SMOKE DETECTOR SENSITIVITY TESTING!
By Frank Kurz
CFAA’s Vancouver Technical Seminar held on October 9, 2013 featured a number of amazing speakers and topics, one of which was Paul Jewett of Mircom Technologies. Paul elected to cover the “hot button” topic of SMOKE DETECTOR SENSITIVITY TESTING. He started his presentation by pointing out that the requirement to test a detector’s sensitivity was first articulated in the 1986 version of CAN/ULC-S536, but that the need to DOCUMENT the results first appeared in the 1997 version. It was in this latter version that the Appendix “E” Detailed Device Testing Form first sported a new column which drew the ire of a number of fire equipment service agencies across Canada. Why? Because, in many instances, the new requirement would necessitate the purchase of the manufacturer’s Listed test equipment (and some testers cost in excess of $3,000.00)! The end-result is that many testing agencies across Canada continued to IGNORE the requirement (with some not even including the column in their report formats) (you can review some examples of munged test reports in our previous article).
In a move that took a number of companies (including some building owners and operators) by surprise, Alberta issued a STANDATA in which MANDATORY sensitivity testing is required. In the case of older type conventional smoke detectors where the manufacturer’s test instrument is no longer available (or manufactured), the STANDATA requires you to upgrade the detector to a compatible unit (to the common control) which would allow a testing technician to fulfill the requirement.
Many of the newer type of detectors actually provide you with a means to test their sensitivity by observing the pattern of flashes of a strategically placed LED lamp (or lamps). There are many different ways to document this testing, the upshot of all this though, is that technicians will actually have to add about two minutes per detector in order to properly access and test each unit.
Paul also suggested that the use of approved test gas (canned smoke), in some instances where multi-criteria type detectors are utilized, will require you to DISABLE the carbon monoxide sensing element in order to properly conduct a test of the smoke sensor. In order to do this, you’ll need to be able to access the common control unit’s programming software. On the plus side, you’ll also be able to access a sensitivity report for each detector right from the control’s main display (and in some installations be able to PRINT off a hard copy for you to take away).
All of the fire alarm test report Forms available in our library include a column for recording smoke detector sensitivity. Now would be a good time to review the test reports you’ve been using to make sure they comply with the MINIMUM critieria suggested by the Canadian Fire Alarm Testing Standard.
There is positively NO EXCUSE for not providing what the testing standard calls for!
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You can review the testing criteria for the ESL-500 series of smoke detectors and the System Sensor C2W-BA.
You may also wish to read our May 2012 Editorial!