Somewhere Over the NFPA Rainbow

When you read this month’s column, the 2005 National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) World Safety Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas will have adjourned. The results of the controversial NFPA 730 and 731 standards should be known or at least better defined.

Editor’s Note: Click here to read about the passage of NFPA 730 and 731

For those who might not be aware, NFPA 730 is a proposed “Guide for Premises Security” and 731 the “Standard for the Installation of Electronic Premises Security Systems.” Through the years, NFPA has been responsible for more than 300 technical standards and codes, including the well-known and widely used NFPA 72 fire alarm code. In a way, I see the proposed NFPA 731 trying to do for electronic security what NFPA 72 has done for fire security.

In researching these quietly emerging standards, I often felt like I was on a quest, similar to that in “The Wizard of Oz.” In this case, the winding yellow-brick road started back in the early 1990s with the expectation of a national security system standard scheduled for approval in July 2005. The question I ask is what does the NFPA wizard have in store for us somewhere over the security rainbow?

Many people in the security technical community, including yours truly, have been wondering how these proposed upcoming standards would impact the operational responsibilities of both the alarm dealer/integrator and authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). Depending on whom you talk to (see industry quotes on page 28 of June issue), these new standards may have a long road to acceptance in both the security industry and AHJ communities. I also predict a huge learning curve for all. Remember, NFPA 72 did not get where it is overnight.

I would like to set the politics aside for a moment and focus on NFPA 731 and some of the proposed technical items. No matter the outcome of this standard, I thought it would be good to take a look at some of the minimum technical standards being proposed. Following are some excerpts.

Cabling Specifications Outlined
Many of the electrical guidelines follow NFPA 70 or the 2005 National Electrical Code (NEC). Some specifications that caught my attention were:

  • All low-voltage cabling be at least 2 inches from light and power source circuits, unless in conduit.
  • Circuit identification shall be at all field terminations and should not be visible to the public.
  • A minimum of a 6 inches service loop shall be at panel, control and field terminations.
  • Fiber-optic cable service loops should be per manufacturer or not less than 10 times the cable diameter.

Documentation Protocols Set Forth
There are some interesting comments as to expectations of the AHJ’s involvement in security system documentation. Will the security AHJ still remain the fire chief as with fire code or, since this is general security, will we start seeing more police chiefs become the security system AHJ? Many have expressed concern about added workload and liability.


  • The AHJ shall be notified prior to installation.
  • Notice of alteration of equipment or wiring may be requested by the AHJ.
  • AHJ may request complete information regarding system or alterations. This may include specifications and battery calculations.
  • AHJ may request before final approval a statement stating installation meets manufacturer specifications and appropriate NFPA requirements.
  • Every system should have the following documentation and deliver to owner:
    3 Owner’s manual and installation instruction covering all equipment.
    3 Completed “System Record of Completion Form.”
    3 Names and phone numbers of installation/service organization.
    3 Names and phone numbers of monitoring organization.

Training Is Required
It appears the intent is for system training to now be a requirement rather than an option. Some particulars are:


  • The owner or responsible party shall arrange for an appropriate level of training of the system users.
  • The training shall be documented and maintained for one year, and should be available to the AHJ on request.


Calls for Physical Verification

  • Signals from an exterior detection device shall not be retransmitted to the AHJ unless physical verification of the intrusion is made.
    Physical verification shall be made by:
    3 On-site verification
    3 Video verification
    3 Motion detector should include two or more technologies (PIR, microwave, etc.)

Access Control Limit Is 6 Inches

  • Positioned sensors should be mounted so no portion of the portal can be opened greater than six inches.


AHJ to Affect CCTV System Design

  • Application and use of these systems shall be based on requirements of the AHJ, and the installer shall ensure that the final image meets the design requirements.
  • System shall be designed to provide positive visual identification of a person, object or scene as prescribed by the AHJ.
  • Camera selection and location shall be based upon the requirements of the AHJ.


Enclosures to Be Tamper-Resistant

  • The level of tamper resistance shall be determined by a risk assessment or the requirements of the AHJ.
  • In the absence of the above, hardware shall be installed so that it cannot be removed without the use of hand tools.


Equipment Must Be Anchored
I believe manufacturers will find this one interesting. How often have you seen specifications for anchoring equipment?


  • Anchoring shall be rated for the load and mounting surface.
  • All anchoring sets shall be installed per manufacturers’ instructions. Coax Stripping, Crimping Defined
  • All connections shall be made with three-piece crimp BNC connectors.
  • The installer shall possess and understand the use of tools necessary to ensure proper cable stripping and crimping of three-piece BNC connectors.


How to Inspect, Test, Fix, Maintain

  • Conform to the equipment manufacturers’ recommendations
  • Verify correct operation of the electronic premises security systems
  • The owner or the responsible party shall be responsible for the inspection, testing, and maintenance of the system and alterations to the system.
  • Repair shall begin within 24 hours of indication a repair is needed.
  • A record of repair by owner or responsible party for a period of one year.
  • All new systems shall be inspected and tested in accordance with the requirements of table 9.4.3 (extensive table listing of system tests)

Personnel Qualifications Quantified

  • Service personnel shall be qualified and experienced in the inspection, testing and maintenance of electronic premises security systems.
  • Examples of qualified personnel shall be permitted to include but shall not be limited to individuals with the following qualifications:
    3 Factory trained and certified
    3 Certified or licensed by state or local authority
    3 Trained and qualified personnel employed by an organization listed by a national testing laboratory for the servicing of electronic premises security systems.


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