Since fire protection is so important for occupant safety, it is subject to rigorous standards from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). A qualified fire protection engineer is familiarized with NFPA requirements and can apply them effectively during the design and construction process.
There are many types of fire protection systems, and the NFPA has published standards to cover all of them. Some systems become optional under certain project conditions, but they are covered by standards nevertheless – you can choose not to install an optional system, but you must meet NFPA requirements if you proceed with the installation.
There are more than 300 NFPA standards, and getting familiarized with all of them can be a daunting task. However, most of them deal with specialized applications that are only found in some projects – only a handful of standards is used frequently in construction.
Automatic Sprinkler Standards Used by a Fire Protection Engineer
The NFPA 13 is the main reference for fire sprinkler system design. The standard is recognized and applied internationally, and many other sprinkler codes are based on its requirements. There are two additional versions of the standard for specific building types:
- NFPA 13D: One- and two-family dwellings, and manufactured homes.
- NFPA 13R: Low-rise residential occupancies.
An automatic sprinkler system designed by a professional fire protection engineer adheres to the NFPA 13 standard. Sprinklers make buildings much safer, and they can extinguish most fires without assistance from the local fire department. In addition, properties with code-compliant sprinkler systems get better coverage plans from insurance companies.
Fire extinguishing systems that use chemical agents instead of water get their own standards: the NFPA 17 covers dry chemical systems, while the NFPA 17A covers wet chemical systems.
How a Fire Protection Engineer Specifies Alarm Systems
Fire safety starts with reliable detection systems, which then activate alarms and communication devices. This aspect of fire protection is covered in the NFPA 72 standard, which deals with detection, signaling and emergency communications. The following are some of the main topics covered by the standard:
- Fire alarm systems: installation, performance, inspection, testing, maintenance, etc.
- Supervising station alarm systems
- Public emergency alarm reporting systems
- Emergency communication systems (ECS)
The NFPA 72 provides design methods and risk analysis procedures to make ensure that fire alarm systems are implemented properly. The NFPA 72E focuses on automatic fire detectors, which are a key element of fire protection.
Additional Measures Designed by a Fire Protection Engineer
The NFPA 10 standard addresses portable fire extinguishers, which can control fires effectively when they are still small. The standard covers their location requirements, and the use of adequate extinguishing agents according to expected types of fire. The NFPA 14 standard also deals with indoor fire extinguishing measures, covering standpipes and hoses.
These are just a few fire protection measures covered by NFPA standards, and the complete list is much longer. A qualified fire protection engineer can select an optimal combination of measures for your building, while ensuring they meet the respective codes.