New NFPA Standard Goes the Distance

Document presents guidelines for the complete end-to-end testing of integrated fire and life-safety systems, providing minimum requirements for such increasingly complex security solutions.

Another summer has passed, and with it another National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) annual meeting, held this year in toasty Las Vegas. A number of codes and standards were either debated at the technical meeting or passed as consent documents. In the upcoming installments of Fire Side Chat, I will be providing a brief description of several of these documents.

Let’s start by taking a look at a new document, NFPA 4, Standard for the Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing. This is the 2015 edition and it came in part from the 2012 edition of NFPA 3, Recommended Practice for Commissioning and Integrated Testing of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems. As a “guide,” the language within that document was in the nonenforceable “should” as opposed to the enforceable “shall.”

The Technical Committee on Commissioning and Integrated Testing, after long hours of discussion, requested through the NFPA Standards Council to place the chapters that covered integrated testing into a separate document. The committee concluded that while it might not be a requirement yet for the commissioning of a life-safety system to be mandated, they did see the need to require that an installed system undergo a full end-to-end test for integrated systems. This was partly because systems are becoming more complex in nature.

ASIS 2014 Session: Fire & Life Safety Fundamentals for the Security Practitioner

Date: Monday, Sept. 29, 2014
Time: 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Location: B313

Learn about local, state, and federal laws, rules, and regulating organizations, such as OSHA, that mandate many fire and life safety responsibilities during the session “Fire & Life Safety Fundamentals for the Security Practitioners.”

Explore how to increase value to an organization and overcome budget obstacles by integrating the two functions into one emergency all-hazards action plan.

The Standards Council approved the request of the Technical Committee, which allowed commissioning and integrated testing to be in two separate documents. Until this time, there was no single standard within the NFPA that covered the complete end-to-end testing of an integrated life-safety system. The two documents used most were: NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems; and NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.

Verifying Integrated Systems Work as Intended

Other documents provided details on how to test other systems, such as fire doors, fire windows and smoke control systems. These systems may be interfaced with the buildings’ fire alarm or life-safety system. But none of these documents presented guidelines on the complete end-to-end test.

A fire suppression sprinkler contractor may flow water from an inspector’s test valve (ITV), but due to licensing restrictions not be able to perform any testing of the vane flow or pressure switch that is connected to the fire alarm system. Conversely, a fire alarm contractor may be prohibited from opening an ITV to test the waterflow switch.

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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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