Standards for products and services are at the heart of success of the fire safety industry. Euralarm’s members need a fast and flexible standards-setting system because it is not only the best way to serve the interests of customers, the industry and society but also is a basic requirement for a safe and secure society. The company’s standardization system helps them to continue to deliver the highest levels of safety and security to citizens.

However, for the competitiveness of the electronic fire safety industry, the impact of the CPR on standardization has according to their members, unfortunately, not met their expectations. This industry as well as many others depend on standardized product performance requirements and standardized behavior, which is at odds with the interpretation of the CPR following the European Court of Justice judgement on the James Elliot case.

fire alarm system

Euralarm’s expectation in the CPR is to ensure the European wide acceptance of test laboratory results

For example, alarm buttons to activate a fire alarm system are across Europe - and the world - always red. Under the CPR, this is not seen as essential criteria and could change now with national solutions, which would lead to building occupants being confused. In one country the button is red and in another could be any other color.

Euralarm’s expectation in the CPR is to ensure the European wide acceptance of test laboratory results, which in turn supports the movement of construction products across Europe. But now it has taken a different turn since the CJEU judgement. Further, trying to cover a very wide assortment of products from aggregate to electronic systems is proving to have a negative effect on the standardization of fire detection and alarm products.

Harmonized standards

The free movement of goods is one of the success stories of the European project. It has helped to build the internal market from which European citizens and businesses are benefiting and which is at the heart of EU policies. It was that same free movement of goods that was behind the introduction of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) in 2011.

With this regulation the EU wanted to establish a common “playing field” for products for the construction industry. To assess or declare the conformity of the products use is made of the so-called harmonized standards. Harmonized standards are European standards that are developed by a recognized European Standards Organization, such as CEN CENELEC or ETSI.

declaration of performance

These standards define the common technical language to be used by manufacturers to express the technical performance of their products, by regulators to express their requirements and by designers, contractors, and other construction stakeholders to efficiently exchange information.

The standards provide a solid technical basis for testing the performance of products

The standards provide a solid technical basis for testing the performance of products, allowing manufacturers to prepare a declaration of performance (DoP) for their products as defined in the CPR and to affix the CE mark. The CE marking signifies that a product complies with relevant safety, health, or environmental regulations across the European Economic Area (EEA).

guaranteed technical relevance 

Working with European harmonized standards offers many benefits. First, the technical relevance is guaranteed since the standards are the result of open and transparent discussions by interested stakeholders in the European Standardization Organizations (ESO). Following these discussions, the standard is adopted by one of the ESOs (CEN, CENELEC, ETSI) which makes the European standard relevant to the market as well.

And since the European standard is requested by the EU and cited in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) the harmonized standards are also relevant for the EU politics. When using a harmonized standard, it is assumed that the product complies with the basic requirements of the directive. This ‘presumption of conformity’ fulfils the circle that is needed for the free circulation of a product on the EU Single Market.

fire protection systems

Overlooking the construction industry, there is a very wide range of building products that fall under the scope of the CPR, ranging from low tech products like asphalt for road construction to high tech products like fire detection devices for buildings. Most of these products fall into categories that allow manufacturers to self-declare compliance with standards.

Fire protection systems must be third party assessed and certificated before being “placed on the market"

In case they cannot declare it themselves, there are several third-party testing institutes that can help them. However, fire protection systems and equipment (and to an extent also security products) must be third party assessed and certificated before being “placed on the market”. So far, it looks as if working with harmonized standards for assessing or declaring product conformity worked well.

additional assessment processes

That changed with the so-called James Elliot case. James Elliot Constructions started a case at the European Court of Justice against Irish Asphalt. The building company claimed that the aggregate that was provided by the asphalt manufacturer was not compliant with the specifications of the relevant harmonized standard for aggregates. The European Court of Justice regarded privately produced technical harmonized standards, as a provision of EU law.

In its ruling the Court not only addressed this specific context, but also raised the need to address some specific aspects of the functioning of the European standardization system. The James Elliot case triggered the European Commission to set up additional assessment processes by which harmonized standards, once elaborated, can be reviewed in retrospect.

fire safety equipment

This development has brought the review and publication of standards in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) to a stillstand. In 2019, not one single standard was cited in the OJEU and there is no hope of a change. The additional assessment processes for harmonized standards may not be of great importance for low tech products that remain the same for decades, but it is for high tech products, such as fire safety equipment.

Most of the fire protection systems and equipment also employ electronics and software

The rapid technological developments of these, and other high-tech products require up-to-date versions of harmonized standards. What is more, product innovation utilizing new technology is an important capability for the fire safety and security industry to improve performance and usability. Most of the fire protection systems and equipment also employ electronics and software that needs to be updated on a regular basis.

market for construction products

These aspects demand that related standards and regulations are sufficiently flexible and responsive to encompass such changes. The current CPR practice clearly does not accommodate these needs. Quite recent, the European Commission evaluated the CPR with the purpose to assess to what extent the CPR has met its objectives and helped reduce obstacles to the internal market for construction products.

Among the main shortcomings identified by this evaluation are the insufficient performance and output quality of the standardization system under the CPR, and the low uptake of simplification provisions. These factors have reportedly resulted in a lack of legal clarity according to the EC. Euralarm shares with the EC the conclusion that a revision and a simplification of the CPR is needed.

fire safety products

However, it is not with the production of technical standards that leads to the insufficient performance and output quality, but the requirements set up by the Commission for the harmonization of standards under the CPR. From a technical standpoint, all European standards impacting the fire safety sector have been updated but only two revised standards in EN 54 series have been accepted by the European Commission and hence cited.

The focus should be on the availability of up-to-date versions of harmonized standards

Notwithstanding the disproportionate standards development cost for the industry, the changes in the CPR have created serious obstacles to export fire safety products outside of Europe and more generally the competitiveness of the European Industry.

Fire safety industry

While Euralarm’s international competitors have been able to update their standards to the latest technological development, the European fire safety industry is unable to compete because the publication of new standards is blocked. Instead of blocking the publication of new or revised standards, the focus should be on the availability of up-to-date versions of harmonized standards with shorter times between reviewing, updating and publishing standards.

This will give the fire safety industry as well as many other industries that depend on (advanced) technical products more flexibility when developing standards to ensure safety of the European citizens and preserve its competitiveness in the international market.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

In case you missed it

In A Busy Wildfire Season, Researchers Seek New Approaches
In A Busy Wildfire Season, Researchers Seek New Approaches

It makes perfect sense that a horrific wildfire season would come in the year 2020 on the heels of a pandemic. Dozens of major fires burned across North America in September, including 85 large uncontained fires and six contained fires across 12 states. Active fires have burned more than 3 million acres already, and 41,417 fires have burned almost 5 million acres year-to-date. The severity of the wildfire season is on track to surpass the 10-year average. Better understanding wildfires Global warming is often mentioned as a contributor to the wildfires, but there are other factors, too. Increasingly, researchers are looking to apply new approaches in address the risk of wildfires. They include tools such as deep learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to better understand wildfires and to control their intensity. The model could be used to reveal areas of greatest risk for wildfires A new deep learning model uses remote sensing and satellite data to trace fuel moisture levels across 12 Western states, in effect tracking the amount of easily burnable plant material and how dry it is. After additional testing is complete, the model could be used to reveal areas of greatest risk for wildfires and to plan the best areas for prescribed burns. Led by a Stanford University ecohydrologist, the research was published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment. Recurrent neural network The model uses data from the U.S. Forest Service’s National Fuel Moisture Database, which amasses plant water content information from thousands of samples. Using a ‘recurrent neural network,’ the system leverages the fuel moisture data to corroborate measurements of visible light and microwave radar signals from spaceborne sensors that are tasked with estimating fuel moisture measurements. Newer satellites with longer wavelengths allow sensitive observations about moisture content deeper into the forest canopy. Estimates from the model are used to generate interactive maps that fire agencies may one day use to identify patterns and prioritize wildfire control estimates. Researchers are also working to analyze the impact of better and more efficient firefighting on the size and frequency of wildfires. The theory goes: When firefighters extinguish smaller vegetation fires, a consequence is the creation of an environment where wildfires are larger and/or more frequent. Natural cycle of regeneration Older woods will naturally catch fire from the sun’s heat to make way for fresh growth The theory is based on the premise that wildfires play an essential role in the periodic regeneration of forests. Older woods will naturally catch fire from the sun’s heat to make way for fresh growth. However, more efficient firefighting can disrupt the natural cycle and, along with global warming, aggravate the broader likelihood of larger and more frequent fires. Researchers at the WiFire Lab in California and the University of Alberta in Canada are using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze the environment and provide recommendations for prescribed burns that can save some parts of the forest without interfering with the natural cycle of regeneration. Providing early warning of wildfires Equipment operated by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) caused 2018’s Camp Fire, the most destructive wildfire in California history. Because of the threat of sparking a wildfire, PG&E this year shut off power to 172,000 customers in Northern California on Labor Day weekend, for example. A concern is the threat of winds tearing down power line or hurling debris into them. Southern California Edison (SCE), another utility, warned that about 55,000 customer accounts could lose power. California utilities SCE, PG&E and San Diego Gas and Electric are helping to fund a network of ALERTWildfire video cameras in California that will help to provide early warning of wildfires. Video cameras keep watch throughout five Western United States to provide early warning, and the number of cameras is growing fast.

Should Firefighters And First Responders Use Face Masks?
Should Firefighters And First Responders Use Face Masks?

Should firefighters and other first responders be exempt from requirements that they wear face masks to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)? The City Council of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, seems to think so. They are proposing an amendment to exempt first responders from complying with the city’s face mask ordinance. Amendment to Exempt first responders from face mask rule Specifically, the proposed amendment states, “Exempted from the requirements of the ordinance requiring wearing of face coverings include law enforcement personnel, first responders or other workers, who are actively engaged in their tasks, if wearing a face covering may hinder their performance.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone wear masks in public settings The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone wear masks in public settings, especially when social distancing cannot be maintained. The CDC does not specify a need to exempt first responders. However, there is a possibility that a mask could interfere with the work of firefighters or first responders, especially when they are performing tasks that require physical exertion. Face masks can inhibit communication among first responders Face masks, covering the mouth and nose, could also inhibit communication by muffling sound and obstructing facial expressions. Obviously, communication is of paramount importance for firemen working as a team in an emergency, or when a first responder is seeking to give clear directions to the public. The issue of face masks has been inexorably entwined with the well-being of first responders, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Early on during the infection spread, health officials dismissed face masks as a tool to avoid spread of the disease. They said that the masks were ineffective at preventing community spread and that, supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to be conserved for health professionals and first responders. Importance of face masks in controlling spread of COVID-19 However, the early advice was completely reversed in late March 2020 and masks have been advocated ever since. A mask, worn by an infected individual, reduces the dispersion of virus-laden droplets that spread the disease. Now, experts contend that any type of mask, including cloth or paper, can help to reduce spread of the COVID-19 virus. Expanding the use of masks to include those that are not conformant with the N-95 classification effectively eliminated any concerns about supply and helped to make the widespread use of masks the norm. To some extent, however, mask usage in the United States has been politicized and some see the requirements as an affront to liberty. Need for wearing face masks in public Masks are a useful preventative measure for firefighters working together in a communal area Fire and emergency departments face the same challenges as other businesses and institutions, as they seek to remain safe in a communal workspace. Masks are a useful preventative measure for firefighters working together in a communal area or when training or resting. Wearing masks in public also allows departments to model best practices and promote a positive perception of the department to the public. Disciplined use of face masks demonstrates unselfishness and respect for others. It communicates professionalism and concern for the greater good. Masks go a long way in saving lives of first responders Perception may also be an issue when it comes to the choice of masks, which become a de facto part of a uniform. Masks with political statements should be avoided, for example. Considering that dozens of American fire and EMS members have died of COVID-19 infection, since March 2020, the use of masks is another way that firefighters can work to save lives. However, sufficient flexibility is needed so that the use of masks does not interfere with other lifesaving duties.

What Are the New Trends in Firefighting Equipment?
What Are the New Trends in Firefighting Equipment?

Equipment is an important element in fighting fires, and in keeping firefighters safe. But what new needs are driving the development of equipment? How can equipment expand its role in fighting fires, or in managing building occupancy and traffic flow for that matter? We asked our Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the new trends and opportunities in firefighting equipment?