The trend towards quality in fire detection and extinguishing systems as well as the number of alarms physically checked on site remained level in 2019, similar to 2018. It is noteworthy that the volume of equipment continues to increase. Factors affecting the present situation are modern equipment, trained system operators and the collective effort of the actors within the field where quality is sufficiently assured in all implementations.
The importance of proper maintenance and competent personnel cannot be overstated.The trend towards quality in fire detection and extinguishing systems as well as the number of alarms physically checked on site remained level in 2019, similar to 2018. It is noteworthy that the volume of equipment continues to increase. Factors affecting the present situation are modern equipment, trained system operators and the collective effort of the actors within the field where quality is sufficiently assured in all implementations. The importance of proper maintenance and competent personnel cannot be overstated.
This positive trend in equipment can be seen when the present number of automatic alarms, i.e. those coming from alarms connected to the emergency response centre (ERC), as well as the number of alarms physically checked on site are compared to the statistics from previous years. Whereas in 2019 rescue authorities checked out a total of 17 404 alarms, the average from 2016–2018 was 18 221 alarms checked (source: Pronto). Even though the volume of equipment is on the rise, the number of dispatches generated by alarms to rescue departments keeps decreasing – this is by virtue of sophisticated equipment, fire detection system maintenance companies and system operators.
An earlier press release of the Emergency Services Academy Finland concerning callouts received from automatic fire alarms connected to ERCs also supports this view:
Fire alarms connected to ERCs generated 18 000 alarms, which represents 16 per cent of all rescue services’ dispatches. Of these, 1 200 (7 per cent) were valid alarms. The previous time this number was as low was in 2002, even though the number of fire alarms connected to ERCs has constantly grown. These data were compiled by Pronto, the rescue services’ resource and accident statistics program.
More information (in Finnish) can be obtained through the following weblink: More traffic accidents in 2019, fewer fire alarms and first response dispatches.
Fewer serious shortcomings – also credit to the rescue authorities
Third-party working groups for interpreting standards and instructions also deem it beneficial that the owners of equipment are increasingly interested in ensuring the long-term reliability of fire extinguishing systems. It is also good that inspections have found fewer serious shortcomings in automatic extinguishing systems.
In 2019 Kiwa Inspecta conducted long-term testing on sprinkler systems, in other words 15 to 25 year reliability tests in accordance with a given site’s technical manual or design standard. The number of long-term reliability tests grew by 73 per cent compared to 2018. This is a very positive sign of improved practical lifespan monitoring in fire prevention technology.
Active collaboration bears fruit. “When it comes to this trend, credit should also be given to the rescue authorities”, says Mr Antero Peltomaa from Kiwa Inspecta, representing the Fire Prevention Technology Development Group. The authorities have better taken into account the third party working group’s reports of serious shortcomings, and demanded that the owners of extinguishing systems promptly engage in corrective action.
There is still plenty to be done – for instance the periodic inspections of fire alarms have revealed challenges in updating the systems and making them mutually compatible. The third-party working groups have found implementations having inadequate certificates and documentation when fire detection system (FDS) control panels have been replaced or updated. Inspections carried out by neutral third parties should be the norm when replacing and introducing FDS control panels. Still, first and foremost, the installation and service companies operating in this field should draw attention to this problem and improve quality assurance. This could help minimise such future problems in association with FDS control panel replacements which, to an extent, can now be inferred from the statistics.
“The customer’s own active engagement is also paramount in quality assurance, so that shortcomings are detected through regular maintenance and inspections. Detected shortcomings must be reacted to immediately, rather than passively waiting for the next periodic inspection. Fire prevention technology, in essence, entails continuity management as well as protecting lives and property”, says Mr Lauri Lehto, Safety and Security Advisor at the Finnish National Rescue Association and Fire Prevention Technology Development Group.
Transition year for the new ST1 guidelines
The new ST1 guidelines for design, installation, and maintenance of fire detection systems were updated and introduced in 2019, and will be implemented in 2020. Likewise, the European Standards CEN/TS 54-14:2018en on the same topic have been updated. The fire safety branch has been waiting for reviewed decrees on fire detection systems but, unfortunately, it seems that the present Coronavirus situation will also delay these statutes and so the need for an updated decree still exists. In this situation, third-party inspectors and rescue authorities have been called upon to interpret the guidelines vis-à-vis the enactments.
In 2019 there were more and more such inspections, especially periodic inspections, in which the detected shortcomings recorded in inspection documents greatly differ from earlier observations. Consequently, in 2018 the third-party working groups for interpreting standards and instructions organised joint meetings among the groups. The goal of these meetings is to harmonise inspection practices among the third-party working groups. The group for interpreting instructions also participates in these meetings.
Fire Prevention Technology Development Group
The Fire Prevention Technology Development Group is a group of experts whose shared goal is to advance safety and to develop the service and maintenance, quality and technical prospects of fire prevention technology. The group is comprised of experts as well as representatives of fire prevention technology associations and fire safety organisations. The operating models published by the group are generic models intended for support and information, and people working within the field of fire prevention technology as well as other actors can find relevant information from them.