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CAN/ULC-537 Fire Alarm Verification - Part 1 Documentation

 


What exactly is a Fire Alarm Verification, and how do you know it's been performed correctly?

Two questions I'm frequently asked, and which I'm going to answer in this new series of articles.

For those unfamiliar with fire alarm installation requirements in Canada, the Verification Appendix "C" Report is the final seal of approval on either a brand new system or a modification to an existing one. It's supposed to document the testing, performed by a competent individual that should be well versed in the relevant requirements of the National Building Code (as adopted by your Province/Territory of residence), Sections 10 and 32 of the Canadian Electrical Code (CSA C22.1), the Standard for Installation of Fire Alarm Systems (CAN/ULC-S524), the Standard for Verification of Fire Alarm Systems (CAN/ULC-S537), and the Standard for Installation and Services for Fire Signal Receiving Centres and Systems (CAN/ULC-S561).

The preface of the Standard for Verification of Fire Alarm Systems, offers up some rather specific insights into the process when it details that the...

    “...verification procedure described herein will be conducted by an organization other than the installing contractor and designer, and that the verification will be carried out by qualified personnel in the employ of an organization acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction.”
    -- CAN/ULC-S537-13

The Appendix "A" of the Standard expands the definition of qualified personnel by offering up this guideline:

    “Any person who performs the verification of a fire alarm system should be familiar with this Standard and have received suitable formal training or sufficient experience acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction.”

The Appendix "A" doesn't mention any formal certification requirements, membership in any national (or Provincial) professional association, or anything in the way of the specific training or experience required. In point of fact, it simply states that the suitable formal training or sufficient experience only has to be acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction.

So, how does an authority having jurisdiction determine that an individual that's going to be conducting the most important inspection and rigorous test that a fire alarm system is going to undergo in its lifetime, has both the knowledge of this Standard and the suitable formal training or sufficient experience?

No matter how you slice it, it's a crap shoot!

Even the City of Vancouver's carefully crafted criteria in their Bulletin 2003-009EL, which also happens to list the individuals acceptable to perform the Verification of a fire alarm system within their jurisdiction, has not been a guarantee that the equipment's installation meets all of the criteria in the Codes and Standards we listed in the opening paragraph of this article.

Many jurisdictions are faced with having to deal with sub-standard fire alarm installations and don’t have the basic tools to deal with them.  Many Building Officials rely on the the Engineer of record to ensure both the physical inspection is performed in accordance with the Standard and the required documentation is submitted.  The problem is that Engineer involvement may not always apply to a modification of an existing system.  Indeed some systems may “fall through the cracks” over years of such modifications and it becomes incumbent on a knowledgeable and vigilant fire equipment service technician conducting an annual inspection to raise the alarm (pun intended).

 

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The Referenced Publications

There are two "versions" of the Standard for Verification of Fire Alarm Systems currently referenced in Provincially adopted Building Codes, with Alberta the only major jurisdiction where CAN/ULC-S537-13 (the newest published edition of this Standard) is being used.  What's unique here is that the Installation, Verification, and Annual Inspection Standards are properly aligned with each other.  In all other Canadian jurisdictions, the Verification Standard (CAN/ULC-S537-04) is based on the "-01" edition of the Installation Standard when, in actual fact, CAN/ULC-S524-06 is referenced in the Building Code.  When NBC 2015 is adopted Provincially, we're all going to be facing the problem of two inspection Standards that reference an Installation Standard that they're out-of-step with.  NBC 2015 is going to reference CAN/ULC-S524-14 , CAN/ULC-S536-13 and CAN/ULC-S537-13.  Both inspection Standards happen to be predicated on the previous published version of the Installation Standard, CAN/ULC-S524-06.

Confused? Don't be. We're going to shine some light on the subject for you.

CAN/ULC-S537 Appendix "C"

What is it?

It's a detailed report which documents the inspection and testing of a newly commissioned fire alarm system or one that's been modified by either the addition or deletion of system components and/or field devices.

What must it contain?

This is outlined in similarly worded Clauses in both versions of the Standard. In CAN/ULC-S537-04 it's Section 3.2, while in CAN/ULC-S537-13 it's Section 4.2. Both Sections are entitled Documentation. The MINIMUM required Appendix "C" report must contain the following Sections (CAN/ULC-S537-13 Items and Sections are in parentheses):

C1 Report - Items A through K (Items A through L) - the face page of any fire alarm system Verification conducted in Canada. It offers a general overview of the system's installation, condition, and acceptability (you could call it the summary page).

C2 Documentation - Items A through G (Items A through H)

C3 Field Device and Related Circuits - Test and Inspection - Items A through J (Items A through N)

C4 Data Communication Link Test - Items A through F (Items A through F)

C5.1 Control Unit or Transponder Test - Items A through JJ (Items A through EE)

C5.2 Voice Communication Test - Items A through P (Items A through Q)

C5.3 Required Response Times - Items A through F (Items A through F)

C5.4 Control Unit or Transponder Inspection - Items A through P (Items A through Q)

C5.5 Large Scale Network Systems - Items A through E (Items A through E)

C5.6 Power Supply Inspection - Items A through G (Items A through G)

C5.7 Emergency Power Supply Test and Inspection - Items A through U (Items A through U)

C5.8 Annunciator and Remote Trouble Signal Unit Test and Inspection- Items A through N (Items A through O)

C5.9 Annunciators or Sequential Displays - Items A through K (Items A through L)

C5.10 Remote Trouble Signal Unit Test and Inspection - Items A through D (Items A through D)

C5.11 Printer Test - Items A through C (Items A through C)

C5.12 Ancillary Device Circuit Test - Lists all ancillary device circuits (applicable to both versions of the Standard).

(C5.13 Interconnection to Fire Signal Receiving Centre - Items A through O) This is unique to CAN/ULC-S537-13 only.

C6.1 Field Device Testing - Legend and Notes - A comprehensive list of the make and model numbers of all installed field devices, including active and supporting field devices (applies to both versions of the Standard).

C6.2 Individual Device Record - This is where the qualified individual records the location and test results for every installed fire alarm field device (applies to both versions of the Standard).

C6.3 Signalling Device Sound Level Measurement - This is where the qualified individual records both ambient and alarm sound pressure levels at various locations within each NBC defined zone (applies to both versions of the Standard).

(C6.4 Signalling Device Intelligibility Measurement - This is where the qualified individual records CIS measurements in various locations within each NBC defined zone). This is unique to CAN/ULC-S537-13 only, but also happens to be a performance requirement in all Provincial jurisdictions that have adopted NBC 2010. Reference Sentence 3.2.4.22(2) of your current Provincial (or Territorial) Code.

(C6.5 Deficiencies - This is where deficient items in the fire alarm system are recorded, and is utilized where the qualified individual may be Verifying a modification of an existing fire alarm system. Needless to say, deficiencies are not acceptable, or must have already been corrected, when an Appendix "C" report is issued for a new fire alarm system installation.) This is unique to CAN/ULC-S537-13 only.

(C6.6 Recommendations - This is where the qualified individual can make recommendations for improving or further modifying the fire alarm system.) This is unique to CAN/ULC-S537-13 only.

(C6.7 Remarks - This is where the qualified individual can expand on comments or remarks made in the C1 Report or C6.2 Individual Device Record.) This is unique to CAN/ULC-S537-13 only.

Criteria for rejection of any Appendix "C" report an AHJ receives should first be predicated on whether ALL of the appropriate sections are included and properly completed. Those sections that don't apply to the system being Verified should still be included and should be marked Not Applicable. Why? How else can an AHJ even begin to determine that the individual that's completed the Appendix "C" is familiar with this Standard and may actually possess a valid copy of it?

Can the documentation include additional inspection/testing items?

The referenced Sections of the Standard represent the MINIMUM documentation that must be included in any Appendix "C" Report form you happen to be reviewing. Additional inspection and testing items can be added, at the discretion of the AHJ, the Verifier, or the Designer (as we have done with the documentation available on the FORMS page at www.firetechs.net and as the City of Vancouver has modified the C1 - Report form in their Bulletin 2000-021-BU/EL).

Part 2 and Beyond!

In the other parts of this series, we'll be discussing the fire alarm system field devices that must be documented on the Appendix C6.1 and C6.2 pages, the testing required for the power supply and emergency power supply, annunciators, stand-alone operation, isolators on addressable systems, duct detectors, electrical supervision, ancillary circuits, Class "A" circuit wiring requirements, signalling circuits, etc.

If you have any particular concerns, or have a suggestion for a Section (or part) of the Standard you'd like to ensure gets covered, please don't hesitate to Contact Us!

 

You can read more concerning technician practices, testing methods, etc. by clicking on:

Our Special Report on ASTTBC’s Fire Protection Technician Certification Program
Our Editorial EXTRA! (April 2015) - The Wolf on the Board!
Our Open Letter to ASTTBC (March 2014 Editorial)
Our September 2014 Editorial
Our August 2014 Editorial
More comments concerning ASTTBC technicians are in in our May 2012 Editorial
ASTTBC Complaint Outcomes (This actually makes for some pretty scary reading.)
CAN/ULC-S536 DO’S AND DON’T’S - Special Reports

AHJ Training Courses are being offered by two (2) National Associations:

The Canadian Fire Alarm Association (CFAA - Please visit their website for information on one being held in your area.
You can also visit our own Training Centre for available AHJ Course dates and cities!

The Town of the Blue Mountains has adopted a version of our CAN/ULC-S537-04 Appendix “C” form.

 

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