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NFPA Impact on Emergency Communications Is a Model for Industry Change

NFPA 72’s signaling code shift that allows the overriding of the fire alarm control panel in the event of a non-fire emergency represents the potential for innovation in the industry.

In essence, by simply tracing back to its addition of signaling to the NFPA 72 code, the association has disrupted the industry in a positive way. The NFPA has achieved two objectives with the addition of emergency communications: improved the ability to get life safety right; and provided a new means of adding communication devices to its members’ systems offerings.

One specific disruption that the NFPA is driving is the overriding of the fire alarm control panel in the event of a non-fire emergency. In this development, the organization put tremendous thought into the actions of human-related threats.

As an example, in both the 2013 Washington, D.C., Navy Yard shooting and the 2018 Parkland, Fla., school shooting, the gunmen entered the building and pulled the fire alarm. This impacts that type of situation in two very negative and connected ways.

First, the pulling of the fire alarm releases all of the exit door locks, allowing others to enter the building. And second, it drives building occupants to exit hallways and puts a denser population in harm’s way.

Through signaling innovation, NFPA 72 has brought to the industry a new standard, allowing the fire alarm to be overridden and letting an emergency communications system to take control and communicate directions to safety.

Because the NFPA has raised the game on expectations within the code, there are new systems today that are now capable of overriding the fire alarm control panel. This sort of thinking pushes companies to further develop their technology and systems and ultimately drives innovation through an industry.