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Offside Technologies Corp.

www.offsidetechnologies.com

Bulletins, Recalls, & Technical Service Notes:

 

 

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)

  1. With the exception of replacing a damaged (or non-functional) system component, the retrofit installation of any fire alarm field device is considered a modification of your fire alarm system and, as such, consultation with your local jurisdictional authority is advised.  An Electrical or Building Permit (or both) may be required and the installation should be performed by a qualified electrician.  These additional costs should also be factored in to your decision to deploy the device.
     
  2. Replacement (or the retro-fit installation) of any fire alarm field device in Canada is subject to a Verification in accordance with Section 7 of CAN/ULC-S537-13 (Standard for Verification of Fire Alarm Systems).
     

 

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 6.7.1.1 and 6.7.3.3, and reads as follows:

    (6.7.1.1) “Each field device shall be inspected to confirm the following as applicable:

      A. Free of damage;
      B. Free of foreign substance that inhibits the intended operation of the device;
      C. Mechanically supported independent of wiring;
      D. Protective dust shields or covers removed; and
      E. Correctly installed.”

    (6.7.3.3) “Each non-restorable heat detector shall have the circuits tested by simulating its electrical operation at the wiring connection.”

    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 Canadian fire alarm installation Standard (CAN/ULC-S524).  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 6.7.1.3, 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 6.7.9.2 (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, 7.3.4.4) and CAN/ULC-S536-13 Clause 6.7.8.3.1.  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) “7.3.3.4* 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 6.7.8.3.1 “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

  1. The Offside SM-001 key-switch is limited to a maximum switching current of 350 mA (0.35 Amps).  Fire alarm system control units utilize a variety of input and output circuits employing a wide range of current carrying capacities depending on the manufacturer (the model of the control panel and/or module).  We’ve provided some examples in Table A below.  If the switching current on the circuit equals or exceeds 350 mA, you CANNOT install the product.
  2. Offside SM-001 should not be located in an unconditioned space (unheated parking garages, sprinkler rooms, etc.).
  3. You cannot utilize the Offside SM-001 on a speaker circuit despite the fact that the installation instructions suggest otherwise.  The key-switch is rated for between 0 - 40 VDC.  Speaker circuits operate at either 25 or 70 Volts ACUtilizing the EVS SM-001 to switch AC voltages would likely violate the UL/ULC Listing and could potentially damage the device.
  4. The Offside SM-001 should be utilized with caution when testing some manufacturer’s Data Communication Link (Signalling Line Circuit) isolators because of the high switching currents involved (see Table “A” below).  We note that the demonstration videos all feature a Mircom FX-2000 fire alarm control panel.  The maximum shorting current on this panel’s data loop controller is 400 mA (which actually EXCEEDS the rated capacity of the switch).
  5. The use of an Offside SM-001 on a notification appliance circuit (horn/bell circuit) should be very carefully considered.  The unit should not be used in this configuration as the shorting current can easily exceed the maximum rated switch current of 350 mA.  This includes isolated suite sounders because you may be initially switching the entire NAC supervisory (or alarm) circuit current and not just the isolated room.  In Canada, all notification appliance devices must be supervised for opens in the circuit (including those installed on the isolated side of suite sounder isolators).
  6. A number of the required circuit and device testing instructions requires you to initiate the test from a normal supervisory condition.  This may require the installation of two (2) EVS SM-001 devices.
  7. You cannot use this product to test power or audio buss riser isolators.
     

Table Legend  N/A means Not Available

Table A - Maximum Switching Currents On Short1
(Updated July 19, 2018)

 DCL / SLC Loop

Panel Manufacturer & Model Number

Max. Current

Normal Current

Chubb Edwards iO 64 / iO 500

500 mA

60 mA

Fireguard IQ-500

250 mA

N/A

Firelite ES-200X

400 mA

100 mA

Firelite ES-50X

200 mA

100 mA

Firelite MS-9600LSC

400 mA

100 mA

Mircom FX-2003-6DS / FX-2003-12DS

400 mA

N/A

Notifier AM2020 (LIB-200 / LIB-400)

200 mA

100 mA

Potter PFC-6800 (includes SLCE-127 expanders)

56.055 mA

N/A

Siemens BC8001A

250 mA

N/A

Siemens FireFinder-XLS

375 mA

N/A

Siemens MXL/MSLV4 MMB-2

66 mA

66 mA

Simplex / Tyco IS6 4100ES IDNet Card

350 mA

N/A

Initiating Circuits (EOL Supervised)

Panel Manufacturer & Model Number

Max. Current

Normal Current

Chubb Edwards “QS” ZA8-2 / ZB16-4

75.9 mA

N/A

Edwards 6616 / 6632 B351 (per circuit)

115 mA

5.8 mA

Edwards 6616 / 6632 B352 (per circuit)

10.8 mA

3.7 mA

Edwards 6616 / 6632 B354 (per circuit)

115 mA

5.8 mA

Chubb Edwards SIGA-CT1

0.00025 mA

0.0004 mA

Chubb Edwards SIGA-CT2 (per circuit)

0.000396 mA

0.00068 mA

Chubb Edwards SIGA-UM (2-wire smoke module)

17 mA

2 mA

Chubb Edwards SIGA-MAB (2-wire smoke module)

17 mA

2 mA

Fireguard IQ-400 Series

45 mA

15-30 mA

Fireguard IQ-515MZ (2-wire smoke module)

60 mA

5 mA

Firelite MS-5UD / MS-10UD

40 mA

N/A

Mircom FA-103 / FA-106

50 mA

3 mA

Mircom FA-101T, FA-102T, FA-1025T

21 mA

N/A

Mircom FA-1000 (includes DM-1008)

50 mA

3 mA

Potter CIZM-4 Expansion Module

50 mA

2.4 mA

Potter IDC-6 Zone Adder Module (per circuit)

47 mA

2.5 mA

Potter PFC-4064

47 mA

2.5 mA

Potter ZA-42 Zone Adder Module (per circuit)

50 mA

3 mA

Potter PFC-6006

32 mA

2.5 mA

Siemens FireFinder -XLS CDC-4 (per circuit)

175 mA

4 mA

Siemens MXL/MSLV4 CZM-1B6 (with ISI-1)

93 mA

N/A

Siemens MXL/MSLV4 CZM-4 (per circuit)

180 mA

N/A

Siemens FS-TRI-S4, FS-TRI-D4 (per circuit)

0.8 mA

0.5 mA

Siemens TRI-B64 (per circuit)

N/A

1.5 mA

Simplex / Tyco IS6 4100 / 4120 Zone Interface Cards

60 mA

3 mA

Simplex / Tyco IS6 4001 Zone Expansion Modules

60 mA

N/A

System Sensor CZ-6(A)2 (per circuit)

90 mA

N/A

System Sensor IM-10(A)3 (per circuit)

1 mA

N/A

System Sensor M500DMR1A9 (per circuit)

0.00045 mA

N/A

System Sensor M500MAB8

0.0004 mA

N/A

System Sensor M501MA7

0.0004 mA

N/A

System Sensor M502MA5

92 mA

10 mA

Table A Notes:

1

Reference to the specific system manufacturer’s Installation and Operating Instructions was made in order to compile this Table.  Additional manufacturers will be added as more information becomes available.

2

Equivalent OEM Modules:  Firelite MMF-302-6(A), Mircom CZ-6(A), Notifer XP6-MA(A)

3

Equivalent OEM Modules:  Firelite MMF-300-10(A), Mircom IM-10(A), Notifier XP-10M(A)

4

May also be labelled as Cerberus/Pyrotronics

5

Equivalent OEM Modules:  Firelite MMF-302(A), Mircom MIX502MA(A), Notifier FZM-1A(A)

6

Now Johnson Controls

7

Equivalent OEM Modules:  Firelite MMF-301(A), Mircom MIX501MA(A), Notifier FMM-101(A)

8

Equivalent OEM Modules:  Firelite MMF-300(A), Mircom MIX500MAB(A), Notifier FMM-1(A)

9

Equivalent OEM Modules:  Firelite CDRM-300(A), Mircom MIX500DMR1A(A), Notifier FDRM-1(A)
 

Disclaimer:  Some products listed in Table A may not be suitable (or listed) for use in Canada.  Additional agency listings may also apply to your specific jurisdiction.  It is incumbent on the installation or equipment service provider to ensure that any fire alarm device that is installed is compatible with the system and is also approved for use in the jurisdiction!

 

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
(You can also use this method for a notification or output circuit where the current is limited to a maximum of 5 Amps but we would recommend you only perform this in normal “supervisory” mode and not while the circuit is in alarm.)

Follow these procedures:

  1. Disable the notification and output circuits.
  2. With your meter set to read current (Amps), manually select a current range between “zero” (0) and 1 Amp.
  3. Locate the circuit’s end-of-line resistor. 
  4. CONFIRM that this is an initiating circuit end-of-line and not one for a notification circuit.  Do this by introducing a short across the resistor (your required “short” test).  If it’s an initiating circuit, you will cause an alarm on the system.
  5. Reset the system.
  6. Place your meter leads across the end-of-line.  If the momentary current you read is above 350 mA (0.35 Amps), you CANNOT install the Offside SM-001.  If your meter has a “min / max” settings button (and displays an out-of-range message), you may wish to activate this feature after manually selecting the next highest range, and retest the circuit to confirm your results.
  7. Reset the system following completion of your tests; and
  8. Don’t forget to re-enable your notification and output circuits!
     

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:

Offside Technologies Corp.
#59 Gartshore Drive,
Whiitby, Ontario  L1P 1N6
Telephone:  (905) 903-5688
Website:  www.offsidetechnologies.com
Email:  stephen@offsidetechnologies.com
 

 

 

 

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