NFPA 731

Lookin' good the second time around
Saturday, December 1, 2007

The National Fire Protection Association really ruffled some security industry feathers in 2005 when this "fire group" issued NFPA 731, a standard that governs the installation of security systems in commercial establishments. The second edition of the standard will be released this month and this time there appears to be increased acceptance of the standard among those in the security industry.
Perhaps that's because the second edition is a "major revision" according to Shane Clary, a member of the NFPA Standards Council who chairs the 731 Task Group. And maybe it's also because more security industry professionals worked on the revision.
"The NBFAA (National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association) was very instrumental in the devolvement of the second cycle, as was ADT and Brink's," Clary said. "I think that all agree that additional steps are required to combat false alarms and to curb the cycle of 'non-response' ordinances."
George Bish is the NBFAA representative to the 731 committee. He said the standard needed some major tweaking especially when it came to certain technology recommendations and requirements, with CCTV for example. However, he believes that, for many dealers, "what the standard will end up doing is raising the level of installation standards."
Jordan Brown, regional manager for Guardtronic, said, "We [in the security industry] do a poor job of monitoring and regulating ourselves. I'm not pro-regulation," but this standard is a good place to begin discussion. He noted that other groups have tried to write a standard, but none has been able to do it until now. "731 is not a perfect document but it's a starting point," Brown said.
In an October survey of 75 Security Systems News readers, 48 percent of respondents said they believe that 731 will affect their business, 31 percent said the standard would not affect their business and 21 percent were not sure. Eighty percent of respondents said that their companies had set installation policies and procedures, and 53 percent said they'd taken the time to review 731 and compare it to their own company guidelines. Forty-seven percent said they had not looked at the document.
Robert Yerger, president of Berkshire Systems Group in Reading, Pa., said it may take some time to get the standard right, but "we welcome the structure." A standard is "long overdue," he said. "It's not surprising that much of the security industry is unhappy with any standard that establishes rules, instead of the 'Wild West, anything goes' that has been their norm forever."
Rich Jones, ADT Security Services Manager, National Accounts Project, in Manchester, Mich., said his company is "very concerned about codes and following an approved best practices method of installation." He also said that he believes that 731 may "assist in adhering to Sarbanes-Oxley rules and reporting."
Some people, like Michael Joseph, vice president of Operations for SentryNet in Pensacola, Fla., said there is no need for this kind of standard: "I don't think we need standards. Technology and engineering dictate how things should be protected." He said, "the intention of the standard is good, but the practicality is almost non-existent."
The standard has only been adopted in one jurisdiction, that Clary knew of, in Carmel by the Sea, Calif., however he points out that the "technical committee was not pushing it until the second cycle edition was completed. It should be noted that several other NFPA standards, such as 99, which covers health-care facilities and 909, which oversees museums, libraries and places of worship, are in the process of adopting 731."
Rich Beilin, NFPA director of fire protection applications and chemical engineering, said, "a lot of states adopt the entire National Fire Code Set [which will include 731], so in some cases it may get adopted that way."
Clary believes the standard would be widely accepted over time. "The NFPA, with the release of the second cycle edition," he said, "will be making a case for its adoption to such groups as the International Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriff's Association."
It may be a bit down the road, but Jordan Brown from Guardtronic believes that other groups may jump on the 731 bandwagon as the standard gets refined.
"I'm not a big fan of regulations, but I am a fan of an even playing field," he said. If industry associations within states think a standard will do that, they'll go to the state Legislature in places like Oklahoma and work to get the standard adopted, he said.