Initially, I would like to look at what the latest EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 standard is and how it differs from previous versions of this standard. EN 54-13 was first published in 2005 and has since been adapted with a number of technical revisions. EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 is the latest version of the standard and was published in February 2017. It superseded EN54-13:2017 and replaced EN54-13:2005 which was withdrawn on the date of the publication of the latest version.
EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 is one of 23 standards for fire detection and alarm (products) systems in the EN 54 series of standards. The European standards define the requirements, test methods and performance criteria required by various individual components making up fire detection and alarm systems (FDASs).
EN 54-13 differs from the other standards in that it’s a ‘system’ performance approval rather than a ‘product’ performance approval. It is a particularly important standard because it confirms – through assessment methods and tests – the compatibility and ‘connectability’ of all the individual components of a FDAS to work together, even though some products on the network are not defined by an EN 54 standard.
To achieve the latest EN 54-13 approval, all the individual components that make up the FDAS must be compatible and all the requirements relating to the performance of the overall system must be fulfilled.
Explaining the rationale behind the latest version of the standard, BSI states: ‘Conformity of an individual component to a recognised standard does not necessarily ensure that it will operate satisfactorily in conjunction with another component that conforms to the relevant standard for that component. It is essential that compatibility between components is taken into account by the designer of the system. BS EN 54-13 can be used to confirm system compatibility.’
More stringent assessment procedures
The main difference between earlier versions of EN 54-13 and the latest version relates to testing procedures. Whereas in the earlier versions of the standard there was a strong emphasis on the documentation analysis of the different components of a FDAS, in the latest version a real-life installation of the system is tested for worst-case scenario performance, meaning that realistic cable lengths and number of devices are installed in the set-up. At GFE, for example, we test our products under extreme conditions to ensure full system compatibility.
The test procedures then create various fault scenarios and there is an evaluation of system performance under stress. As the possible configurations of FDASs are unlimited, the assessment is only carried out on the configuration(s) declared by the applicant.
Within the latest standard, two different component types are defined: Type 1 components (which are covered by an EN 54 standard) and Type 2 components (which are not covered by an EN 54 standard). Type 1 components are assessed for their compatibility with other Type 1 components of the system. Type 2 components, such as Building Management Systems, printers etc., are assessed for ‘connectability’ to the system and for their ability to operate without negatively affecting the performance of the system.
The latest standard takes into account the new techniques such as Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) communications and new interface technologies available on the market.
Benefits of whole system compatibility for installers and end customers
It is important to note that there are two different classifications of approval – component suppliers (e.g. detector or panel suppliers) and complete systems providers like GFE. Not all fire detection and alarm systems manufacturers will have the latest EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval and some of the industry is made up of component suppliers who, unlike complete systems providers, will only be able to achieve approval for their whole system if one manufacturer (e.g. the fire control panel manufacturer) takes responsibility for the other’s products (e.g. the detector manufacturer). This makes the approvals process more complicated and requires a more stringent communications process if there are any changes to the individual components.
A complete systems provider who has EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval has far greater control and can test and maintain compliance/certification, including developing new products and making any adjustments to existing products – all under one roof. Communications about any changes are made much easier, which is really important for whole system compatibility. Ongoing systems testing is also much easier when the manufacturer is responsible for the full system and this regular testing of the whole system is key to ongoing compliance. If the system’s components are not tested regularly, there is a risk that you will drift away from compliance.
In March 2021, GFE was awarded EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 system compatibility approval by an international third-party accredited laboratory for our entry-level and high-end addressable fire detection and alarm systems. When we went through the application process for EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval in 2020, the most difficult test scenarios were related to cable interruptions and short circuits in critical areas of the installation.
We chose to go down the route of applying for EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval because we have witnessed a marked increase in the number of authorities, specifiers, installers and end users in certain markets requesting compliance with the latest standard, and we’re also seeing the standard being stated in the approval requirements for commercial installations in several European countries.
Confidence through compliance
It is easy to see why compliance with EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 demonstrates the systems supplier has achieved the highest level of certification so customers and installers can have full confidence that the system has been tested under the harshest of conditions. By choosing a manufacturer who has EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval and using system designers to ensure compatibility is achieved, customers are guaranteed that each individual component of the FDAS will work with the other components which, in turn, conform to their own relevant standards.
The manufacturer takes full responsibility for the system compatibility and regular conformance testing must be undertaken and communicated to third-party approvals. The customer has one dedicated point of contact who provides full technical support, making it much easier to get quick and easy resolutions for any warranty issues or component failures. As GFE manufacture our own components, we can fully test the whole system on a regular basis to ensure it works.
The advantages of choosing a manufacturer with EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval are clear and we are likely to see more manufacturers apply for this approval over the coming years. GFE is proud to be one of the first fire detection and alarm manufacturers to have been awarded this latest approval.
For more information, go to www.globalfire-equipment.com