On the Circuit

In this issue, you’ll see a supplement on mass notification and emergency communication. 1/13/2012 10:40 AM Eastern

On the Circuit

Jan 13, 2012 3:40 PM, By Cynthia Wisehart

In this issue, you’ll see a supplement on mass notification and emergency communication. This subject became relevant last year with the release of the 2010 edition of the National Fire Protection Association code NFPA 72, in particular Chapter 24 of that code and Annex D, which deal with emergency notification systems and speech intelligibility. These sections of the code represent an historic escalation of the role of AV in life safety. They acknowledge that life-safety systems ideally will carry speech and video messaging.

This is an important validation of our industry expertise and a potential opportunity as buildings incorporate more sophisticated, AV-driven life-safety systems. Having said that, the code—like most—is far from clear. It is not a law; it does not technically mandate the installation of anything. Instead—and I’m quoting from InfoComm’s excellent white paper on the subject here—“the code only provides requirements for the installation, performance, testing, inspection, and maintenance of these systems in the event that the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) requires conformity. Other codes, such as the International Building Code or NFPA 101 Life Safety Code, determine whether these systems are actually required in the first place."

The AHJ will enforce the code, depending on which version they have chosen to adopt. To date, the states of California, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Vermont have adopted the 2010 revision of NFPA. Once the 2012 revision of the International Building Code is completed, it will reference NFPA 72-2010, at which time broader adoption can be expected.

AHJs and state and local authorities are not required to adopt any code at all. Some will maintain older versions and some may even develop their own local codes. However, regardless of the issue of authority, customers are aware that they could be doing more to protect their students, visitors, and customers by taking advantage of AV messaging. They will want to do this when it can be made practical whether or not their local AHJ requires it. So in many ways—for now—the rise of NFPA 72 is a marketing and customer service/relationship issue more than a compliance one. Being familiar with the code will help you talk to your customers about what they really want and need, and will allow you to anticipate some level of future-proofing. It will also help your customers find funding for digital signage and PA systems because you will help them identify these systems as life-safety related.

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