Fire Alarm Bid Documents Can Teach You About NFPA 72

By Andrew Erickson

September 24, 2023

Whether you're a building owner, a construction company, or a bidder in a fire alarm project, understanding how specifications in bid documents align with NFPA codes can be the difference between a successful project and a missed opportunity.

Fire alarm systems, with their critical safety implications, are about the best example of this I can imagine. Their effectiveness, however, is often dictated by the accuracy and clarity of project specifications aligned with standardized guidelines.

NFPA codes are the backbone for these standards, ensuring every aspect of a fire alarm system is optimized for maximum safety.

Recently, I came across an RFP (Request for Proposal) bid document for a fire alarm project. I thought extracting key passages from this document and linking them directly to the relevant NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) codes would be a good exercise.

This quick "deep dive" will equip you to interpret or write bid documents for upcoming fire alarm ventures more precisely and confidently.

System Description/Design

From our sample RFP bid document:

"Complete, 120 vac (normal power source), 24 vdc (standby power source), electrically supervised, zoned, noncoded, Class A addressable circuits, microprocessor-based fire detection and alarm system with manual and automatic alarm initiation..."
Here, the bid emphasizes the fire detection system's electrical specifications and core nature. It mandates manual and automatic alarm initiation, suggesting a comprehensive fire safety approach.

The following NFPA code relates directly to this section:

NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code: "This code covers the application, installation, location, performance, and maintenance of fire alarm systems and their components."

In this context, NFPA 72 ensures that the technical specifics mentioned in the bid document adhere to universally recognized standards, from the voltage requirements to the class of circuits used. Admittedly, this is a very broad document (and not just one chapter or paragraph), but it is our starting point.

Signal Transmission and Audible Alarms

From the bid document:

"Signal transmission dedicated to fire alarm service only."
"Audible Alarm Indication: By sounding of Horns. as required by law."

The dedicated signal transmission signifies the priority and standalone nature of the fire alarm system. Meanwhile, the mandate for audible alarms ensures immediate awareness during potential emergencies.

The following NFPA code chapters relate directly to this section:

NFPA 72, Chapter 10: "This chapter provides the minimum requirements for the transmission of fire alarm signals."
NFPA 72, Chapter 18: "These guidelines dictate the standards for public mode audible alarm notification appliances, ensuring timely and effective alerting of occupants."

System Expandability and Functional Descriptions

From the RFP:

"Each individual alarm, supervisory, and indicating circuit and the fire alarm control panel (FACP) shall have a minimum of 25% spare capacity..."
"Priority of Signals: Accomplish automatic response functions by the first zone initiated..."

The bid acknowledges future expansions by stipulating spare capacity at installation time. It also outlines the hierarchy of signal responses, which is essential for efficient and effective emergency reactions.

Relevant NFPA chapters:

NFPA 72, Chapter 23: "This chapter details system installation and performance, ensuring systems can handle expansions and modifications without compromising functionality."
NFPA 72, Chapter 7: "A detailed exploration of system performance and priorities, guiding the automatic response functions and the signal hierarchies for different emergencies."

With any technology project, it's important to plan for spare capacity. This ensures that both your immediate requirements and future needs are catered to.

The sections above also lay out a clear roadmap for signal response during emergencies.

Remote Station Transmission and System Control

From the bid document:

"Transmission to Remote Station: Automatically route alarm, supervisory, and trouble signals to a remote station service transmitter using listed and approved equipment."
"Silencing at FACP: Switches provide capability for acknowledgment of alarm; supervisory, trouble, and other specified signals at the FACP; and capability to silence the local audible signal..."

Remote station transmission and system control are crucial, ensuring timely intervention during emergencies and system faults. The bid mandates seamless routing of signals to remote stations while emphasizing the role of the Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP) in managing system responses.

Relevant NFPA chapters:

NFPA 72, Chapter 26: "This chapter elucidates requirements for supervising station alarm systems, emphasizing the integrity and reliability of transmitted signals."
NFPA 72, Chapter 21: "Detailed specifications for emergency control function interfacing, this chapter establishes the operational framework for fire alarm system components, ensuring prompt and effective response mechanisms."

Ensuring compatibility with these NFPA codes ensures that your fire alarm system operates correctly, with streamlined communication between onsite components and remote stations.

Alarm Indications and Manual Stations

From the bid document:

"Annunciation: Manual and automatic operation of alarm- and supervisory-initiating devices is annunciated both on the FACP and on the annunciator, indicating the location and type device."
"Manual-pull station: Operation initiates a general alarm."

Clear alarm indications and provisions for manual intervention both play pivotal roles in maximizing the efficacy of fire alarm systems and facilitating prompt responses. An alarm has no value if it is never triggered. Triggering an alarm has no value if the notification system (which leads to prompt evacuation) isn't clear and obvious for building occupants.

Relevant NFPA chapters:

NFPA 72, Chapter 17: "This chapter encompasses standards for initiating devices, ensuring they function effectively and are seamlessly integrated into the wider system framework."

By adhering to the stipulations of this NFPA section, the fire alarm system assures precise alarm activations, whether they originate manually or automatically.

You Can Complete Your Fire Alarm Project - and Digitize Will Help You

Comparing bid documents with the "gold standard" of NFPA codes is more than just an exercise in compliance. You ensure optimal functionality, reliability, and safety in your fire alarm systems. With the proper understanding, you can confidently design, evaluate, and implement fire alarm systems that meet and exceed expectations.

For further insight and technical guidance, call or email us here at Digitize. As seasoned manufacturers of state-of-the-art fire alarm monitoring devices, we can help steer your project in the right direction.

Our in-house engineering team is available to discuss your specific questions, whether or not you currently need our proprietary fire alarm monitoring systems.

To contact Digitize now, call 1-800-523-7232 or email

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