Offside Technologies Corp.
Bulletins, Recalls, & Technical Service Notes:
Note: On August 23, 2020, we updated this Bulletin with additional references from the newly published 2019 Edition of the Standard for Fire Alarm Inspection and Testing (CAN/ULC-S536:2019).
Offside Technologies recently introduced their version of the Larrstep EEL-1 Fire Alarm End-of-Line/Isolator Tester. They’re calling it an Electronic Verifying Switch (EVS), model SM-001. The unit is somewhat of a departure from the Larrstep Patent because it utilizes a four position keyswitch (instead of the Larrstep EEL-1 three position one). There are some issues with its deployment as a result.
CAUTION: A number of testing procedures demonstrated in videos featured on their website (and outlined in the EVS testing instructions) actually contravene the Canadian fire alarm testing and Verification Standards. Please refer to the Section entitled “Non-Compliance with CAN/ULC-S536 (Standard for Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems) Testing Requirements”, below, for more information.
Two Important Precautions (applies to ALL fire alarm system components and controls in Canada)
Non-Compliance with CAN/ULC-S536 (Standard for Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems) Testing Requirements
(NOTE: This information has also been submitted to ULC’s Market Surveillance Department.)
The installation instructions published on the Offside Technologies website mention several applications and testing procedures for the EVS SM-001 which do not comply with Canadian fire alarm testing Standards (there are also several recommended applications where the manufacturer suggests you should deploy the device to test field devices in a way CAN/ULC-S536 does NOT even require). The installation of the device in a number of the videos which demonstrate these procedures actually contravenes CAN/ULC-S524 (Standard for Installation of Fire Alarm Systems) as well. We have not specifically reviewed the installation instructions for jurisdictions requiring compliance with NFPA 72 and would suggest that caution should be exercised if you are considering deploying this product in your building (or project). Consultation with the a recognized local Jurisdictional Authority is recommended, at the very least.
Contrary to what is stated on the company’s website, the AHJ is NOT “there to help all of us, improve fire protection” (phrase taken from Offside Technologies Corp. Home Page). The AHJ actually enforces the Fire Code and will not accept any departures from the required testing mandated in the referenced Standards, nor will they authorize “work arounds” that could substantially DIMINISH public safety.
Here’s what we’ve determined from our review of this manufacturer’s claims (please note that we have also included the relevant references to the Canadian Testing Standard, CAN/ULC-S536-13):
1. You cannot install the EVS SM-001 unit to conveniently perform the required short test for a conventional fixed temperature heat detector. This would not allow for a proper visual inspection of the device’s terminations (a requirement, in this instance, that would ensure alignment with a service bulletin issued for the Chemtronics 600 series detectors).
The specific testing requirements mandated in CAN/ULC-S536-13 for any fire alarm field device appears in Clauses 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206, and reads as follows:
(220.127.116.11) “Each field device shall be inspected to confirm the following as applicable:
A. Free of damage;
(18.104.22.168) “Each non-restorable heat detector shall have the circuits tested by simulating its electrical operation at the wiring connection.”
Sentence 22.214.171.124 has been modified in CAN/ULC-S536:2019. The specific reference to the testing of these devices has also been changed to Sentence 14.3.3 (we’ve highlighted the amended portion of sentence):
(14.3.3) “Each non-restorable heat detector shall have the circuits tested by simulating its electrical operation at the wiring connection on the device.”
We actually abhor the idea of allowing the installation of an unsupervised “T” tap on any conventional circuit. We can unequivocally state that it also contravenes the Standard for Fire Alarm Installation (CAN/ULC-S524). The 2014 published edition is currently in effect in Canada (and includes Amendment 1). Sentence 126.96.36.199 of this Standard reads:
“Fire alarm system devices connected in an electrically supervised circuit shall be connected so that removal or disconnection of any device shall cause a trouble signal to be initiated.”
The EVS is a Listed fire alarm device and must be installed so that a wiring fault to (or from) the unit initiates an identifiable “trouble” condition on the fire alarm system. Permanently attaching a “long wire” to a fixed temperature heat detector and calling this a “test point” is also a totally unacceptable testing method (and one we’ve NEVER seen employed)! If this were allowed, why not simply run a pair of conductors down the wall to a junction box where you can simply short the wires there without having to install an expensive testing switch?
2. You cannot install the unit to test inaccessible fire detectors. One prominently featured photograph on the website depicts a view from the top of a stairwell and the accompanying text suggests that the EVS device can be utilized as an approved test point for a detector in this location. We beg to differ. Stairwells are normally protected by a smoke detector. There are several tools available that would allow a technician to properly test a detector here. To maintain or clean the unit, would require a special ladder or the installation of scaffolding so a technician would be able to safely access it.
The required testing method for inaccessible devices is found in CAN/ULC-S536-13 Clause 188.8.131.52, which states:
“All field devices shall be tested on an annual basis, except in the event that a device cannot reasonably be made accessible for safety considerations (for example, continuous process operations, energized electrical equipment, radiation, and height), the device and its location shall be recorded and identified as “inaccessible” in the remarks column of the report similar to that shown in Appendix C3.2, Individual Device Record. The last test date shall also be recorded in the remarks column of C3.2. Those field devices identified as being inaccessible as noted in the remarks column of C3.2, shall be tested at least once every two years.”
3. The open circuit test mentioned on the data communication link (DCL) side of a monitor module (which Canadian Standards refer to as a supporting field device) is NOT a required test in any published edition of CAN/ULC-S536 (Standard for Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems). When the open circuit test IS performed as part of a CAN/ULC-S537 (Standard for Verification of Fire Alarm Systems) Verification, the device must be physically removed from the backbox and the connections TO the device must be visually inspected and tested.
4. The short-on-alarm test is actually missing from the website’s “Testing Procedure for In Suite Isolator Device” likely because of the key-switch’s maximum current limitation. Keep in mind that the testing Standard in effect in Ontario is still CAN/ULC-S536-04. For those Canadian provinces that have embraced the 2015 National Fire Code, the short on alarm is a critically important test that cannot be overlooked. We’ve highlighted the relevant wording in the testing procedure in RED in Clause 184.108.40.206 (F) of CAN/ULC-S536-13, which states:
“Where signal circuit suite isolator devices are used in suites of a residential occupancies they shall be inspected and tested to confirm operability. Where a signal circuit serves more than one residential suite, a wire-to-wire short circuit fault shall be imposed within each suite in normal (supervisory non-alarm) and alarm conditions. In all cases the wire-to-wire short circuit fault shall not interfere with the ability of devices in other dwelling units, public corridors, or suites to sound an alarm.”
NOTE: We describe the proper procedure to test isolators in this FAQ.
5. The open circuit test application demonstrated on the source side of a data communication link isolator is NOT a required test in any published edition of CAN/ULC-S536 (Standard for Inspection and Testing of Fire Alarm Systems). The instructions also suggest that you will require two (2) EVS units in the floor area. The testing of the data communication link isolators serving a Class “A” Style “C” circuit (where two DCL isolators would have to be installed) only requires a single open, short and ground fault be introduced in the floor area and the activation of a field device on the source side while these individual troubles are present. The reference Clause in CAN/ULC-S536-13 is 6.6.2, which reads:
"Where fault isolation modules are installed in data communication links serving field devices, wiring shall be shorted on the isolated side, annunciation of the fault confirmed, and then a field device on the source side shall be operated, and activation confirmed at the control unit or transponder."
6. The use of the Offside EVS unit to electrically simulate the activation of a sprinkler flow, valve, or other supervisory switch does not comply with the mandated testing required by CAN/ULC-S536-13 Section 6.7.8. “Devices for Water Type Extinguishing Systems”. Flow switches MUST be tested by the required water-flow means available (which may require a sprinkler technician to operate) and the testing technician must record the time-to-alarm, etc., on the Individual Device Record. Other supervisory devices (like low air switches), need to be properly tested for operation and the test results recorded in the Individual Device Record. Valves have to be operated to ensure their supervisory switches function within the required parameters (two turns of the valve handle or movement of the valve stem beyond 20% of the normal open position). In other words (and to make this perfectly clear), you cannot perform the required testing mandated in CAN/ULC-S536 from an end-of-line device or other fire alarm field device other than AT the flow, valve, or tamper switch you are physically testing!
NOTE: We describe the proper procedure to test fire sprinkler devices in our INSPECTION FAQ.
7. You cannot use the EVS to bypass any fire alarm or supervisory input (an example provided in the Offside Technologies EVS instructions is a kitchen suppression releasing system). The two Standards, which our 2015 published edition of the National Fire Code reference are NFPA 17A(2013) (specifically Clauses 6.4.6, 220.127.116.11) and CAN/ULC-S536-13 Clause 18.104.22.168.1. BOTH clearly REQUIRE witnessing the correct operation and the fire alarm system’s activation (including remote annunciation) at every test that’s conducted.
NFPA 17A(2013) 6.4.6 “Building Alarm System. Where the system is connected to a building alarm system, verification that alarm-sounding or notification devices and remote annunciation devices are functional shall be required.”
NFPA 17A(2013) “22.214.171.124* All wet chemical systems shall be tested, which shall include operation of the detection system signals and releasing devices, including manual stations and other associated equipment.”
CAN/ULC-S536-13 126.96.36.199.1 “Where a fixed type extinguishing system is connected to the fire alarm control unit or transponder, confirm the operation of the output contacts of the extinguishing system panel initiates the specified system functions at the fire alarm control unit or transponder (e.g. alarm, trouble).”
And the note in this Clause is also relevant:
“NOTE: It is presumed that the fixed type extinguishing system shall be tested in accordance with applicable Codes and Standards as these systems are outside the scope of this Standard.”
If you are engaged in providing inspection and testing services to any fixed type extinguishing system and you are NOT following the required testing procedures, you are actually contravening the Fire Code! If you are the OWNER (and responsible to ensure the mandated testing is performed), you’d better make darn sure the company you engage to perform the service complies with the referenced Standards!
8. Do not connect the EVS SM-001 to a speaker circuit. While the installation instructions clearly suggest that you can, this would actually contravene the UL/ULC Listing on the device. The key-switch is not rated to operate on an AC powered circuit of any voltage (which also happens to align with the electrical specifications provided in the installation instructions).
9. Do not connect the EVS to the unsupervised output of any programmable relay module. While the installation instructions seem to suggest that the operating current is higher than the actual Listed switching current, the voltage ratings (as published in the instructions) do not allow for a connection to any circuit above 40 Volts DC or on circuits which employ AC current of any voltage. Additionally, the suggested maximum current capacity of the EVS is NOT A FUNCTION of just the keyswitch, but is directly correlated to the total capacity of the complete assembly which includes the traces on the circuit board. We are fairly certain that UL / ULC did not test the EVS in this configuration (they were likely not asked to either). We would go so far as to suggest that it should not be done in either case as you risk damage to unit if you accidentally activate it (common sense would suggest that if the unit was installed, then someone likely Verified it in the configuration). Posting a prominent warning label next to the unit should be mandatory if certain functions are not to be (or cannot be) used.
Offside Technologies Electronic Verifying Switch Deployment Guidelines
For those systems not included (or where specific currents were not provided in the manufacturer’s specifications for inclusion) in Table A, you can manually check the switching current on an initiating circuit (or Data Communications Link / Signalling Line Circuit). We recommend using a Fluke Model 117 meter which has a “min / max” setting and a good, solid response time. It is important to note that Table A was produced from information located in the respective manufacturer’s published Installation and Operating Instructions. Actual empirical measurements may differ slightly from the published values in Table A owing to the inherent discrepancies you may encounter when using any commercially available, non-calibrated measuring instrument. The fire alarm manufacturer’s published instructions is the reference used to confirm compatibility for all fire alarm field devices and must always be followed.
Determining Switching Current for an Input Circuit or Data Communications Link Loop Controller
Follow these procedures:
Canadian Verification Guidelines (CAN/ULC-S537-13)
Individuals engaged in performing a Verification of newly installed Offside SM-001 end-of-line plates must ensure that the shorting current on the circuit under test does not exceed 350 mA. It is equally important to ensure that the normal “supervisory” circuit current does not exceed 350 mA as the “open circuit” test position could also pose a damage risk for the key-switch. The product cannot be used on any notification appliance circuit or indicating circuit (NAC or IDC) as the short current when the fire alarm system is in ALARM can easily exceed one Amp (or more) depending on the number of audible and visible signalling devices that are connected. The Verifier must confirm that the product is installed correctly in accordance with the published installation instructions which should detail its suitability for the intended use, as well as the safe operation of the device. Despite it being marketed as an isolator tester, its use in this role must also be carefully evaluated (see Table A).
Manufacturer Technical Support Numbers:
+1 (888) 340-3473
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