Fire Codes and Standards Changes for 2021

Fire and life-safety expert Shane Clary provides an overview of what the NFPA, International Code Council and Fire Code Advisory Committee have been up to.

This month’s article is not on a single subject, but is intended to provide some news on events that are occurring within the code promulgation world as it relates to fire alarm systems. 2020 has been busy in this regard and 2021 will be even busier.

To begin, the final work on the 2022 edition of NFPA 72, The National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code is just about completed. The Correlating Committee has concluded its second draft meeting.

All that is left on this edition of 72 is the letter ballot to the Committee, and then any floor action that may occur during the annual meeting of the National Fire Protection Association. This would be at the technical session of the association.

The NFPA Annual Meeting is scheduled to be held in Las Vegas from June 22-25, with the technical session being conducted on the final day [Ed. note: The Annual Meeting will now be held as a virtual series]. During the “Tech Meeting,” certified amending motions (CAM) will be heard, including any that may be for NFPA 72. After this meeting, the NFPA Standards Council will take final action on NFPA 72 as well as other documents that are in cycle during its meeting in August.

In regards to the annual meeting, at this time it is being announced as a hybrid meeting, with both in person and online options. The format of the annual meeting could be changed between now and next June, dependent on COVID-19.

The most significant change to the next edition of 72 will be new material on cybersecurity. For all systems with the exception of those that fall within Chapter 29, Single- and Multiple-Station Alarms and Household Fire Alarm Systems, cybersecurity details will be found within the Annex for a new Chapter 11. There will be no “shall” requirements for cybersecurity in this edition of 72, with one exception.

The Technical Committee that is responsible for Chapter 29 made a decision to place the requirements for cybersecurity within the main body of the Chapter. Therefore, for systems that are to be installed in accordance of Chapter 29, the term “shall” is used. Recall that Chapter 29 is standalone, and as such is independent of the requirements that are located within the other chapters of 72.

This will be the only edition in which fire alarm systems that are installed outside of Chapter 29 not have mandated cybersecurity requirements. By the 2025 edition, cybersecurity requirements will be in the main body of Chapter 11, or perhaps a separate new document.

The Correlating Committee has formed a task group to explore this, as perhaps a separate document would make better since other types of systems that are designed and installed to NFPA published standards should also be addressing cybersecurity issues. More on this as we progress through 2021 into 2022.

Leaving NFPA 72, but staying within the NFPA codes, the work has begun with the next edition of NFPA 70, The National Electrical Code. The closing date for public input has passed and the Code Making Panels are performing task group work at this time.

The first draft meetings will be conducted virtually, so the work of the task groups will ease some of the pain for some of the panels of meeting for five or six eight-hour days in a virtual meeting.

As a member of Code Making Panel 3, which has assigned to it both Article 725, Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3 Remote-Control, Signaling, and Power-Limited Circuits and Article 730, Fire Alarm Systems, there will be a number of proposed structural changes to the layout of these two articles. I will comment more on this once the first draft meetings have concluded. The restructuring should make the use of these articles easier.

Over at the International Code Council (ICC), work has started for the next editions of the International Fire Code (IFC) and International Building Code (IBC). As with the NFPA, all of the preliminary meetings have been virtual. The work on the IFC is through the Fire Code Advisory Committee (FCAC).

Feeding into the FCAC are a number of working groups that are addressing specific areas within the IFC. I can say that as all of the meetings are virtual, attendance is up from past years when the meetings were held just outside of O’Hare Airport in Chicago. When the FCAC is holding a meeting, there could be up to 60-some individuals “calling” in.

There will be a number of changes made in the next edition of the IFC. Of significant interest will be revised requirements for cannabis grow and extraction facilities. Work is also being done in regards to CO detection, mass notification and integrated testing.

The code hearings for the next edition of the IFC Codes will be virtual. Exactly how the hearing will be conducted has not been released yet. The live meetings would be very long and would extend over a number of days, but be very fast paced. As the next edition of the IFC comes more into focus, commentary on changes or additions relative to fire detection and alarms will be covered.

Virtual or in person, 2021 will be a very busy year for codes and standards.

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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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