The US House of Representatives adopted the National Park Act on January 30, 1872; It passed in the Senate on Feb. 27, and President Grant signed it on March 1 of that same year. The national park idea conceived two years earlier became a reality, and the reality developed into a system, which, through the years, has grown to embrace more than 21,011,778 acres of land and water including 25 national parks, 80 national monuments and 45 national historical areas. Many of us have visited these national parks and enjoyed both the facilities and the magnificent vistas.

For years, the National Park Service (NPS) has had a huge backlog of maintenance projects, estimated to be $9 billion. But now, the NPS will get a boost from the federal stimulus package to the tune of $589 million for the “Construction, repair and restoration of roads; construction of facilities, including energy efficient retrofits of existing facilities; equipment replacement; preservation and repair of historical resources within the NPS; cleanup of abandoned mine sites on park lands and other critical infrastructure projects.”

The energy-efficient retrofits, equipment replacement, preservation and repair of historical resources will amount to a stimulus package for anyone associated with the construction industry but, specifically, anyone who understands that this work will and must include fire protection upgrades, including the installation, maintenance or replacement of fire alarm systems.

Those involved in developing proposals for this potentially lucrative market will need to know the requirements (that NPS must follow) of the 2007 edition of NFPA 914, Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures. This code provides the elements of a fire safety plan, including management involvement in fire safety planning, which is critical to successfully implementing a program. The code encourages management to consider four steps to ensure the fire safety of a historic property, both during and after the rehabilitation process. One of the more important steps advises management to “Incorporate appropriate fire protection measures in the rehabilitation effort to limit damage if a fire occurs; appropriate measures include structural compartmentation, automatic detection and alarm, and fixed extinguishing systems.”

To assist the NPS management team, the document contains an Annex C, which provides “Survey Criteria for a Historic Structure” that likely will be used to determine the needs for fire protection. It states, in part, that “Providing adequate fire protection to a historic building while protecting historic character can be a difficult task. The effort requires a thorough building survey by qualified professionals to identify critical historic elements, spaces, and features; restoration and preservation objectives; code deficiencies; and existing fire and life safety hazards. This survey provides the basis for all planning and design decisions and is essential for rehabilitation projects of all types, including those intended for original or existing uses and those that involve new uses.”

The code also recognizes that fire protection system deficiencies might include “[…]insufficient smoke detectors, manual fire alarm stations, and audible alarms; lack of monitored fire detection, suppression, and alarm systems; and nonexistent or inadequate lightning protection.”

NFPA 914-2007 also has the requirements for the evaluation, maintenance and installation of fire alarm systems in historic structures. For example, many of these structures do not have sprinklers. This code requires that “smoke detectors shall be installed in every area and space where ambient conditions permit.” And further, “Where ambient conditions will adversely affect the performance, reliability, and normal operation of smoke detectors, other forms of detection technology, such as heat detection, shall be used.”

The code states that any fire alarm system for a historic structure must be installed, tested and maintained in accordance with the applicable requirements of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code. NFPA 914 also requires all fire detection and alarm systems and automatic fire suppression systems to transmit alarm, supervisory and trouble signals to an approved monitoring facility. In addition, the monitoring facility and the communications method used for alarm signal transmission must comply with the requirements of the National Fire Alarm Code.

If you aren’t already watching federal construction activity, now is the time to begin. Armed with these two codes, you will be able to develop your marketing plan to bring in more business and keep your employees working. This is our stimulus package!

MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a co-editor of the current National Fire Alarm Code Handbook. Moore is a principal with Hughes Associates Inc. at the Warwick, R.I., office.