Fire Side Chat: Unlocking the 2013 Edition of NFPA 72

The NFPA 72 standard, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, has long been the most highly referenced and respected guide for building managers, AHJs and fire systems contractors alike. The recently adopted 2013 edition contains several important changes to support the mission of protecting lives and property within built environments.

New Alarm Verification Wrinkles

The chapter on Supervising Station Alarm Systems (Chapter 26) includes what is most likely the most controversial item added to the standard’s new edition: verification of an alarm from a commercial occupancy prior to the notification of emergency forces. Chapter 26 will now permit a fire department or district to “opt in” to allow for alarm verification. The allowed protocol is that the alarm be dispatched to the responding agency.

At the same time, the supervising station may contact the protected premise to verify the alarm. If contact at the premise is made within 90 seconds and the alarm is stated to be “false” or unwanted, the responding fire authority is to be called. A decision may then be made to cancel or amend the response.

Within the revised standard, a change to the time between test signals from a protected premise to the supervising station was made. For a number of editions the requirement was for a test signal to be transmitted every 24 hours. With the next edition this has been changed to every six hours, but it is not a retroactive requirement.

Changes within Chapter 27, Public Emergency Alarm Reporting Systems, have revised the scope of the chapter to include:

  • College campuses
  • Institutional – hospital campuses
  • Industrial complexes.

The chapter now also allows infrastructure to be used for mass notification systems. Another new requirement found within Chapter 27 dictates that Level 2 pathway survivability requirements be met for all circuits that travel from an auxiliary alarm system to the auxiliary alarm box or master alarm box.

Testing Eased, but Resistance Raised

Chapter 29, Single- & Multiple-Station Alarms & Household Fire Alarm Systems, now allows for a water-flow switch to be connected to multiple station alarms. The interface relay must be listed to work with the multiple station alarms in use.

While the use of a keypad is still allowed as a means for the homeowner to request the fire department through a supervising station, the activation of a keypad signal shall require manual simultaneous or sequential operations.

When a DACT is being used as the means of signal transport to a supervising station, a failure of the pathway shall be annunciated within seven days of the failure. This is a change from the 30 days specified within the 2010 standard edition.

In addition, Chapter 29 has now removed the requirement for sensitivity testing of smoke alarms within one- and two-family dwellings.

In an effort to reduce nuisance alarms, effective Jan. 1, 2016, smoke alarms and detectors that are to be installed within six to 20 feet of a cooking appliance shall be listed for “resistance to common nuisance sources from cooking.” Further, by Jan. 1, 2019, all smoke alarms and detectors shall be listed for “resistance to common nuisance sources.”

Next month, I will discu
ss some of the significant changes for notification appliances, initiating devices and emergency communication systems. In closing, these changes do not become effective until the jurisdiction(s) you operate within adopt the 2013 edition of NFPA 72. This edition will be formally released by the NFPA Standards Council in August.

Shane Clary, Ph.D., 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 Pacheco, Calif.-headquartered Bay Alarm Co.


About the Author


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.

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