ULC SQ 561 confuses in Canada

Thursday, February 1, 2007

MONTREAL--ULC SQ 561, a standard issued by the Underwriter Laboratories Canada, with an effective date of June 2007, has become a cause of concern among many ULC-listed central station owners in Canada. Malcolm Pesner, of Sentinel Alarm in Montreal, said, "In my personal opinion, this is going to be a disaster. I'm fine with compliance in respect to my physical premises, but my big question is going to be my receivers and the panels. I'm not sure what is going to be required of me. Is it going to be thousands or tens of thousands of dollars? I'm not sure."
The standard contains new requirements for facilities, receivers, panels, sprinkler systems and generators, among other things. Alan Cavers of ULC said it's meant to be aligned with the standards in the States, "only Canadianized." He added that while the States has NFPA 72, the monitoring of fire alarm systems was never properly addressed in Canada.
David Currie, owner and president of Damar Security Systems in Ontario, co-chaired the committee that developed the standard: "What happened was, most of the requirements we built in were not onerous because it was a going-forward standard." Currie said he was "shocked" when ULC decided to make the standards his committee had developed retroactive. "What we had to do was take this issue to the Standards Council of Canada" in order to have it amended. There can only be three amendments in the life of any standard, said Currie, "You've got to get it right."
SQ 561 is currently out for amendment to break central stations into two categories: "new" and "existing." If approved, existing ULC-listed centrals in Canada wouldn't have to comply with all the requirements of SQ 561.
Another problem with the standard? According to Cavers, when it came out, "The equipment that needs to be installed isn't available yet. It's still going through industry review. Some upgrades are possible, some are impossible. We're working on all that stuff right now." In actuality, nobody can comply with the standard at this time, he said.
Said Pesner, "It doesn't make any sense that a standard comes out [stipulating] products that don't exist--it's a joke." The part of the standard that affects his central most deals with the area where fire panels are installed and used, and the receivers. "For the Europlex system, we're able to put 127 clients on a circuit. After the standard goes into affect, only 60 clients maximum can be placed on the circuit," said Pesner.
That will increase costs, because "I'm only able to put less than half on the circuit. I've also sent inquiries to other manufacturers. Pricewise, I have no idea what I'm dealing with."
Cavers concluded, "We are working on a revision to the scope of the standard to allow for some acceptance of older systems. The standard wasn't meant to put the hammer down on anyone, it was meant to be acceptable to the entire industry ... I believe all this stuff will be clarified, and at the end of the day it's not going to affect that many people."