NFPA 70: How to Apply to Fire Safety Systems and Installations

By Andrew Erickson

May 12, 2023

For professionals tasked with installing, maintaining, and using fire safety systems, the National Fire Protection Association's NFPA 70, or the National Electrical Code (NEC), is a critical document. In fact, it's one of the most commonly referenced NFPA codes.

It serves as the guiding set of rules, helping ensure the safe installation and operation of electrical equipment. This is obviously critical for successful fire safety system management.

The NEC provides comprehensive standards for the safe installation and operation of all types of electrical wiring and equipment, including those used in fire alarm systems.

This all might appear complex at first glance due to its comprehensive nature. However, understanding its core elements is indispensable to ensuring safety, meeting regulatory standards, and excelling in your work.

Let's go through a fast summary of NFPA 70. This will allow you, as a fire safety professional, to navigate and use its provisions more effectively.

Introduction to NFPA 70

The NFPA 70, or NEC, sets the foundation for electrical safety in residential, commercial, and industrial occupancies in the United States. Updated every three years, it's a living document that evolves alongside the ever-advancing field of electrical technology.

It contains guidelines and standards for all aspects of electrical installation, with a strong emphasis on minimizing the potential for electrical fires and related hazards.

Structure of the NEC

The NEC is divided into 9 chapters, with each chapter further divided into parts, articles, and sections. The chapters cover specific aspects of electrical installations, ranging from wiring methods, equipment for general use, special occupancies, special equipment, to special conditions.

Each article and section offers in-depth information on the chapter's specific subject, providing useful guidance to professionals. Well, it's useful if you aren't new at this and instantly overwhelmed by acronyms, which might be exactly why you're here!

Key Provisions of the National Electric Code for Fire Safety

While each chapter of the NEC holds significance, some provisions are of particular importance for fire safety professionals:

Article 210: This covers branch circuits, the smallest units of an electrical system that directly supply power to electrical equipment. It includes standards for circuit ratings, protection, and load calculations.

  • Article 215: It focuses on feeder circuits, which transport electricity from service equipment to branch circuits. Understanding this section is essential for ensuring proper feeder size and load.
  • Article 230: This provides guidelines for service installations, the point where a building or system receives power from the utility source. It covers service conductors, equipment, and overcurrent protection.
  • Article 240: Overcurrent protection is a crucial safety element of any electrical system. This section provides guidance for the selection and installation of overcurrent protective devices.
  • Article 250: This focuses on grounding and bonding, two critical aspects of electrical safety. It defines how to properly ground electrical systems and equipment, ensuring safety and reducing the risk of electrical shock and fires. Digitize equipment is thoroughly grounded to protect itself from surge damage, and this obviously depends on the earth ground available in the building.
  • Article 760: This section is of particular interest to you, as it pertains specifically to fire alarm systems. It covers their power sources, circuit identification, installation, and more.

Application of NFPA 70 to Fire Alarm Installations Directly

One of the most direct overlaps between the NEC and fire safety is found in Article 760, "Fire Alarm Systems," within the NEC. This article deals specifically with the installation of wiring for fire alarm systems.

Article 760 outlines the specific wiring methods for both non-power-limited and power-limited fire alarm circuits. This distinction is critical as power-limited circuits are designed to limit electrical energy to a level that does not ignite a fire in normal or fault conditions. Non-power-limited circuits, on the other hand, may have enough energy to ignite a fire. That's why they require more robust safety measures.

Power-limited fire alarm circuits are generally easier to install due to fewer restrictions, as they don't pose as much of a fire hazard. They can often be installed using similar techniques to those used for regular low-voltage wiring.

Non-power-limited circuits, however, must adhere to stricter standards. They need to be installed in such a way that reduces the potential for faults and ensures a higher degree of safety. Specific types of cable or conduit may be required, and separation from other electrical cables may be mandated.

Additionally, the NEC dictates how fire alarm circuits should be protected from accidental damage or disconnection. The use of dedicated circuit breakers or disconnecting means, identifiable and accessible control equipment, and appropriately labeled circuits are all examples of NEC provisions related to fire alarm installations.

Other Overlaps between Fire Safety and NFPA 70

Beyond fire alarm systems, several other aspects of the NEC directly influence fire safety. For example:

  • Grounding (Article 250): Proper grounding of electrical systems is crucial for preventing electrical fires. By providing a path for electric current to follow in the event of a fault, grounding reduces the risk of electrical shock and fire.
  • Overcurrent Protection (Article 240): Overcurrent protection devices, such as circuit breakers and fuses, are designed to cut off electrical power when the current exceeds a certain level. This prevents overheating of wires and potential electrical fires.
  • Wiring Methods and Materials (Articles 300-399): These articles provide guidelines for the proper installation of wiring and related equipment to ensure safety and prevent electrical fires. This includes specifications for conductors, cables, raceways, and boxes, among other components.

Understanding and applying these codes is crucial in minimizing fire risks and ensuring optimal safety in all types of buildings and facilities.

How to Stay Up to Date with NFPA 70 / NEC

Given the rapid evolution of electrical technology, it's important to stay updated with the latest NEC revisions. The NFPA offers numerous resources for ongoing education, including online training, webinars, and certifications.

Regularly reviewing and understanding changes in the NEC can enhance your ability to install, maintain, and use fire safety systems in compliance with the highest safety standards.

Call Me for Assistance with NFPA or Any Other Fire-Safety Topic

Mastering NFPA 70 is an ongoing process that requires commitment and continual learning. However, the safety payoff for both the fire safety professional and those they serve goes way beyond dollars and cents. Aside from NFPA 72, this is one of the most frequent codes you're likely to reference.

As fire safety professionals, our mission is to create safer environments, and the NEC serves as our guide, providing the critical framework to fulfill this mission safely and effectively.

What do you need to know about the NEC or how it impacts your work with fire safety systems? Call me at Digitize HQ (1-800-523-7232) or email me directly at

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