Fire Side Chat: Video Can Prove Valuable in Fire Applications

The benefits of video technology are being extended from surveillance and intrusion detection to assisting in fire detection and verification. Find out what considerations, practices and codes figure prominently for successful deployment.

NFPA’s Rules of the Road for IP

To accommodate this new, exciting method of fire detection, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has adopted a few standards fire alarm technicians must observe when installing video-based fire detection.

According to NFPA 72, 2010, under the heading, Origin and Development of NFPA 72, “Some of the more significant revisions in the 2007 edition addressed protection of fire alarm control units, personnel qualification, heat detector response time, smoke detector spacing, smoke detection in ducts, detectors that use multiple sensing inputs, video image smoke and flame detection, synchronization of visible notification appliances, exit marking audible notification appliances, tactile notification appliances, different types of protected premises fire alarm system, and in-building enhancement systems for firefighter radio communications.”

Section of NFPA 72, 2010, defines Video Image Smoke Detection (VISD) as “The principle of using automatic analysis of real-time video images to detect the presence of smoke.”

According to NFPA, there are two flavors of video detection fire alarm technicians have to know about. They are Video Image Flame Detection (VIFD) under Section 3.3.289, and Video Image Smoke Detection (VISD) under Section 3.3.290.

Knowing the right terminology is important and a review of NFPA 72, 2010, is the answer. This national code set will also provide valuable input on when, when not to and how to use video-based detection.

How Code Dictates Connections

Before you begin using any fire alarm device new to the marketplace it’s important to verify that it is listed for its designated purpose by an accredited third-party testing/listing service, such as UL.

“Video image smoke detection systems shall comply with all of the applicable requirements of Chapters 1, 10, 14, 17, and 23 of this Code” (Section, NFPA 72, 2010).

NFPA codes act hand-in-hand with UL standards to assure proper functionality during fire events. For example, NFPA 72 allows video data to be used for security and other purposes. But these connections must be separate and apart from the primary fire detection function. In practice this usually means a separate feed-through BNC or data output on the main fire-listed DVR.

According to Section, NFPA 72, 2010, “Video signals generated by cameras that are components of video image smoke detection systems shall be
permitted to be transmitted to other systems for other uses only through output connections provided specifically for that purpose by the video system manufacturer.”

In other words, your camera connections must directly connect to the fire-listed DVR before video can be channeled elsewhere for any other purpose.

In addition, according to Section, “All component controls and software shall be protected from unauthorized changes. All changes to the software or component settings shall be tested in accordance with Chapter 14.”

In most instances this is accomplished by the use of a simple cover over the controls, secured by a cam lock.

For additional information on video-based fire alarm detection, be sure to review all relevant portions of NFPA 72, 2010 Edition (

About the Author


Al Colombo is a long-time trade journalist and professional in the security and life-safety markets. His work includes more than 40 years in security and life-safety as an installer, salesman, service tech, trade journalist, project manager,and an operations manager. You can contact Colombo through TpromoCom, a consultancy agency based in Canton, Ohio, by emailing allan@Tpromo.Com, call 330-956-9003, visit www.Tpromo.Com.

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