NFPA 232: Protecting Your Records

Important Know-How for Sellers and Customers

                Fire is a thief and in the blink of an eye, it can steal everything from you. In this business, fire protection is one of our top concerns. That is why K.L. Security and strive to educate our clients in a variety of industries about the standards and requirements that focus on loss prevention, document retention and more.

                We also look to different organizations for guides, rules, standards and tips for products, construction and the housing of said products. One such group is the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Since 1896 this organization has been creating and maintaining codes and standards for firefighting and fire protection. They also test and create standards for model building codes and the equipment that firefighters and other professionals use for more than just firefighting; like hazmat and rescue response. They are also heavily involved with fire protection education.


                The NFPA Standard we’re going to tell you about today is 232; the Standard for the Protection of Records. The 2012 edition was prepared and released last year and took effect on August 31, 2011 and supersedes all previous editions. The standard is concerned with the storage and protection of paper and non-paper records media. The origins of the standard go back to 1922; when a destructive fire in the general offices of a “fire-resistive” Chicago office building resulted in the damage and loss of valuable business records. The NFPA formed a committee on record protection following this fire and created the basic standard which has been repeatedly revised over the years to reflect the changes in construction, equipment and techniques. In the latest edition, unenforceable language has been removed and several editorial changes have been made. The term authorized has been defined and has replaced the term approved. Protection against exposure fire has been clarified in chapter 4 and collaborated in the remaining chapters and chapter 7 has been completely revised to clarify the issue of archive protection.

                There are ten chapters and six annexes in total; each chapter covers a different aspect of the standard while the annexes are about additional material and information for the standard.

                The first chapter covers administration and the scope, purpose, retroactivity and equivalency of the standard.

                The second chapter is a guide to referenced publications for the standard from the NFPA and other agencies. This chapter also covers references for extracts in mandatory sections.

                The third chapter is about definitions; general, NFPA official definitions and other general definitions.

                The fourth chapter covers general requirements for the standard, including; required levels of protection, establishment of risk tolerance measures, the responsibility of the Records Manager and Archivist or other responsible parties. Chapter four also covers fire risk evaluation factors, exposure, operations in records storage areas, housekeeping, emergency planning and fire suppression systems and signaling equipment. Finally, the chapter covers protection against exposure fires and existing systems.

                Chapter five is about building equipment and facilities. It discusses heating systems, electrical systems, locking devices, air-condition and ventilation systems and lightning protection.

                Chapter six describes a Standard Records Vault. It describes how various parts should be constructed; like the floor, walls, foundations, electrical systems, the roof and door. There are also parts about operating practices, incorporating existing systems, what do about oversized vaults and having a SRV that is independent from the building structure.

                Archives are covered in chapter seven. You will learn about the general requirements and design elements. Such as damp-proofing, fire protection and signaling equipment, operation practices and heating and ventilation; general requirements about the floor, walls and doors are also covered.

                Chapter eight is similar to seven but it focuses on file rooms. What is needed for the design, location, supporting structure and various other elements; it is a through chapter.

                Records centers are the focus of chapter nine. It covers general records storage and the differences for Records Storage Areas; it will tell what different plans are needed.

                Chapter ten is about the protection equipment for records. It will tell you about general requirements, the classification of different devices and how equipment should be selected.

                The in-depth annexes are not required parts and rules for the standard but are composed of helpful information and designs for helping the standard succeed in its intended purpose.

                Annex A covers explanatory material; fire resistance in different types of structures, sprinkler systems, outside fires and other issues. It has figures, graphs and in-depth descriptions of different fires.

                Annex B covers the different characteristics of fire. It describes how fires start, how they develop and their severity potential.

                The C Annex tells you how to salvage water-damaged library materials. You’ll be instructed how to asses and plan for damage/salvage and you’ll be provided with a summary of emergency procedures.

                Annex D covers fire control. It discusses the two-fold elements of basic fire control, water damage, how to recover wet records, fire extinguishers, the of fire departments and fire preplanning.

                Annex E is about fire control systems. It covers general fire detection/response methods like heat detection, automatic sprinkler detection, earl warning and fire alarm systems and the categories of input signals. The annex also discusses human detection capabilities, gaseous extinguishment systems and high-expansion foam designs and carbon dioxide systems.

                Annex F is for informational reference. Here you can find NFPA publications, ANSI/ARMA works and many other additional resources for developing and understanding Standard 232.

                NFPA Standard 232 is available for purchase on the NFPA website. The main reason it works so well for a business setting that the standard is built around the concept that fire protection/security is not just about the environment or devices or the planned responses to a fire; it is an umbrella that covers all those concepts. K.L. Security and understand that as well. That is why we support NFPA standards and why we encourage you to investigate how standards like the 232 could help make your business safer and more efficient. Find out more about modular vaults for records protection