#129 – Differences in NFPA 72 2019

by Anthony Medawar, CET

NFPA 72 2019Have you had a chance to review the 2019 edition of NFPA 72? NFPA has improved the standard to make it easier for the end user to navigate (see below for revision symbols). These revision symbols are easy to follow within the standard, as opposed to older versions. NFPA began this overhaul with their standards beginning with their 2017 edition standards. With NICET’s recent revision of their testing criteria (Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems, testing from the NFPA 72 2016, in addition to allowing test takers to bring in OSHA 29 CFR 1926 to the test center), it is safe to assume NICET will begin testing from the 2019 NFPA 72, within the next 2-4 years (in October 2018, a major change to the testing requirements for the Fire Alarm Systems discipline of certification was introduced).

Where has the NFPA 72 2019 Edition been adopted?

Nationally, the statistics are not currently tallied in terms of jurisdictions that have adopted the 2019 NFPA 72. Washington State, for instance, will be adopting this standard by July 1, 2020 at the state level. However, there are several local jurisdictions within the state that have currently adopted this standard.

What are the key differences from NFPA 72 2016 to NFPA 72 2019?

The body of the standard did not change significantly in the 2019 edition, from the 2016 edition. The edition revisions from 2016 to 2019 were not a complete body or mechanical change in the standard, as it was from 2010 to 2013. Much of the differences that are noticeable are several terms that were added in Chapter 3, e.g. batteries are now defined, the verbiage has migrated to an FACP instead of an FACU, and frequency in terms of time between activities is now defined more consistent as it is outlined in NFPA 25.

Chapter 14 (Inspection, Testing & Maintenance) was revised to incorporate the testing and inspection of valve-regulated lead-acid batteries. There is also an expansion within the Annex A reference of Chapter 14 to further address the use and testing of this battery type.

Chapter 18 (Notification Appliances), the terms strobe, light, and visible, have been changed to visual notification appliance, as the industry is migrating from xenon technology to LED technology. Visual notification appliance, hence, was redefined to encompass all visual notification that is used for a fire alarm system.

Chapter 24 (Emergency Communication Systems) has several revisions that further enhance area of refuge systems to include requirements for stairway communication systems, elevator landing communication systems, and occupant evacuation elevator lobby communication systems.

The most striking revision is the expansion of Carbon Monoxide detection being more prevalent in this standard. In August 2015, the Standards Council voted to relocate the material in NFPA 720 (The Standard for the Installation of Carbon Monoxide Detection and Warning Equipment), (NFPA, 2018). As a result of the vote amongst the Standards Council to discontinue NFPA 720, a new annex (H) was added that details the dangers of carbon monoxide, including the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide based exposure (future NICET questions, perhaps?). Additionally, Chapters 14 (Inspection, Testing, & Maintenance), 17 (Initiating Devices), and Chapter 29 (Single-and Multiple-Station Alarms and Household Signaling Systems), were revised to encompass the additional material from NFPA 720’s discontinued use.

With these changes, like fall turns to winter, it is time to prepare yourself with the various changes and be ready for the future of our industry. Full enforcement of this standard will be here before you know it. We are life-safety professionals. It is our responsibility, for our customers and industry, to ensure we are up to date and understand key differences from standard edition to standard edition.

Revision Symbols


NFPA, 2018. NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. 2019 ed. s.l.:s.n.