Revisions and Updates to NFPA 72 – Fire Alarm and Signaling Code

Posted December 06, 2017 by Koorsen Fire & Security


NFPA 72 provides standards that apply to the application, installation, location, performance, inspection, testing, and maintenance of fire alarm systems, supervising station alarm systems, public emergency alarm reporting systems, fire warning equipment and emergency communications systems and their components.

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The 2016 Edition of the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code was issued on August 18, 2015 and become effective on September 7, 2015. There are several changes and updates in this latest edition, some which could impact your system’s compliance. In this article, Koorsen Fire & Security offers a summary of the major revisions and additions to the code with the 2016 Edition. While not an exhaustive review of all the changes in the Code, the information here will help you more easily identify some of the potential impacts these changes might have on your current fire alarm system.

Chapter 7: Documentation

The 2016 Edition expands the minimum documentation necessary for fire alarm systems by requiring the following:

  • Information on how each room/space within a building is being used to help ensure the proper layout of devices based on the intended occupancy
  • Identification of building features that affect the placement of initiating devices and notification appliances, which will help to explain the layout chosen
  • Mounting-height elevation for wall-mounted devices and appliances to facilitate review and code compliance of the installation
  • Minimum sound pressure levels required for audible notification appliances to help ensure adequate coverage in areas where occupant notification is required
  • Diagrams of all the pathways between the control unit, supervising station, and shared communications equipment

In addition, a copy of site-specific software, including specific instructions on how to obtain the necessary information on how to access the system and software, will be required of software-based systems to ensure access to the fire alarm system by the owners for maintenance and future modifications as needed.

Another important change to note in this chapter is a new requirement for the review of the electronic formats used for the documentation of fire alarm systems. Building owners must now complete an annual review of the types of electronic media they use to document their systems to ensure their compatibility with their interfacing hardware. With rapidly-changing fire protection technologies, this review is important to ensure system documentation remains accessible through any changes and upgrades that are made.

Chapter 10: Fundamentals

In the 2013 Edition, deactivation of any notification appliance required the deactivation of both the visible and audible notification components (e.g both strobes and alarms). This meant that firefighters couldn’t turn off the strobes and alarms while investigating without running the risk of occupants re-entering the building before the investigation was complete. While this is still the case for the interior of a building, now in Annex A of the 2016 Edition, the installation of a separate, non-silenceable notification zone on the exterior of the building, such as strobes and alarms at the building entrances, is recommended to serve as a warning to occupants to remain outside. Note: Annex A and other Annexes mentioned in this article are for informational purposes only and are not part of the requirements of NFPA 72.

Chapter 12: Circuits and Pathways

One of the most significant changes in this chapter is the introduction of a new class of circuit that recognizes and address for the first time the use of internet infrastructures in alarm and signaling systems – Class N shared pathways. This chapter describes the performance characteristics of a Class N shared pathway, and Chapter 23 outlines the requirements for its use, which are summarized later in this article.

Chapter 14: Inspections and Testing

The 2013 Edition did not address manufacturer recalls on fire alarm equipment, making communication regarding faulty equipment less certain. Now, with the 2016 Edition, manufacturers are required to notify system owners or their designated representatives in writing whenever a recall is issued, which will allow for more timely replacement of equipment that has been recalled.

In the 2016 Edition, the inspection and testing requirements for in-building emergency radio-communication systems that appeared in Chapter 14 of the 2013 edition of NFPA 72 have been removed. It is important to note that inspections and testing of these systems are still required. However, the requirements for these processes are now found in NFPA 1221: Standard for the Installation, Maintenance, and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems.

Chapter 17: Initiating Devices

The 2016 Edition clarifies that “total coverage” does not have to apply to the entire building but can also apply to any portion thereof. This edition also provides additional flexibility in locating smoke detectors installed for the purposes of activating door releases, and in Annex A, clarifies the requirements and adds new ones for the location of devices in vertical spaces such as elevator shafts, chutes, and enclosed stairways.

Chapter 18: Notification Appliances

A minimum repetition of 180 seconds for an evacuation alarm is still required. However, the 2016 Edition adds that evacuation alarms can now be automatically interrupted for the purposes of transmitting mass notification messages.

Chapter 23: Protected Premises Fire Alarm Systems

The 2016 Edition introduces two important changes in how fire alarm systems are designed. One is that isolator modules are now required to ensure that a single fault on a pathway does not cause a loss of devices in more than one zone. Another is the introduction of a new designation of devices and circuit – Class N devices and Class N shared pathways – which addresses the use of modern network infrastructure in fire alarm and emergency communication systems.

Class N shared pathways allow for the first time the use of a network to connect all fire alarm or mass notification devices and appliances. In order to ensure the reliability of the system, Class N shared pathways must meet the requirements of a Level 3 shared pathway, meaning the building must be fully protected by an automatic sprinkler system in accordance with NFPA 13 and the system must meet one or more of methods for ensuring two-hour survivability for Level 2 shared pathways.

The Code also specifies a set of requirements for owners that wish to use a Class N shared pathway but cannot meet the requirements for a Level 3 pathway. In any case, however, all devices and products included in the Class N pathway must be listed and their interconnections must be assessed to ensure that the resulting fire alarm and/or mass notification system is fully compliant with NFPA 72.

Annex A provides block diagrams illustrating some different examples of Class N circuits. If you have questions regarding the use of new Class N circuits, you are encouraged to contact one of Koorsen’s Fire & Security Experts either online or by phone at 1.888.456.8038 for additional information.

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Chapter 24: Emergency Communications Systems

In order to help building owners meet the requirements for intelligibility of emergency notifications, the 2016 Edition now allows more flexibility for adding loudspeakers to acoustically challenging areas within a building without the requirement that they be listed. This change improves an owner’s ability to provide greater protection without increasing the regulatory burden associated with making changes to the building’s fire safety and notification system documentation.

The 2016 Edition has also added Annex G, Guidelines for Emergency Communications Strategies for Buildings and Campuses to help improve communications in emergency situations.

Chapter 29: Single- and Multiple-Station Alarms and Household Fire Alarm Systems

Recognizing advances in technology that now make it possible to access fire alarm control equipment remotely, the 2016 Edition includes new requirements regarding the resetting and silencing of fire alarms from locations other than the protected premises.

A minimum of 24 hours of secondary power capacity is also now required for all equipment necessary to transmit an alarm signal if using any communication or transmission system other than a digital alarm communication transmitter (DACT).

Contact Koorsen

Koorsen Fire & Security is a national leader in the design and installation of NFPA-compliant fire alarm systems. If you have questions regarding the NFPA 72 or concerns regarding compliance, Koorsen can help. We can inspect your current system and help you make any upgrades needed to ensure compliance with the most current edition of the NFPA 72 and/or the edition currently accepted by your local authorities holding jurisdiction. Contact a Koorsen Fire & Security expert online or call 1.888.456.8038 today.

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Topics: Fire Protection, NFPA, Fire Alarm Systems

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Disclaimer: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is believed to be reliable, but Koorsen Fire & Security assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this article. It does not constitute professional advice. The user of this article or the product(s) is responsible for verifying the information's accuracy from all available sources, including the product manufacturer. The authority having jurisdiction should be contacted for code interpretations.