BY WAYNE D. MOORE
THE IMPORTANCE OF THINKING AHEAD
“A good hockey player plays
where the puck is. A great hockey player plays
where the puck is going to be.” In this quote,
Wayne Gretzky makes an important point. With
all of the knowledge you need to remain com-
petitive in the fire alarm systems installation
market, the future is often the furthest thing
from your mind. But to be great, you need to
know what’s new or what is about to be new.
The Internet of Things, which networks
physical objects using electronic connectivity,
affects fire alarm system design, installation
and use. NFPA 72 2016, National Fire Alarm and
Signaling Code, recognizes the use of Ethernet
for fire alarm system connectivity. This edition
has added a new circuit classification labeled
“Class N,” which could lead to lower installation costs and ease system updates during a
building’s life cycle.
If you intend to employ a network to ensure
security and signal throughput, plan to dedicate
your fire alarm system networks to that purpose.
The code, however, permits sharing networks
with other building systems.
Ethernet use requires careful analysis, well-planned installation and prudent maintenance.
The code does not allow you to install a fire
alarm system on general communication networks within a building. Remember that it is a
daunting task to protect the security of a network that is exposed to the outside world.
Sharing ordinary business networks with
other systems, and connecting them to the
outside world, exposes connected fire alarm
systems to new risks. When a customer decides that using ordinary business networks
for fire alarm systems, and possibly integrating
other systems on the same network, is a cost-effective solution, you should thoroughly explain
the disadvantages of doing so. Also, make this
notification before submitting the bid.
Other developing trends involve communi-
cations systems, specifically fire emergency
voice/alarm communications systems (EVACS)
and mass notification systems (MNS). The trends
include current changes to NFPA 72 2016 and
proposed changes to the International Building
Code (IBC) and NFPA 101, Life
The IBC currently requires
EVACS in K– 12 schools, which
will generate more voice sys-
tems demand. One of the first
relevant changes in NFPA
72 2016 allows the use of
unlisted speakers to accom-
modate challenging acoustic
environments. Given the in-
telligibility requirements, this
change gives contractors a
broader choice of equipment to meet chal-
lenging performance goals.
Specifically, Section 24. 3. 1. 2 states: “Where
Another issue affecting intelligibility occurs
no listed loudspeaker exists to achieve the in-
telligibility requirements of the Code for a
notification zone, non-listed loudspeakers shall
be permitted to be installed to achieve the intel-
ligibility for that notification zone.”
The NFPA Technical Committee wanted code
users to understand that, when two require-
ments conflict, system performance should take
precedence. Note that this change contemplates
the use of nonlisted speakers only in acoustically
challenging spaces where listed speakers can-
not provide intelligible communications. The fire
alarm system designer would have to demon-
strate the need to use these nonlisted speakers.
with existing fire EVACS when salespeople of-
fer the customer an “upgrade” that is actually a
new system from the same manufacturer.
When this happens, the upgraded system will
invariably fail the code’s intelligibility
requirements. It is even more
inappropriate when a contractor upgrades an existing
nonvoice system simply by
replacing the original audible notification appliances
with speakers. It is nearly
impossible to ensure intelligibility this way. Remember
that customers look to you as
their resource for fire alarm
system installations and
expect you to get it right
the first time.
Finally, the next edi-
tions of the Life Safety
Code and IBC have
proposals to require a
qualified person to perform a risk analysis prior
to installing an MNS. These requirements would
help define and analyze the natural and human-caused dangers to individuals, businesses and
government agencies. It examines the probability
that a given threat will actually exploit a given
vulnerability and cause harm. The analysis must
include a review of the extent to which occupants
and personnel receive notification, based on the
potential hazard. Also, it will form the basis for
the facility emergency response plan’s emergency
communications systems provisions development.
All of the proposals will affect almost all occupancies and, of course, will reference NFPA
72. Note that NFPA 72 2016 requires risk analysis documentation and the annex to Section
7. 3. 6 includes a “risk analysis checklist.”
These emerging trends point to yet another
that will affect you directly: the need for more
qualified technical talent. Stay aware of the marketplace trends, and you will continue to grow
your business as a profitable enterprise.
MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in
the life safety field, is a principal member and past chair of NFPA 72, Chapter 24.
Moore is a vice president with Jensen Hughes at the Warwick, R.I., office. He can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.