vacation with my family...when in Orlando, right?)  Attending this training has provided me with a stronger foundation and connection with other documents that I work with such as NFPA 1, NFPA 80, NFPA 101, and some additional training initiatives that I will be involved with next year as NFPA rolls out some newer offerings!

NFPA 72 is referenced throughout NFPA 1, Fire Code. Section 13.7 of the Code is the main section for detection, alarm, and communication systems.  It mandates that where building fire alarm systems or automatic fire detectors are required by other sections of NFPA 1 that they be provided and installed in accordance with NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, 72 and Section 13.7.  Codes such as NFPA 1 and NFPA 101 will tell the user whether or not a fire alarm system is required; how it must be initiated, and whether or not occupant and emergency responder notification is required; that is not the role of NFPA 72.  NFPA 72, however, provides the installation, inspection, testing, and maintenance criteria for the required system. 

Section 13.7 provides comprehensive provisions, extracted from both NFPA 72 as well as NFPA 101.  The NFPA 101 provisions cover the basic functions of a complete fire alarm system, including fire detection, alarm, and communications. The provisions extracted from NFPA 101 are also occupancy based (see Section 13.7.2.)  Certain occupancies might not be required to have a fire alarm system at all. In industrial and storage occupancies, for example, the number of occupants in the facility or the hazard classification of the building's contents determines whether an alarm system is required. In small mercantile and business occupancies, there are usually enough people present (at least during a part of the day) to discover an incipient fire. For these occupancies, the Code imposes less rigid requirements for fire alarm systems than it does for certain other occupancies. Conversely, for health care occupancies, the provisions for fire alarm systems are quite detailed with respect to notification and emergency functions, such as the automatic closure of smoke barrier doors.

The NFPA 72 provisions extracted into NFPA 1, found primarily in Section 13.7.3, address the following technical provisions:

  • Nonrequired coverage (instances where a facility installs a detection system to meet certain performance goals or to address a particular hazard or need.)
  • Smoke alarm and smoke detector installation location
  • Alarm annunciation, annunciation access and location, and annunciation zoning
  • Supervisory and trouble annunciation
  • Fire alarm system equipment
  • Documentation
  • Manually actuated alarm-initiating devices
  • Installation of automatic fire detectors (including smoke, heat, and duct detectors) which addresses protection of equipment, location, specific installation criteria by detector type, protection during construction

NFPA 72 is a fundamental fire protection document.  Even though much of Section 13.7 is extracted from NFPA 72, users should always consult the source document for the full details.  Remembering the scope of NFPA 1, the provisions included in the document help aid the enforcer/inspector with fire alarm provisions they may need to know while enforcing the Code.  It is the basics (when a system is required, installation criteria, equipment provisions, etc.)  NFPA 72 should also be consulted for full details regarding inspection, testing, and maintenance of fire alarm systems. Chapter 14 of NFPA 72 will provide the detailed requirements for ITM.

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Kristin Bigda
Technical Lead and Principal Fire Protection Engineer with a focus on building and life safety related content.

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