Fire alarm and sprinkler monitoring standard updated by UL Canada

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Tuesday, July 1, 2003

MARKHAM, Ontario - A new standard aimed to raise the bar on the monitoring of fire alarm and sprinkler systems in Canada is now going through the final Underwriters’ Laboratories of Canada approval process.

Known as CAN/ULC S561, the standard has already been through myriad committees and review processes over the past few years.

The ULC Committee on Fire Alarm Equipment and Systems was scheduled to review the standard at the end of June, before it heads to the Standards Council of Canada for final approval.

Once approved, S561 is expected to be included in the next version of the National Building Code of Canada later this year or in early 2004.

Many provinces in Canada then either adopt or modify the standards included in this codebook.

“It’s going to improve life safe-ty in the province because it raises the standards,” said Mark Fairley, chair of the standards and regulation committee for the Canadian Alarm and Security Association and owner of TMF Security, based here.

S561 will replace an older, temporary code known as ULC ORD 693. Unlike the temporary code, which covered the monitoring of sprinkler systems, S561 includes standards for the monitoring and installation of a fire alarm system.

“In our security group we have two standards. This one we’ve melded into one so it covers both ends of the system,” said Bruce Patterson, who is program manager for ULC and worked closely on the standard. “It allows both parties to know what the other one is doing and make sure they’re working on that.”

The new standard provides guidelines on how to build and run a fire alarm monitoring center, and includes specific guidelines for the transmission of a fire alarm signal. For example, the standard places a 30-second time limit for the transmission of a fire alarm signal from the monitoring station to the fire department, whereas before it only suggested an immedi-ate transmission.

“We are making it easier for people to understand what needs to be done and how to do it,” said David Currie, a member of CANASA’s standards and regulation committee and acting chair of S561.

With S561 expected to be in place soon, members of Canada’s life safety industry in Ontario can turn their attention to enact a UL of Canada certification program. The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs has already endorsed the measure which, if approved by the province fire marshal, would require companies with a fire system to display a sticker to show that their system is ULC compliant. In turn, fire monitoring companies would need to obtain ULC listing.

“It ensures that monitoring of the fire alarm system is compliant with the latest safety standards,” said Norm Cheesman, director of communications for Fire Monitoring Technolo-gies International.

Currie expects that proposed standard to be approved in 2005.