VANCOUVER MOVES ON NON-COMPLIANT VERIFICATION!
Vancouver Electrical Inspections Branch has initiated a review of the fire alarm verification report in a newly renovated building following the discovery that the recently installed system did not meet the requirements of CAN/ULC 524 (Installation Standard for Fire Alarm Systems). Typically a verification "Appendix C" submitted by an approved individual is sufficient to clear the way for a final occupancy permit (all other aspects being in compliance as well). In this case, the interconnection of a new kitchen suppression system to a recently installed (and manufacturer verified) fire alarm system raised some serious concerns.
The transformer for the annunciator heater was installed inside the common control cabinet with the primary leads paralleled to the fire alarm's primary circuit disconnect means. To compound an already questionable installation, the AC power was routed into the top of common control cabinet which is reserved for power limited and the SLC loop wiring. The AC was then run down the inside of the can and tie-wrapped to the cable supplying DC power to an expansion module. The manufacturer's trained technician also missed the fact that the annunciator heater wiring was run in the same conduit as the RS-485 wiring for the remote annunciator and that the latter was not shielded as required by the manufacturer's own installation instructions.
The outcome of all this could mean some changes in the way the City of Vancouver deals with a fire alarm verification report. Keep watching for new updates or bulletins here.
As approved verification agencies we must remain vigilant and ensure that any new system (or addition) meets the requirements of Code, the manufacturer's installation parameters, and the applicable Standards. We must also ensure we have the knowledge required to properly assess an installation and be aware of the procedures involved in bringing any deficiencies to the attention of the local authority. Does this make us proponents of professional practice or (as one individual once termed us) "troublemakers"? Up to now, the answer to that depends on which side of the line you happen to be standing on.
How does a local authority properly evaluate a verification report? There are several ways this can be accomplished:
- Standardize the reporting format within the jurisdiction. This means accepting only those reports that are properly completed;
- Establish a procedure for the reporting of systems that do not comply with the standard;
- Maintain a list of approved individuals and ensure that they can demonstrate their competency not just by membership in an organization or certification from the manufacturer or other third party agency. While this helps to establish that the person has received some training (or recognition), they must also be able to demonstrate that they can translate this training into real world situations, and conduct themselves ethically and professionally;
- Involve an approved individual in the plan approval stage so that the electrical contractor performing the installation properly understands the scope of work. This would also provide a professional contact to answer questions concerning the installation of specific devices. Then cross-check the Verification Report with a third party agency (i.e. another approved individual). This may require a life safety system installation, upgrade, or replacement to have a separate Permit Application so that the additional expense involved in plan approval, wiring, installation, and properly vetting the Verification can be recovered. The important thing here is not to emphasize an additional expense, but LIFE SAFETY;
- Ensure that the electrical contractor has a copy of the Installation Standard (CAN/ULC-S524), as well as the relevant manufacturer's installation manuals before they commence work and that everyone involved in the installation is familiar with all of the requirements;
- Properly police the individuals performing Verifications and pare down those approved individuals to only those that can demonstrate their commitment to maintaining the highest standard of care and competency;
- Sponsor networking seminars and training courses available through ASTTBC, CFAA, and the Fire Technicians Network.
(WORTH REPEATING) EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW...
About fire alarm communicators (but were afraid to ask). Read more here.
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