Canadian Consulting Engineer

Security Systems Come of Age

After several starts and stops the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) based in Quincy, Massachusetts is set to launch a new set of documents addressing premises security. These documents woul...

May 1, 2005  By Sean A. Tracey, P.Eng., NFPA

After several starts and stops the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) based in Quincy, Massachusetts is set to launch a new set of documents addressing premises security. These documents would be a first for North America and will provide welcome guidance for Canadian consulting engineers working in this field.

The draft documents have gone through two public review stages. The next step is for the members of NFPA to adopt the standards at the annual meeting in Las Vegas in June 2005. The two new documents are: NFPA 730 Guide for Premises Security 2005 Edition; and NFPA 731 Standard for the Installation of Electronic Premises Security Systems 2005 Edition. They could be released by the end of this summer.

NFPA’s entry into the field of premise security standards began as far back as 1994 and is not a far-fetched extension from the organization’s traditional role when you consider that NFPA develops the U.S. National Electrical Code as well as fire alarm and other life safety standards.

NFPA 730 Guide for Premises Security will essentially address when and where security systems are required, while NFPA 731 Standard for the Installation of Electronic Premises Security Systems will address how the systems are to be installed.

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NFPA 730 will be produced as a guide. Key to the document is the requirement to have security needs based on a security vulnerability assessment. The guide is performance based, and the security plan would be based on the risk assessment. Chapter 5 of the document is dedicated to the procedures for the assessments, including a seven-step process. Chapters 6 through 10 discuss common features such as exterior security protection, interior security systems, security personnel and security planning.

Similar to other NFPA documents, NFPA 730 is occupancy-based. Chapters 11 through 22 provide security guidance based on specific occupancies, i.e educational, healthcare facilities, office buildings, and shopping centres. The guide also includes a chapter that addresses security at special events.

It is envisioned that Canadian designers could use the guide as a starting point. It could help you to recommend systems that should be installed, as well as how they need to interface with fire and life safety systems.

NFPA 731, as a standard, is more definitive. It is intended to cover the application, location and installation of physical security systems and their components. It also provides for the systems’ performance, testing and maintenance when installed. It gives direction to cover the fundamentals as well as the needs of individual systems such as intrusion detection, electronic access control, closed-circuit TV, hold-up, duress, and ambush systems. The last three enable employees to indicate whether a hostile situation is under way. Ambush systems send a signal to a supervisory station that the alarm system is being disarmed under duress.

Included in the standard are testing, inspections, and systems interoperability. The intent was to apply minimum design standards for the installation of security systems and thus reduce false alarms. All these precautions are intended to boost the public’s confidence in the systems.

As an installation standard, NFPA 731 refers to a number of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards that address specific product standards. In Canada, Underwriters Laboratories Canada (ULC) has standards that cover similar areas that may be used as substitutes.

Underwriters Laboratories Canada also produces a standard for the installation of Closed Circuit Video Equipment, ULC-S317-96, and it is developing a new standard on Electronic Access Control Systems (ULC-S319) which is expected to be published this summer. These standards can supplement information in NFPA 731, thus providing a complete Canadian perspective on the installation requirements.

Early draft versions of both documents are still available for free download from the NFPA website at www.nfpa.org.

Sean Tracey, P.Eng., is the Canadian Regional Manager of NFPA. He lives in Ottawa.

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