Does anyone else feel like 2019 is flying by, or is it just me? Here we are the first day of November, fire inspectors have had a busy few months inspecting haunted houses, corn mazes, carnivals, and other seasonal events, the NFPA 1 Technical Committee has just about finished up their Second Draft work for the 2021 code development cycle, and we are ready to turn back the clocks (don’t forget that when you change your clocks, it's a good time to check your smoke alarm batteries to make sure they're working!)
This past week, the NFPA 1 Technical Committee met at NFPA headquarters and through teleconference to finish up their Second Draft work. Most of the work this week focused on updating the extracted portions of the Code, with a few technical issues carrying over from the first, Second Draft meeting back in September. One of those issues relates to two-way radio communication enhancement systems. But before addressing some of the new issues facing the Committee on this topic, it’s important that inspectors and users of the Code are aware of how it got to where it is today in the 2018 edition.
The 2009 edition of NFPA 1 provided guidance on the design of two-way radio communication enhancement systems in Annex O. Annex O was deleted for the 2012 edition, because much of its criteria was incorporated into NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code at the time. For the 2012 edition of this Code, the mandatory reference to NFPA 72 was added to Section 11.10 for enforcement where the AHJ determines that a building requires such a system to facilitate fire department communications in the building. For the 2018 edition, the reference to NFPA 72 in Section 11.10.2 was replaced with a reference to NFPA 1221, Standard for the Installation, Maintenance and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems. The 2016 edition of NFPA 1221 added requirements regarding two-way communications enhancement systems from NFPA 72 into Section 9.6.
So, as it stands in the Code today, for all new and existing buildings, minimum radio signal strength for fire department communications must be maintained at a level determined by the AHJ. Where required by the AHJ, two-way radio communication enhancement systems must comply with NFPA 1221, and where a two-way radio communication enhancement system is required and such system components, or equipment has a negative impact on the normal operations of the facility that its installed, the AHJ has the authority to accept an automatically activated responder system.
NFPA 1221 covers the installation, performance, operation, and maintenance of public emergency services communications systems and facilities. It applies to communications systems that include, but are not limited to, dispatching systems, telephone systems, public reporting systems, and one-way and two-way radio systems that provide the following functions: (1) Communication between the public and emergency response agencies, (2) Communication within the emergency response agency under emergency and nonemergency conditions, and (3) Communication among emergency response agencies.
Section 9.6 of NFPA 1221 specifically addresses two-way radio communications enhancement systems. It addresses system components, system degradation, approvals and permits, radio coverage, signal strength, radio frequencies, system monitoring, and documentation of technical criteria.
This current code revision cycle, the Fire Code Technical Committee has discussion expanding the provisions to address minimum safety and performance requirements, that currently do not exist in other codes and standards, for two-way radio communication enhancement systems. The First Draft Report shows expanded text that addresses how accepted installation practices have made their way through the industry via emerging technologies that did not exist years ago. New language addresses listing and labeling, minimum signal strength into the building, equipment installation, and acceptance test procedures. Further updates at the Second Draft meeting as discussed, but not formally voted on by the Committee, include updating the terminology and additional references to NFPA 1221. These changes as discussed at the Second Draft meeting will be voted on by the Committee in the coming weeks and published in the Second Draft Report early next year.
What challenges have you faced as an inspector when addressing these building systems? How have you addressed the provisions in NFPA 1 that rely heavily on AHJ decision and approval with regard to two-way communication systems? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Don't miss another #FireCodeFridays blog! Get notifications straight to your email inbox by subscribing here! And you can always follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA.
Thanks for reading!