Pair of Proposed NFPA Changes Tackle AHJ-Related Absolutism

Learn how two proposed NFPA changes may impact authorities having jurisdiction.

The 2016 edition of, The National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, will have a final vote at the Annual Meeting of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) during the Conference & Expo in Chicago June 22-25. Within the proposed changes are two that may have an effect on the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) as is relates to fire alarm system. I suspect that one of the changes will remain, while the second will not.

What Qualifies an Inspector?

The first proposed change, which should remain in the 2016 edition, adds requirements to NFPA 72 on the qualifications of those who review submitted shop drawings and for those who perform inspections to close a permit. A new subsection, 10.5.4 Plans Examiners and Inspectors, is to be added. Section 10.5 of the Code covers qualifications. Here’s a look at what’s detailed within the subsection:

10.5.4 Plans Examiners and Inspectors Fire alarm system and emergency communications system plans and specifications submitted for review and approval shall be reviewed by personnel who are qualified to review such plans and specifications. Fire alarm system and emergency communications system installations shall be inspected by personnel who are qualified to perform such inspections. State or local licensure regulations shall be followed to determine qualified personnel. Personnel shall provide documentation of their qualifications by one or more of the following:

    (1) Personnel who are registered, licensed, or certified by a state or local authority.
    (2) Personnel who meet the requirements of NFPA 1031, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Inspector and Plan Examiner.
    (3) Personnel who are assigned to perform plan reviews and inspections by the authority having jurisdiction.

You’ll notice that one method to demonstrate qualifications is that the inspector meets the requirements found within NFPA 1031, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Inspector and Plan Examiner. This places a burden on the inspector or examiner to show that they have achieved minimum level of competency in the codes related to automatic fire alarm systems. On the other hand, regarding the third qualification point I would argue that simply being assigned within a department to review plans is not in itself a qualification to perform inspection and review tasks.

Reach of AHJ Comes Under Fire

In the 2013 edition of NFPA 72, paragraph states, “Where permitted by the authority having jurisdiction, alarm, supervisory, and trouble signals shall be permitted to be received at an alternate location approved by the authority having jurisdiction.” This text essentially designates the approval of where a signal for a remote station system may be sent.

In the 2013 edition of NFPA 72, the AHJ is allowed to state where a signal may or may not be sent. Note, though, that within several jurisdictions of the United States, the AHJ requires that all signals from a fire alarm system be sent to a remote station that is operated by the AHJ.

This has been viewed by some as providing a noncompetitive business environment within those jurisdictions. The Technical Committee on Supervising Station Fire Alarm and Signaling Systems has amended this paragraph so that it now reads, “Alarm, supervisory, and trouble signals shall be permitted to be received at a listed central supervising station.”

A certified amending motion, which has been accepted by the NFPA Standards Council, will be heard during the Membership Technical Session at the Annual Meeting. There are some folks who believe that a change which takes away the final authority of the AHJ should not be in NFPA 72, or any standard. The Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) would differ on this one paragraph. I predict that, ultimately, the vote on the floor of the Annual Meeting will reverse the action of the Technical Committee and the existing language will remain.

Some in the industry believe that this is a local issue and should not require a change to a national standard. I have mixed feelings on this, but do believe that a national standard should not be used in such a way to allow a public or a private entity to have a monopolistic advantage simply because a standard allows it to be that way. There should be an even playing field.

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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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