Look out for NFPA 3

Code would require five-year inspections of fire and security system interoperability
Thursday, September 17, 2009

QUINCY, Mass.—A code is currently in the works that would mandate that building owners have their entire fire and security system tested to ensure that all of the disparate systems work together. The test would have to be performed once every five years.

NFPA members won’t vote on the new code until the NFPA meeting in June 2011, but now is the time to look at a preliminary version of the code and let the committee know what you think, said Shane Clary of Bay Alarm, who is a member of the technical committee. The new version should be online at www.nfpa.org, under the codes and standards tab, by the beginning of October.

“If you have concerns, you need to send in your comments,” said Clary. “You cannot get your point of view heard by being on the sidelines.”

The code is a brand new version of NFPA 3, which governs the commissioning of fire protection systems—fire alarm, sprinklers, clean agent, water mist. The new version with the five-year requirement, however, is “a whole new mandate,” according to Clary.

What will this mean for the average fire installer? “More oversight,” Clary said. “It will mean that another set of eyes will be looking over your shoulder.”

Could it translate into a business opportunity for some to extend their service offerings? For some, possibly.

Clary surmised that an “engineering firm could open up a whole new division, doing commissioning and being a commissioning agent.” Most installing companies don’t “have all of the knowledge of all of the aspects of the different systems to do the commissioning.” The exception may be large installing companies like SimplexGrinnell or, theoretically, a company like Bay Alarm, “if they got a few more licenses and hired additional individuals.”

The effect of the code will also depend upon who adopts it, Clary pointed out. It could be adopted by a large hotel chain, for example, which would require that any hotel built would have to be NFPA 3 compliant. That may add cost for the installer. If it were adopted by a state or municipality, it may add more cost to building owners.