On June 8 at the National Fire Protection Association's Technical Committee Reports session, draft document NFPA 731 - Standard for the Installation of Electronic Premises Security Systems - was accepted by the NFPA membership in attendance. To officially become a standard, it now must be ratified by the NFPA's Standards Council, which is expected to happen at a meeting in Boston in late July, said Shane Clary, Ph.D., vice president of codes and standards compliance at Bay Alarm, Pacheco, Calif. Clary served as chairman of the NFPA 731 task group, which was responsible for making recommendations to the NFPA's Technical Committee for Premises Security.

The NFPA 731 draft document was accepted by an overwhelming majority vote, Clary noted. Minority opposition came from representatives of the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) who attended the Technical Committee Report session, including president Scot Colby.

NFPA 731 covers the application, location, installation, performance, testing, and maintenance of physical security systems and their components.

The draft document of NFPA 731 was in development for about three years. It was created by an 11-member task group comprised of industry and law enforcement representatives, including members of the Central Station Alarm Association, Security Industry Association, National Electrical Contractors Asociation, Underwriters Laboratories, and State Farm Insurance.

The reason for the controversy on NFPA 731 is outlined in the NBFAA's position paper, which can be found on www.alarm.org/infoCenter.html.

It states, in part, "The majority of equipment manufacturered by current design specifications cannot mechanically meet the requirements of this standard. The standard was composed for equipment that may be designed in the future. Any standard that is created must be designed for the use of current technology. A standard that is put into law without the technology capable of complying with the law will be catastrophic to the industry."

Further, the NBFAA's position is that, "NFPA 731 does not take into consideration the small mercantile establishment that is not mandated to have a system, nor allowing them variances from this standard that would reduce cost of installing elective systems."

The NBFAA believes that acceptance and adoption of this standard would "increase costs significantly," leading to many small businesses choosing not to have a security system installed, which in turn would adversely affect their vulnerability to crime. It also would affect the potential business brought to electronic security companies, the NBFAA said.

NFPA 731 also covers the training, licensing, and certification of security company personnel, which some people believe could siginificantly burden small security dealers who may currently be offering high-quality work, but may not have the backup or resources to implement extensive training.

In addition to the NBFAA's position paper, George Gunning of USA Alarm Systems Inc., Monrovia, Calif., and NBFAA vice president, publicly issued some comments on NFPA 731. In part, Gunning's comments state that "NFPA 731 offers a standard based on UL protocols, but does not distinguish between the government defense installation, the retail bank, and the local beauty shop. Security is a custom, personalized service that relies on the expertise of the alarm company in open communication with the csutomer to determine what is necessary to secure people and property. An arbitrary standard, even one created at the highest level, does not advance security in this situation. It should also be considered that the standard will impact the cost factor that will remove valuable security from both commercial and residential multi-family properties."

Gunning said his comments, as well as written comments from five technical people are being sent to the secretary of the NFPA standards council for what Gunning calls an "automatic appeal."

"We're asking the standards council to re-look at it even though they voted on it," Gunning said, adding that even though an appeal to the NFPA standards council to send a standard back to committee doesn't happen often, it has happened in the past. "Especially since the companies that are affected the most really had no say in it at all.

"I'm not against standards; I'm not against education; I'm not against training. I just think this is the wrong body. It's written very poorly and it needs to be changed," Gunning told SDM.

He believes that NFPA 731 "is going to put an awful burden on the end user. I don't know how a municipality would adopt this, because they don't have the infrastructure for that. It's almost like I'm installing a fire system in every location now. It's not going to be easy."

Gunning said that NBFAA will submit applications for representation on the Technical Committee for Premises Security.

"The NBFAA has to start taking code-making seriously and get with the program," Clary told SDM. "Not only with 731, but they need to be involved with NFPA 72 and 101 and 70, because they all affect their industry segment."

NFPA 731 does not address central station monitoring, but will in its second cycle, Clary noted.

A copy of NFPA 731 may be downloaded from the NFPA web site at www.nfpa.org, in the Codes and Standards section.