NFPA 730 moves ahead

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

QUNICY, Mass. - Although this year’s National Fire Protection Association’s annual meeting is over, many members and industry professionals are gearing up for next year’s conference when NFPA 730 returns to the table.

Whether the guideline, which attempts to set a minimum amount of security in various locales such as hospitals, museums and office buildings, passes muster is anyone’s guess.

Many professionals, who would be affected by the proposal’s implementation, are voicing their opinions against it.

“The guideline is too prescriptive and too specific,” said Chad Callaghan, vice president of loss prevention at Marriott International and a member of the NFPA’s Premises Security Technical Committee. “It doesn’t take into consideration how broad our industry is and how many different applications there may be for what they are doing.”

Callaghan said the committee, a 30-member team comprised of individuals across the industry, said the proposed code was voted down twice by the Premises Committee. This and vocal criticism for the code may have propelled the NFPA to downgrade 730 from a code to a guideline before it was released for public comment.

Critics of the guideline, including Callaghan, point out that the NFPA is trying to institute codes in an area where the association has a lack of expertise. Although he commended the NFPA for taking the initiative to look into establishing the guideline, he said they are the wrong group to do it.

“They are not security professionals,” he said, “they are fire professionals.”

But Rich Bielan, the committee’s liaison to the NFPA, said the guidelines go right along with what the NFPA has been doing for more than 100 years.

“The security complements what we’re doing with the building codes and other codes and standards,” he said. “We’ve been doing it since 1896 and it’s not just fire protection.”

Both Bielan and Callaghan noted there is a need for established security guidelines. Callaghan said the American Society of Industrial Security’s guidelines are more appropriate for the entire industry.

“NFPA 730 calls for a lot of shall do,” Callaghan said. “Whereas the ASIS guidelines are more broad-based and more voluntary.”

The ASIS General Risk Assessment guideline has already been published, while six others are in various phases of becoming published.

As of the progress of 730, Bielan said it is positive. He said incoming ballots have been supportive of the guideline.

The NFPA has another less controversial guideline - NFPA 731, which outlines standards for security installations and maintenance - making its way through the approval process.

“NFPA 731, the companion guidelines, are great,” Callaghan said. “It makes sense and overlaps with many of the fire codes.”

As for NFPA 730, the guideline is moving through its second round of public review - towards a final vote in May 2005. Until that time, there is little doubt the debate will continue.