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04/12/2017 / Graham Lowe

Add a laptop to your tool box!

Engineer with laptop purchased.jpg

Fire technology has developed significantly in recent years; gone are the days when a fire engineer could just bring a screwdriver and a pair of cutters to site, today an engineer won’t get very far without a laptop.

When a fire engineer is called to site, one of the first things he will do is check the event log on the fire panel, but he is going to need a laptop to download it. Even something as simple as adding a text description to a zone requires a laptop. When you begin to look at the more innovative fire panels featuring powerful configuration templates, substantial cause and effect capabilities and extensive networking capabilities; none of these features can be accessed or configured without a laptop.

Further examples requiring a laptop include;

  • Checking the airflow on an aspirating system
  • Checking the signal strength on a wireless system
  • Backing up configurations
  • Updating panel firmware
  • Configuring a beam detector

A fire engineer simply can’t do his job any more without a laptop.

We aren’t talking about an all singing all dancing computer with a high memory capacity; a simple laptop or netbook will do – so long as the battery is adequate.

This then becomes the next problem.

All too often an engineer will be sent out onsite with an office cast off and the battery will die. The engineer is then back to square one, struggling to find a power source.

Assuming the engineer manages to find a power source, the next problem is administrator rights.

We all understand why ‘administrator rights’ are set up – to protect our computer and the information held on it. However, this can be a real pain when an engineer is onsite and he can’t install the software he requires to access a fire system. This needs to be considered before the engineer leaves the office.

But what if the engineer doesn’t need to leave the office?

What if an engineer can access the panel remotely, check the event history, and identify the problem – all from his desk.

This is becoming the new reality.

Hochiki customers using the FIREscape Emergency Lighting System, will already be familiar with remote access to; event history, luminaire testing, measuring voltage, reading reports and much more. And, in the not too distant future, Hochiki will be offering similar remote access to the brand-new L@titude fire panel. The panel will not only be able to send service notifications to the engineer, but it will also allow them to make a remote diagnosis and isolate/ de-isolate devices if need be.

Of course, this doesn’t remove the need for site visits, but what it does ensure, is that an engineer can understand the issue and determine whether a site visit is necessary, and if it is, he can take the correct parts to site.

This is an exciting time for the fire industry, but it is going to mean that engineers need to be better equipped and up-to-date with their training.

For more information about L@titude, visit www.hochikieurope.com/latitude

For more information about FIREscape, visit www.hochikieurope.com/firescape

18/09/2017 / Graham Lowe

BS 5839-1 2017: What’s New?

5839 UPDATE.png

 

On 1st September 2017, BS 5839-1 2017 was released. The revised standard includes 25 changes to 14 existing clauses; the key changes will be discussed in this blog.

 

Call Point Covers
The biggest change, and the one that everyone is talking about, is the recommendation for call point covers. Going forward, all call points should be installed with a call point cover. The standard does not specify whether existing installations should be updated to include call point covers, however if an existing installation doesn’t have call point covers and the risk assessment indicates they are not required, it would be best practice to record this as a variation in the fire detection log book.

Multi-sensors
The definition of a ‘multi-sensor’ has been somewhat in dispute in recent years. Under section 3, in the Terms and Definitions, clause 3.40 defines a multi-sensor as, a “fire detector that monitors more than one physical and/ or chemical phenomenon associated with fire”. If you read on through the standard, it acknowledges that a multi-sensor could be; optical and heat, CO and heat, or smoke, heat and CO. The standard does however accept that a multi-sensor can also be used in a single sensor state. Whichever state the multi-sensor is being used in, the detector should meet the performance requirements of the appropriate part of BS EN 54. The standard also explains that the testing of a multi-sensor can be carried out with the application of modern sensor test equipment.

call point cover and multi-sensor

Pictured Above: Hochiki’s PS200 Call Point Cover and ACC-EN(WHT) Multi-sensor

 

Video Fire Detection
Technology continues to develop at a phenomenal rate, as such, video fire detection is now a recognised specialised fire detection technique, specifically for L5 and P2 consultant specified categories.

Annexe E
Annexe E details the correct procedure for the selection of detector type, to reduce false alarms.
In a further attempt to reduce false alarms, Annexe E also recommends;

  • The use of staff alarms to validate a fire alarm and avoid unnecessary mass evacuation and/or fire service call outs.
  • Linking fire alarm systems to security alarms to ensure that the responsible person is notified, even when there is no-one in the office at night. However, it is important to ensure that the battery capacity of the security alarm is equal to that of the fire alarm.
  • The deactivation of the connection to the alarm receiving centre (ARC) during maintenance to avoid unnecessary call outs.

PD6669:2017
BS 5839-1 2017 also makes reference to PD6669:2017, which builds upon the existing BS EN 50136; in which, new alarm transmission system (ATS) categories, SP3+ and DP2+, have been introduced.

  • SP3+ has a primary ATP reporting time of 10 minutes, a catastrophic failure reporting time of 10 minutes and an ATS reporting time of 10 minutes.
  • DP2+ has a primary ATP reporting time of 10 minutes, a catastrophic failure reporting time of 11 minutes and an ATS reporting time of 20 minutes.

 

We hope this quick reference to the changes incorporated into BS 5839-1 2017 has been useful, however it should not be used as a substitute to the British Standard Document. There are several other changes that have not been included in this blog, therefore please refer to BSI for full details.

07/08/2017 / Graham Lowe

Wired? Or Wireless? That is the Question.

Peterborough Cathedral West Front2

As fire detection technology continues to diversify, specifiers are demanding the most efficient and cost effective solutions for an array of applications. But how do you determine whether wireless is the right technology for the application?

First of all let’s talk about cost. When installing a fire detection system there are two factors to consider; the cost of the equipment and the cost of labour. Wireless sensors and accessories generally demand a higher price, however when you factor in the cost of cable, and the extra time and labour required for a wired system, there might not be much difference. On large scale projects, you might even find that wireless works out more cost effective.

Of course, you also need to consider practicality. With the advantage of ‘plug and play’ and the fact that wireless field device ranges often exceed 100m, wireless systems can provide a flexible and versatile solution for; temporary buildings, remote buildings, retrofits and buildings with complex architecture. Lack of cabling also makes wireless systems the obvious choice for churches, cathedrals, castles and museums, where aesthetics cannot be compromised.

In some instances, it might be necessary to create a hybrid wireless solution whereby wireless devices are interfaced with a wired system via a module. For example, wireless detectors could be installed in a remote school building or a new doctor’s office and interfaced with the existing wired system in the main building; providing the best of both worlds!

 

FIREwave Group Shot (with shadows) Oct 2016

Finally, let’s talk about reliability. In a recent Hochiki survey, 64% of installers said that quality and reliability are the most important factors when selecting a fire detection system. It goes without saying, but first and foremost, you need to ensure you are purchasing equipment from a reputable manufacturer who offer products fully compliant with local regulations. Then, you need to ensure that you select the technology that best suits the environment.

If you are considering using wireless devices for a project, a survey should be carried out to ensure that signal strength and radio frequency disturbances are not going to be a problem. Metal structures, concrete surfaces, electro-magnetic fields (EMF) and even large volumes of people, can affect wireless communication. If the wireless survey does raise some unexpected issues, the use of expanders can improve your signal strengths and distances; but wired devices are a technical equal that are not as susceptible to signal disruption, and may therefore be your best option.

This is not a definitive guide to wireless applications; however we hope it has highlighted some important factors to consider. If you would like to learn more about the hybrid wireless range offered by Hochiki, FIREwave, please use the link below. If you are an existing customer and are interested in our wireless equipment, please talk to your regional sales manager who can arrange for you to receive free of charge specialist training from our Product Support team.

For more information about Hochiki’s FIREwave please click here.

14/07/2017 / Graham Lowe

Another Year, Another Firex!

Hochiki firex stand.png

The Grenfell Tower fire happened only days before the doors opened to Firex 2017. It therefore came as no surprise that the event attracted its largest ever audience; in fact, UBM reported a 44% increase in the number of government visitors alone. UBM even changed their planned schedule of seminars to include discussions about Grenfell Tower, which has led to ongoing debates about the need for building regulations to be reviewed.

In the Expertise and Guidance Theatre there were daily presentations from the FIA regarding the future of qualifications in fire industry, and later in the day, a law firm opened visitors’ eyes to recent fire related case law. There was also a panel discussion regarding ‘a new construction strategy for improving passive fire protection’, which Tracy Kirk, General Manager at Hochiki and member of the FIA Export Council, formed part of.

firex seminar.pngMeanwhile, on the Hochiki stand, we also had seminars running!

Our first presentation ran through some of the new products displayed on our stand. This not only included the newly released L@titude modular panel, but it also included products such as LEAKalarm and our new multi CO sensor, which are both coming to market soon.

Our second seminar focused on Emergency Lighting. Ian Watts gave a quick overview of the recent changes to BS5266 Part 1 2016, focusing specifically on ‘Emergency Safety Lighting’.

Finally, we discussed the importance of selecting the most suitable fire detection technology for the environment, albeit; point detectors, beam detectors, flame detectors, aspirating systems, SIL approved products etc. Failing to install suitable technology could result in false alarms, or even worse, a delayed response to a real fire!

If you would like a copy of the seminar content, or a copy of our white paper titled ‘Understanding Fire Detection Technology and its Application’, please email our marketing department to request a copy.

Going back to the number of visitors; UBM has reported that a total of 17,430 people visited from 22 different countries. Amongst the visitors, were a number of end users from the healthcare, education, transport and housing industries; and as you would expect, large numbers of fire installers, electrical contractors, consultants and security companies.

We would like to thank all of our existing customers, and potentially new customers, for visiting our stand at Firex. Plus, big congratulations (and thank you) to our top customers who received award trophies live on the stand in recognition of their sales performance.

NSC.jpg

Next year we will be celebrating Hochiki’s 100-year anniversary, and highlighting the pivotal contributions Hochiki has made to the fire industry in that time. For example, did you know, in 1920 Hochiki designed and installed the first ever public fire alarm in Japan! Put Firex 2018 in your diary now (19-21 June) so that you can come and celebrate with us! And if you have any ideas for celebrations, pop them in the comments below!

11/05/2017 / Graham Lowe

SIL v. I.S. – What’s the Difference?

SIL v I.S.

Over the past couple of years, Hochiki Europe has extended its product offering to include ranges suitable for more specialist applications, for example SIL approved products and intrinsically safe products. However, not everyone is entirely familiar with what these ranges are designed for and when you would use them. We have therefore written this blog to quickly explain the differences between the two ranges.

First of all, it is important to note that SIL approved products are not the same as Intrinsically Safe Products. SIL approved products are for use in high risk industries, Intrinsically Safe products are for use in classified hazardous areas.

SIL Approved Devices:

S.I.L. is an acronym for ‘Safety Integrity Level’. This is a system used to quantify and qualify the requirements for safety instrumented systems.

All products, including fire detection products, must be independently assessed and approved by the International Electro-technical Commission (IEC); products will then be awarded a SIL approval level (SIL1, SIL2, SIL 3 and SIL4).

SIL graphic.png

For example, Hochiki’s SIL products have been awarded SIL2, which means that they are approved for use in a SIL2 low demand safety function. Please note however, a SIL approved panel must be installed with SIL approved devices in order for the whole system to meet the specified Safety Integrity Level.

SIL approved products are ideal for high risk areas that have specified SIL approved products.

Intrinsically Safe Devices:

For a product to be ‘Intrinsically Safe’ it must be incapable of igniting an explosive atmosphere by either spark or heat; Intrinsically Safe fire detection products are therefore designed to operate at a much lower voltage (even the quiescent current is much lower). This low power also means that there is no chance of receiving an electric shock due to excess thermal energy and arcing.

It is crucial to remember that, the whole circuit must be considered, not just the device in isolation and so an Intrinsically Safe mounting base must also be used.

If interfacing between hazardous and non-hazardous areas, you must use a module and an intrinsically safe barrier to reduce the current, but both the module and the barrier must be installed on the non-hazardous (safe) side.

IS graphic

Intrinsically Safe devices are ideal for hazardous-defined areas, oil refineries, petroleum production facilities, coal mining, gas processing, chemical engineering, air-borne powder facilities (flour, paper, synthetic fibres etc).

We hope this brief summary has been useful, for more information please visit:

www.hochikieurope.com/silapproved

www.hochikieurope.com/is

28/03/2017 / Graham Lowe

Something To Ignite Your Interest…

Here at Hochiki we often stress the importance of selecting the right technology for the application. For example, whilst traditional point detectors may be the perfect solution for offices and classrooms, they can fail to cope in warehouses, factories and other dusty environments. To prevent false alarms, you therefore need to consider whether other technologies such as air sampling systems or flame detectors might be more appropriate. In an earlier blog, we explained how air sampling systems with relative scaling could be used in polluted environments, therefore in this blog we are going to focus on flame detectors.

Flame detectors can be ideal for a wide range of applications, including; refineries, waste recycling facilities, biomass storage facilities, engine rooms, fuel loading racks and many more environments. They use infrared and/ or ultraviolet sensors which respond to specific wavelengths of light (or black body radiation). The spectrum of light is vast, even human bodies generate some black body radiation, flame detectors are therefore designed to only respond to objects further along the spectrum.

flame detection spectrum

Of course, sunlight can potentially cause a problem as it falls into this range. You should therefore ensure that, as well as detecting radiation, you select a flame detector that requires the light to be flickering with a random motion. It is important that the flicker is random, because this indicates a natural flame, most probably caused by a genuine fire. A man-made flame, from a welding torch for example, would have a controlled flame and you would not want this to cause a false alarm.

Another key issue to watch out for is the detection of hydrocarbons. Some detectors that look at hot carbon dioxide produced from a flame cannot see through glass, they also cannot detect fuels such as hydrogen and fluorine. It is therefore advisable to select a flame detector that can detect any fuel with one detector and will respond through glass.

Hochiki offer four different types of flame detectors, all of which have been designed to the highest of standards. Our conventional infrared flame detector (DRD-E) features a single infrared sensor and fits onto Hochiki’s common mounting base making it easy to install. We also offer a flame detector in alloy housing with three infrared sensors (IFD-E) or a UV/Dual IR flame detector in alloy housing (16591). For dangerous environments we can also offer an infrared flame detector in explosion proof housing (IFD-E(EXD)). Hochiki also have intrinsically safe and marine approved variations available; please visit our website or phone our customer support team on +44 (0) 1634 260133 to find out more.

17/02/2017 / Graham Lowe

Have You Had the Wool Pulled Over Your Eyes?

Are you having the wool pulled over your eyes.png

Open and closed protocols have been a key topic of discussion for decades, and with ever-evolving technologies in the fire detection industry, it is not surprising that there is an element of confusion surrounding the subject. In this blog, we aim to give you a clear, neutral, explanation of the difference between open and closed protocols, so you can make an informed decision when faced with the choice.

First and foremost, let us define what a ‘protocol’ is.

A protocol is the communication language that a manufacturer develops for their own equipment that allows the components of a fire alarm system to intercommunicate effectively to provide the rapid and dependable detection of fire.

Recently, the definition of an ‘open protocol’ has been open to interpretation; however, we believe the industry definition of an open protocol is very straight forward.

When manufacturers share the technical details of their protocol with third parties such as control panel manufacturers and other device or component manufacturers, allowing them to produce compatible equipment, it is considered to be an open protocol.

When a manufacturer does not provide general access to the technical details of its own protocol, and therefore its devices are not compatible with third party equipment, it is considered to be a closed protocol.

Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages of each, and whilst the below table is not exhaustive, it gives you an indication of the key issues you should consider when choosing one system over another.

protocol-table-3

 

Faced with the facts, you can now make an informed decision as to which solution is most suitable for your requirements.

All Hochiki products communicate using a high integrity communications link called Enhanced Systems Protocol (ESP). ESP is an open protocol and is supported by a number of leading independent control panel manufacturers. When choosing Hochiki, specifiers, installers and end users all have an open choice on system design, installation and maintenance.  Hochiki’s ESP protocol doesn’t restrict you to one single manufacturer, allowing you freedom of choice without compromising on safety.

Need more information? Here’s a link to our whitepaper titled; ‘Open or Closed Protocol: Your Guide to Making an Informed Decision’.

Click here for more information on Hochiki products.

Did you find this blog useful? Please share our blog using the links below.

 

25/01/2017 / Graham Lowe

So, what is Emergency Safety Lighting?

BS 5266 was revised for two key reasons; to keep the document aligned with associated national and European standards, and to recognise the fact that, in some situations, occupants might need to remain on the premises in safety. For example, it may be difficult to evacuate care homes, hospitals etc. The revised standard, therefore, introduces a new type of emergency lighting, ‘Emergency Safety Lighting’ (also known as ‘stay put’ lighting), and provides the risk assessor with clear guidance on how to assess where this type of emergency lighting might be necessary.

types-of-emergency-lighting

Diagram of Types of Emergency Lighting, ICEL 2016

 

The revision makes it clear that Emergency Safety Lighting should help occupants continue normal operations in the event of failure of the supply to normal lighting. In high risk task areas, this means that the illuminance value should not be less than 10% of the average of the normal lighting at the location of the risk. It is important to note however, that in some areas, such as hospital operating theatres, 100% of normal lighting levels may still be required.

The revision also stipulates that occupants can only stay in the building as long as it is safe to do so. This means that they can only stay in the building if the risk is minimal (eg. there is adequate daylight in the building), or until there is 1-hour duration left in the emergency lighting, or until the system allows occupants to be escorted to a low risk location.

When the emergency action plan is drawn up, a number of considerations must be made; if there is a stay put solution, how long can occupants stay? How will the end of the stay put period be indicated? What happens at the end of the emergency duration? How will occupants be directed to safe refuges? This must all be documented in the action plan.

A maintenance plan also needs to be established, and it is strongly recommended that the Emergency Safety Lighting is self-testing.

Hochiki’s ‘FIREscape’ is a fully monitored, intelligent, self-testing emergency lighting system which is suitable for a variety of applications. For example, it has been successfully installed at Sligo Regional Hospital and Teesside University. To find out more about FIREscape, please click here.

Hochiki has recently updated their A6 pocket guide to BS 5266, which you can request a free copy of via the website. Hochiki have also updated their Emergency Lighting CPD presentation to include the revisions to BS5266 Part 1: 2016; if you are interested in a presentation please contact us.

If you would like to discuss an emergency lighting project, please contact our Lighting Manager, Ian Watts, on 07789 228 949.

It is important to note that there are several other revisions to BS 5266 Part 1: 2016, and so we would recommend that you refer to the official full standard for more details.

10/10/2016 / Graham Lowe

How will Smart Cities affect the Fire Industry?

smart-cities

First of all, let’s clarify what we mean by the term ‘smart city’. In short, a smart city is an urban environment which is harnessing cutting edge technology in order to streamline services, reduce waste, reduce energy consumption and generally improve efficiency.

We all know that continual improvement is by no-means a new concept, but it is certainly being accelerated by the Internet of things (IOT).

iot

The internet of things has already developed to include; wearable technology, smart heating systems, smart home lighting and we are now even beginning to see smart developments in the fire industry. For example, leading panels can now be accessed remotely and status reports can be downloaded.

Hochiki recently ran a survey asking installers which sectors they think will be most impacted by smart technology; it is not surprising that 24% thought facilities management would be most affected, but a further 18% thought that it would significantly impact the life safety industry.

impacted-by-smart-technologies-graphic

Another accelerating factor for smart cities is the introduction of government initiatives. For example, this year saw the compulsory introduction of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the UK construction sector. BIM is designed to improve consistency across the construction sector, and to improve efficiency, reduce wastage and cut costs across the whole lifetime of the building.

In Hochiki’s smart city report, Jonathan Gilbert of Kentec Electronics commented,

“As the survey findings suggest, government will be a key driver for smart technology in the life safety industry”.

However, he continued,

“In the UK for example, smoke detectors must be wired separately, so unless legislation changes to allow them to become part of a full system, complete integration will be impossible. It’s not to say that legislation won’t evolve to make smart cities a reality, but it’s certainly going to be one of the greatest challenges for everyone developing technology in the industry.”

This is certainly an exciting time for the life safety industry; with the amount of new technology at our finger tips the possibilities are (potentially) endless!

To read the full report, please click here to download it from our website.

19/09/2016 / Graham Lowe

The Effects of e-Cigarettes on Smoke Detectors

smoke1

Since 2007, the use of electronic cigarettes has drastically increased worldwide, and more frequently we are being asked how e-cigarette vapour will affect Hochiki smoke detectors.

In order to understand how e-cigarette vapour will affect a smoke detector, we need to understand the particle size and distribution of aerosols produced by e-cigarettes. The Department of Chemistry at Monmouth University measured the particle size in an undiluted state using a spectral transmission procedure, and found that e-cigarette particles are typically between 0.25 – 0.45 microns, which is comparable to tobacco smoke (as shown on the graph below).

microns-with-e-cig

Diagram to show particle sizes (particle sizes obtained from engineering tool box and NCBI).

However, we must bear in mind, that the particles that reach a smoke detector will not be undiluted; they would have mixed with the saliva in the mouth, creating particle sizes more comparable to steam. We must therefore expect e-cigarettes to affect smoke detectors in the same way as steam.

Hochiki are renowned worldwide for manufacturing high quality, robust and reliable smoke detectors. We understand that false alarms are both disruptive and expensive, and as such we have incorporated a number of features in both our conventional and analogue smoke detectors that help protect against false alarms.

For example, Hochiki detectors contain a honeycomb structured mesh that has been specifically designed to maximise smoke flow, and improve tolerance against insects, dust and steam. If steam comes into contact with the mesh, the steam is forced to diffuse through the mesh resulting in dissipation of steam particles, thus reducing false alarms caused by steam.

mesh

By making the aperture smaller (0.4mm), narrowing the distance between apertures (0.05mm) and widening the effective aperture ratio, it maximises the smoke flow and improves tolerance against insects, dust and steam.

Furthermore, Hochiki smoke detectors work using optical technology; i.e. if smoke enters the chamber it will cause the infrared light to scatter and the device will go into alarm. In order to protect against false alarms, Hochiki devices use an optimum scattering angle between the infrared LED and the Photo Diode which reduces sensitivity towards steam and oil.

In conclusion…

There have been very few reports of e-cigarettes causing problems with smoke detectors. If you have purchased your smoke detector from a reputable manufacturer such as Hochiki, it is unlikely that a small amount of e-cigarette vapour will cause your device to go into alarm. Of course, if someone is standing directly under a detector and creating a generous amount of e-cigarette vapour, then the density of particles entering the chamber is likely to cause any smoke detector to go into alarm.

Whilst Hochiki devices are already considered to be amongst the most reliable in the world, our research and development department continue to experiment with the most innovative technology for use in future generations of Hochiki devices. This will guarantee that Hochiki devices continue to be some of the most robust and reliable devices on the market.

Resources:
http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/particle-sizes-d_934.html
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23216158