The Fire Industry Association played a vital role in correcting an unintended and costly amendment to the 18th edition of wiring regulations. The amendment mandated surge protection devices (SPD) for domestic smoke, heat, and CO alarms, potentially burdening homeowners and installers. FIA Technical Manager Will Lloyd actively participated in committee JPEL 64 to ensure industry voices were heard.

The successful advocacy resulted in a corrigendum published on May 15, 2023, rectifying the requirement, easing financial burdens, and benefiting installers, landlords, and manufacturers.

When the IET released Amendment 2 for the 18th edition of the wiring regulations in March 2022, a regulation was introduced which, if not rectified, could have seen unnecessary additional cost added to the installation of domestic alarm systems. The FIA represents its members on numerous standards committees and when this new regulation was realised, FIA Technical Manager Will Lloyd applied to participate in the committee JPEL 64 to ensure that the views of the fire industry were suitably recognised.

Amendment 2 made it necessary for surge protection devices (SPD) to be installed on domestic smoke, heat, and CO alarms however, this was never the intention of regulation 443.4.1:

“Transient overvoltage’s due to the effects of indirect lightning strokes

Protection against transient overvoltages shall be provided where the consequence caused by the overvoltage could result in:

  1. serious injury to, or loss of, human life
  2. failure of a safety service, as defined in Part 2
  3. serious financial or data loss

For all other cases, protection against transient overvoltages shall be provided unless the owner of the installation declares it is not required due to any loss or damage being tolerable and they accept the risk of damage to equipment and any consequential loss.”

The FIA’s argument for the corrigendum was that the fire alarm industry has long acknowledged the existence of lightning and the damage it can do to through surges in the electrical power network. All fire detection and fire alarm equipment, whether domestic or commercial must meet certain product standards to be able to be sold in the UK market. These being:

  • EN 54 suite of standards for commercial systems; and
  • BS EN 14604 for domestic smoke alarm devices.

Both of these sets of standards reference the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) standards which are a method of complying with the legal requirements of the EU Electromagnetic Compatibility Directive. This piece of EU Law which has been implemented in the UK by The Electromagnetic Compatibility Regulations 2016. This UK law was first introduced in 1992 and has been revised several times over the years until the latest revision in 2016.

Looking at Schedule 1 of this law it provides the General requirements of the statute:

“1. Equipment must be so designed and manufactured, having regard to the state of the art, as to ensure that—

(a) the electromagnetic disturbance generated does not exceed the level above which radio and telecommunications equipment or other equipment cannot operate as intended.

(b) it has a level of immunity to the electromagnetic disturbance to be expected in its intended use which allows it to operate without unacceptable degradation of its intended use.”

With the EMC standards that are already in place and the Law that manufacturers must comply with, fire detection and fire alarm equipment already has immunity built into transients that occur from lightning strikes in the vicinity, or by switching in the power distribution system of the low voltage network which includes the switching of large capacitor batteries.

Lightning strikes, while relatively infrequent, are not a recent phenomenon and the introduction of surge protection devices for fire alarm equipment is unnecessary and its introduction into the 2022 amendment of BS 7671 was in error. This erroneous requirement for the fitting of SPDs for domestic smoke alarms has led to some organisations not upgrading their smoke alarms due to the additional costs of installing the SPD. This has now been corrected by the corrigendum, published on May the 15th 2023.

The FIAs Smoke Alarm Devices working group reviews and monitors activities concerning relevant domestic life safety standards. The Chairperson, Andy Speake from Aico, explains how the amendment affected the manufacturers and suppliers of domestic alarms and how the corrigendum was welcomed by the industry:

“Following the release of amendment 2 for the 18th edition of the wiring regulations in March 2022, domestic alarm manufacturers immediately saw a large increase in the volume of calls from both electrical installers and landlords regarding the requirements for SPD on domestic fire detection and alarm installations. Landlords were concerned at the additional costs this would put onto increasingly tight budgets and electrical installers were not sure on the requirements needed or how best to advise their customers. The updated corrigendum following input from the FIA has been well received by installers, landlords and manufacturers alike.”

The FIA encourages all homeowners and tenants to routinely check their smoke, heat, and CO alarms in their premises. By regularly testing your alarms and having a well-thought-out escape plan in place, you significantly enhance your chances of safely evacuating your home in the event of a fire or other emergency. Remember that prevention, preparation, and vigilance are key to keeping your home and family safe.

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