NFPA 72 Unlocked and Demystified for NICET Exam (Part 1)


The NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code, is the most highly referenced and used guide by fire alarm system contractors, AHJ’s and anyone involved in the construction and fire industry. It is the standard on HOW things should be done when it comes to fire alarm systems. It covers the application, installation, location, performance, inspection, testing, and maintenance of the fire alarm systems and their components. The current edition of the code book is 2013, However as of today, NICET will test you on the 2007 edition and it is the only edition permitted in the exam room.

At first glance, like any other code book, it is intimidating and overwhelming. In this article I will explain everything you need to know on how the book is laid out, which sections to concentrate on for the NICET certification exam, and how to navigate the book on the exam.

This book is published by the National Fire Protection Association and prepared by various technical committees. Each committee specializes in a specific section of the codes. For example there is a committee on the fundamentals of fire alarm systems, another committee on initiating devices, and another on testing and maintenance…. it looks like each chapter is prepared by a totally different committee.

The book is divided into 3 major sections:

Chapters 1 to 11

  • Administration
  • Referenced Publication
  • Definitions
  • Fundamentals of Fire Alarm Systems
  • Initiating Devices
  • Protected Premises Fire Alarm Systems
  • Notification Appliances for Fire Alarm Systems
  • Supervising Station Fire Alarm Systems
  • Public Fire Alarm Reporting Systems
  • Inspection, Testing and Maintenance
  • Single and Multiple Station Alarms and Household Fire Alarm Systems

Annex A to H

  • Explanatory Material
  • Engineering Guide for Automatic Fire Detector Spacing
  • Wiring Diagrams and Guide for Testing Fire Alarm Circuits
  • Sample Ordinance Adopting NFPA 72
  • Mass Notification System
  • NEMA SB 30, Fire Service Annunciator and Interface
  • Cross-Reference Table


For the NICET Certification exam purposes I will concentrate on Chapters 3 to 11 and Annex A only. This is where the bulk of the code is and I think this is where you should spend most of your study effort. The codes are  in the following format:

5.2 Purpose.
Automatic and manual initiating devices shall contribute to life safety, fire protection, and property conservation by providing a reliable means to signal other equipment arranged to monitor the initiating devices and to initiate a response to those signals.
5.3* Performance-Based Design.
5.3.1  Performance-based designs submitted to the authority having jurisdiction for review and approval shall include documentation, in an approved format, of each performance objective and applicable scenario, together with any calculations, modeling, or other technical substantiation used in establishing the proposed design’s fire and life safety performance.

The first digits indicate the chapter number, which is then followed by the subsection number. In the above example 5.2 is in chapter 5 Initiating Devices and section 2 Purpose.

Through the chapters you will find special characters next to the codes. An asterisk (*) following the number or letter designating a paragraph indicates that explanatory material on the paragraph can be found in Annex A.* For irregularly shaped areas, the spacing between detectors shall be permitted to be greater than the listed spacing, provided the maximum spacing from a detector to the farthest point of a sidewall or corner within its zone of protection is not greater than 0.7 times the listed spacing.

Changes other than editorial are indicated by a vertical rule  |   beside the paragraph, table, or figure in which the change occurred. These rules are included as an aid to the user in identifying changes from the previous edition.

|  3.3.158 Remote Supervising Station. See 3.3.194, Supervising Station

Where one or more complete paragraphs have been deleted, the deletion is indicated by a bullet (•) between the paragraphs that remain.  Where fire pumps are required to be monitored and a building fire alarm system is installed, signals other than pump running shall be supervisory signals. Fire Alarm and Supervisory Signal Initiation — Releasing Service Control Units.  Releasing service control units shall be connected to the protected premises fire alarm system.

The book is about 270 pages long, however the actual codes are only 105 pages long (chapters 2 to 11). The rest of the information is explanatory and supplemental material to help us better understand the codes. The challenge during exam is not only to know the material, but also to know exactly how to find the information in these chapters easily and efficiently with approximately 1 minute allocated for each question. And that will be part 2 of this article.  Stay tuned for more and happy studying. Cheers!


by John

7 comments… add one

  • James Knight June 30, 2013 10:40 pm

    Hi John,

    I like your site. As soon as I get the books, I will be studying for a test. Can I ask you any questions If I get confused with a subject?

    • Sure James,
      That is the purpose of my website, to share and to learn together. I have not been doing much studying lately, however I will post new materials shortly. Good luck with your study and let me know if you have any questions.

  • John: Thank you for this guide. I have been away from the business for better
    than 5 years and am going back to the beginning to get my Nicet Levels one and two again! It appears that The materials I have are dated. When taking the exams are the current Nfpa 72 and related materials the only books we can take in? The test format is different from the elements I passed before.

  • Ofrey Hernandez November 20, 2015 4:31 am

    I am really lost about the topics for NICET I exam.can you explain me what are the topic for this NICET ?,may I study only with the NFPA 72 for this NICET?.Thanks

  • Hi John, i failed my NICET III because of Education / Communication as per the letter from from them. Any help with some materials how to pass Nicet III ?
    Thank you .


Leave a Comment

Next Post:

Previous Post: