National Fire Protection Association members will vote on the 2010 edition of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code, at the June NFPA conference in Chicago. If the members accept and the Standards Council approves, it will be available for adoption this fall.

This edition has gone through many significant changes, including a proposed name change. Since NFPA 72’s scope has broadened to include mass notification systems, it has been proposed to change the name to the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. This still must be approved.

Look for more chapters in the 2010 version. In an effort to make it easier for nonfire alarm users to locate requirements, the code will add new chapters on emergency communications systems (Chapter 12), circuits and pathways (Chapter 13), and emergency control functions and interfaces (Chapter 14). Not all of the requirements will be new material. Much of the text for the new chapters will come from Chapter 6 (Protected Premises).

The new chapter on circuits and pathways is probably the most significant change. “Class” of circuits, currently Class A or B, will be expanded to incorporate “style” requirements, which are being deleted. Classes will include A, B, C, D, E and X, expanding circuit pathways beyond copper wiring to include optical fiber and wireless. They also will include provisions for survivability of certain fire alarm circuits.

The new Chapter 13 will not mandate survivability of certain pathways, but will provide a menu of options. Survivability of circuits is intended to protect circuits in buildings that only provide selective or partial occupant notification, so they can survive long enough to allow occupant notification in the parts of buildings that do not initially receive the alarm signal.

The 2010 edition’s Annex I provides a choice of using instrument-based testing or subject-based testing to check intelligibility of voice systems. Instrument--based testing uses a meter to test for intelligibility. The meter has a microphone that can pick up the message being transmitted and provide a common intelligibility scale (CIS) score. The code states that the reading must

be .7 CIS or greater. In subject-based testing, a message is read to the listeners who write down what they hear. They must get a certain percentage of the wording correct to pass this test. In the past, only the instrument-based testing was referenced in the annex.

Significant changes proposed for Chapter 4 (Fundamentals) in 2010 include removal of the sprinkler exception for a smoke detector installed to protect the fire alarm control unit. The concerns are that the control units may not survive a fire before the sprinkler activates, due to delays in reporting water flow and the simple fact that they are not in waterproof enclosures.

There will be a requirement to provide a 20-percent safety margin added to the calculated amp-hour rating of batteries to help overcome the effects of aging of batteries. Also in Chapter 4, changes are proposed to allow emergency communications system signals to have priority over fire alarm signals. In addition, the record of completion has been updated to provide more meaningful information and is required for all new and modified installations.

In Chapter 5 (Initiating Devices), there are changes for requirements of smoke detectors installed on beamed ceilings, based on new tests conducted by the NFPA Fire Research Foundation. The new requirements are less restrictive than in the previous edition, which in some cases required an excessive amount of smoke detectors to be installed. Heat detectors now will be required to have their response time index marked on the detector (comparable to having the sensitivity levels marked on smoke detectors).

Supervising Stations (Chapter 8) was rewritten to eliminate references to obsolete technologies. There are provisions for digital alarm communicator transmitters and “other” technologies. There have been a lot of questions about the use of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP). The use of the Internet for monitoring fire alarm systems also is a hot issue. Essentially, Internet monitoring is allowed; VoIP is not, primarily because of the lack of standby power requirements for VoIP equipment. Expect more changes on fire alarm monitoring in the future.

Finally, changes to Chapter 10 include a proposal to allow performance-based testing, as determined by the engineer and accepted by the authority having jurisdiction, in lieu of using the test frequencies (how often regular testing is performed) listed in the National Fire Alarm Code. Changes also include the addition of requirements for testing carbon monoxide detectors and mass notification systems.

HAMMERBERG is currently the president/executive director of the Automatic Fire Alarm Association Inc. headquartered in Jasper, Ga. He serves on a number of NFPA committees, including the NFPA 72 Technical Correlating Committee and the Protected Premises Technical Committee. He can be reached at TomHammerberg@afaa.org.