ULC 561 awaits change

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Monday, October 1, 2007

MONTREAL--A proposed amendment to ULC 561 is intended to streamline the compliance process for existing ULC-certified Canadian central stations if the amendment is passed later this year. ULC SQ 561, a standard issued by the Underwriter Laboratories Canada that covers the construction, operation, installation, inspection and tests applicable to fire signal receiving centres (SRC), is being changed again.
Amendment two, which was drafted by a 15-member ULC Working Group on Installation and Services for Fire Signal Receiving Centres and Systems, was sent out in September for ballot review and, if it successfully negotiates public review and approval by the ULC Committee on Fire Alarm Equipment and Systems, will hopefully be published by the first quarter of 2008, according to Rae Dulmage, director, standards department and government relations office, ULC.
The primary purpose of amendment two is to categorize SRCs into two separate levels: Level 1 defines SRCs existing prior to the original publication of CAN/ULC 561-03 in September 2003 and were in compliance with ULC/ORD-C693, and Level 2 is new SRCs or any SRC who chooses or, by virtue of changes to its systems, needs to meet the requirements of the current CAN/ULC-561, according to Dulmage.
"The levels are a sense of recognizing within the standard the fact that there were existing facilities and that allows conformity in assessment for the people who are running the accredited inspection or certificate system. It allows them to properly administer that variation to the satisfaction of their accreditation without causing frustration and confusion," said Dulmage.
ULC SQ 561 originally caused a stir in the industry when SRCs feared they would lose their certification because they would be unable to comply with the new standard. Issues arose when the Standards Council of Canada issued the new standard which replaced the previous ORD-C693. Since the SCC only allows certification bodies, like the ULC, to administer certifications based on existing and recognized documents, the ULC could no longer certify to the previous ORD and only to the new standard.
"That was the problem, it changed from an 'A' to a 'B' and people thought 'A' could still be used and found out that it couldn't be. We couldn't renew their listing based on a document that no longer existed, so that's why we've had to have all these discussions," said Dulmage.
David Currie, president of Damar Security Systems, with a central station based in Sarnia, Ontario, is also the chair of the ULC SQ 561 working group who drafted both the first and second amendment to the standard and agrees the standard had issues from inception.
"Usually a standard is developed and services are developed, but in this case, the services, the fire alarm monitoring and equipment associated with it, were in place before the standards were actually developed," said Currie. "It became a compliance issue because it was the good intentions of the [ULC] working group to make things better and it ended up being essentially applied retroactively and this has caused significant grief."
Because of the compliance issues, the effective date of ULC SQ 561, which was originally scheduled to take effect June 2007, has been extended to December 2008, to "give the process time to happen," said Currie.
Alan Cavers, area manager of the fire and security systems group of ULC, said a new effective date (i.e. December 31, 2008) will give companies enough time to comply with the new standard. "The effective date was based on our department determining the status of ULC listed alarm companies," Cavers said. "They've had plenty of time to know things are coming down the line, and as long as everything goes according to how it should go, the end of next year is a feasible date."