A Matter Of Standards And Codes

ANSI addresses safety, interoperability and performance for mass notification

Ensuring a safe learning environment is one of the top priorities of parents, teachers, faculty and administrators. Recent tragic events have brought the safety and security of our educational institutions to the forefront. As schools, colleges and universities look to install and upgrade emergency communication systems to further enhance safety, there are a number of important standards and codes to be mindful of during the specification and procurement processes and in working with an integrator.

UL 2572, MASS NOTIFICATION SYSTEMS

UL 2572 is designated as the American National Standard for Mass Notification Systems in accordance with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which addresses the safety, interoperability, performance, security and reliability of mass notification systems.

This standard covers discrete products and integral systems that communicate critical information within buildings and/or outdoor areas concerning emergencies including but not limited to terrorist activities, active shooter incidents, hazardous chemical releases, severe weather and other events that may endanger the safety of the occupants of an area or facility. Communication is through voice and visual instructions as well as alert and evacuation signals.

Mass notification systems can include control units, high power speaker arrays (HPSAs), visual and audible devices, and distributed recipient technology that facilitates the delivery of text messages, voice telephony, email and the like. All equipment that is on premises and performing a mass notification function is within the purview of this standard. The various types of mass notification systems include:

  • In-Building Mass Notification System: A system used to provide information and instructions to occupants in a building or other space using voice communication, visible signaling and other communication methods.
  • Wide Area Mass Notification System: A system which provides real-time information to areas, including outdoor, in a contiguous or non-contiguous campus, region or global geographical setting. Wide-area mass notification systems can employ HPSAs as the auditory means for message conveyance in outdoor areas.
  • Distributed Recipient Mass Notification System: A system intended to communicate to targeted individuals that may not be in a contiguous area via SMS, email, popups, social media and other communication forms. Distributed recipient mass notification system alerting is required to be used in conjunction with audible and visible alerting mass notification systems and shall be integrated with mass notification systems whenever possible.

Cybersecurity is also addressed by UL 2572 to protect a system from unauthorized access and protection of stored and transmitted data. Alternatively, UL 2900-2-3, Software Cybersecurity for Network- Connectable Products, Part 2-3: Particular Requirements for Security and Life Safety Signaling Systems could be utilized to address the cyber posture of any network-connected mass notification system.

NFPA 72, NATIONAL FIRE ALARM AND SIGNALING CODE

NFPA 72 covers the application, installation, location, performance, inspection and maintenance of emergency communication systems, such as mass notification systems, and their components. The code establishes minimum required levels of performance, extent of redundancy and quality of installation. The NFPA 72 code requires equipment serving an emergency communication function to comply with UL 2572 standard.

NFPA 101, LIFE SAFETY CODE

NFPA 101 addresses those construction, protection and occupancy features necessary to minimize danger to life from the effects of fire, including smoke, heat and toxic gases created during a fire. In addition to the consideration of the effects of fire, the code also addresses life safety aspects of other conditions, including non-fire emergencies, to allow prompt escape of building occupants from buildings or into safe areas of buildings where desirable.

Chapter 9 of the code requires a mass notification system (if required as a result of a risk analysis) to comply with NFPA 72.

NFPA 5000, BUILDING CONSTRUCTION AND SAFETY CODE

This code addresses the construction, protection and occupancy features necessary to minimize danger to life and property. A risk analysis is required to be conducted to determine if a mass notification system is required in the various different occupancies addressed by the code, including K-12 facilities, college and university occupancies. Where a mass notification system is required, it is to comply with NFPA 72.

Standards and codes matter. They provide a means by which to assess that a product or system meets a minimum set of requirements and helps a specifier, end-user or procurement professional make more informed price versus performance decisions. Standards and codes help to mitigate the risk of life safety technology failing to perform when needed. Whether it’s in the design, production, installation, testing, inspection or maintenance of mass notification systems, these standards and codes provide a reasonable level of assurance that an important life safety system, such as a mass notification system, will operate as intended.

This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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