Author(s): Wayne Moore. Published on January 1, 2013.

The Job Isn't Done ...

Until the you-know-what is finished, and a chapter in NFPA 72 spells out what you need

NFPA Journal®, January/February 2013 

Everyone knows that the you-know-what is paperwork, and that it isn’t enough just to finish it — it needs to be done right. That’s why the NFPA Technical Committee on Fundamentals of Fire Alarm and Signaling Systems has developed a new chapter for the 2013 edition of NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, that is dedicated solely to documentation.



November - December 2012
Important code changes for firefighter communications

September - October 2012
How NFPA 72 and 101 can work together to protect children in school

July - August 2012
PA system designers must determine the system’s applicability and compliance

May - June 2012
What you may not know about emergency communications systems

March - April 2012
Some fire alarm and sprinkler system requirements may surprise designers

January - February 2012
Ensuring that fire alarm system designs meet more than fire protection goals

Chapter 7, “Documentation,” states that “The documentation of the design, acceptance, and completion of new systems required under this code shall comply with the minimum requirements of this chapter.” These requirements also apply to any fire alarm system changes that result from the alteration, maintenance, and testing of existing systems previously installed with the intent of meeting the requirements of the newest edition code.

NFPA 72 now clearly spells out for building owners what they must submit when the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) requires system documentation. Subsection 7.2.1 of the code lists 14 minimum items the documentation must include for all fire alarm and emergency communications systems, both for new systems and additions or alterations to existing systems. These items include the riser diagram for the system, battery and voltage drop calculations, and a completed list of inspection and testing criteria, to name just a few of the important documents in the history of a fire alarm system.

In addition to the items required for basic documentation, the code requires that the system design documents identify the person responsible for system design. It also requires that all fire alarm drawings use symbols described in NFPA 170, Fire Safety and Emergency Symbols, or other symbols acceptable to the AHJ. What is not specifically discussed in the documentation chapter is the need for the drawings to display all of the candela ratings for strobes; also, if speakers are used in the system design, then each speaker’s power setting must be defined and noted on the design drawings.

It is important to understand that the 14 items listed in subsection 7.2.1 apply for all fire alarm systems. However, when a particular design employs an emergency communications system, additional requirements will apply. A user of the code must review all of the chapters to ensure a particular fire alarm system meets all the requirements; Chapter 7 states that “The requirements of other chapters shall also apply unless they are in conflict with this chapter.” For example, Chapter 18 requires the assignment of acoustical design spaces for emergency voice communication systems, which must also be indicated on the drawings to allow for a more complete review of the drawings.

Additionally, Chapter 24, “Emergency Communications Systems,” includes documentation requirements for the risk analysis, emergency response plan, and evaluation documentation. For the risk analysis and emergency response plan, documentation must list the various scenarios evaluated and the anticipated outcomes, along with the findings and considerations of the risk analysis. The evaluation documentation as identified in Chapter 24 must also include a signed statement by the person responsible for the design, attesting to the evaluation and the resultant technical decision, and deeming it reliable and acceptable for the particular application.

As you can see, the 2013 edition of NFPA 72 has introduced significant changes to the requirements for documentation. I encourage you to review the new Chapter 7 in detail.




Wayne D. Moore, P.E., FSFPE, is a principal with Hughes Associates.