Recent NFPA 72 Changes on Sprinklers, Fans, CO & Emergency Communications

Fire-safety expert Shane Clary goes over proposed NFPA changes that include sprinkler placement, CO detection and more.

Greetings from the slopes of Mount Hood in Oregon, where I’m typing this part two installment of Fire Side Chat covering the proposed changes to NFPA 72, “The National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code,” for the 2019 edition.

These changes, however, will not become final until there is a final vote by the various technical committees, plus any possible debate during next year’s NFPA Annual Meeting in Las Vegas.

In August’s article I addressed chapters 1 through 18; this month we’ll look at what’s going on in chapters 21, 23 and 24. And spoiler alert: in October we’ll move on to changes covering chapters 26 and 29. Let’s get started.

Chapter 21, Emergency Control Functions

Paragraph 21.2.4 is being amended so as to state that the 3 feet maximum distance from an emergency control function interface device and the connection to said function may not apply if the circuit is a Class D. A new annex allows for a Class D circuit to be extended beyond the 3-foot limit.

A new paragraph 21.3.7 makes it clear that if fire alarm initiating devices are located within an elevator hoistway then access to the hoistway must be provided for service, testing and maintenance from outside of the hoistway.

A new annex associated with the paragraph provides a number of ways that this can be accomplished. Additional language has been provided to the annex to provide guidelines for the designer of a system to take the response time index (RTI) of both the sprinklers and heat detectors that may be located within a hoistway or elevator machine room.

Doing so will enable the heat detector to activate before the sprinkler and in turn the elevator power shunt trip will activate before the flow of water occurs. Extended language has also been added in regard to occupant evacuation elevators within section 21.6. This includes the sequence of operation and manual floor selection from the fire command center. (I will discuss more on these systems in a future Fire Side Chat.)

A new paragraph 21.8 was added to address high volume low speed (HVLS) fans, which are starting to appear more regularly in both new and existing structures. This paragraph verbiage includes the requirement that if there is a fire sprinkler suppression system installed, then the fans must be shut down upon activation of a sprinkler waterflow or pressure switch.

Chapter 23, Protected Premises

Additions to the text were made throughout this chapter to address the addition of carbon monoxide (CO) detectors into NFPA 72. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, NFPA 720, “Standard for the Installation of Carbon Monoxide Detection and Warning Equipment,” is being retired and all its provisions within are moving over to NFPA 72.

Revisions have been made to the language regarding Class N circuits (N designating network infrastructure), including the risk analysis that is to be performed when these circuits are to be used. New text was added in paragraph on Building System Information Unit (BSIU).

There are now a number of provisions that are to be followed if a fire alarm system is to be interfaced with a BSIU, and which system has control over the other.

A new paragraph has been added that lays out details of conditions that must be met when multiple batteries are to be used, in order to prevent a catastrophic failure of one battery does not affect the operation of the entire system.

Chapter 24, Emergency Communications Systems

A change was made to paragraph 24.3.10 stating that UL Standard 2572 must be followed for the equipment that is used for a mass notification system as opposed to UL 864 and UL 2017. That means a system that is only listed for fire alarm (UL 864) could not be used for a mass notification system. This would not apply for those systems that are only being used for a voice evacuation system.

A change within paragraph would permit a previously prepared risk analysis to be used for new or renovated facilities. Paragraph was modified to make it clear that if a voice evacuation system is to be implemented for partial evacuation, there shall still be an alert tone prior to the message or messages.

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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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