Fire safety regulation faces renewed scrutiny 1 May 2018
The review of Building Regulations ordered by the UK government following the Grenfell Tower ﬁre tragedy, whatever its outcome, is likely to include calls for far reaching legislation of ﬁre safety. There is a broader acknowledgement that where lives and property are at stake, there will be an intensiﬁed scrutiny of issues such as the current regulatory guidance on the speciﬁcation of sprinklers and alarm systems.
Similar concerns are also being reﬂected in the insurance industry, which emphasises that ﬁre safety systems such as ﬁre suppression systems actively pay for themselves through lower insurance premiums. A growing trend in the installation of sprinklers is predicted since the speciﬁcation of this ﬁre protection measure is thought to lead directly to reduced premiums somewhere in the order of 50 percent.
Forecasts for the next ﬁve years predict an annual growth rate approaching 10 percent in the proﬁtability of extinguishant systems, with the sprinkler‐based systems segment continuing to dominate with a 60 percent share.
Beyond residential buildings, the growth of automatic ﬁre sprinkler and ﬁre suppression systems installed in new-builds and refurbs can be seen to range from care homes and student accommodation to the budget hotel sector and heritage buildings, as well as continuing applications in the industrial, commercial and technology sectors. In the education sector, it is interesting that, even without sprinklers in new schools being mandatory throughout all of the UK, one-in-three of ‘priority-build’ schools is being ﬁtted with the equipment.
Taken together, then, medium-term prospects for contractors and installers to boost system integration in life safety building management applications remains positive and proﬁtable.
Opening up new business opportunities
From the installer’s perspective, new business opportunities for Extinguishant Control Panels installayions are signiﬁcant. With the leading developers’ very latest extinguishant control panels, their intuitive, user‐friendly simplicity of programming will be swiftly appreciated and found to be a powerful tool for rapidly processing sophisticated cause-and-eﬀect conﬁguration options. These can save commissioning engineers time with their eﬀortlessly smooth, quick and eﬃcient system start‐up.
These simple‐to‐use, easy-to‐set-‐up control panels have powerful capabilities to streamline troubleshooting, programming and maintenance, while giving end users full conﬁdence in the safety systems they have selected.
24/7 systems are guardians against ﬁre
Fire-extinguishing and ﬁre-suppressing systems protect the continuity of critical sites such as data centres, utilities, mass transit and distribution hubs or communications networks - vital for a modern economy. In the case of ﬁre, it is essential to minimise any disruption and to avoid potential impact on businesses and consumers, as a blaze can spread quickly and totally wipe out network IT operations with very little warning.
For responsible risk management the central task of a ﬁre safety system is two‐fold; at the same time as critically protecting life 24/7, the aim is also to keep the premises functioning, even in the event of a ﬁre, by remedying the situation before it becomes a catastrophe.
Smarter troubleshooting prevents security breaches
The signiﬁcant advance in digital addressable ﬁre alarm systems means contractors and system integrators can apply the superior beneﬁts of the technology to more solutions. Supported by high integrity ﬁre data comms, such systems meet compliance criteria for traceability by their precise pinpointing of an addressable detector’s ID for both status interrogation and service and maintenance audits.
Critically, these advances allow users to eﬀectively troubleshoot the system for breaches while benefiting from analytics that permit the planning of environmental improvements that can reduce the life-cycle costs of the system.
Of course, behind these vital preventative steps lies the ﬁrst line of defence are safeguards that not only insure against potential risk to life by rogue systems but forestall operational malfunctions and ﬁscal loss.
Diligent installers defeat rogue systems
Crucially, when engaged on a system’s installation or its expansion with new devices, installers should observe the ﬁrst golden rule of good practice: recognize that new products may have minimal security credentials to allow for easy system set-‐up, although these default credentials, if not changed immediately, could easily be compromised. Retention of factory-set passwords such as ‘admin’ or ‘user’ can be an open door for unauthorized access.
System integrator’s are storing up future problems unless default security parameters such as keys and passwords are changed before the system is launched. Strict management of system users’ conﬁdentiality should ensure only complex multi‐type passwords with more than 10 characters are assigned. Establish site security policies to ensure unique password credentials are adopted for each site. Avoid credentials shared among a group of users as traceability and accountability can be negated
‘If you can’t protect it, don’t connect it.’
New challenges and threats arising from IP (Internet Protocol) Convergence are likely to be high in the security concerns system developers must now confront. This is particularly true of ﬁre detection and life safety systems, when IT‐enabled convergence can permit, for example, the closer integration of devices such as smoke detectors and sprinkler indicators or lift alarms into a common interface for management control and monitoring throughout an entire building and its remote sites. Developers, therefore, be warned: ‘If you can’t protect it, don’t connect it.’
System integrator’s are urged to review access‐security standards of all those critical elements of critical infrastructure whose remote access capabilities are under threat: facilities, systems, sites, property, information, people, networks and processes; more speciﬁcally IT operations such as 24/7 electronic data processing areas, telecommunications, internet co‐location sites, logistics control areas, production machinery, broadcasting or CNI installations supporting essential archive resources, whose integrity taken as a whole requires protection at all times.
Or else . . . the penalties for ignoring such routine risk audits can be the loss or compromise of critical data gathering which could result in a major detrimental impact on the availability, delivery or integrity of essential services, leading to severe economic or social consequences or, in the worst case, to loss of life.
Microprocessor-‐based electronics for scalable control systems
For system integrator’s, extensive easy-to-set-up conﬁguration options reduce risk factors in functionality and allow the programming of the system to be extensively modiﬁed with clarity at every step along the development path. Such adaptability permits the ﬂexible conﬁguration of panels according to the needs of each interface, with the capability to match speciﬁc supervisory structures, for example, from the restricted entry-‐level user, through facilities management, to the maintenance engineer.
Addressable multi-area extinguishant control
A recognized example of this concept of configuration is the latest Syncro XT+ addressable multi-area extinguishant control panel from Kentec. Fully approved to EN12094‐1, EN54‐2 and EN54‐4, the XT+ provides addressable detection over 1 or 2 loops with 16 Zone LED Indicators and is available with up to four extinguishant release control units built in.
The extinguishant control modules on the panel have a comprehensive set of inputs and outputs to monitor and control the extinguishing system whether the ﬁre suppressant agents are gas, aerosol or cooling agents (such as sprinklers).
Sprinkler based systems, it should be noted, are a requirement for data centres under the terms of insurers in the USA, where oxy-reduct (oxygen reduction) systems are not recognised. In this regard, the configuration of the XT+, via a simple programming interface, means that the panel can be programmed to meet the clients’ speciﬁc extinguishant or suppression system requirements, a versatility of particular value to contract management within Tier 3 and Tier 4 critical IT support categories.
Syncro XT+ allows extinguishing systems to take full advantage of the more sophisticated detection techniques provided by modern ﬁre detectors as well as the other beneﬁts of analogue addressable systems such as control of loop connected sounders, beacons and input/output modules. Syncro XT+ control panels can be networked to provide scalable extinguishing systems for all sizes of installation, and serially connected status indication and control units can extend the supervisory system over all extinguishing areas.
This latest product further enhances Kentec’s position as one of the world’s leading innovators of extinguishant control module technology.