The importance of appropriate certification

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Joao Paulo Ajami, Managing Director and Founder of Global Fire Equipment (GFE), explains why taking a consistent approach to certification is key when specifying fire detection and alarm products

Many in the worldwide fire safety industry have noticed a worrying trend towards performance specifications naming a chosen ‘approval’ or ‘approval body’ as the sole mark of product certification or compliance.

Misunderstanding the certification process in this way can have far-reaching risks.

To understand why, we firstly need to understand the difference between a Notified Body and an approval.

A Notified Body

For EN certification, a Notified Body is authorised by the EU to assess products under the relevant EN 54 CPR regulations.

Under the Nando (New Approach Notified and Designated Organisations) Information System, notification is an act whereby a member state informs the European Commission and the other member states that a body, which fulfils the relevant requirements, has been designated to carry out conformity assessment according to a specific standard.

The Notified Body has responsibility for testing the product/s, verifying the supporting evidence that a product meets the test requirements, issuing a product certificate and undertaking ongoing testing or surveillance activities.

To achieve consistent regulatory compliance for their products, manufacturers can choose which EU Notified Body to appoint as long as it is certified to test against the relevant EN 54 standards.

An ‘approval’

An ‘approval’ is not the same thing as EN 54 product certification via an EU Notified Body.

Whereas a Notified Body’s work is regulated and verifies that products comply with a standard, approvals are normally voluntary schemes which certain Notified Bodies sometimes offer as an additional service.

Some Notified Bodies run their own product directories, listings or certification schemes, for example.

These schemes are not mandated by a regulation and may go beyond the legal EN 54 product standard requirements under their Notified Body activities.

In some regions, some of these schemes are being promoted within the system performance specification, with the suggestion that they are the only route to compliance, but that’s not the case.

The only performance route to EN 54 standard compliance is via an EU Notified Body certifying that products meet the requirements of the relevant EN 54 standards.

Instead of specifying a particular Notified Body, it is essential that the correct product and system standards are cited within the fire detection and alarm performance specification.

In some countries where the CE mark is not recognised, we have seen a rise in the number of performance specifications which state that a product must be approved by a particular ‘approval body’ – who may or may not be an EU Notified Body.

The end client may specify a particular approval as they believe it to be EN 54 compliant within that region.

As I explained above, if any type of mark or logo other than the CPR CE mark is specified, this is a risk as it goes against the ISO/IEC 17000 standards which are there to ensure that the product has been certified and tested appropriately to the relevant EN 54 standard.

If performance specifications only state that products must have an approval (rather than a CPR CE mark from a Notified Body), there is a real risk that the manufacturer might have outdated products and may not have updated their standards in line with EN 54 requirements.

By writing performance specifications that quote the European EN 54 standards, specifiers will be adhering to the CPR regulations.

This will ensure that the manufacturer and its products are certified by an EU Notified Body through the CPR to EN 54 products standards and can therefore carry the appropriate CE Mark as required.

With more widespread awareness of the need for appropriate certification, it is hoped that fire safety system specifiers will place more emphasis on the right standards and accreditations, rather than the approval body.

This would create greater competition among those accredited manufacturers who meet the specific EN 54 standards for fire safety products.

Globally, we are seeing a shift in the fire safety sector away from a product-based approach and towards a systems-based approach to specifying fire detection equipment.

There is a marked increase in the number of authorities, specifiers, installers and end users requesting latest version of EN 54-13 compliance.

We are also seeing EN 54-13 compliance being stated in the approval requirements for commercial installations in several European countries.

Moving forward, we anticipate that EN 54-13 – the whole system standard – will be specified in an increasing number of projects.

EN 54-13, which was first introduced in 2005, is a rigorous standard that proves all the components in a fire safety system are compatible and connectable, thereby working effectively as one system.

The standard was upgraded in 2017 when the previous 2015 version was withdrawn.

There are currently two versions of the standard in place with the most up to date one being EN 54-13:2017+A1:2019.

There are two different classifications of approval – component suppliers (e.g.

detector or panel suppliers) and complete systems providers.

Having been awarded EN 54-13 2017/2019 approval in March 2021, GFE is a complete systems provider and takes full responsibility for the system.

To ensure continued compliance, regular conformance testing will be undertaken internally and communicated to third party approvals.

Ongoing systems testing is much easier when the manufacturer is responsible for the full system.

At GFE, for example, we continually test all the components of our systems under extreme conditions to ensure full system compatibility.

A key benefit for installers and end customers of choosing an EN54-13:2017+A1:2019 approved supplier is that they will take full responsibility for the system, and you have one dedicated point of contact and full technical support, making it much easier to get quick and easy resolutions for any issues such as system computability and any warranty issues or component failures.

Further guidance

I hope that by highlighting the importance of accreditation it will encourage more companies to understand the right route to EN 54 certification of fire detection and alarm products.

EN 54 product certification is clearly a legislative minefield, so it is easy to see why some confusion exists around the difference between Notified Bodies and approvals.

Our experts are available to support any companies who require further clarification on this complex matter.

If you’re going to be attending Intersec 2024 (16-18 Jan) in Dubai, come to our stand (Stand F10, Hall 3) where you will be able to talk to our experts about certification.

Intersec Dubai will take place between the 16th and 18th of January at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai. Global Fire Equipment’s Stand Number is 3-F10. For further information on Global Fire Equipment, please visit

This article was originally published in the January 2024 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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