Doing What's Right

Too often, contractors seem to assume that only Article 760 of NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC), applies to fire alarm installations. I have witnessed many jobs where this has been the case. In fact, other NEC sections also apply. I always expect a professional contractor will follow all applicable code and standard requirements.


A simple example in Article 110.12 covers the requirements for the mechanical execution of work. It states, “Electrical equipment shall be installed in a neat and workmanlike manner.”


As an additional point of information for industry newcomers, the NEC references the ANSI/NECA 1 2010, Standard Practice of Good Workmanship in Electrical Construction, as a source to review accepted industry practices.


I actually have heard contractors argue that NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, does not apply because it does not specifically reference this article. They believe they can install the fire alarm system as they see fit.


NFPA 72 2016 has remedied the issue with a new Section 12.2.3 in Chapter 12, with emphasis added: “The installation of all pathway wiring, cable, and equipment shall be in accordance with NFPA 70 and the applicable requirements of 12.2.3.1 through 12.2.3.3.”


Section 12.2.3.1 references the NEC requirements in Article 770 for optical fiber cables and Article 760 regarding circuit protection against physical damage.


Section 12.2.3.2 requires a contractor to install fire alarm system wiring and equipment, including circuits controlled and powered by the fire alarm system, in accordance with the requirements of NFPA 72 and NEC Article 760. When the Code refers to “all fire alarm system wiring and equipment,” it means fire detection and alarm notification, guard’s tour, sprinkler water flow, and sprinkler supervisory systems.


This section’s annex material states: “Circuits controlled and powered by the fire alarm system include circuits for the control of building systems safety functions, elevator capture, elevator shutdown, door release, smoke doors and damper control, fire doors and damper control, and fan shutdown, but only where these circuits are powered by and controlled by the fire alarm system.”


Based on the changes to NFPA 72 2016, the code has taken away the excuse that, if it’s not referenced in the NEC, it doesn’t have to be done. Of course, the professional contractor has always followed NFPA 70’s requirements as a matter of course when installing any system, especially when the installed system will affect the building occupants’ life safety.


Trial by fire


Another Code issue has left contractors wondering when they are required to install wiring that will resist attack by fire. Chapter 24, Section 24.4.8.5.1 contains the actual requirements: “Fire alarm systems used for partial evacuation and relocation shall be designed and installed such that attack by fire within a signaling zone does not impair control and operation of the notification appliances outside the signaling zone.”


This requirement defines that wiring must resist attack by fire and then references survivability as defined in Chapter 3, Section 3.3.188, Pathway Survivability: “The ability of any conductor, optic fiber, radio carrier, or other means for transmitting system information to remain operational during fire conditions.”


Chapter 12 discusses the levels of survivability, including the following:


• Pathway Survivability Level 0 describes circuits that are not required to have any provisions for pathway survivability.


• Pathway Survivability Level 1 describes pathways in buildings that are fully protected by an automatic sprinkler system in accordance with NFPA 13 with any interconnecting conductors, cables or other physical pathways installed in metal raceways.


• Pathway Survivability Level 2 describes circuits that must consist of one or more of the following:


(1) 2-hour fire-rated circuit integrity (CI) or fire-resistive cable


(2) 2-hour fire-rated cable system [electrical circuit protective system(s)]


(3) 2-hour fire-rated enclosure or protected area


(4) Performance alternatives approved by the authority having jurisdiction


• Pathway Survivability Level 3 describes pathways in buildings that are fully protected by an automatic sprinkler system in accordance with NFPA 13 and meet one of Level 2’s options.


When a contractor uses wiring methods that other code sections permit to resist attack by fire, NFPA 72 2016, Section 12.2.3.3, requires the contractor to install them in accordance with the manufacturer’s published instructions and NEC Article 760 requirements.


As many contractors know, this requirement is important because, at the present time, no manufacturer has CI cable available. Therefore, to ensure the intended functionality of CI electrical circuit-protective systems (ECPS), it is imperative for contractors to follow the ECPS manufacturer’s installation instructions.


An ECPS has detailed installation requirements, including the type and manufacture of the required raceway, as well as additional requirements for proper installation to meet the UL listing of the electrical circuit protective system.


Previous issues of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR have discussed these survivability levels in more detail, but a change to NFPA 72 2016 provides some options to comply with the survivability requirements. These new options, located in the annex material to Section 24.4.8.5.1, state, “Along with the pathway survivability requirements, one or more of the following means could be considered acceptable to provide a level of survivability consistent with the intent of this requirement:


• “(1) Routing notification appliance circuits separately


• “(2) Using short-circuit, fault-tolerant signaling line circuits for controlling evacuation signals


• “The requirement for notification appliances to operate in those signaling zones that are not attacked by fire will also require that circuits and equipment that are common to more than one signaling zone be designed and installed such that the fire will not disable them. For instance, a signaling line circuit used to control notification appliances in multiple signaling zones should be properly designed and installed so that one fire would not impair the signaling line circuit, rendering the notification appliances serving more than one signaling zone inoperative.”


In addition, a change to Section 24.3.13.7 now requires two-way, in-building, wired emergency communications systems to have a Level 2 or 3 pathway survivability. This change presents a new exception to the requirement that states, “Level 1 shall be permitted where the building is less than 2-hour fire-rated construction.”


All of these changes affect your installations and your ability to level the playing field when competitors attempt to gloss over their obligations and fail to comply with both NFPA 72 and NFPA 70. The important takeaway from this is that you should ensure that the fire and electrical inspector and the owner understand these changes to NFPA 72 2016.


You may argue that the jurisdiction where you work has not yet adopted the NFPA 72 2016, so the jurisdictional authorities cannot enforce its requirements. While this may represent a legal argument, you should always do the right thing and follow the most recent edition of any code or standard.


If you demonstrate to the owner your superior knowledge of the Code, it will very likely help them see how using your services will make a decided difference in the quality of his or her alarm system installations. I am confident that, by so doing, you will differentiate yourself and become the contractor of choice.


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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