THE MAGAZINE

NFPA Pocket Guide to Electronic Security System Installation

By Jim Ellis, CPP, PSP, CSSM

*****NFPA Pocket Guide to Electronic Security System Installation. By Shane M. Clary; published by the National Fire Protection Association, www.nfpa.org (Web); 492 pages; $29.50.

Like it or not, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is involved in security more than it ever has been in its 110-year history. When it released NFPA 730 (Guide to Premises Security) and NFPA 731 (Standard for the Installation of Electronic Premises Security Systems) in 2005, several security industry associations and leaders questioned why a fire-standards organization was getting involved in security. NFPA’s official answer is that it was asked to do so by several insurance companies, in the absence of such material from security organizations. NFPA also claims that it is the best-equipped body for this task, given its experience in writing codes, standards, and guidelines.

The NFPA Pocket Guide to Electronic Security System Installation reads like the technical documents from which it is derived. The guide condenses the salient points of NFPA 731, NFPA 72 (National Fire Alarm Code), and NFPA 70 (National Electrical Code) into a small-format publication that provides a basic reference for physical security systems, specifically electronic intrusion alarms, access control, and closed-circuit video. However, unlike the codes themselves, this document lacks the reasoning and justification behind the various elements of the codes.

While it heavily references the source codes, the pocket guide also incorporates diagrams from various manufacturers and industry experts to illustrate key points. It also contains many tables and formulas that would help in the configuration or design process of many electronic security systems.

Because it is presented like a standard or code, the guide is difficult to read like a regular book. It is also possible that, given the guide’s code-like presentation and its NFPA provenance, some municipalities may look upon the material as a code and adopt it as such. Doing so could be dangerous because of the many varied and complex risk factors that must be understood when designing security and security systems for a facility.

Physical security professionals would do well to have a copy of this guide for quick reference, even though it includes elements that are rarely used in any security systems today, such as tube cameras, retina scanners, and Hollerith punch cards. If the insurance industry and local governments adopt 731 as a standard, this guide will become that much more important.


Reviewer: Jim Ellis, CPP, PSP, CSSM (Certified in Security Supervision and Management), is the physical security planner for the Principal Financial Group, based in Des Moines, Iowa. He holds a B.A. in justice studies from Rhode Island College and is currently enrolled in the Masters in Security Management program at Webster University. He is an assistant regional vice president for ASIS’s Region 8-A and is the Chapter Chairperson for the Central Iowa Chapter.

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