NFPA 72 and UL 2572 Standards Are Irrelevant to Sound Masking Systems

Sound masking • September 3, 2019

NFPA 72 and UL 2572

What is NFPA 72?

NFPA is the National Fire Protection Association, the governing body dedicated to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, provides the latest safety provisions to meet society’s changing fire detection, signaling, and emergency communications demands. Apart from its core focus on fire alarm systems, NFPA 72 includes specific requirements for mass notification systems used to communicate critical information during weather emergencies, terrorist attacks; biological, chemical, and nuclear emergencies; and other threats. The NFPA 72-2019 is the current edition code addressing mass notification systems.

NFPA 72-2019 states that while fire alarm systems are permitted to share circuits with non-fire alarm systems or components, the circuits are required to be arranged such that operation of the non-fire alarm system equipment or a non-fire alarm system component does not impair the operation of the fire alarm system. For any communication device that integrates sound masking, NFPA 72-2019 approves with multiple methods for the fire alarm system to switch off the sound masking component, only if such component interferes with emergency communications.

Now, Soft dB sound masking system already provides functionality to turn off the masking sound when connected to a fire alarm system. This functionality was extensively field-tested to ensure that NFPA 72-2019 requirements were met under all possible operating conditions and all possible combinations of events. Our clients have been safely and successfully using our sound masking system along with their fire alarm systems (and mass notification/paging systems) for many years. As far as we’re concerned, sound masking systems that do not interfere with fire alarm systems, or any other system impacting the health and safety of building occupants for that matter, should be taken for granted in today’s market.

What is UL 2572?

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a safety consulting and certification organization specialized in safety standards for electrical devices. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) have designed a certification test, UL 2572 – Standard for Mass Notification Systems, in order to ensure mass notification systems achieve a minimum level of performance to work with and not damage a fire alarm control panel in addition to being reliable. As its name suggests, UL 2572 is a product safety standard exclusively intended for mass notification systems. It has nothing to do with sound masking systems whatsoever.

NFPA 72 and UL 2572 Standards Are Not Key Differentiators in Sound Masking

Meanwhile, a well-known sound masking system supplier openly claims that its system is the only one on the market that is NFPA 72 and UL 2572 certified. It’s important to understand that this is solely a marketing tactic, misleadingly suggesting that sound masking and mass notification system standards somehow correlate to each other. Moreover, it also suggests that any sound masking system is necessarily combined with a mass notification system. Such statement is categorically false and exclusively applies to the supplier’s very own hybrid system.

There is nothing particularly wrong with promoting a multifunctional system integrating both mass notification and sound masking capabilities. However, the fact remains that claiming compliance with NFPA 72 and UL 2572 standards doesn’t mean anything in the context of sound masking itself. Safety standards pertaining to mass notification systems shouldn’t be considered as key competitive differentiators when choosing which sound masking system is best suited for your needs.

What Sets Us Apart From Other Sound Masking Solutions

Don’t get us wrong, recognized safety standards and scientifically developed performance requirements do matter a lot in sound masking. However, when defining project specifications and comparing sound masking solutions available on the market, you should know exactly which safety standards actually pertain to sound masking devices and the methods used to evaluate performance requirements. Ultimately, though, no sound masking system will truly distinguish itself merely by achieving compliance with a bunch of globally recognized standards. We at Soft dB like to promote the patented innovations that set our sound masking system apart from the rest, namely the real-time adaptive adjustment of masking volume based on ambient noise and our unique automated equalization process which makes it possible to calibrate entire masking zones in less than a minute.

Standards and Requirements That Really Count in Sound Masking

Product Safety Standards

  • ETL Listed IEC/EN/UL/CSA 62368-1: Audio/video, information and communication technology equipment – Part 1: Safety requirements
  • ETL Listed UL/ULC 60065: Audio, Video and Similar Electronic Apparatus – Safety Requirements
  • ETL Listed UL 2043: Standard for Fire Test for Heat and Visible Smoke Release
  • EN 55103-1/-2: FCC Electromagnetic Compatibility for Audio/Video Apparatus
  • CCEA Approved: Speakers can be installed in compliance with all requirements of the City of Chicago Electrical Code for Plenum Installations
  • Complies with all technical regulations of the Eurasian Customs Union (EACU)

ASTM Requirements for Sound Masking Systems

Soft dB is a proud, active member of the ASTM E33 Building and Environmental Acoustics and ASTM E33.02 Speech Privacy technical committees, helping develop international standards for the performance of sound masking systems in today’s ever-evolving workplace. Indeed, a sound masking system is a critical interior design element for which you don’t want to leave much room for error. Without a set of standardized performance assessment standards, you may hardly achieve the desired level of noise control, speech privacy and acoustic comfort. That is why an ASTM subcommittee specializing in speech privacy, Subcommittee E33.02, is at work on a proposed new standard, WK47433, Performance Specification of Electronic Sound Masking When Used in Building Spaces. They are also in the process of updating the following standards:

  • ASTM E1374-06 (11) – Standard Guide for Open Office Acoustics and Applicable ASTM Standards
  • ASTM E1573-09 – Standard Test Method for Evaluating Masking Sound in Open Office
  • ASTM E1130-08 – Standard Test Method for Objective Measurement of Speech Privacy in Open Offices
  • ASTM E2638 – Standard Test Method for Objective Measurement of the Speech Privacy Provided by a Closed Room

Environmental Sustainability Standards

  • Exceeds the requirements of LEED-V4 Acoustic Performance related to sound masking systems
  • Uses high-efficiency amplifiers and electronic components to minimize energy consumption
  • Auto Shutdown function for zero energy consumption outside of normal operating hours
  • Complies with RoHS Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive
  • Adheres to the principle of the Directives on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) of the European Commission

Now, with key product safety standards, performance requirements and certifications out of the way, do you want to learn more about how the right sound masking system — one that’s flexible, scalable, cost-effective, and backed by a team of experts actively engaged in acoustics research — will help you achieve greater confidentiality, productivity and comfort in your work environment?


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