A popular topic at recent fire protection trade association meetings is the newly adopted NFPA 72 2010 code. This article covers AFP’s view on how this will affect the fire alarm industry in the years to come.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) creates codes and standards for fire protection and suppression systems. The NFPA was formed by a group of insurance companies in the late 1800’s to create uniform codes that the group could follow. Different numbers correspond to different NFPA codes, for example, NFPA 25 covers sprinkler systems and NFPA 72 covers fire alarms. There is a full list of code numbers and names on the NFPA website. Codes are updated every three to five years and different states and municipalities often adopt different versions of the code. Information on how codes and standard are developed can be found on the NFPA website.
NFPA 72 governs the installation, inspection, testing and maintenance of fire alarm systems, and now emergency warning equipment. One of the most significant changes in the lastest revision is the name of the code which has changed from the National Fire Alarm Code to the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. Increasingly, building owners, companies, and university and school administors are looking for new ways to communicate with building occupants, employees and students. Highly publicized acts of terrorism and school shootings have increased this need to stay connected. Manufacturers have responded to this need by creating a new type of system called Emergency Communication Systems or Mass Notification. NFPA 72 2010 edition has made large structural changes to include these new types of systems.
What are Mass Notification Systems?
Emergency Notification Systems and Mass Notification Systems are systems designed to get different types of messages to people through multiple communication channels. These systems will most likely be found at colleges, large buildings, large venues, or large corporate campuses; buildings that currently are required to have a voice evacuation system. In addition to informing occupants about a fire condition, these new systems will inform people about other emergencies such as a medical event, weather event or shooter in the vicinity. In addition to notifying occupants via speakers and horn strobes in the building, notification via text messaging, email, LED screens, LCD monitors and outdoor speakers are now options. It is important note that these technologies extend outside the building to inform building occupants while they are not in the building.
These systems will make use of existing infrastructure of fire alarm systems, computers, advertising/notification display screens, LED message signs, indoor & outdoor speaker systems, PBX/VoIP/POTS telephones, and e-mail server combined with intelligent hardware and programming.
How will this affect the fire alarm industry?
Over the long term, we may see the integration of fire alarm systems and paging systems. As a result more players will likely enter the fire alarm business so we can expect to see increase comptetion. Speakers will most likely replace the traditional horn or bell because of the need for voice communciation. In addition, recent studies have shown that people who are hearing impaired or have consumed alcohol can hear lower Hz levels around 520 Hz which is produced by a speaker.