Define NFPA 72-2016 changes

NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code has undergone a lot of updates. Here’s a look at the 2016 edition.


This article is peer-reviewed.Learning objectives:

  • Recall NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code and its basic intent.
  • Discover changes in the 2016 edition of NFPA 72.
  • Apply updated code information into building design.

NFPA has issued the latest version of NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code in the 2016 edition. The goal of the revision process is to provide NFPA 72 users with rules that both comprehensively and accurately reflect the field of fire alarm design, installation, inspection, testing, and maintenance.

It is imperative to remain up to date with changes to the code, because they take into account advances in technology as well as address any issues that may have needed adjustment from the previous version of the code. Review the latest edition of the code for the complete picture of the changes.

Chapter 7: documentation

The minimum required fire alarm system documentation in the code has been expanded in the 2016 edition. By expanding the amount of documentation that is required, a more complete picture of the fire alarm system can be recorded. The following additional information is now required by either the authority having jurisdiction or where required by code:

  • Room-use identification. Providing the room use will help clarify any assumptions made during the design process regarding how a space is being purposed. This will help ensure that the proper layout of fire alarm devices is being applied to the intended occupancy of the space.
  • Building features that will affect the placement of initiating devices and notification appliances. In select cases, building features will cause fire alarm devices to be placed in a way that seems odd. By documenting these features, it will help clarify why devices have been laid out a certain way.
  • Mounting-height elevation for wall-mounted devices and appliances. Providing this design criterion will allow a review for and facilitate code compliance of the installation.
  • Where occupant notification is required, minimum sound pressure levels that must be produced by the audible notification appliances in applicable covered areas. This will ensure that the notification appliances are providing adequate coverage of the spaces in which they are installed.
  • Pathway diagrams between the control unit, supervising station, and shared communications equipment. This will provide an overall picture of the system and how it communicates.
  • For software-based systems, a copy of site-specific software including specific instructions on how to obtain the means of system and software access (password). Providing these instructions will allow access to the fire alarm system by the owners to facilitate maintenance and future modifications if required.

During the design phase, certain assumptions and decisions are made regarding the spaces for which the system is being designed. The additional documentation is intended to facilitate the plan review process and to minimize the potential for misinterpretation during construction. It also should enhance the site inspection and acceptance testing process.

Chapter 12: circuits and pathways

The 2016 edition of the code modified the language allowing a performance approach for providing survivability. The specific hourly rating for the performance alternative was deleted, and annex material was added to explain the rationale and to provide some examples that could be considered. There are situations where a non-fire-rated or 1-hour fire-rated building may use partial evacuation. That would be one example where providing 2-hour fire-rated cable or 2-hour-rated enclosures for circuits and equipment may not be appropriate. Some specific exceptions have been added. Those will be reviewed in the changes to Chapter 24.

Another change to this chapter is the addition of a new class of circuit. The new Class N circuit has been added to specifically address the use of modern network infrastructure in fire alarm and emergency communication systems. Class N circuits have the following performance requirements:

  • Class N circuits shall include two or more pathways where operational capability of the primary pathway and a redundant pathway to each device shall be verified through end-to-end communication. When only one device is being served, only one pathway is required.
  • A loss of intended communications between endpoints shall be annunciated as a trouble signal.
  • A single open, ground, short, or combination of faults on one pathway shall not affect any other pathway.
  • Conditions that affect the operation of the primary pathway(s) and redundant pathway(s) shall be annunciated as a trouble signal when the system's minimal operational requirements cannot be met.
  • Primary and redundant pathways shall not be permitted to share traffic over the same physical segment.

A large amount of explanatory material, including sample block diagrams containing Class N circuits, has been added to Appendix A. Refer to this explanatory material to obtain a better understanding of the intent of the code regarding the new Class N circuit.

Chapter 14: inspections and testing

Previously, the code did not cover the recall of a specific piece of equipment by a manufacturer. Provisions for a recall event have been added in the 2016 edition of the code. If a recall program is initiated by a fire alarm manufacturer, the system owner or the system owner's designated representative is to be notified in writing. This will improve communication with the system owner regarding recalled equipment so the faulty equipment can be replaced in a timely manner.

Another notable change in Chapter 14 is in regard to the inspection and testing of the in-building emergency radio-communication systems. In the 2013 edition of NFPA 72, inspection and testing were to be in accordance with the manufacturer's published requirements by the local fire department, the building owner, or a designated representative. This has been changed in the 2016 edition of the code.

NFPA 72-2016 now states that the in-building emergency radio communication systems shall be inspected and tested in accordance with the requirements of NFPA 1221: Standard for the Installation, Maintenance, and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems. Although this section has changed, the survivability criteria for these systems has remained in Chapter 24.

Chapter 17: initiating devices

In the 2013 edition of the code, the "total coverage" requirement in Section stated that total coverage included "all rooms, halls, storage areas, basements, attics, lofts, spaces above suspended ceilings, and other subdivisions and accessible spaces, as well as the inside of all closets, elevator shafts, enclosed stairways, dumbwaiter shafts, and chutes." In the 2016 edition, the phrase "as well as the inside of all closets, elevator shafts, enclosed stairways, dumbwaiter shafts, and chutes" has been removed.

Explanatory material has been added in the annex to clarify the requirements when it comes to vertical spaces. While there are certain locations in vertical spaces where initiating devices are required, the overall layout of devices in these areas, including stairways and elevator shafts, can vary greatly depending on their design. For elevator shafts, the explanatory material refers to Section 21.4 for design criteria. For stairways, the explanatory material mentions that the number and location of detection devices will vary based on the design of the stairway. The explanatory material also states that stairways should generally include one smoke detector at the top, but detectors should be located on additional floors to achieve design objective.

It is important to understand that NFPA 72 does not require the installation of fire alarm systems or fire alarm devices. The requirement for a fire alarm system and the specific devices are driven by applicable building and fire codes as well as local ordinances and owners requirements. Once a system and devices are required, then NFPA 72 provides the criteria for design and installation. "Total coverage" as defined in NFPA 72 is not typically required in any of the model building or fire codes.

<< First < Previous 1 2 Next > Last >>

GURCHARAN S. , NJ, United States, 08/24/16 09:55 AM:

Is there any chance the Fire Alarm systems to be Approved operated with IoT?
Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
Commissioning lighting control systems; 2016 Commissioning Giants; Design high-efficiency hot water systems for hospitals; Evaluating condensation and condensate
Solving HVAC challenges; Thermal comfort criteria; Liquid-immersion cooling; Specifying VRF systems; 2016 Product of the Year winners
MEP Giants; MEP Annual Report; Mergers and acquisitions; Passive, active fire protection; LED retrofits; HVAC energy efficiency
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing Arc Flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Putting COPS into context; Designing medium-voltage electrical systems; Planning and designing resilient, efficient data centers; The nine steps of designing generator fuel systems
Designing generator systems; Using online commissioning tools; Selective coordination best practices
As brand protection manager for Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Tom Grace oversees counterfeit awareness...
Amara Rozgus is chief editor and content manager of Consulting-Specifier Engineer magazine.
IEEE power industry experts bring their combined experience in the electrical power industry...
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E., LEED AP, CDT is an Engineering Specification Writer at ARCOM MasterSpec.
click me