The Technical Committees that oversee the development of the National Fire Alarm Code, NFPA 72-2006, have started the cycle for processing proposed changes. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has published its “Report on Proposals.” This document contains approximately 650 proposals that relate to suggested changes to the next edition of the code.

If you design or install fire alarm systems, you will want to review the proposed changes the Technical Committees (TCs) have initially accepted. Keep in mind that the changes have not yet reached their final form and may be altered as the committees process any public comments they receive regarding the proposals. Once the committees process those public comments, the revision process will present the new version of the code for voting by the NFPA membership at the June 2006 NFPA World Fire Safety Congress in Orlando, Fla.

In order to whet your appetite, I will highlight a few of the major changes. Most contractors also know that until the NFPA 72-2006 becomes officially adopted in their jurisdiction, the requirements may not apply. However, a prudent contractor should always remain aware of and use the latest version of the code wherever no conflicting requirements exist.

The committee has added a new definition for “Mass Notification System.” This definition states, “A system used to provide information and instructions to people, in a building, area site or other space.”

The committee has also included additional Annex A material to clarify that “A Mass Notification System may use intelligible voice communications, visible signals, text, graphics, tactile, or other communications methods. The system may be used to initiate evacuation, relocation, or to provide information to occupants. The system may be intended for fire emergencies, weather emergencies, terrorist events, biological, chemical or nuclear emergencies or any combination of these. The system may be automatic, manual or both. Access to and control of the system may be from a single, on-site location or may include multiple command locations, includes some remote from the area served. Systems may be wired, wireless or some combination of the two.”

Many government facilities, especially military installations, will require Mass Notification Systems.

Each of the TCs has added definitions and requirements to incorporate new technology, such as the definitions for “fire extinguisher monitoring device” and “exit marking audible notification appliance.” The added text defines a fire extinguisher monitoring device as “a device connected to the fire alarm control unit that automatically monitors the pressure levels of agents in a fire extinguisher, obstructed access and the presence of the fire extinguisher.”

Similarly, the added text defines an exit marking audible notification appliance as “an audible notification appliance that marks building exits and areas of refuge by the sense of hearing for the purpose of evacuation or relocation.”

According to the Annex A material provided with the definition: “These sounders can be located and identified in an emergency situation due to the broadband frequency content of their sound. Broadband frequencies are those that contain a large spectrum of frequencies in the human hearing range, 20Hz to 20,000Hz. These types of sounders are used to aid evacuation through the use of hearing and are sometimes referred to as directional sounders.”

Another change that affects all system designs and installations states this requirement: “When an alarm signal deactivation means is actuated, both audible and visible notification appliances shall be simultaneously deactivated.”

The TC states in the Annex: “It is the intent that both visual and audible appliances are shut off when the signal silence feature is activated on the fire alarm control unit. Per the ADA, it is important to not provide conflicting signals for the hearing impaired.”

The TC for this section never intended anyone to interpret the existing wording in a way that would require strobe operation to continue after the silencing of the audible notification appliances. The TC developed the Annex material to provide additional information to the user.

Other changes include: the proposed requirement to not install initiating de-vices in inaccessible areas and strobes in exit stairways and elevators, and to not provide electrical operating power for a smoke alarm from a circuit controlled by an arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI).

Additional proposals require the interconnecting of smoke alarms in all existing as well as new homes, and unless the listing of smoke or heat alarms from different manufacturers indicates compatibility, an installer shall not interconnect them.

In this limited space, I cannot begin to cover all of the 650 proposed changes. It does behoove the professional contractor to get involved in the code-change process and remain aware of how the changes will have an impact on contracting work. EC

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.