LAS VEGAS — The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has adopted a standard for the installation of electronic security systems. NFPA 731 — Standard for the Installation of Electronic Premise Security Systems — was approved during the technical committee report sessions at the NFPA’s World Safety Conference and Exposition that took place from June 6 to 10 at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Resort and Convention Center.
Also approved was NFPA 730 — Guide for Premises Security — a guide to best practices that reduce security vulnerabilities. While similar to NFPA 731, it isn’t considered an enforceable standard.
SSI Technical Editor Al Colombo, who shows his expertise for NFPA code each month in his “Fire Side Chat” column (see page 30), says the one-standard-fits-all approach may apply well to life-safety products, but may be a burden on the security industry.
“Unlike fire protection, the issue of electronic security does not lend itself well to the use of a single best-practice standard,” Colombo says. “Not every application requires a ‘best practices’ solution — not only from a risk standpoint, but also from a cost standpoint.”
The National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) had voiced strong opposition to NFPA 731 leading up to the committee meetings. A group of four alarm industry representatives raised objections to the new standard during the meeting, but the NBFAA failed in its attempt to get the proposal sent back to committee.
NFPA 731 had received support from other associations, with members of the Security Industry Association (SIA) and the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) serving on the committee that formulated 731. In a statement a few days before NFPA 731 was approved, the CSAA gave its support to the effort to create the standard, but expressed reservations on some of the aspects of the proposed standards. Meanwhile, the False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA) has given its full endorsement of NFPA 731, saying it will contribute to efforts to reduce false alarms.
NBFAA President Scot Colby says his association wasn’t opposed to the NFPA setting a standard for the electronic security industry, but believed the NFPA created an inadequate and unfair standard.
“I agree there’s a need for a standard — just not what this is,” Colby says. “This has taken some of the UL standards and duplicated them.”
Colby says the main source of contention with the new standard is current security equipment technology can’t comply with many of the provisions, and that much of the language in NFPA 731 is vague — especially portions concerning oversight from an authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).
“The majority of the alarm equipment can’t do what they would require to do. They’re just asking too much of the equipment,” Colby says. “For example, it mandates that motion detectors have tamper switches and are approved UL standard. A majority of manufacturers don’t have this UL approved for that. This is going to drive the cost of systems up.”