New Smoke Detectors with Old Panels? UL says No!

 In Be Ready, Policy, Regulation

New 2020 UL standards means new smoke detectors, but does it mean in fire alarm control panels as well?

With the new UL 217 and UL 268 (7th Edition) standards quickly approaching, facility managers are starting to learn more about what this significant change would mean for the buildings and fire safety systems they manage. Panic and concern is starting (read more about the new 2020 UL standards here). Parts that have been produced for decades and that are critical to their fire alarm systems, (such as the Simplex 4089-9714 (product information) and Siemens FP-11 (product information) smoke detectors) are soon to be discontinued and replaced by new smoke detectors that can meet the new UL code requirements. While these new UL standards target specifically smoke detectors, the unintended consequence of this change is the impact it will have on older fire alarm control panels.

Fire alarm control panels (FACPs) are designed and UL listed to be compatible with specific smoke detectors and other fire alarm modules. This UL Listing Compatibility is documented in the FACP Installation and Operations (IOM) Manual. This IOM document is an integral UL listed document that comes with each new FACP. The IOM is used for the respective buildings fire alarm design, installation, and testing. The process of getting a FACP UL listed for use with specified products/modules is an intensive and costly process for the manufacturer. To date, no manufacturers have announced plans to recertify their existing older FACP’s with the new UL compliant smoke detectors they are coming to market with.

What’s the impact of this? To learn more, we talked to Lynn Nielson, Manager of Plans Examination and Fire Protection Engineer for the City of Henderson. Lynn reached out to UL and shared the information he received from Dan Kaiser, a staff engineer at UL Northbrook-Headquarters.

Products whose compatibility are not UL Listed as compatible (aka: “Cross Listed”) with the intended FACP, CANNOT be used together. This ultimately means that if a new smoke detector is not cross listed in the most current FACP IOM, then it cannot be used together regardless even “if” the system might seem to still work.

This is critical to remember for two main reasons. First, if the detector is not listed in the most current FACP manual then you will likely not get your fire alarm permit, and not likely pass final fire inspections. This delay in permits and inspections costs you time and money. Secondly, if you’re using parts that are not UL Cross Listed together as a “System” (ie.. shown in the FACP IOM documents), then potential liability from a fire system failure might likely fall back on the fire alarm contractor, facility manager, or building owners and not the manufacturer.

This connection between smoke detectors and panels is critical and is being disrupted by the new UL standards. New UL 2020 compliant smoke detectors are not expected to be Cross-Listed to work on the older FACP’s. As such, facility managers need to stock up on any parts that are Cross Listed and are soon to be discontinued (including Smoke Detectors), they also need to have back up main panels/parts so the whole system is maintained and working properly in compliance with UL listings (and as intended when the original fire system was permitted/installed). With a year to go, now is the time to take inventory of what you need to maintain your fire safety systems. Contact Save More on Fire Alarm Parts with any questions about your system and your fire system part needs.


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