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Fire Side Chat: Cracking the 2013 National Fire Alarm Signaling Code

New requirements for total coverage, remote alarm indication, audible and visible notification, mass notification systems, and evacuation messages are among the many changes in store for the latest version of NFPA 72. Get a jump on what you’ll need to know to satisfy AHJs with an overview of the updated National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.



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Last month, we covered the major changes that will be in the 2013 edition of NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code for chapters 7, 10, 12, 14, 21, 23, 26, 27 and 29. Now we’ll turn our attention to the significant changes that were made in the remaining chapters, 17, 18 and 24.

As mentioned in the August issue, while National Fire Protection Association membership has voted on the final amendments to this standard, the document was not scheduled to be released for publication until the August Standards Council meeting. At press time, there was one appeal to the council on an amendment that was passed during the NFPA annual meeting in Las Vegas. I will comment on this appeal in a future Fire Side Chat.

After the standard has been released by the council, local use of the 2013 edition will be based upon state and local adoption. For now, here’s a brief review of what’s new for NFPA 72, which will be available by the beginning of October.

Chapter 17 Outlines Total Coverage

Accessible spaces have been defined as those that can be entered via a panel, door hatch or ceiling tile. This only applies for determining the extent of coverage relevant for total coverage. If a space can be accessible via one of these means, than detection shall be included within the space when total coverage detection is being employed.

When total coverage is selected, the following rules are to be followed:

  • Detectors installed within a combustible concealed space must be made accessible for inspection, testing and maintenance.
  • A combustible blind space does not require detectors.
  • Detectors are not required in noncombustible concealed spaces.
  • Detectors are required if the noncombustible concealed space is accessible, such as by an accessible suspended ceiling.
  • Detectors are not required above an air return plenum ceiling if a duct detector is installed within the air return system.
  • The duct detector may be omitted if the total coverage detectors below an air return plenum or activate fire/smoke dampers and doors.

This chapter was amended so it is clear that, with the exception of a detector to protect a control unit as required by Chapter 10, NFPA 72 and Chapter 17 has no requirement for the installation of detectors. Detectors are only required by governing laws, regulations, codes and standards such as NFPA 101, Safety to Life Code, NFPA 1, Fire Code and the International Building and Fire Codes.

A change was made so as to require a remote alarm indication if a smoke detector is in a concealed location greater than 10 feet above the floor or if the indicator on the smoke detector is not visible. When a remote alarm indicator is used, the location of the detector(s) it is connected to must be indicated through a permanently attached placard or other approved means.

Section 17.4 for manual actuated stations (manual pulls) was revised. This section is now clear in its allowance for listed protective covers over single- or double-action devices.

New Notification Appliance Wrinkles

There is now a requirement that the system designer must identify rooms and spaces where audible notification shall be used. The designer must also identify rooms and spaces where notification will not be provided. The designer shall be required to provide the sound pressure levels that must be produced in the coverage areas during the planning stages of a system. This requires that the expected average ambient sound pressure levels be considered for all occupiable areas of a protected premise. Where required by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), documentation of the design sound pressure levels for the various coverage areas shall be submitted for review and approval.

The designer shall also now be responsible for the documentation of rooms that visible notification appliances shall be installed within and where not provided. Where required by the AHJ, documentation of the effective intensity (cd) of the visible appliances for the area of coverage shall be submitted for review and approval.

As in Chapter 17, Chapter 18 is now clear that NFPA 72 does not require the installation of audible occupant notification. This is required by governing law, regulations, codes and standards. The same has been clarified for visible notification appliances.

Occupiable has been defined as, “A room or enclosed space designed for human occupancy.” With this, occupiable area was then defined as, “An area of a facility occupied by people on a regular basis.” These definitions go hand-in-hand when determining which spaces within occupancy may or may not require audible notification appliances to be installed within.

Intelligibility of voice systems shall no longer be required to be determined through quantitative measurements. In other words, if you can understand the message being transmitted, intelligibility has been achieved.

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Article Topics
Fire/Life Safety · Other · Fire/Life Safety 2 · Dr. Shane Clary · Fire Side Chat with Shane Clary · Mass Notification Systems · NFPA 72 · All Topics

About the Author
Shane Clary
Shane Clary, Ph.D., is Security Sales & Integration’s “Fire Side Chat” columnist. He has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is vice president of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pancheco, Calif.-based Bay Alarm Co.
Contact Shane Clary: smclary@bayalarm.com
View More by Shane Clary
Dr. Shane Clary, Fire Side Chat with Shane Clary, Mass Notification Systems, NFPA 72


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