Exclusive: Complete component compatibility and connectability with GFE

Share this content


Paul Pope, Group Business Development Director at Global Fire Equipment (GFE) explains the crucial role of EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 in fire detection and alarm system components

EN 54-13 was first published in 2005 and has since been through a number of technical revisions. The latest version of the standard – EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 – was published in February 2017. It supersedes EN54-13:2017 and replaces EN54-13:2005 which was withdrawn on the date of the publication of the latest version.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).

Whereas other standards are ‘product’ performance approval, EN 54-13 is a ‘system’ performance approval. This makes it a particularly important standard as it confirms – through assessments and tests – the compatibility and ‘connectability’ of all the individual components of a FDAS. 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 which make up the FDAS must be compatible and all the requirements relating to the performance of the overall system must be fulfilled.

The BSI addressed the importance of compatibility and connectability of components in a blog, stating: “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. Although the earlier versions of the standard emphasised the documentation analysis of the different components of a FDAS, the latest version tests a real-life installation of the system for worst-case scenario performance. This means that realistic cable lengths and number of devices must be installed in the set up. At GFE, we already take this approach and test all 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 (covered by an EN 54 standard) and Type 2 components (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 EN 54-13 standard takes into account 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

There are two different classifications of approval – component suppliers (such as detector or panel suppliers) and complete systems providers like GFE. GFE was awarded EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 system compatibility approval by an international third-party accredited laboratory in March 2021 for our entry level and high-end addressable fire detection and alarm systems.

We chose to go down the route of applying for EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval because we have seen a marked increase in the number of authorities, specifiers, installers and end users in certain markets requesting compliance with the latest standard. We are also seeing the standard being stated in the approval requirements for commercial installations in several European countries.

It is important to be aware that not all FDAS manufacturers will have the latest EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval. There are a number 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 complicates the approvals process and requires a more stringent communications process if there are any changes to the individual components.

You will not know if the whole system is compatible if you purchase different components for the FDAS from separate suppliers. If, one the other hand, you purchase from a complete systems provider who also has EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval, you can be confident that they have independent certification of system compatibility.

It is easy to understand the growing interest in this latest standard, and there are a number of benefits of whole system compatibility for installers and end customers. 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. Regular testing of the whole system is key to ongoing compliance and if the system’s components are not tested regularly, there is a risk that you will drift away from compliance.

At GFE, as we manufacture our own components we can fully test the whole system on a regular basis to ensure it works. 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.

EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 compliance 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 be compatible with the other components which, in turn, conform to their own relevant standards.

Furthermore, the manufacturer takes full responsibility for the system compatibility and regular conformance testing must be undertaken and communicated to third party approvals.

Customers also benefit from having technical support from a single, dedicated point of contact. This makes it far easier to get quick and easy resolutions for any warranty issues or component failures.

Finally, it is much easier to establish the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a FDAS if you buy the whole system from one manufacturer.

The advantages of choosing a manufacturer with EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019 approval are clear so we anticipate more FDAS manufacturers will apply for this latest approval over the coming years. We are proud to be one of the first fire safety equipment manufacturers to have been awarded this latest approval.

For further information on Global Fire Equipment, please visit www.globalfire-equipment.com.

A summary of the benefits associated with complete systems procurement

  • Total cost of ownership is much easier to establish the TCO of a FDAS if you buy the whole system from one manufacturer
  • System control is guaranteed as a complete systems manufacturer develops the entire system from scratch in-house and can therefore support full system design and advise on how all the different parts of the system interact. If you have separate suppliers, on the other hand, you don’t know where all the individual components are coming from and how they interact
  • Liability is through one company, whereas there is a question mark over where the liability lies if components are purchased from multiple suppliers
  • Independent testing is undertaken for the system as a whole whereas if you have different suppliers, none of them are responsible for whole system testing
  • Technical and service support is provided for the entire system instead of having multiple points of contact and being passed from pillar to post between different suppliers
  • Access to system information will be freely provided, ensuring easy access to all the required information about the system such as installation and commissioning manuals
  • A dedicated point of contact will be able to assist you with any required sales, technical, maintenance and warranty support
  • A competent trained fire alarm company will be able to install, commission and maintain the system, giving you greater choice of who to appoint 
  • Spare parts will be easier and often quicker to order as they come from one source

This article was originally published in the April edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

Receive the latest breaking news straight to your inbox