Fresh Off the Vote: Changes to 2019 NFPA 72

The 2019 edition of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, was voted on during the technical session at the NFPA Conference in Las Vegas in June. Only a few Certified Amending Motions were filed, none of which would significantly change this document if approved. Next, the 2019 NFPA 72 will go to the Standards Council for approval in August and should be available for purchase this fall. Most jurisdictions will not adopt it for a couple of years, but the federal government and military adopt documents as they are released. So, let’s look at the significant changes to be made in Chapter 3, Definitions, and Chapter 7, Documentation. I will cover changes to other chapters in future articles.

The most significant change is the addition of carbon-monoxide detection requirements. NFPA eliminated NFPA 720, Standard for the Installation of Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detection and Warning Equipment, and moved CO into NFPA 72. System CO detection will be added to Chapter 17, and stand-alone CO alarms will be added to Chapter 29. Changes were made to the language in multiple chapters based on this change. Notification requirements of the fire and building codes, however, remain an area of confusion for some. The most common interpretation is that, in the event of a CO alarm, the detector’s immediate area must be notified, but not the entire building. I am sure more information will be added in future codes.

Remember, NFPA 72 does not provide the requirements for notification; it provides installation and testing instructions for required equipment. The CO alarm will be a Temporal 4 pattern.

Some key changes for clarity include changing “actuate” to “activate” (in most cases), “speakers” to “loudspeakers” and “visible” to “visual.” Most of these alterations were not consistently applied in past editions. A “speaker” is an individual who speaks; a “loudspeaker” is a notification appliance. “Visible” implies “direct human observation of a location or status.” “Visual” means your eyes perceive something.

Most changes to definitions were for clarity, although some were made to change terminology. For example, 3.3.3 Accessible, Readily, was excerpted from NFPA 70 to read, “Capable of being reached quickly for operation, renewal, or inspections without requiring those to whom ready access is requisite to take actions such as to use tools (other and keys), to climb over or under, to remove obstacles, or to resort to portable ladders, and so forth. [70:100] (SIG-FUN)”

The Chapter 14 Technical Committee added battery definitions to Chapter 3, per the recommendations of the IEEE Stationary Battery Committee and NFPA Battery Task Group to introduce correct battery terminology. The definitions are based on those found in published IEEE battery standards, EPRI technical reports and battery manufacturers’ technical manuals.

Chapter 26 describes a “prime contractor” as someone who is responsible for performing tasks or subcontracting tasks for central station service fire alarm systems. The intent has been that this prime contractor is a listed central station or listed local service company. The modified definition for prime contractor clarifies this requirement.

The definition for “notification zone” was modified to include areas outside of buildings where occupants may gather during an emergency event. It has always included areas inside of buildings only. Also, the definition for “signaling zone” was modified to areas where identical signals are actuated simultaneously.

In a previous article, I mentioned the International Building and Fire Codes deleted the list of required items for fire alarm shop drawings in paragraph 907.1.2 and will simply point to NFPA 72 for these items. The intent was to have just one list instead of two to reduce the chance for conflicts. In the 2019 NFPA 72, a few changes were made in paragraph 7.2.1 to clarify requirements as well as to better align with the requirements that used to be in the IBC or IFC.

Chapter 7 is also clearer that architects/engineers (AE) must be qualified to prepare fire alarm bid documents and to “clearly communicate the intended performance and functionality expected by all the bidding/installing contractors.” The Annex clarifies that these designers are not supposed to only state the alarm contractor is responsible for meeting all the codes. This has been a problem for a long time, and some of the new language is meant to try to remedy that. They also added language stating the AE must ensure areas using voice communication will be finished out to ensure intelligibility can be achieved.

Lastly, Chapter 7 clearly states not to modify the original record of completion but to provide a supplement to the original documents.

About the Author
Tom Hammerberg

Thomas P. Hammerberg

Life Safety Columnist

Thomas P. Hammerberg, SET, CFPS is an indepe       ndent fire alarm presenter and consultant residing in Jasper, GA. Tom served on multiple NFPA technical committees as well as actively participating in the ICC code making process for many years. He...

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