NFPA 72-2016 Proposed Changes

Abstract: NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code technical committees have been busy reviewing and preparing revisions to the 2013 edition of the code that will ultimately be published in the 2016 edition. Here's a look at changes that may have a significant impact on fire alarm design.

Author: Raymond A. Grill | July 10, 2014

Peer Reviewed

Changes proposed for the 2016 edition of NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code will continue to revise and clarify many of the new provisions that were added during the major revision that occurred between the 2007 and the 2010 editions. The proposed changes are intended to improve the 2013 edition of the code.

Why should you be concerned about what will be in the 2016 edition of NFPA 72, when you may not even be applying the 2010 edition yet? The 2010 edition is being applied in many jurisdictions as they adopt the 2012 edition of the International Building Code. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also has announced that it will be moving from the 2000 edition of NFPA 101: Life Safety Code to the 2012 edition of NFPA 101. The 2012 edition of NFPA 101 adopts the 2010 NFPA 72 by reference. Also, some federal government agencies such as the Dept. of Defense and U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) want the most current codes and standards applied to their projects. If you are working on federal projects, it is important to identify not only the applicable codes, but also the edition of the codes and standards that will be applied to the project.

While the 2016 edition won’t be applied on most projects for some time, there are a number of proposals that will clarify current requirements and can often be used to inform a current design. In some cases, it may be prudent to pursue use of new code requirements even if the new code has not been adopted. If new code requirements are used, the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) should be consulted to confirm that it will accept the new provisions. New code requirements could be accepted under the equivalency provisions of the code.

If you are a fire alarm product manufacturer or installer, knowing what is coming down the road can also help you prepare for implementing the new code requirements that can impact product design or help you develop training material for your staff that design and install systems.

Some of the more significant potential changes are identified in this article. The Technical Committees met in June to review comments to the first draft report of the technical committees. The result of the meetings will be the Second Draft Report of the Technical Committees, which will be subject to public review before the code goes before the membership for approval at the June 2015 Annual Meeting.

Documentation requirements

During the development of the 2013 edition of NFPA 72, Chapter 7 was added to consolidate the requirements for documentation. Revisions to these requirements are proposed for the 2016 edition. Minimum requirements for documentation are proposed to include:

  • Floor plans that are required to show room use and building features that will affect the placement of initiating device and notification appliances

  • Minimum sound pressures required to be produced by notification appliances in areas where notification of occupants is required

  • Power loss calculations for amplifier notification appliances

  • Pathway diagrams between control unit, supervising station, and shared communications equipment.

  • Mounting height elevation for wall-mounted devices and appliances

The minimum documentation is required to be provided only when made applicable by the enforcing authority. When it is required, it will need to include all of the items noted in NFPA 72 for minimum documentation. There may be numerous systems that may not have all the features noted in the minimum documentation. If a feature is not part of the system, it is not required to be documented. It should be understood that it is not the intent of the code to require additional devices or features based on this chapter.

A paragraph is proposed for the annex (A.7.2.1) to provide guidance on documentation when work is being done on existing systems. The committee statement incorporating this annex material indicates that with the permission of the AHJ, the documentation may only be applicable to the modifications, additions, and interfaces to an existing system.

Transient protection

A requirement was added in the 2013 edition of NFPA 72 that required all signaling system circuits entering a building to be provided with transient protection. This requirement is currently proposed to be removed from the code for the 2016 edition.

The justification for the requirement was to limit the impact of lightning or electrical surges on the fire alarm system. In the substantiation for eliminating the requirement, the technical committee notes that not all circuits that enter or exit a building are prone to lightning or surges.

Class N pathway designation

The new Class N pathway designation has the following performance characteristics:

  • It includes two or more pathways where operational capability of the primary pathway and a redundant pathway to each device shall be verified through end-to-end communication

  • Conditions that affect the operation of the primary pathways and redundant pathways shall be annunciated as a trouble signal when the system minimal operation requirements cannot be met

  • A loss of intended communications between end points is annunciated as a trouble signal

  • Primary and redundant pathways shall not be permitted to share traffic over the same physical segment.

  • A single open, ground, short, or combination of faults on one pathway shall not affect any other pathway

Read more: NFPA 72-2016 proposed changes

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