What’s New in the 2022 NFPA 72: An overview of the important changes

Shutterstock / Nemanja Cosovic
Shutterstock / Nemanja Cosovic
Published On
Jan 14, 2022

Let’s kick off the new year by reviewing changes in the 2022 edition of the NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. While most jurisdictions won’t adopt this for a while, it’s good to know what’s coming.

Let’s start with Chapter 3, Definitions. One interesting change is the addition of the term “certified.” At least one national testing laboratory has started to use the term “certified” instead of “listed,” so it is helpful to be aware of this as the markings on equipment begin to change. Another new definition in NFPA 72 is “cyber security,” using the definition provided by the Department of Homeland Security. “Minimum hearing distance” has also been added. This term has been used in NFPA 72 for years but was never defined. A new defined action is “observation” and is “a suggested correction, improvement, or enhancement to the fire alarm or signaling system that is not considered to be an impairment or deficiency.”

Chapter 7, Documentation, has a few significant changes worth mentioning. In 7.3.3.6 and 7.3.3.7, it now clearly states that design documents must indicate the pathway class and survivability level designations as part of the requirements, and must also be added to floor plan drawings and system riser diagrams. Another new design documentation requirement was added for carbon monoxide detectors, where applicable.

Only a few minor changes were made to Chapter 10, Fundamentals. Primarily, stating that a risk analysis should be performed to eliminate the detector over the fire alarm control unit, notification appliance circuit extenders and supervising station transmitting equipment. If the risk analysis determines they are unnecessary, and the AHJ approves it, the devices can be eliminated.

New Chapter 11, Cybersecurity, was added. A single paragraph states where cybersecurity would be required. I am sure there will be more in future editions. Chapter 12, Circuits and Pathways, added a new survivability level, Level 4, that describes alternatives for 1-hour ratings instead of 2-hour ratings as currently used in Levels 2 and 3. This level is for buildings that are not sprinklered or provided with smoke protection, but have separation by fire-rated construction.

Chapter 14, Inspection, Testing and Maintenance, added a section using the new term “observations” to clarify that owners are not required to address observations that are not impairments or deficiencies. Another section corrected past language separating actions required for impairments and deficiencies. In the past, these actions were, incorrectly, not separated. A revision was made to Table 14.3.1 (Visual Inspections) to change the inspection frequency for supervisory signal devices and water-flow devices from quarterly to semiannually. A new requirement was added to address changes made remotely to the system executive software or site-specific software stating that a qualified individual must be on-site to verify correct operation after a remote change.

A change in wording was made in Chapter 17, Initiating Devices, for when remote indicators are required. Annex material was also added to better explain the change. A.17.12.1(1) through A.17.12.1(4) were extensively revised to provide better guidance on carbon monoxide (CO) detector placement. Another change added a new paragraph that states CO detectors installed in air ducts cannot be used as a substitute for open area protection.

Chapter 18, Notification Appliances, was changed to allow existing strobe lights with the word “FIRE” to be used for other purposes, provided modification to the marking is done per the manufacturer’s instructions or by placing a sign near the device indicating it is being used for multiple purposes. A new section called “Obstructions” was also added to address obstructions of visual notification appliances.

In Chapter 21, Emergency Control Function Interfaces, a change was made to eliminate not allowing time-delay capability for waterflow devices for sprinklers installed in elevator pits. In Chapter 23, Protected Premises, a change was made to allow manual pull stations to operate using positive alarm sequence where approved by the AHJ. The rationale was that in active-shooter or hostile-intruder situations, the owner should be capable of reducing the possibility of the intruder using the pull station. A new section on “Remote Access” was added to establish minimum requirements for new technology that allows remote access to equipment.

In Chapter 24, Emergency Control Systems, language was changed to include the new Level 4 pathway survivability option. Chapter 26, Supervising Station Alarm Systems, language for retransmission of subsequent signals from the protected premises to the communications center was modified. Language was also added to allow remote programming of transmitting equipment.

This is a brief description of changes to the 2022 edition of NFPA 72. This hopefully gives you a better understanding of the direction of future changes.

About the Author
Tom Hammerberg

Thomas P. Hammerberg

Life Safety Columnist

Thomas P. Hammerberg, SET, CFPS is an independent fire alarm presenter and consultant in The Villages, Fla. He can be reached at TomHammerberg@gmail.com.

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