Why is it important to use certified products?
Fire detection and alarm systems are life safety, life-saving products. Independent, third-party certification of them and their components is mandatory in most countries to ensure they perform as expected in an emergency situation. In many countries the use of certified products is a requirement for valid property insurance.
C-TEC has invested heavily in getting its fire detection, alarm, control and power supply products third-party certified to the relevant ‘EN 54’ standards (EN 54 is a group of product and system standards that relate to fire detection and alarm products).
Such certification requires our fire alarm products to be independently assessed by an approved ‘Test House’ for key aspects of their performance, including:-
Mechanical testing – resistance to shock, impact, vibration etc..
Environmental testing – including product performance over temperature and humidity extremes.
Electrical testing – including electromagnetic compatibility, voltage extremes etc..
Functional testing – for example, to ensure detectors have the correct sensitivity so they activate within the correct time frame for different types of fire.
Certification also requires the clear marking and labelling of products with a traceable batch number and a label that references the correct documentation, standards and declarations of performance. A great deal of emphasis is also placed on technical documentation to ensure, for example, that the correct number of devices are designed into an application and that they are fitted correctly to achieve the manufacturer’s specification(s) for detection, light output and sound output.
There is also a requirement for regular factory audits by the Test House to confirm that a product manufactured today is the same as when it was originally manufactured and approved. These audits are usually performed annually and can take two to three days to complete.
Certified products, with a stated, approved specification, allow stakeholders such as architects and building designers to specify a system correctly, calculate standby times, the correct number of devices on a system, detector locations and sounder /visual alarm device coverage.
All of the above is vital to allow people to escape safely from a building in the event of a fire.
Which Test Houses are approved?
Test Houses approved for certifying products to EN 54 standards are listed on the EC website.
The main Test Houses are the BRE (also known as the LPCB), Intertek, VdS, BSI, AFNOR, Kiwa Telefication and APNI.
All approved Test Houses have a notified body (NB) number – the NB number is normally on the product label and/or documentation.
Using third-party certified products gives everyone in the supply chain peace of mind and confidence that the product they are purchasing or installing meets the necessary performance criteria.
Questions to ask:-
To confirm a product is approved by a notified third-party Test House, you should:-
Ask the manufacturer or vendor for its test certificate and DOP (declaration of performance) – in most cases these will be available on the manufacturer’s website. C-TEC’s certificates and DOPs can be found at c-tec.com
Check that the standards that the product is claiming approval to covers how the product will be used (for example some companies approve the sounder performance of a combined sounder/VAD to EN54-3 but not its visual performance to EN54-23, either for reasons of cost or perhaps because of poor VAD performance)
Check the NB number of the test house used for certification. Confirm that the test house is approved to assess products against EN54 on the EC website. Note that most test houses can perform the necessary tests on products to meet the standard, however, only a few companies are accredited (and assessed) to actually approve products to these standards.
Most Test Houses have a search facility on their own websites where you can check that a claim of approval is genuine.
The polar plots for sounders must also be made available, either online or by request (many datasheets advertise the best case output level whereas the real output level on site may be considerably lower due to voltage drop or directionality). C-TEC’s polar plots are readily available online.
Documentation containing words such as “designed to meet the requirements of” or “designed in accordance with” without stating a Test House, the NB number or the Test House logo should raise questions and needs further investigation.
C-TEC’s test certificates, DOPs, polar plots and other relevant documentation is available to view at c-tec.com