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Is an Ordinary NAC Disable Switch Code Compliant?

By Douglas Krantz | Descriptions

Is an Ordinary NAC Disable Switch Code Compliant?

Is an Ordinary NAC Disable Switch Code Compliant?

Greetings Douglas,

Is it code compliant to add an ordinary switch to disable the NACS in a commercial plant? I always thought they had to be listed or approved?

Thank You, LF

Code Compliant

I have not found a definition of the words "Code Compliant" anywhere in the NFPA 72. Because "Code Compliant" isn't defined by the National Fire Protection Association's NFPA 72, the best I can do is give my personal definition of the words.

To me, "Code Compliant" means "Following exactly what is shown in the (pick one or more sets of rules to follow: NFPA, IFC, IBC, Government Agency, Etc.) and make sure everything is done exactly according to the 'Code or Codes' that are chosen."

That's a tall order, and some of the different "Codes" contradict each other. Also of course, make sure that the local, regional, and national authority you're working under is going by the year's version you have chosen.

Then again, sometimes other people use somewhat different definitions for the words "Code Compliant", so trying to be strictly "Code Compliant" is extremely difficult.


The word "Accepted" is defined by the NFPA 72 in their definitions, and in the appendix for the definitions. Make sure you read both the definition in the Code and the in the appendix to get a full understanding of what they mean by the word "Accepted".

The NFPA's definition of "Accepted", along with the appendix of the word "Accepted" includes referring to the "AHJ" (Authority Having Jurisdiction). Also, make sure you read the definition of the "AHJ", along with the appendix's definition of "AHJ".

The writers and editors of the NFPA 72 Code go further. In their Handbook's commentary about the AHJ, they say:

"Any given physical property may have multiple authorities having jurisdiction, who may be concerned with life safety, property protection, mission continuity, heritage preservation, and environmental protection. Some authorities having jurisdiction may impose additional requirements beyond those of the Code. If requirements for the installation of a specific fire alarm system conflict, the installer must follow the most stringent requirements."

Listed for Use

"Listed for Use" is required for all fire alarm systems and all of the equipment that is in the system. The listing includes not just the control panel, but any sub-panels, all detectors or other input devices, all relays, and all output devices like horns and strobes. By the way, how the system will be wired, shown in the equipment's Installation Manual and Installation Sheets, is also included in the equipment's "Listed for Use".

However, the fire alarm manufacturers don't list anything; fire alarm manufacturers just pay to have their equipment listed.

An example would be UL. See:

History of UL

Nowadays, the testing companies also test life-safety equipment and whole systems to make sure they at least meet minimum standards of performance. The standards that the testing companies use include all publications made by NFPA, IFC, IBC, Government Agencies, etc.

If the equipment, like a disable switch. is going to be used with other equipment, like a fire horn when used with a fire panel, the manufacturer and model of each of those are tested together. When the testing company determines that the equipment works as a whole, the equipment is placed on a "Listed for Use" with each other list.

It's the AHJ that Accepts the Fire Alarm System

There are other options to looking for the "Listed for Use" part of the label. An alternative to being Listed for use is to have the Authority Having Jurisdiction (commonly the fire marshal) Accepting the idea.

Under certain circumstances, adding the disable switch can be considered to be more stringent than the NFPA 72 Code because the addition of the switch allows testing of the fire alarm system without evacuating the building every time the system is partially tested.

Just make sure the fire marshal will accept the additional switch, whether it's an ordinary switch or key-switch . . . in writing. Keep the written Acceptance from the fire marshal in your files.

Also, follow any further instructions from the fire marshal, like:
  • Any key-switch requirements over using just an ordinary switch

  • The location requirements for the switch

  • The conditions under which the switch may be activated

  • Whatever time limits there are for activation

  • What kind of logging requirements are required each time that the switch was used

  • The requirements that the panel will always show a trouble at any time the horns and strobes are disabled

Each of these instructions should be touched on in the written instructions from the fire marshal.

Fire Alarm Panel Circuit Disable

Most fire alarm panels come with a feature that can disable individual circuits, or may have other disable functions. If the disable feature can be used, it may be easier to just use the manufactured-in disable functions, rather than imposing the extra requirements of a fire marshal's acceptance of the idea.

Douglas Krantz
Life Safety
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