Change Is Good! Now, You First

The 2016 Profile of the Electrical Contractor reveals how electrical contractors see the industry changing and how they intend to adapt. Change occurs in the fire alarm and communications world as well. As you know, keeping up with these changes can prove difficult. 

You may not have had the opportunity to bid many mass notification system (MNS) projects. Most of these systems involve installations mandated at Department of Defense or General Services Administration properties. However, as you might know, MNS use cases are diversifying. 

In addition, proposed changes to the International Fire and Building Codes are opening the door to the correct procedures to follow before beginning MNS installations. The issue with most MNS-type sales arises because contractors must first look at issues other than the technological or equipment solution.

MNSs require a litany of upfront reviews and procedures before the contractor can consider equipment installation. The required risk analysis seems to cause the most frustration because it interrupts the typical contractor’s design process, equipment list procurement and installation. If you have encountered this situation, you may have had no idea where to turn. So, in that case, the final sale of the MNS went to a savvier contractor. 

Don’t get outsold because this change irritated you. NFPA 72 2016, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, offers clear steps that MNS installers must take.

This latest edition of NFPA 72 has added a risk-analysis checklist in Annex A, Section A.7.3.6. It states, “The Risk Analysis Checklist in Figure A.7.3.6 is not mandatory, but it can be used to initiate the thought process for identifying hazards in a facility.”

A risk analysis is not an easy task, but it isn’t too burdensome either. As the checklist shows, it is all about thinking through and identifying risks. 

Part one of the checklist begins with the identification of assets or operations at risk. It then breaks down the analysis to risks that involve people, property, operations, the environment and organization. For example, in the people category, you would look at risks to employees, visitors and guests, contractors working on-site and emergency responders. 

Property risks can include physical property, corporate offices, distribution centers, intellectual property, and data or controlled information. An operations risk assessment would include an evaluation of the manufacturing processes, research and development activities, delivery of services and the strength of the business supply chain. The environmental risk analysis relates to risks associated with the air and ground conditions and water issues—including events such as floods.

Finally, in part one, the checklist deals with organization-related risks, including economic and financial conditions, community relationships, licenses, patents or trademarks, corporate image or reputation, regulatory compliance, vendor relationships, and corporate contractual obligations, e.g., union ontracts.

Part two of the risk-analysis checklist helps determine the potential facility hazards broken down into natural hazards, human-caused hazards and technological events. The checklist breaks down these events further into geological (such as earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, glaciers and volcanoes) and meteorological (such as floods, droughts, windstorms, blizzards and extreme temperatures). The natural hazard category also includes biological hazards, such as pandemics, animals or insect infestation.

Human-caused risks include accidental and intentional events. Accidental risks include natural gas leaks, nuclear power plant incidents, explosions or fires, wildfires, transportation accidents, or a building or structural failure or collapse. Intentional events include terrorism, bomb threats, child abductions, extortion, hostage incidents, vandalism, civil disturbances, insurrections or wars, strikes or labor disputes, and criminal activity.

The checklist also addresses events caused by technology, such as telecommunications or energy interruptions, mechanical systems breakdowns and communication systems interruptions.

How does all of this relate to your MNS designs and installations? The NFPA states that “each application of a mass notification system shall be specific to the nature and anticipated risks of each facility for which it is designed.”

So, each MNS must be unique. Therefore, a risk analysis’ biggest challenge is the time it takes to gather and consider all pertinent details. It may seem tedious, but it’s worth it.

About the Author

Wayne D. Moore

Fire/Life Safety Columnist

Wayne D. Moore, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker, writer and expert in the life safety field, has been a principal member and chair of NFPA 72, Chapter 24, as well as a former principal member of NFPA 909 and NFPA 914. He is the...

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