One of the main challenges faced daily is the certification process, how long it takes to get product approved and onto the market and the difficulties in meeting some of the stringent requirements. This can be a costly and protracted process which can be seen as a hinderance that not only delays products to market, but it can sometimes throttle back innovation with research and development teams, says multinational home appliances company Carrier EMEA & SA marketing manager Ray Puttock.
"We must however all remember that in a world of life safety products, these standards not only give assurance that each product meets the minimum requirements but also performs as they should. After all, in fire, we need to ensure that people and buildings have the best protection possible and if there was no regulation or approval of products, this could not be guaranteed."
He mentions that, EN54:25 was introduced around 12 years ago when wireless fire systems started to become more prevalent. Manufacturers and developers of this technology had seen an opportunity and potential fast-growing market and, while wireless had been around since the early 1990’s there were many variants.
"Some were very good, and some were not! There were different frequencies being used and the communications between panel and devices were not always bi-directional but, there were many other anomalies which meant something had to be done. The introduction of EN54-25 saw the end of many systems which did not meet the stringent requirements of the introduced standard, whilst those who were serious about the technology redeveloped to ensure compliance."
The standard had many requirements and was an extensive document, the clear message was however stated very early on in the text: Wireless fire systems and components had to be at least as efficient and stable as their wired equivalents.
The rest is history, with wireless fire systems being fully embraced in almost all sectors and not just heritage and with growth, far in excess of the fire industry as a whole. This is proof that a standard drives safety and innovation.
Looking at EN54-13: Compatibility assessment of system components, this was first published in 2005, and we see a similar story with developers ensuring that individual components of a system had to work in total harmony. "Again, if we look back into the past for examples of “open” and “closed” protocol systems where a single source system from a manufacturer was considered “safer” due to its integration," he points out.
However, many installers preferred the “open” protocol route, allowing them to choose the components they felt best met their customers’ requirements, as well as their own. The introduction of this standard has gone a long way in combating the open/closed discussion, as components are now tested and certified for full compatibility. This means that the decision is no longer about the above debate, but rather choosing “best in class” products that have been verified for use together. Back to driving safety and innovation.
"Finally, we can look at another more controversial standard, EN54-23, which specifies the requirements, testing methodology and performance for visual alarm devices, specifically giving details on coverage and use. There has been a lot of work done to ensure this is interpreted as it was intended, and certified devices used as and when required and not in every fire alarm design ad-hoc. Use of these devices is specific to risk and the standard clearly states when and where to use such a device," says Puttock.
The actual design criteria of devices meeting the standard has been a challenge for many companies, as the low power used in fire systems to power products emitting high levels of lighting, meant the need for new technology, and the adoption of light emitting diode’s was essential.
"We now have these products and the coverage is always clearly stated in terms of whether it’s a wall or ceiling mounted device, along with the area and height of where to use."
Although EN-23 has been around for some years it is still one of the more misunderstood standards, but driving safety and innovation, however it needs more understanding.
Carrier is fully committed to ensuring that all our products are fully certified and meet, or exceed, the applicable standards. "We work hand in glove with all partners and installers, ensuring they have access to the necessary product certificate, along with relevant information and documentation for each installation," he concludes.