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Discord Surrounds Adoption of NFPA 4 by NFPA 101 at Annual Meeting

Members expressed concern that not every technical committee that is responsible for NFPA 101 was on the same page at this year’s annual meeting.

This past June at the NFPA Annual Meeting in Boston, the next edition of NFPA 101, “Life Safety Code,” was voted on. While many certified amending motions (CAMs) were debated, there were a number that we pulled just prior to the start.

What was not viewed by the membership, however, was the debate taking place in the rear of the meeting hall. The issue at hand was the adoption of NFPA 4, “Standard for Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems Testing,” by NFPA 101.

I’ve discussed NFPA 4 in previous Fire Side Chats, and in this instance the topic being argued was to what extent should NFPA 4 be adopted by NFPA 101.

Namely, should the requirements found within NFPA 4 be followed for every occupancy and for every system in every building … or for a selection of occupancies and a selection of systems and buildings?

The other concern members expressed was that not every technical committee that is responsible for NFPA 101 was on the same page. Depending on the occupancy classification, some committees had an across-the-board adoption of NFPA 4, while others had no adoption of NPFA 4, and still others had a selected adoption.

AFAA, NFSA Work to Address NFPA 4 Concerns

Two national trade associations agreed to work together to resolve these issues and to prepare for NFPA 101 a number of tentative interim amendments (TIAs) for consideration by the various technical committees: the Automatic Fire Alarm Association (AFAA) and the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) and their respective code and standard managers, Jason Webb and Jeffrey Hugo.

Within Chapter 9, “Building Service and Fire Protection Equipment,” the following was proposed to be added:

9.3.5 Integrated System Testing. Smoke control systems that are integrated with other fire protection or life safety systems shall be tested in accordance with 9.11.4.2.

Within this new section, the following was added:

9.11.4.2 NFPA 4. Testing. Where required by 9.3.5 or Chapters 11 through 43, the following:

Integrated fire protection and life safety systems shall be tested in accordance with 9.11.4.1 and 9.11.4.2.1 through 9.11.4.2.2:

  1. Integrated fire protection and life safety systems in high-rise buildings.
  2. Integrated fire protection and life safety systems that include a smoke control system.

9.11.4.2.1 For new buildings, integrated testing in accordance with NFPA 4 shall be conducted prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy.

9.11.4.2.2 For existing buildings, integrated testing in accordance with NFPA 4 shall be conducted at intervals not exceeding 10 years unless otherwise specified by an integrated test plan prepared in accordance with NFPA 4.

Throughout the occupancy chapters that are contained within NFPA 101, the use of NFPA 4 has been limited to high-rise buildings. The framers of the various TIAs within their substantiations stated that the requirements found within NFPA 4 “… have not yet been widely adopted and remain somewhat untested.”

It was further noted that the adoption of NFPA 4 within NFPA 101 was not consistent throughout, and that the “…‘one size fits all’ approach to integrated testing currently used by NFPA 4 is well suited for complex systems, but it is unnecessarily burden-some for testing simple integrations …”

Tentative Interim Amendments Open for Comments

All of the technical committees that received these TIAs voted to accept both on the technical and emergency nature of the proposals. At the time this writing, public comments were being requested.

Those comments, plus the language of the TIAs and the technical committee member votes, will be agenda items for the December 2017 meeting of the NFPA Standards Council.

Similar efforts are being made for the adoption of NFPA 4 by NFPA 1, “Fire Code,” and the International Fire Code, which is published by the International Code Council (ICC). I suspect that for the first cycle through these codes, the incorporation of NFPA 4 will be limited in scope.

The use of NFPA 4, however, is not going away, so at some time in the future depending upon the jurisdictions that you work within this standard will become adopted. You should become familiar with the requirements of NFPA 4 now, so when it does become a requirement you and your firm will be ready.

About the Author

Contact:

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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