Fire alarm installers and technicians are familiar with the Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (NFPA 72); they regularly work with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to determine whether a fire alarm control panel is compliant with NFPA 72 and other safety provisions relating to fire detection, signaling, and emergency communications demands.
The Alert Beacon, a wall-mounted device that sounds, flashes, and displays emergency messages, is featured in the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code Handbook section on wide-area mass notification systems.
As the mass notification system market evolves and expands, many fire alarm system designers and emergency mass notification system providers have started integrating fire alarms with security and mass notification systems. This allows organizations to leverage existing fire panels to expand their emergency communication efforts in the event of an emergency.
As emergency mass notification systems continue to evolve, so too has the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code Handbook. According to the 2013 handbook preface, “requirements have been incorporated in the Code in an effort to keep pace with this ongoing evolution in integrated system designs and to preserve the integrity, reliability, and performance that are essential for fire alarm systems.”
Organizations exploring options for enhancing their emergency mass notification capabilities using an existing fire alarm panel will find Chapter 24 of the handbook on emergency communications systems (ECS) a helpful resource when conducting a risk assessment.
Personal alerting (such as cell phone alerts, computer pop-ups, email notifications, and autodialers) is classified as Tier 2 capabilities because this method is not immediate and intrusive; section 188.8.131.52 of the handbook addresses this item in some detail. “Distributed recipient mass notification system (DRMNS) alerting shall not be used in lieu of required audible and visible alerting mass notification systems but shall be integrated with mass notification systems whenever possible.”
The handbook also requires the use of visual/tactile notification appliances in addition to high-intensity strobes in sleeping and guest rooms for those with profound hearing loss; Alert Beacons fulfill this requirement as a single integrated unit.
As emergency mass notification continues to evolve, so too will NFPA 72. It is important to be aware of existing mandates as well as the Code’s flexibility when it comes to fire panel integration, which allows for extended mass notification coverage in the event of an emergency.
Jamie Underwood is Director of Marketing Communication at Alertus Technologies. For information on Alertus Technologies, click here.