Testing must be fit for purpose
Minimising potential risks
Fire safety is a subject which, unfortunately, still all too frequently grabs headlines around the world. However, with ever-evolving fire protection technology, practices and specialist standards, levels of safety are constantly improving. This said, notes Stephen Beadle of Detectortesters (No Climb Products Ltd.) there is no sense of complacency amongst governments, authorities and fire safety companies as they seek to minimise potential risk still further.
Quite rightly, the protection of people and assets from the threat of fire receives utmost focus from authorities around the world who, through expert groups, have put together far-reaching, stringent standards and codes to educate and guide the marketplace. These standards, enforced as legislation, are in place, ultimately, to ensure the right fire systems are installed and are also maintained regularly to ensure their optimum function for when they are needed. In adhering to these standards and best practice, the building owner can be confident that the building’s occupants and assets are protected in order to be able to deal with the threat of fire and in the worst case an actual outbreak.
Fire safety standards
The UAE has always strived to ensure adherence with best practice in terms of fire safety and in this regard, has promoted the use of the highest standards. In a logical progression from the adoption of the highest levels of practice from standards & codes around the world, e.g. NFPA72 & BS5839, the UAE has worked to incorporate the stipulations of these leading standards into a single code of practice for the UAE. Crucially, the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice, provides a relevant and up to date reference point for those working in the industry within the UAE to work from.
In terms of providing vital early warning in the event of a fire, an important area given specific focus in the new fire code is the design, installation and maintenance of fire alarm / detection system. Having correctly planned, installed and then commissioned a fire alarm system, and received sign off, it is imperative that the system is then frequently and properly tested and maintained in line with the requirements of the code.
The code not only promotes the importance of making regular checks of the fire alarm system to ensure its optimum function and operation but also that any tests and maintenance work are carried out properly, i.e. following the correct methodology and using appropriate equipment which is fit for purpose.
As with the stipulations of NFPA72 – Ch. 14, testing of each fire detector is required on an annual basis and that, depending on the type of sensor or sensors, surrogate smoke and heat (and / or CO) should be introduced around the detector in a controlled manner. Testing this way helps ensure the test is completed safely and without risk to the detector, personnel or the immediate environment.
The right test equipment
When selecting test equipment, it is also vital that the correct equipment is carefully selected, and that means choosing appropriate, technical test solution, which is compatible with the widest range of detectors and has been developed with the input and recommendation of the detector manufacturers. Solo and Testifire are two such solutions, offering not only a carefully developed technical test (smoke) aerosol, but a suitable device designed to correctly deliver it. It is worth taking time to ensure the test product you are using carries the essential approvals, both for detector compatibility and the dispensing device you are using.
Please note: users should always refer to Safety Data Sheets for a list of the aerosol contents – using aerosols that contain undesirable chemical components, such as silicone, can introduce needless risks to the test and maintenance process. Indeed, silicone has a ‘sticking power’ which when used in an aerosol can ‘stick’ on the item being sprayed causing it to become slippery and not allowing anything to adhere to it.
The use of non-compatible test solutions, (e.g. using an aerosol which is not approved for use with your dispenser), can also cause problems with potentially adverse effects caused by residue deposited through excessive liquid discharge.
Understanding new detector technology
While smoke detectors are most prevalent in the market place, there are increasing numbers of heat detectors – as well as multi-sensor detectors for particular applications. When testing these devices, it is again important that no risk is introduced. A heat detector tester, which has been specifically designed to deliver heat in a controlled and targeted method, should be used. This will bring about the quick and efficient activation of the detector without having any detrimental effect on the detector’s plastics housing, e.g. live flame, hairdryers & heat guns designed for other applications are examples of equipment that should be avoided.
The proliferation of multi-sensor detectors has meant the advance of fire control panels, many of which will now support the testing of all sensors simultaneously in a single test.
More intelligent detectors have meant the need to continuously develop suitable test standards & equipment for legacy and emerging technologies. Detectortesters through its active contribution to working groups (together with leading detector manufacturing partners) has been able to ensure practice & codes keep a pace with sensing technologies and, through its wealth of fire industry experience, made sure there are technical solutions to suit.
With over 35 years in the fire industry, we now manufacture a world renowned specialist range of technical test products, and with a view to the future, emerging technology and recognising the ongoing practical challenges encountered in the field, Detectortesters now has bespoke, fit for purpose solutions available for multi-sensor, hard-to-access detectors and ASD.