International Fire Protection (IFP) recently caught up with João Paulo Ajami, Founder and Managing Director of Global Fire Equipment (GFE), to find out more about the company’s efforts to highlight the importance of taking a whole-system approach to fire detection and alarm system certification, and to discuss the role of the latest EN 54-13 standard in ensuring complete compatibility and connectability of system components.
IFP: Firstly, João Paulo, can you please tell us more about EN 54-13?
JPA: Sure. To give you some background, the EN 54-13 standard was first published in 2005 and there have been a number of technical revisions since its introduction.
EN 54-13 is one of 23 European standards in the EN 54 series for fire detection and alarm (products) systems. The standards define the requirements, test methods and performance criteria required by various individual components making up fire detection and alarm systems (FDASs).
EN 54-13 differs from the other standards because rather than being a ‘product’ performance approval, it’s a ‘system’ performance approval. In other words, it is an assessment of the compatibility and connectability of every system component. The standard requires all the individual components of an FDAS to work together, even though some products on the network are not defined by an EN 54 standard.
A manufacturer will only be granted EN 54-13 approval if all the individual components which make up its FDAS are compatible and all the requirements relating to the performance of the overall system are fulfilled.
IFP: How does the latest EN 54-13 standard differ from previous versions?
JPA: The latest version of the standard – EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 – was published in February 2017. It replaced both the earlier EN54-13:2017 and the original EN54-13:2005.
The primary difference compared to earlier versions of the standard relates to testing procedures. In the earlier versions, a lot of emphasis was placed on the documentation analysis of the different FDAS’ components, but in the latest version a real-life installation of the system is tested for worst-case scenario performance. Various fault scenarios are created, such as short circuits, and the system performance is evaluated under stress such as high loading of fire-detection loops.
Another difference is that two different component types are defined in the latest standard: Type 1 components (which are covered by an EN 54 standard) and Type 2 components (which are not covered by an EN 54 standard). Type 1 components are assessed for their compatibility with other Type 1 components of the system. Type 2 components, such as Building Management Systems, printers etc., are assessed for ‘connectability’ to the system and for their ability to operate without negatively affecting the performance of the system.
For the latest version of the standard, new techniques such as Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) communications and new interface technologies are taken into account as these have become much more commonplace in FDASs.
IFP: How is the standard applied when systems are made up of different component suppliers rather than one individual systems supplier?
JPA: There are two different classifications of approval – component suppliers (e.g. detector or panel suppliers) and complete systems providers like GFE.
Not all FDAS manufacturers will have the latest EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval and some of the industry is made up of component suppliers who, unlike complete systems providers, will only be able to get approval for their whole system if one manufacturer (e.g. the fire control panel manufacturer) takes responsibility for the others’ products (e.g. the detector manufacturer). Not only does this make the approvals process more convoluted, but it also requires a more stringent communications process in the event of any changes to the individual components.
IFP: Has GFE applied for EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval?
JPA: Yes, in early 2021 we were awarded EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 system compatibility approval by an international third-party accredited laboratory for our entry-level and high-end addressable fire detection and alarm systems.
We wanted to go down the route of applying for EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval because we’re seeing a rise in the number of authorities, specifiers, installers and end users in certain markets requesting compliance with the latest standard, and we’re also seeing the standard being stated in the approval requirements for commercial installations in several European countries.
IFP: Why should installers and end customers look out for suppliers who offer whole system compatibility and connectability?
JPA: EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval demonstrates the systems supplier has achieved the highest level of certification. This means installers and end customers are guaranteed that the system has been tested under the harshest of conditions and that each individual component of the FDAS will work in conjunction with the other components which, in turn, conform to the relevant standard for each particular component.
A systems supplier with EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval has far greater control and can test and maintain compliance/certification all under one roof. They can also develop new products and make any adjustments to existing products. They will take full responsibility for the system compatibility and will ensure that regular conformance testing is undertaken and communicated to third-party approvals.
If they make any product changes, communication about these changes is much easier because there is a single point of contact to resolve any issues. This is really important for whole system compatibility. Ongoing testing of the individual system components is also far easier when the supplier is responsible for the full system.
Finally, because the customer has a single dedicated point of contact who provides full technical support, it is much easier to resolve any warranty issues or component failures.
IFP: Do you envisage more manufacturers applying for EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval in the future?
JPA: Yes, I think it’s likely we’ll see more manufacturers seeking this approval over the coming years as more and more installers and end users recognise the importance of and benefits associated with whole system compatibility.
For more information, go to www.globalfire-equipment.com