UL repositions fire division

Division will increase focus on installers, AHJ community
Thursday, May 1, 2003

NORTHBROOK, Ill. - As part of a repositioning of the fire protection sector of the industry’s most prominent testing and certification agency, Underwriters Laboratories has restructured that part of its organization and hired a director of business development to explore the division’s new opportunities.

The reclassification of the fire protection department to a division within UL is part of a new focus at the organization, one more centered on the needs of UL’s constituents, including the installation community and AHJs, in addition to its primary client base of manufacturers. The new focus also encompasses promoting the UL mark and the agency’s services on a global basis, officials said. The changes were initiated under the leadership of Loring Knoblauch, who was elected in 2001 as UL’s president and chief executive officer.

“Our new direction has to do with providing communication across our constituents,” said Tom Chapin, UL’s general manager for the fire protection division. “If you look at AHJs and code officials who are on the front lines of addressing the needs of public safety, our goal is to listen and learn from those channels and provide frameworks of communication between installers and manufacturers, as well as code officials.”

Also part of the restructuring within the division is an added focus on bringing in the business aspect of fire protection, through evaluation of new technology, new test protocols and more closely aligning the division’s staff for collaboration between testing and the standards writing process, Chapin said.

“UL before was focused on product testing, and now we want to go beyond product testing,” said Dr. Hsiang-Cheng Kung, UL’s new director of business development for the fire protection division. For the past 34 years, Kung has worked with Factory Mutual, where he served as assistant vice president, principal scientist and principal consultant for the Asia Pacific business segment.

Now, the division will focus on developing system guidelines to determine new applications for products, as well as solicit feedback from installers and end-users about particular problems to expedite solutions for those issues.

“Often technology languishes…and our focus is to provide a means by which we can rapidly evaluate new technologies,” Chapin said, as a way of preventing existing schools of thought from becoming expensive retrofits or dangerous conditions. For example, when cable is upgraded and replaced in an existing building, it was once considered acceptable to leave the abandoned cable in the building. Now, it is known that the heat release characteristics of cable is three times that of wood, Chapin said.

“No one would ever feel comfortable in stacking more and more wood in a building,” Chapin said. “That’s how we tie research in code proposals into maintenance and inspections.”

Kung, with his Asia Pacific experience and contacts, will also serve to promote UL’s fire protection services to that region, as well as seek to secure new research grants for the division.