AHJ / Authority Having Jurisdiction Tutorial

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Jan 29, 2013

One of the most powerful yet shadowy characters in all of physical security is the AHJ, the Authority Having Jurisdiction. Often, these authorities get involved only when problems arise, and AHJs frequently leave a flood of delays, redesign, and cost increases in their wake. How can you spot an AHJ? How difficult is it to work with, not against, their authority? What can you do to improve your interactions?

AHJs Defined

'********* ****** ************' ** ** ******** *********** **** ** **** organizations, ********* ***********, ********, ************, *** * ******* ** ******. The **** ********* *** ******** ****** ** ************ *********** *** ensuring *** **** ********.

*** ***** ** '**********' ****** ********* ** *** *** ********* represented. *** ****** *******, *** *** ** **** ***** ********** in ********** *** ****** **** *** ******** **** ****** ****** an *********. *******, **** ***** ********* ***** ******** ******** ********** do *** ********* ******** - *** ******** ********** ** *********, modification ** ********* (**: ******** *****), *** ** *** ******** system ******* ********** **** ******* ******** ******.

******* ********** '*************' ****, *** ****** *** ***** ** **** are *******. *******, ******* *********, **** ********* *** ********* ** overarching ***********, *****, ** ***** *********. *** ******** ******** *********, the ********* ******* ***** *** **** ********** ***********:

Who *** ****?

*** **** ***** ****** ********* ** *** **** ** **** you *** **********, *** *** **** ********* ***** *** ****** control ****, **** *** ***** ** *** ***** ***********:

**** ********:**** ****** *** '**** *********', **** ****** ** ****** **** enforcing **** *****. *** ***** ** *********** ******** ***** ******* of ************ ****, *** *** **** ******* ******* **** ********* approval.

******** **********:**** ********* ******* **** *** **** ** ********* ****** *** constraints ** ******* ******** *****. *** **** *** **** ****** with ************ ******** *****, *** **** **** *** ***** ********** and *******.

***** **** ******, *** *********** ***********, ************* **** **** **** are ***** **:

  • ****** ***********
  • *********/**********
  • ****** **********
  • ******* *********
  • ******** ************ **********
  • ********* *********

** *******, *** **** ****** ** *********** *** **** *** a ******* ** ** ***** ** ****** *** *****'* ************** and *** ***** **** ***** *** ******* ***** ** *** area ** **** ****. *** **** ** ****** *** ******* will ***** **** ************ ** *** ****** ** ******* *** tiers ** *********** *** *** ** ****. ** **** *****, there ***** ** * ****** *** ** *** ******** ****, while ***** *** ** * ********** ****** ** **** ** other *****.

********** ******* *** ***** *********** ***, *** *** *********** **** are ******** **** **** ****, ******* ** ********** **** ** getting **** *** **** *****, ** ****, *** ****** ******.

Why **** ******

***** ** *****, **** **** * **** **** ** *** outcome ** ******** ********. *** *********** *** ***** ********* ** stop **** ***** ** ***** *********, *** **** ***** **** authority *****. ***** **** **** ********* **** ****, *** *** do **** **** **?

  • **** *** ********:***** **** *** *** ** ********* ******* ** ***** ****** or **** ****** ******* ******, **** **** ********* ********* ** specific ***** ** *********** **** ********* ******** ****. **** ****** will ******* * **** *******, *** ******* **** ******** **** passages ** **** **** ********* ** * **** *******.
  • **** *** ***********: **** *** ***** ******** ** ***** ********* ***** ***** of ******-*****, **-***-******** **********. **** **** ** ***** * ****** opinion, ** ** ********** ******** ** '****** **** ** ******'. Most **** **** *** ******* ******* **** ***** ******* ******** and ***** **** *******.
  • *** *** ****, **** ** *** ******: *****, ** ** *** * ****** ** ******** ** disagreeing **** ***** *****, ******* ***** ************* ** *****. **** are ***** ** ***** ********* ** *****, ****, *** ******* liabilities. **** * ****** ** **** ** *********, ** *** 'wins', *** **** **** * ******** ****** **** **** **** even ** **********.

AHJs **. ***** ************

***** ********* ** ******** **********, **** ***** ************ ******* **** outside *** ********* ** ****. ******* ***** **** *** ********* or ****** **** ****** *** **********, *** *** ** *** subject ** *** **** *********** ** **** ****** *** ****** control *******. 

Practical ********

*** ********** ** *********** *** ****** ** * ******* ** AHJs ******** ** ********** ****, *********:

  • **** *****:**** ****** ***** ****/****** ************** ** *** ***** **** *******, who ** **** ***** ***** **** ** *** *** ******* local *******, ** *** '**** *****'. *** ***** ** '**** **** **. **** ******' ** ******** ** **** ** ***** ************.
  • ********** ******* ** ******:*** **** ********, *** ********** ** *** *** ** ********, and *** ********* **** ******* ****** ********** ** ***********. *** example, **** ***** ***** **** * **** *********** ** ** equipment ********* ****** **** *', ******* ** ***** ********* **** aircraft ******** ** *** **********.
  • ******** ** ***********:***** ********* *********** **** ******** ***** ** * ********. ******* 'buy-off' **** *** **** ** *********** ***** **** ****** ** ease, ******* *** '***** ***' ********.
  • ******* *********:*** * ********* ******* ********, *** ******** ********* *** ******* of *********** (********** ** *******) ******** ******** ******** **** *** commander, *** ******** * ******* **** **** ** ********* ******, laborer ********** ******, *** ****** ********* ****** ********** ****.
  • ********* ***** *********: **** *** **** *****, *** **** ********* ***** ******** responsibility ** ******* *** ** ********* ******* ** **** ** their ***. ******* *** ***** *********, *** ******* ***** ************** in *** ****** ** ****** ************* *** ***** ***** *** understanding ****** *** ****** ** **** *************.

Take *** ***** ****

*** **** ******** ** ******* **** **** ** ** ** the ***** ** ***** *** *** ********. **** *** ******** challenged ** *** ****** ** **** **** ****** ** **********, and **** *** *** ****** ******* ** ************* **** **** are ********** ******** ** **** *******.

** *** ******** ** '****** *** **********, ****** **** ***********', security ********* *** ********** *** *** *********** ** ** *** before ********** ****, ****** **** ******** *** ****** *** ***** 'caught' *****. *** **** **** *** ***** ** *** ************ be '*********' ****** **** '********', *** *** *** ***** *********** or ******** **** ******* *** ********* ** ****** *******.

Comments (10)

I agree that AHJs rarely get involved in design elements of surveillance, but I have had them throw giant-sized wrenches into the works. Knowing which ones are going to come in and be sticklers for cable ratings, firestopping, supports, etc., or UL listing (even more of a nightmare), may save you tons of money and time.

Factory Mutual should not be underestimated. Major manufacturers may have some indemnification through FM and they can require equipment to have the FM label, not just UL. The submittal I did required a specific 3D riser diagram more intense than the City Fire and Electrical departments.

With NFPA pushing for their security system guideline standards to be elevated to code status, we may yet see AHJs getting more involved in security system deployments.

I actually referenced NFPA 732 in system designs, and people just looked at me funny. Even people who were really into other NFPA codes!

Ethan, Did you mean 731? I don't know of a 732 document. These are the two I was referring to.

NFPA 730 Guide for Premises Security
NFPA 731 Standard for the Installation of Electronic Premises Security Systems

The printed standards documents are sold through the NFPA bookstore. However, the bookstore links above allow you to view the standards online for free.

As guidelines go, I have used them on a number of projects, not to drive what we're doing but to support it. Some companies have very strong fire and safety programs and tend to embrace materials from the standrds organizations. When that's the case, it can be effective to leverage the NFPA standards.

In 2011 the NFPA Published 730 Guideline to Premises Security, 2011 Edition. This is a completely revised guideline that includes a new security plan based on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) material. The same year NFPA Published 731 Standard for the Installation of Electronic Premises Security Systems, 2011 Edition.

Late last year I became aware of NFPA's intention to upgrade the standards guidelines to code status. The intention was to have municipalities and other jurisdictions adopt the codes into law.

That's a whole other ball game and analysis of the impacts of such a move have received very little publication, which is surprising given the presence of the Web.

I put up a website about this issue: www.nfpa-security-codes.com.

This is a controversial topic, but independent from the value of the standards, which I still continue to utilize as appropriate.

I'm not the only one who thinks these standards are usefull. cabling and LAN expert Les Baxter has even written a report titled, "NFPA 731 with Applications to Residential Security Systems".

Since NFPA 731 specifically excludes single-family dwellings from its scope, Section 4 of the report makes recommendations as to what subset of the requirements of NFPA 731 might be usefully applied to one- and two-family dwellings.

The report is worth downloading and provides a good perspective on the kinds of things covered by the standards. I don't know Les Baxter personally but I certainly applaud the report and recommend it to folks who are not familiar with the NFPA standards.

Mr. Benard is correct. 731 and 732 are nearly 10 years old now. It is past time they became codes and reached the enforcement level. They are certainly not all inclusuve by any means, but they are a good starting point. An important piece of these guidelines is to have your plans evaluated by a Certified Security Professinal. This recommendations will help serious professionals clean up our industry as much as any effort we can make. One professinoal's opinion.

Mark, you bring up an interesting point about security systems plans not being reviewed by a security professional. I have seen poor quality designs, and poor quality installations, and sometimes both at the same time.

The 732 standard deals with quality of installation, which does not guarantee quality of function such as video quality. That's what the Video Quality in Public Safety initiative is about, which has developed a number of resources including an online Guide to Defining Video Quality Requirements.

Fire systems technology has specific performance and technical standards to meet, which are well-defined. It’s not the same situation with security technology, which continues to advance at an increasingly rapid pace with little progress on interoperability.

The insurance industry is the primary driver of the NFPA’s work in security, with the purpose of reducing the amount of insurance claims from subscribers. Subscribers and insurance companies stand to benefit, with subscribers getting lower insurance rates for well-protected properties, and also benefiting by overall increased security. There is nothing wrong with this concept.

NFPA’s fire standards work is very extensive, and includes the maintenance of the 1,512 page National Electric Code (NFPA 70). It would not be possible to quantify or qualify all of the work that has gone into that standards and the other NFPA standards.

In contrast stands the comparatively small but valuable amount of work that has gone into NFPA 730 and 731. But the impacts of making them codes have not had much public discussion, and concern for both intended and unintended consequences is valid.

Great Article , I have dealt with the ahj for many years .

Found the best approach is First Contact , long before the inspections

second is let the ahj be the expert , show him respect

third , appeal with codes , dont demand with codes

fourth , never challenge his authority to pt of argument , appeal to command structure

Chris, what you wrote are very important points and although at first glance it seems like everyone would just naturally come to these conclusions, that's not always the case. In many situations there can be little advanced thought given to the AHJ relationship. Very often one or more stakeholders gets surprised by an AHJ's comments or direction, and things erupt either on the spot or afterwards. Years ago I actually met a fellow who punched out the AHJ, having already been riled up to the max after meeting with beligerent and threatening tradesmen. It was a very successful family business that ventured into real estate, and had no exsperience with the AHJ situation.

I did a quick search and found a 2009 interview of you that expands on some of what you wrote above and gives some good project examples. Thanks for sharing this really good advice.

Hi Ray

I am impressed, you did your homework, I dont like to give too much out about my past. I spend a lot of time in training and have in the past . Did not complete college as family issues .

But I have worked with many ahj's and some would like to fire, or replace them.

But found that when I create problems they just get worse for me. So I found it better to work with them and eat humble pie.

As you get older you find the meanings change and its not about code or being right,but about working it out for common goals & achievement.

At the end of the day a good nites sleep is worth more than being right or wrong.

Code is subjective to interpretation even if stated clearly.

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