Checks and Balances

By Marilyn Michelson | Mar 15, 2003
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If you’re involved with security systems (procurement, design or installation), this article looks at what market segments they may fall in and where you can go to learn more about the “standards” that apply to a product or its installation.

Some standards are developed to detail a product’s design, some to define acceptable or minimum performance requirements, and some to ensure interoperability (so users can “mix and match” products).

Today’s security and life-safety market

Access Control—A set of procedures performed by hardware, software and administrators to monitor access, identify users requesting access, record access attempts, and grant or deny access.

Fire Alarm—Fire detection and fire-alarm systems for detection and alarm, emergency lighting, extinguishers, fire pumps, restaurant fire suppression, special hazards and sprinklers.

Alarm Monitoring—An alarm system that reports detected conditions to a monitoring facility, usually located off-site.

CCTV—Closed circuit TV systems are used to view and record activity from remote locations and consist of a variety of components based upon the application.

Systems Integration—When a contractor provides a full suite of advanced security-management products with capabilities in access control and intrusion detection, CCTV and alarm and critical-systems monitoring.

Structured Cabling—The products and installation of cable and connectors that integrate the VDV and various management systems of a building such as safety alarms and security access.

Who sets standards?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a nonprofit, international association whose purpose is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards by providing and advocating scientifically based consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. It is also accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and follows ANSI’s procedures to qualify for approval on a standard. The following NFPA standards apply to security systems.

ANSI-approved NFPA standards

NFPA 72, Fire Alarm Code, provides requirements for fire-alarm-system installation, performance, testing, inspection and maintenance.

NFPA 720, the Recommended Practice for the Installation of Household Carbon Monoxide (CO) Warning Equipment, 1998, provides recommended practices for the selection, location, performance, and maintenance of equipment that detects hazardous concentrations of carbon monoxide in family living units.

Proposed NFPA security standards

NFPA 730, Premises Security Code, will cover the overall security program for the protection of premises, people, property, and information specific to a particular occupancy.

NFPA 731, Installation of Premises Security Equipment Current, will cover the overall security program for the protection of premises, people, property and information specific to a particular occupancy.

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is also ANSI-accredited and a Standards Developing Organization (SDO). It has the following standards that apply to fire-alarm-system components:

• UL/ANSI 1424 (and 1425) Standards for Cables for Power-Limited (and Non-Power-Limited) Fire-Alarm Circuits

• UL/ANSI 217 Standard for Single and Multiple Stations Smoke Alarms

• UL 539 Standard for Single and Multiple Stations Heat Detectors

• UL/ANSI 268 Standard for Smoke Detectors for Fire Protective Signaling Systems, and

• UL 268A Standard for Smoke Detectors for Duct Application

The NBFAA (National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association)—The NBFAA represents the electronics-systems industry, including burglar and fire-alarm installations, closed-circuit television, access control, home automation, structured cabling, and home theater and sound. Their members adhere to a code of ethics and are certified by attending programs offered through the NBFAA. This group does not develop standards, but enforces them.

The SIA (Security Industry Association)—SIA, a security and life-safety trade association, sponsors an ANSI-accredited standards program, under the “canvass” method, in which interested parties sign up to review content and contribute comments. This is an open program. The SIA has been involved in access control, home automation and mobile security.

The AFAA (Automatic Fire Alarm Association)—This is a trade association for the automatic-fire-detection and fire-alarm systems industry. The AFAA influences codes and standards to make buildings safer through the proper application of these systems.

The TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association)—TIA is a trade association and an SDO. It is ANSI-accredited and works toward industry-wide consensus (versus the canvass method), by circulating a document for comment that carries the ANSI and TIA designation when finalized.

Benefitting from standards

Designing and installing a system today can be very demanding, but there is support from these associations and benefits to working with standardized products.

MICHELSON, president of Jackson, Calif.-based Business Communication Services and publisher of the BCS Reports, is an expert in TIA/EIA performance standards. Contact her at or [email protected].

About The Author

Marilyn Michelson, president of Jackson, Calif.-based Business Communication Services and publisher of the BCS Reports, is an expert in TIA/EIA performance standards.





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