The first half of this year has been the busiest in our 36 year history as our FSCI team completed the most plan reviews and inspections ever. Great job team!
As Fire Safety Consultants Inc. continues to grow, with the strong support of PSI, we have hired several new staff members including a new fire protection plan review consultant for our Michigan office; and a new building plan review senior consultant, a new field services consultant and a summer administrative assistant in our Illinois office.
We recently completed the installation of the new cloud-based telephone system at FSCI that will improve our customer service by creating a seamless office environment across all PSI/FSCI offices. This new system includes an auto-attendant the can quickly route calls efficiently to the proper person within any of our offices.
Also this quarter, we began working on our electronic plan review process including the testing of ShareFile software for transferring large documents (plans and specifications) and the purchase of a new plotter that can print large scale drawings. During this initial testing phase, we’ve partnered with one of our Oklahoma clients to evaluate the most effective and efficient ways to streamline our electronic plan review process. These projects are very large electronic files that allow us to fully test the capability of the software. Our goal is to have the process to the point where we can begin beta testing with a handful of clients in early 2020.
Significant Changes to the 2019 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code
While technical committee work in Indianapolis begins this month on the 2022 edition of NFPA 72, it was less than a year ago that the National Fire Protection Association published the most-recent edition of the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. The 2019 edition of the document was released to users in September of 2018. Within the document are the results of the more than 800 Public Inputs submitted by interested individuals representing themselves, or interest groups, plus additional inputs from the code’s technical committees. The following is a synopsis of some of the changes made to the 2019 edition.
Beginning with Chapter 1 of the document, regular users will notice that the code is now providing requirements that previously were found in NFPA 720:
- The scope of the document now includes requirements for the application, installation, location, performance, inspection, testing and maintenance of carbon monoxide detection and warning equipment. Requirements formally found in the retired NFPA 720 are now integrated in many of the chapters of NFPA 72.
- Section 1.1.3 makes it clear that carbon monoxide detection is primarily concerned with life safety, not property protection.
Also beginning in the first chapter, and then found throughout the document, users of the 2019 edition should notice that nearly all of the exceptions to specific code sections have been removed from the document. At the direction of NFPA, technical committees reworded exceptions, and their charging paragraphs, so they would become positive code language. An example of this change might include the phrase “…except as permitted by sections XXX.1 thru XXX.5 the following requirement shall apply.” It is extremely important that the user of the code read all sub-sections below a particular charging section as permitted variations to the section may be included in sub-section text.
Another usability change that has occurred throughout the code is the revision to all sections that included more than a single requirement. Technical committees were directed to review each code section under their control and to separate out multiple code requirements found in an individual section.
Several additions and changes were made to terms found in Chapter 3, Definitions:
- Many new terms related to batteries were added. The term sealed lead-acid battery that most people are familiar with, has been replaced by the term valve-regulated lead acid (VRLA) battery. This term more accurately describes the battery and is commonly used in the battery industry.
- Many new definitions related to carbon monoxide detection have been carried over from NFPA 720.
- A definition for the term High Volume Low Speed (HVLS) Fan was added because of new requirements located in Chapter 21 where the integration of HVLS fans and waterflow switches occur through the fire alarm system.
- The term “immediately” replaces the term “promptly” in several places within the requirements for supervising station alarm systems. This term is explained in the annex as meaning within 90 seconds and applies to the retransmission of alarm signals from a monitoring center to the fire department communications center. The technical committee, over several code cycles, has continued to resist moving the 90 second requirement from the annex material to the body of the code which would make it enforceable.
Several changes occurred to Chapter 7 which addresses documentation.
- The term for the requirement to provide 20% additional secondary power battery capacity has been changed from “derating factor” to “safety margin”.
- The former minimum requirement to document the communication pathway between the fire alarm control unit and the supervising station has been clarified to more clearly spell out the required intent. Documentation is only required to be provided for the pathway between the control unit and the transmitter being used. This requirement is intended to provide the plan reviewer insight on which type of transmitter will be used to send signals to the supervising station. Several transmitter options are available to a fire alarm system designer and each has their own Chapter 26 code requirements which must be met and verified during the plan review process.
- Record documentation shall not be stored within the fire alarm control unit. A document cabinet, or other means to store record documentation, is required in Section 18.104.22.168.
Chapter 10, covering the Fundamentals of Fire Alarm Systems, revisions include:
- The mounting height range of fire alarm control unit equipment has been added as Section 10.4.4 which states that any switch, lamp or text display must be located 15 inches to 72 inches above the finished floor unless another height is permitted by the AHJ. A change to this requirement has already been submitted as a Public Input for the 2022 edition of the code.
- The qualifications for a plan reviewer and inspector of fire alarm systems was revised to indicate that when an individual is assigned by the AHJ to conduct plan reviews and inspections, that person must demonstrate an equivalent competency to local license rules, certification requirements, or NFPA 1031.
- Section 10.6.5.1.2 now clarifies that fire alarm system components, but not sprinkler bells or compressors, can share the same branch circuit subject to the limit of the circuit.
- Less restrictive prescriptive requirements now exist for Section 10.6.5.2.2 which indicates that the circuit breaker for the fire alarm equipment need only be identified as “fire alarm” or “fire alarm/EVAC” or “Mass Notification System”, as examples. The circuit disconnecting means must still include a red color.
- Section 10.10.1 now includes CO signaling requirements which shall include the production of a Temporal 4 audible signal and a display at the FACU.
- Section 10.13 allows a CO initiating device with an integral sounder to be silenced if the CO alarm signal remains displayed at the control unit.
- Sections 10.14.5 and 10.15.5 now require that supervisory and trouble signals shall be emitted from a location “…where they are to be heard.” replacing the language “…are likely to be heard.”
- Extender panels (remote power supplies) connected to a control circuit are now limited to serving a single notification zone. While the code text does not state this, the intent is that this requirement only applies when partial evacuation or relocation occurs on an alarm signal.
Chapter 12 covers the requirements for Circuits and Pathways. Minimal changes occurred within the chapter and include:
- Language was added for Class A, B, and X circuits that specifically call-out performance issues only when metallic conductors are used.
Chapter 14 covers the requirement for the inspection, testing, and maintenance of equipment covered by NFPA 72. The changes affecting this chapter include:
- Testing requirements for CO detection was added as 22.214.171.124.
- CO alarms are now required to be replaced when the end-of-life signal sounds or when the manufacturer’s replacement date is reached.
- A change in the numbering of sub-sections within Table 14.3.1, Visual Inspections, and Table 126.96.36.199, Testing, by the editorial staff at NFPA, may cause some confusion to users of the code. While the numbering of the sub-sections has changed, the requirements have, for the most part, not been affected.
- One section that was affected concerns Reacceptance Testing. Section 188.8.131.52 states that control equipment shall be tested in accordance with Table 184.108.40.206, items 2(a) and 2(d) which the code user will not find in the table. Instead, items 2(1) and 2(4) shall be used. Hopefully, this editorial error will be corrected in the 2022 edition.
- Several changes were made to the inspection and testing requirements for batteries. Inspection requirements now only include VRLA and Dry Cell type batteries. Testing requirements now only include VRLA batteries. This change reflects the fact that these types of batteries are the most commonly used batteries in alarm systems.
Chapter 17, Initiating Devices, received the following changes:
- Section 17.4.2 was re-worded to clarify that protection shall be provided for all initiating devices which are subject to physical damage. A mechanical guard shall be listed for the device it is protecting.
- Section 17.4.6 was re-worded to clarify that any detector (fire or CO) installed in a concealed location more than 10 feet above the floor, or where located such that the indicator light is not visible to responding personnel, must be provided with a remote alarm or supervisory indicator in a location approved by the AHJ. The indicator must be labeled with the device it is serving. Section 220.127.116.11 does allow for the omission of these indicators under certain conditions.
- New requirements for the placement of CO detectors have been located within Section 17.12.
- Finally, a section was added to address low pressure dry pipe sprinkler systems. Section 18.104.22.168.2(C) now requires that when low pressure dry pipe valves are used, the high and low pressure settings are based on the manufacturer’s installation instructions. For all other dry pipe valves the receipt of a signal when pressure is 10 psi above and below normal still remains.
Chapter 18 covers Notification Appliances and received the following changes:
- With the inclusion of CO requirements throughout the code, the requirement for Temporal 4 (T4) signals for CO alarms has been added.
- Low frequency (520Hz) is now required for CO alarm signals.
- The use of LED visual devices is gaining in popularity. Testing has shown that LED bulbs and Xenon bulbs used in visual appliances, set at the same candela rating, do not have the same ability to notify occupants when installed in an in-direct viewing position. As such, Section 22.214.171.124 now requires the use of Table A.126.96.36.199 when a visual device is used that has a light pulse duration of greater than 20 milliseconds which is often the case with an LED visual appliance. A check of the data sheet for the visual appliance should provide the designer and plan reviewer with the millisecond information necessary to determine the correct candela setting for an LED appliance relative to a Xenon appliance.
Chapter 21 cover the requirements for Emergency Control Function Interfaces and included the following changes:
- Section 21.2.4 was clarified to indicate that the maximum 3-foot rule between a control relay or module and the emergency control function equipment that they are sending a signal to does not apply when a Class D (Fail-Safe) circuit is used.
- Section 21.3.7 was added for equipment located within elevator hoistways. Any devices which are located within the hoistway must be accessible for service, testing and maintenance from outside of the hoistway. One option for this would be to utilize an access hatch installed in the hoistway wall near the detector.
- Section 21.8 was newly added to deal with the integration of HVLS fans and sprinkler systems which is a requirement of NFPA 13. The fire alarm system works as the go-between for the shut-down of the fans upon sprinkler waterflow activation.
Chapter 23, Protected Premises Alarm and Signaling Systems, received the following changes:
- The code allows in the language of Section 23.2.3, the installation of separate fire, CO and other systems so long as the systems do not generate separate and conflicting signals to building occupants or conflicting actuation of safety functions.
- Section 188.8.131.52.2 and 184.108.40.206.3 cover occupant notification signals for CO alarms. Signals shall be throughout the protected premises, except that the signal may be limited to a notification zone when the CO signals are constantly monitored on or off the premises.
Chapter 24, Emergency Communications Systems, requirements received the following revisions:
- Verbiage for EVAC messages are now subject to approval by the AHJ in Section 220.127.116.11.2.
- The radio enhancement requirements formerly found within NFPA 72, have been moved to NFPA 1221.
Chapter 26, Supervising Station Alarm Systems, received several code changes with some of the revisions being:
- Clarification was made to the requirements of Section 18.104.22.168. When a supervising station receives specific alarm information in the form of a zone or point specific information, this information must be passed on to the communications center. Each time an additional signal is received by the supervising station it must be passed along to the communications center. When can a supervising station stop calling the communications center will be discussed during the 2022 code cycle.
- Section 26.2.2 was clarified that alarm signal verification is not permitted for CO signals. This section received the added word “Fire” in front of alarm signal verification.
- Section 22.214.171.124.4 now allows that a monitoring location, operating under central station service requirements, to hold a trouble signal for up to 15 minutes before retransmitting the signal.
- Section 126.96.36.199.1.2 now allows for dual pathway transmitters to only meet the requirements for a single communications path. Where the primary pathway meets the requirements of 188.8.131.52, the primary and secondary pathways are not required to meet the requirements of 184.108.40.206.
Chapter 29, Single- and Multiple-Station Alarms and Household Fire Alarm Systems also received several code changes which we are not covering in detail in this article.
NFPA 72 continues to evolve to try to keep up with the many technological changes that are occurring in the fire alarm industry. Users of this document are encouraged to attend training with the issuance of each new edition in order to remain up-to-date on the many changes that have occurred, and which will occur in the 2022 edition and beyond.
-Warren E. Olsen CFPS, CBO & Chapter 26 Immediate Past-Chairperson, NFPA 72
Warren Olsen came to Fire Safety Consultants, Inc. in March of 2004. Prior to joining FSCI, Warren spent 30 years in the fire service, retiring as a Battalion Chief for the Hoffman Estates Fire Department. Along with his time in the fire service, Warren has over 40 years of experience in fire protection consulting and is certified as a Building & Fire Code Official, Fire Inspector, Fire Investigator and Fire Protection Specialist.
As Vice President of Building/Life Safety, Warren is responsible for managing the Building/Life Safety Division of FSCI, which includes overseeing the plan review process for all building code and engineering disciplines including inspections, serving as Chair for the FSCI Marketing & Seminar Committees as well as teaching a wide variety of seminars for both FSCI and NFPA.
Warren received a Special Achievement Award from the NFPA at the 2018 Annual Conference and Expo and has also been honored as a Lifetime Member of the NFPA.
Little Known Facts
NFPA 17A – Non-listed Appliance Protection
Often, restaurants will install appliances such as Gyro machines, Tandoori Ovens, and Pizza Ovens that do not utilize listed protection means under the kitchen suppression system manufacturer installation manual. Under Section 5.1 of NFPA 17A, it states that the “protection of cooking operations shall be listed”. So, what do you do in one of these cases where the protection of an appliance isn’t listed? In some cases the suppression system manufacturers will put out bulletins providing their recommendations on how these appliances should be properly protected. When the equipment manufacturer does not provide this information the installing contractor should procure and provide in writing, through a letter or email correspondence, a response from the system manufacturer that gives their recommended coverage for the appliance to the plan reviewer or AHJ.
-Hannah Rodriguez, Fire Protection Consultant
NFPA-72 Household Carbon Monoxide Alarms
The requirements for household carbon monoxide alarms, originally found in NFPA 720, are now incorporated into Chapter 29 of NFPA 72. Chapter 29 now includes the installation of smoke, fire, or carbon monoxide (CO) alarms or systems. Unlike smoke or fire detection, CO alarms shall produce a temporal 4 (T4) signal (not to be confused with the T3 signal for a smoke alarm) and shall have a minimum rating of 85dBA at 10 feet. The placement of CO alarms is critical to ensure an early warning to residents. Chapter 29 does a great job specifying where CO alarms shall be installed within a residence. Where required by other laws, codes or standards for a specific type of occupancy, listed carbon monoxide alarms or detectors shall be installed in the following locations:
- Outside of each separate dwelling unit/ sleeping area, mounted within 21 ft. of any door to a sleeping room, (distance measured along the path of travel),
- On every occupiable level of a dwelling unit, including basements, excluding attics and crawl spaces,
- In all sleeping rooms and guest rooms containing fossil fuel burning appliances, and/or other locations where required by applicable laws, codes, or standards.
Unlike the properties of smoke and fire, CO is a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas making it undetectable by the sense of smell, taste or sight. The main cause of CO poisoning is from improperly operating fossil-fuel burning appliances found in a typical home such as: furnaces, water heaters and stoves. Additional causes of CO are wood burning stoves, fireplaces and vehicles left running in an attached garage.
-Ryan Case, Fire Protection Consultant
NFPA 72 – Wired To Use Wireless: What You Need To Know Before Your Wireless System Is A Go.
The demand for wireless fire alarm devices and appliances has steadily increased over the years as innovative technology has evolved on both the initiating and notification side of the fire alarm system design. An increased number of fire alarm submittals are being received which include the use of wireless devices and appliances to accommodate the retrofitting of older buildings. The design of these wireless systems must adhere to the code requirements found in Section 23.16 of NFPA 72. Low-powered radio equipment must be specifically listed for the purpose.
Wireless devices may use a dry cell battery(s) which is capable of maintaining full power of the device for at least one year prior to reaching the depletion threshold of the battery. A low battery condition shall be transmitted as a trouble signal for at least 7 days and shall be distinctive from other alarm, supervisory or trouble signals. The affected transmitter shall be visibly identified. Each transmitter shall service only on device. Catastrophic battery failure shall cause a trouble signal identifying the effected low-power radio transmitter/transceiver at the system control unit. When silenced, the trouble signal shall automatically re-sound at least once every 4 hours. When a wireless initiating device is actuated an alarm signal shall be automatically transmitted by the low power radio, and repeated, for up to 60 seconds until the radio receives a confirming receipt of signal by the control unit.
Wireless notification appliances must meet many of the above criteria for wireless devices as well as the requirements for wired appliances.
-Susie Gardner, Fire Protection Consultant
Stay up to date on the latest Fire, Building and Life Safety code changes and equipment by attending one of our seminars. Fire Safety Consultants, Inc. is teaching seminars throughout the United States, led by our experienced staff of Matt Davis, Keith Frangiamore, Brent Gooden & Warren Olsen. Whether you are a Contractor, Architect, Technician, Engineer or an Authority Having Jurisdiction, each seminar is full of practical insight and first-hand experiences to help you comply with applicable codes and standards. FSCI can also provide custom seminars at your location. Be sure to check out our website to view our listing of available seminars or to check the schedule to see what we are teaching next! Contact us to learn more by emailing email@example.com.