How You Can Comply with NFPA 72 using Digitize Equipment

By Andrew Erickson

May 5, 2023

In New York City, the experienced manager of a commercial building, was presented with a daunting challenge. The historic 45-story building, home to over a hundred businesses and frequented by thousands daily, was due for an essential safety upgrade.

Specifically, it was to implement a fire alarm and signaling system fully compliant with the National Fire Protection Association's Code 72 (NFPA 72).

With his knack for problem-solving, the building manager was responsible for this important task.

NFPA 72 is complicated

NFPA 72, a complex document governing the application, installation, location, performance, and maintenance of fire alarm systems, was a mountain of technical jargon.

Still, it's undeniably important to maintain strict compliance. You must recognize the paramount objective of preserving lives and protecting property.

His initial challenge lay in the design and implementation of a system that adhered to the chapter on 'Fundamentals' - primarily the section regarding 'Protected Premises.'

He ensured that the fire alarm control unit and notification appliances were located optimally, complying with the provisions of NFPA 72. Furthermore, the code required voice evacuation systems, a provision he took seriously, especially for a skyscraper teeming with employees and visitors. He knew that emergency messages must be clear, concise, and easily understood in the event of an emergency.

"Initiating Devices" must be properly placed

The next step involved the installation of manual fire alarm boxes, done as per the 'Initiating Devices' chapter of NFPA 72. These boxes were systematically placed near exits, ensuring quick accessibility, and their spacing didn't exceed the code's recommendation of 200 feet.

As the building manager progressed through the project, the complexity increased. The 'Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance' chapter of NFPA 72 was an area requiring careful attention.

He developed a meticulous plan for regular inspections and maintenance to prevent system failures. He also ensured the fire alarm system was interconnected with the building's existing sprinkler system, in adherence to the 'Emergency Control Function Interfaces' section of the code.

You must choose either "central station" or "proprietary" fire alarm monitoring

This manager faced the classic decision in fire alarming between hiring a central station or running a proprietary fire alarm monitoring system.

Fortunately, with 45 floors to manage (each with its own FACP), this was a fairly simple call to make. He decided that a proprietary monitoring system was the best option for this building given its size and complexity.

It was easy enough to justify the initial equipment investment considering the number of devices and building population involved, and proprietary systems offer more control over your own fire protection.

Additionally, they are easier to test and maintain.

The proprietary monitoring system required special consideration

In the midst of this project planning, Digitize got a call from this building manager.

While his understanding of NFPA 72 was sound, he needed expert manufacturer input to ensure that the system he selected would both (1) fulfill the obligations under the fire code and (2) optimally serve the unique needs of the tower building.

The voice on the Digitize end of the line was friendly and professional, introducing himself as John Ermatinger, one of Digitize's top sales engineers.

He began reviewing the project requirements, especially the need to comply with NFPA 72's strict guidelines. John was not just knowledgeable but patient, carefully answering each question he got based on his 25 years of experience.

The building manager focused on two key chapters of NFPA 72, 'Notification Appliances' and 'Emergency Control Function Interfaces,' to gauge how well Digitize's system would meet the code's provisions.

The first chapter dealt with the placement, audibility, and visibility of alarm notification devices. He needed to ensure that all notification appliances would be both clearly visible and audible throughout the building.

John explained that Digitize's system was designed with adaptability in mind. Their devices could be mounted in a variety of locations and provided a range of alarm sounds and visual signals to ensure optimal perception regardless of the environment.

They also offered text-based notification appliances that would serve the hearing impaired, thus adhering to the 'Auxiliary Functions' section of the code.

The second chapter, 'Emergency Control Function Interfaces,' was another pivotal aspect of the discussion. The fire alarm system needed to be interconnected with other safety measures in the building, such as the existing sprinkler system and emergency ventilation controls.

John reassured that the Digitize system was designed for such integration. Its advanced connectivity features would allow the fire alarm system to seamlessly interface with other systems in the building, ensuring prompt and coordinated responses to any potential emergencies.

By the end of the call, the building manager was convinced that the Digitize monitoring system was the correct purchase decision. The system's flexibility, range of features, and compliance with the critical aspects of NFPA 72 made it a robust solution for the building's safety needs.

Of course, he did not forget to include an array of smoke detectors, pull stations, heat detectors, remote control boxes, and other devices as required by the code.

Nor did he fail to observe the sections on 'Public Mode' - i.e., testing and maintenance - or overlook his responsibility to ensure proper training for personnel operating the equipment.

How to choose the right fire alarm monitoring system for your buildings

This story of a building manager is hybridized from many typical Digitize projects we've conducted during our 46-year history.

If the first several paragraphs sound (painfully?) familiar, that's probably because you're in the middle of a similar project yourself.

Fortunately, Digitize engineers like John are here to work through the challenges of planning and code compliance to help you design and install the right system.

Speak with Digitize today about your project

To talk to a Digitize engineer, just call 1-800-523-7232 or email

We'll walk you through all of the considerations on an initial 20-minute call. This will ultimately reduce your project timeline by avoiding any "wrong turns".

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and...Read More