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CAN/ULC-537 Fire Alarm Verification - Part 2 - The Device Test Record

 

"Good" isn't always...
VIAppendixCBatteryTest

 

In Part One of this series, we outlined the MINIMUM Appendix "C" documentation specified by the Canadian Standard for Verification of Fire Alarm Systems (CAN/ULC-S537), the two versions of the Standard currently referenced in Provincial Building Codes, and we reviewed the rather basic criteria outlined in the Standard to assist an AHJ in determining the level of knowledge and suitable formal training or sufficient experience┬ required of a qualified individual.  We also made the suggestion that the absence of any required section of the Appendix "C" documentation should result in an automatic rejection.

Establishing a baseline for acceptance is a crucial first step for any jurisdictional authority, but unless the documentation under review is presented in a readable and readily identifiable form, they will continue to receive a confusing plethora of different reporting formats, some of which may (or may not) include the required MINIMUM sections.  To simplify the process (and ensure compliance), we would suggest┬ that the ONLY acceptable reporting format must always be based on the template that IS the Appendix "C" included within both versions of the Standard.

This means every report you review is going to have a large number of single (or double sided) sheets.  Depending on any comments on the C1 - Report form and the confidence you have in the qualified individual performing the Verification, it may require you look past the first page at a few more sections.

The C5.7 Emergency Power Supply Test and Inspection detailed in the headline of this article is part of the Verification Appendix "C" documentation submitted to the City of North Vancouver on a fire alarm upgrade.  As the reader can readily determine, the format used doesn't comply with either of the two versions of the Standard.  In point of fact, the form doesn't even follow the numbering format for CAN/ULC-S537-97 (upon which this particular Appendix "C" is actually based).  The technician compounds this error when he indicates that there are two sets of batteries (and two power supplies) in the system and then indicates that everything's "good".  Good is NOT an acceptable entry for a line item that requires you to record a current or voltage reading because the word good gives us no meaningful data to confirm that a correctly sized emergency power supply has been provided.

Note to the reader: We'll be covering C5.7 in greater detail in a future installment of this series.

So, you may be wondering, what does the first page of this Appendix "C" actually look like? Well, here it is:
 

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Verifications_Appendix_C

 

Despite the reference to CAN/ULC-S537-04 and the date encoded at the upper left of the document (June 2004), the format of the first page of the report (the C1 - Report face page) in no way resembles either of the two acceptable Appendix "C" versions.  What's missing?  It doesn't identify the Verification that was actually performed (detailed in Items C through G), nor does it make any reference to the installed system meeting the requirements of CAN/ULC-S524 and the design (Item H).  It is, after all based on the 1997 version of the Standard which, incidentally, was NOT the published version referenced in BCBC 2006 (the Building Code in effect at the time).  CAN/ULC-S537-04 was.  Without even having to list the other required Items, or turning past the first page of the report, the criteria for rejection we mentioned in Part One has already been clearly established.

Let's review another form for a fire alarm installation in another British Columbia jurisdiction, which will help highlight what we've already discussed regarding a properly formatted document and the criteria for rejection, and which will allow us to smoothly segue into two important (and frequently abused) Sections of the Appendix "C" Report form - C6.1 - Field Device Testing - Legend (missing in this example), and C6.2 - Individual Device Record:

Bogus CAN/ULC-S537-04 Fire Alarm Verification Appendix "C" posted by Frank Kurz on Scribd

 

In this example of a failed Verification (which is also the focus of our October 2016 Editorial), the technician has elected to submit the City of Vancouver's modified CAN/ULC-S537-04 Appendix C1 - Report first page followed by five pages of a radically modified (but largely incomplete) C6.2 - Individual Device Record.  The report is supposed to document the Verification performed on an installation of a new, fully addressable Mircom FX-2000 fire alarm control.  Several of the required testing and inspection parameters have not been properly documented.  They include smoke detector sensitivity scores, proper annunciation, and ground fault.  What this report truly represents is an outstanding example of the perfect storm of failure criteria.  Unfortunately, this report's format, and other equally questionable variations there-of, is actually quite typical of what I see employed in many jurisdictions across the country.

C6.1 - Field Device Testing - LEGEND and Notes

What is it?

It documents the type and model number of every fire alarm field device installed on a system.  It provides the technician with the means to record the testing criteria of the smoke detectors (including their sensitivity ranges and their testing means) and lists ancillary devices which may be installed and connected to the system.  It also provides a handy cross-reference (or legend) for the abbreviations used in C6.2 - The Individual Device Test Record.

What exactly IS a fire alarm field device?

The Standard (CAN/ULC-S537-13) defines it as:

    “A device located remotely from, but connected electrically to, the control unit or transponder to provide status change information (e.g. fire alarm detection or signalling).”

The list of field devices can be categorized into the following groups:

  • Active Field Device
  • Supporting Field Device
  • Conventional Field Device
  • Audible Signal Device
  • Supervisory Device
  • Visible Signalling Device
  • Fire Detectors

And subgroups that include (but certainly aren't limited to):

  • smoke detectors
  • duct smoke detectors
  • beam smoke detectors
  • manual stations
  • heat detectors
  • combination type detectors
  • fault isolation modules
  • suite isolator devices
  • end-of-line devices
  • power isolation modules
  • flame detectors
  • sprinkler flow switches
  • sprinkler valve indicating switches
  • sprinkler supervisory devices (low air, low temperature, etc.)
  • bells, horns, buzzers, speakers
  • remote alarm indicators
  • addressable initiating circuit modules
  • addressable relay modules
  • addressable output modules

Do you have to list every installed and connected field device in a system in Section C6.1? 

Most definitely, YES!  You must identify them by both type and model number.

An example could be something as simple as a manual station.  Is the type "single" or "double action"?  Is it addressable or conventional?  What's the model number?  This information could prompt the qualified individual to question whether the contractor should be installing the cheaper single action stations in a building which predominately employs double action types.  It should also suggest that the qualified individual check to ensure that all the installed manual stations in the project operate  and reset the same way.

In an application involving linear heat detection in a cooler, it would be incumbent on the qualified individual to ensure that the model number of the ULC Listed cable being used has been properly tested (and certified) for the anticipated environment it's going to be deployed in to monitor.

Are the smoke detectors listed on the C6.1 form compatible with the control panel to which they're connected?  Listing the model number of each individual smoke detector (and base) should prompt the qualified individual to check the compatibility chart for the specific version of control panel, as published by the manufacturer.

And in a residential type installation, where two distinct types of suite signal isolators currently ULC Listed for use with a fire alarm system in Canada are available, only one is actually acceptable.  The unit illustrated below most definitely IS NOT!

IMG_0541A

 

Identifying the model number is of paramount importance and will help establish the criteria for acceptance or rejection of any field device by the qualified individual.  It should be noted that the above examples ALL require conformance with specific testing parameters in the referenced Standard as well (something we'll cover in future installments in this series) before you can check off any field in C6.2 - The Individual Device Record.

Which actually brings up another important point.  Designers MUST ensure that the Verification Agency they know will be engaged to perform this all important test, performs a few site visits during the course of any fire alarm installation (or modification) so that any deficiencies can be identified (and corrected) before they involve expensive alterations which might delay the project's completion (and raise the ire of the Owner).

Engineers and Designers take note:  Make at least two site visits, by an AHJ approved Verification Agency, part of YOUR design specification!

C6.2 - Individual Device Record

What is it?

Quite simply, it documents the testing and inspection of each individual field device.

Is a supporting field device (one that's monitoring the status of a sprinkler flow switch, for instance) supposed to be individually listed?

Most emphatically YES!  You must also detail its location and performance.

What must be documented?

Besides the zone, module or circuit number, the form documents the correct installation of each itemized device, its location, operation, electrical supervision, and other pertinent performance parameters.

Incorrect smoke detector installation!

IMG_0719

 

On some field devices (smoke detectors, sprinkler flow switches, and end-of-line devices, for instance), these other parameters require some special additional comments.  For smoke detectors, the approved individual must list the sensitivity level, for sprinkler flow switches, the activation delay must be recorded.

When an AHJ can identify that a fire alarm system employs addressable field devices and no reference to isolator modules is made on either the C6.1 or C6.2 forms, this should automatically raise two questions:

Are they even installed? And if they are, were they properly tested?

Note:  You would have to determine the installation methodology utilized (which should be detailed in the other sections of the Appendix "C") to make a determination as to whether-or-not they're actually required.  If you're uncertain, or it's not clear enough on the report (which can also be considered another criteria for rejection), ASK!

When a fire alarm system employs conventionally wired circuits (or zones), the locations and testing of each end-of-line resistor (and relay) must be detailed.  And since this important field device is the LAST DEVICE in a circuit, the voltage measurement across the device must be recorded here as well.  How else can the approved individual determine that the voltage drop on the circuit is within the acceptable limits as specified by the manufacturer?

Proper connection of the field wiring at all system
termination points must be checked!

IMG_0215

 

It goes without saying (but since no one else is, I may as well), that BLANK spaces on the C6.2 form that appear in the columns next to a listed device DO NOT automatically mean "Not Applicable".  For anyone engaged in reviewing a C6.2 form, BLANKS should be carefully examined and may actually qualify as another of your criteria for rejection.

The Verification remains one of the most crucial test and inspections a fire alarm system will undergo in its lifetime.  The documentation that details the installation must be complete and accurate.  Mistakes, deliberate omissions, and incomplete sections are all important indicators that the individual conducting the inspection may NOT meet the knowledge requirement, or (at the very worst) lacks the professional integrity an AHJ must demand of anyone they approve.

It is also incumbent on the personnel engaged in performing this vital service that they understand that failure is not an option and will not be tolerated!

We'll be exploring additional sections of the Standard in upcoming installments.  Stay tuned!

 

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

Part One of our series on Fire Alarm Verification

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

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You can also visit our own Training Centre for available AHJ Course dates and cities!

 

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