Fire Alarm & Signaling Code

Our concern about the requirements in this code dates back to the early 2000's when the University of Michigan challenged prescriptive requirements for inspection, testing and maintenance that were not risk-informed and appeared to be "market-making" by incumbent interests.

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Fire Alarm & Signaling Code

January 19, 2024
mike@standardsmichigan.com

“Prometheus Bound” | Thomas Cole (1847)

NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code is one of the core National Fire Protection Association titles widely incorporated by reference into public safety legislation.   NFPA 72 competes with titles of “similar” scope — International Fire Code — developed by the International Code Council.  We place air quotes around the word similar because there are gaps and overlaps depending upon whether or not each is adopted partially or whole cloth by the tens of thousands of jurisdictions that need both.

Our contact with NFPA 72 dates back to the early 2000’s when the original University of Michigan advocacy enterprise began challenging the prescriptive requirements for inspection, testing and maintenance (IT&M) in Chapter 14.  There are hundreds of fire alarm shops, and thousands of licensed fire alarm technicians in the education facility industry and the managers of this cadre of experts needed leadership in supporting their lower #TotalCostofOwnership agenda with “code-writing and vote-getting”.   There was no education industry trade association that was even interested, much less effective, in this space so we had to do “code writing and vote getting” ourselves (See ABOUT).

Code writing and vote getting means that you gather data, develop relationships with like minded user-interests, find agreement where you can, then write proposals and defend them at NFPA 72 technical committee meetings for 3 to 6 years.  Prevailing in the Sturm und Drang of code development for 3 to 6 years should be within the means of business units of colleges and universities that have been in existence for 100’s of years.  The real assets under the stewardship of these business units are among the most valuable real assets on earth.

Consider the standard of care for inspection, testing and maintenance.  Our cross-cutting experience in over 100 standards suites allows us to say with some authority that, at best the IT&M tables of NFPA 72 Chapter 14 present easily enforceable criteria for IT&M of fire alarm and signaling systems.  At worst, Chapter 14 is a solid example of market-making by incumbent interests as the US standards system allows.   Many of the IT&M requirements can be modified for a reliability, or risk-informed centered maintenance program but fire and security shops in the education industry are afraid to apply performance standards because of risk exposure.   This condition is made more difficult in large universities that have their own maintenance and enforcement staff.  The technicians see opportunities to reduce IT&M frequencies — thereby saving costs for the academic unit facility managers — the enforcement/compliance/conformity/risk management professionals prohibit the application of performance standards.  They want prescriptive standards for bright line criteria to make their work easier to measure.

While we have historically focused on Chapter 14 we have since expanded our interest into communication technologies within buildings since technicians and public safety personnel depend upon them.  Content in Annex G — Guidelines for Emergency Communication Strategies for Buildings and Campuses — is a solid starting point and reflects of our presence when the guidance first appeared in the 2016 Edition.  We shall start with a review of the most recent transcript of the NFPA Technical Committee on Testing and Maintenance of Fire Alarm and Signaling Systems

NFPA 72 First Draft Meeting (A2024)

Public Emergency Reporting Systems (SIG-PRS) First Draft

Public comment of the First Draft of the 2025 Edition is receivable until May 31, 2023.   As always, we encourage direct participation in the NFPA process by workpoint experts with experience, data and even strong opinions about shortcomings and waste in this discipline.  You may key in your proposals on the NFPA public input facility linked below:

https://www.nfpa.org/login

You will need to set up a (free) NFPA TerraView account.   Alternatively, you may join us any day at 11 AM US Eastern time or during our Prometheus or Radio colloquia.   See our CALENDAR for the online meeting.

Issue: [15-213]

Category: Fire Safety & Security, #SmartCampus, Informatics

Colleagues: Mike Anthony, Joe DeRosier, Josh Elvove, Jim Harvey, Marcelo Hirschler


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2013 NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (357 pages)

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Emergency Communication Strategies for Buildings

 

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