Contractors want peace of mind when it comes to the installation of fire performance cables. Reliability and durability are top of the agenda as they increase in popularity due to ever stricter regulations for fire alarm installations and other fire protected circuits. But what are the key features of fire performance cables and what sets them apart from other cables on the market?
Building design and regulation requirements have significantly changed and evolved over the past 25 years. New buildings, which are now increasingly required to have fire alarm systems included, and rising numbers of refurbishments of outdated systems, have fuelled demand for fire performance products.
What is fire performance?
There are two different types of cable on the market, which have improved fire performance compared with standard cables. Those that react in a fire so as to give low smoke emission and reduced flame propagation, and those that are fire resistant, which will continue to operate during a fire when subjected to a specified flame source for a period of time. Cable that is fire resistant usually incorporates improved reaction to fire features too.
Location, location, location
When using fire performance cables it’s important to remember that requirements can change depending on the application of the cables. There are different standards that apply to different types of fire alarm installations and other applications such as emergency lighting. Responsible contractors need to be sure that they know the cable type and location of cable materials they are using. They must be suitable for the specific job and have been classified to comply with required British Standards. The best solution for contractors is to use cables that are suitable for a range of applications
Remember that cables for fire alarm applications, but excluding cables for voice alarm systems, are now split into ‘standard’, where survival time of the cable is 30 minutes and ‘enhanced’, where the survival time increases to 120 minutes. For most applications the use of ‘standard’ fire resisting cables is sufficient but for certain areas such as unsprinklered high rise buildings or hospitals with longitudinal phased evacuation, ‘enhanced’ cables should be used.
Product quality is key to the success of the installation of fire performance cables. Everyone knows the dangers of fire so it’s important not to take risks on the quality of a product. Be sure that the product is both robust but also enables easy fitting. .
What’s the history?
Another important factor is whether the supplier has a proven track record. The last thing contractor’s want is for cable that leads to problems after installation. Check that the supplier has a history of problem free supply. Avoid cheap imitations and be cautious if using a brand you haven’t heard of. Ask the question, has it been around for two weeks or twenty years?
Is it approved?
Check for third party approvals from bodies such as BASEC and the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB). These can help to provide assurance that a cable will meet the necessary design and performance requirements.
Fixings and accessories
Don’t forget that fixings, terminals and accessories must offer the same level of protection against fire as the cable you use. Plastic cable clips, ties or trunking may only be used for aesthetic or protection reasons but are not suitable as the sole means of supporting cables in the event of a fire.