UL reviews fire panels

Thursday, January 1, 2004

NORTHBROOK, Ill. - Upcoming changes to standards that govern the design and operation of fire panels have manufacturers in the industry working hard to keep up.

Under the ninth edition of Underwriters Laboratories 864 standard, which covers the construction requirements, minimum performance, testing and required marketing and installation instructions, manufacturers will have to retest the current product lines to make sure the panels meet the new requirements, said Larry Shudak, principal engineer for UL 864.

“There are significant operational differences that would require some redesign for most manufacturers,” Shudak said. The new standard is estimated to affect about 250 manufacturers, he said.

The changes to the standard have to do with trouble signals having to be automatically resounded, the annunciation of ground faults whether or not they affect the operation of the panel and that the combination of notification appliances and control panels are able to provide for the synchronization of visual signaling appliances, Shudak said.

Although the new edition doesn’t take effect until October 2005, because all panels will have to be re-tested according to the new standards, said Jeff Hendrickson, director of marketing for Silent Knight, as a flood of panels will be submitted to UL for testing in early 2005.

Potter Electric Signal was comparing its product lineup of 12 panels to the new standard, and at press time, had already submitted some to UL for final approval, according to Tim Frankenberg, Potter’s applications engineer.

Tyco Safety Products, which manufacturers 19 different fire panels, including 12 panels that are branded for SimplexGrinnell, in late December was assessing its own lineup and the impact the new standards would have on the company’s panels and peripherals, according to Chris Woodcock, director of marketing communications for SimplexGrinnell.

“The assessment will be completed over the next several weeks, and once that is completed, an R&D plan will be developed to meet the new standards,” Woodcock said.

Part of the assessment will be to determine whether any existing panels will be phased out of production, Woodcock said, a determination that turned out to be unnecessary for Potter, according to Frankenberg.

The changes are being made to the standard to synchronize with the current National Fire Protection Association codes, Shudak said.