Code Guidelines on Mass Notification Available, Not Required
October 28, 2013
Fire safety considerations are often interwoven with mass communication or emergency communication considerations. However, at this time, emergency communication systems are not a requirement of NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. Rather, it provides the design, installation, and maintenance requirements and guidelines for systems if they are required by local codes or other governing authorities or if an owner decides to voluntarily implement an emergency communication system within a building or area, says Ray Grill, a principal with Arup, in an article in the September 2013 issue of Building Operating Management
"There are currently no known requirements in the building or fire codes mandating mass notification," he says. That said, building and fire codes establish when a fire alarm system is required in a facility and what it needs to be able to do. Sometimes, that includes a communications component, such as in high-rise buildings, large assembly and schools. While the systems in those situations would not be mass notification systems per se, they could be designed to function as such.
There are many communications tools available for communicating emergency information to a large number of people that still wouldn't be defined as emergency communications systems in NFPA 72. For example, automated text message generated by a computer alert or phone communications are not considered part of an emergency communication system, though they can certainly serve to augment one.
In addition to listing under NFPA, mass notification equipment is listed under the Underwriters Laboratories standard UL 2572: Control Equipment for Mass Notification Systems. The standard covers control units, communication units, distributed recipient mass notification control units and dedicated targeted individual receiving equipment, high power speaker arrays, transport products which manipulate the data packets, and accessories for mass notification systems to be employed in accordance with NFPA 72.