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Red Tagging

Posted: Sat Apr 11, 2009 11:32
by That Burning Feeling
I strongly disagree with some of the teachings behind this website at this point. 1 example being, Red tagging a fire alarm panel because it has a violation of ULC's code. Let me ask you this. It is stipulated in the Canadian electrical code that the fire alarm panel must be served by a dedicated circuit. Is it against code to have the annunciators 100 W heater transformer paralleled with the FA mains supply. Absolutely it's wrong. Is the fire alarm panel going to not function and complete it's purpose. Absolutely not. Red Tagging a fire panel says to your 'customer' that there system is not going to function properly. I think we have to be careful with Red Tagging anything for that matter unless of course the issue is so critical that a fire watch is needed.

You have to make proper judgement calls to the best of your knowledge. Just be realistic.

Re: Red Tagging

Posted: Sun Apr 12, 2009 7:47
I agree that the use of RED TAGS on a system must be carefully considered. In the example you're referring to, the AC power supply for the fire alarm system is compromised. CAN/ULC-S524 stipulates that the fire alarm system must be serviced by a dedicated circuit. Paralleling an annunciator heater to the power supply compromises the circuit and violates one of the most important sections of the installation standard. In many such examples, the transformer for the heater has been mounted INSIDE the fire alarm control which also violates the ULC Listing of the system. If you read what I wrote in the "note" appended to the first example, this is a "double whammy" and absolutely deserves a RED TAG.

If you let this one example "pass" without a RED TAG, let me ask you this question: Where do you draw the line? I've seen an installation where the postal lock for the front door release has been paralleled to the fire alarm's transformer! What about magnetic door holder installations? I've seen examples where the 110VAC power for the door holders was paralleled to the fire alarm system and routed through the alarm relay that's rated for 24VDC!

PS. Great username!! ;)

Re: Red Tagging

Posted: Sun Apr 12, 2009 12:35
by That Burning Feeling
I believe you draw the line to red tag a fire panel if the system is not going to function as it's intended purpose. I have run across several fire alarm systems with paralleled inductive loads on the mains put together in the 80's as well as more modern units and they have functioned properly. Is it wrong. Yes. Will the system not function. No. If for instance you run across a fire alarm panel that is not charging batteries correctly and it's standby time is compromised then at that point it needs to be let known to 'customer' that there system is likely not to function correctly in a power outage and further work is required. (By a qualified electrician) That is when a red tag is needed in my opinion.

I think as tech's you need to understand that opinions are going to differ in some cicumstances. You also have to be aware that BCIT's training is not adquate enough to expect that each one who goes through there 10 week training or whatever it is is going to know much about fire alarm control. Where you learn the most is through experiance. This is why we need to be careful to not be so quickly to throw fellow peers under the bus. And certainly not involving the local authority having jurisdiction. Again obviously judgement calls are required but that is where your experience is going to aid in that decision.

I have come across techs writing deficiancies up to their customer for a lack of a heat detector in a mechanical room. And at the same time calling out the previous inspection company for this. Meanwhile the building was built in the mid 90's, is sprinkled and never required the detector to begin with. Guess what the detector is the sprinkler head. Obviously this is not required in this instance but this ASTT certified inspector felt that it was, and was going to slander the previous service tech.

My feeling is a better way to spend time dealing with inadaquately trained techs is to write the authorities having jurisdictions and provincial fire commish with examples in order to bring in a proper training coarse to the province. This will benefit all parties involved in my view.

PS don't mind the spelling.

Re: Red Tagging

Posted: Sun Apr 12, 2009 1:27
While I don't disagree with your interpretation on the use of a RED TAG, there's only so far that you should allow a deficiency like this to go. The fact that the fire alarm system's power supply is compromised by an unfused circuit (in the example given it was an annunciator heater, but it could be other devices as well), a "requires additional work" comment is merited. The fact that the transformer for the annunciator heater is mounted INSIDE the fire alarm panel is an automatic RED TAG (in my book). My company specializes in Verification of fire alarm systems (new mostly), and the standard (CAN/ULC-S537) is far more stringent. If I haven't made this part clear enough in the FAQ's section, then perhaps you could suggest some wording that explains RED TAGGING a panel. I could reiterate ASTTBC's guideline on RED TAGGING (which you are obviously following), but there are fundamental differences between the "annual inspection" and "verification" standards that preclude the use of a "universal" RED TAG definition.

BCIT's ten week fire alarm course barely scratches the surface of what I consider a "professional" should know. ASTTBC has offered nothing in the way of "ongoing training and professional development" in the twelve years or so that they have enjoyed their mandate. Do you actually expect someone with a non-electrical skillset (and the backing of a 10 week BCIT course) to be able to calculate the additional load placed on the circuit by the 100W heater and correlate that to the design drawings and load calculations performed by the engineer for the fire alarm system's power circuit? I think you're asking too much. It would be much easier (and safer) to make reference to the installation standard in this instance and "flag" the issue. Even if you DON'T take the step of RED TAGGING the panel (if the heater transformer has actually been mounted INSIDE the common control), most fire prevention officers in the municipalities that subscribe to the ASTTBC Bylaw will act on an "additional work required" comment. That could include investigating the individual that tagged off on the system in previous years as well as the person/agency that verified the system.

The whole reason behind this website is to provide the tools my fellow peers need to properly complete an annual inspection and a proper verification test and to raise the standard a few more notches. I have no desire to "throw" anyone "under the bus" with the exception of a very few individuals that continue to demonstrate a lack of professional ethics and care. In those instances, liason with the AHJ becomes even more important as those individuals must be identified and dealt with. We are, after all, in the LIFE SAFETY business.

It's perfectly obvious to me that the technician who "wrote up" the customer for the lack of a heat detector wasn't fully conversant with the Building Code. This is another lack I hope to address with The Fire Technicians Network. An official complaint filed with ASTTBC would not have gotten very far in this instance, and the test for "slander" or "liable" would not have been met either. I think the tech that filed the complaint would have wound up a tad "red-faced" when confronted with his obvious lack of knowledge regarding Code.

Spelling is a "non-issue" in this forum! :)