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FP200 Gold and fire resistant cables from Prysmian Cables UK

Welcome

FP200 Gold and fire resistant cables from Prysmian Cables UK

Welcome

FP200 Gold and fire resistant cables from Prysmian Cables UK

Don’t let fire performance become a burning issue
Posted: 14/03/08 16:29:18

Don’t let fire performance become a burning issue

With concerns that faulty and non-compliant cables are infiltrating the electrical industry, Ufuk Colak, FP Product Manager at Prysmian Cables and Systems explains why no one should cut corners when manufacturing, specifying and installing fire performance cables.

Architects are designing bigger and more complex buildings, so incorporating fire safety into the design of a building through the use of fire performance products is becoming ever more important.

The safety of electrical systems should not be left to chance, which could happen if contractors choose price ahead of features such as reliability, durability and third party certification when specifying and installing fire performance cables. These should be top of the agenda if contractors want peace of mind.

You get what you pay for

Independent fire investigations show that many major fires could have been prevented if fire safety, both active and passive fire protection, had been included as an inherent design feature.

The British Approvals Service for Cables (BASEC) has also witnessed a greater number of sub-standard cables in the last year, which it believes, is a direct result of rising copper prices. It blames the nature of the electrical industry where price often becomes the principle reason for choosing a cable.

Fire performance cables provide power distribution to essential life safety systems such as emergency lighting and fire alarm systems, so it is paramount that these products are manufactured to the highest specification.

Some manufacturers or importers may be tempted to cut corners by reducing the amount of copper used in the manufacturing process and or using insulation materials without the correct degree of flame retardance, which means that potentially some wholesalers, distributors and contractors are exposing themselves to unnecessary risk.

If contractors use inferior cables it could only be a matter of time before the safety of an electrical installation on a site is compromised because of poor quality products, which do not conform to the correct British Standards. In those circumstances the wholesalers, distributors and electrical contractors could be held to account. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order stresses the need to use only superior proven products and places more responsibility on wholesalers and contractors.

Fighting fire through product development Responsible manufacturers would warn against installing fire performance cable that is not compliant with British Standards or Approved by a third party such as BASEC or LPCB (Loss Prevention Certification Board). The new generation of fire performance cables are designed to meet much more arduous fire survival requirements now demanded by regulators and specifiers, for applications such as life safety systems, property protection and fire fighting systems in buildings that must remain functional in the event of a fire. It’s during the development of these high performance products that fire testing facilities take centre stage, such as Prysmian’s fire testing facility in Bishopstoke which carries out in excess of 1500 tests per year, and helps set the leading FP cables apart from the rest.

In house fire testing laboratories allow manufacturers to run quality assessments on existing cables, new cables and materials, type approval for products or contracts,

customer service demonstrations, and development of new first specifications for the industry. This ensures that cables comply with stringent British and European Standards, which set the benchmark to provide specifiers and installers with the correct knowledge and understanding about a cable’s fire survival time, flame propagation and smoke emissions. They also set out the environment and equipment that should be used when conducting fire tests, coupled with details to make sure all tests relevant to a particular standard are carried out under the same conditions.

Testing capabilities

The fundamental feature of having a leading fire testing facility is that it allows cables to be observed throughout the development process. The cables can be observed during the whole test process and this allows researchers and testers to record any changes during different stages of testing.

Engineers can then make calculated judgements on how well cables have performed and how they can be improved. There are three main tests conducted on fire performance cables – fire resistance, flame propagation and smoke emission tests. The fire resistance test measures the time that the cable continues to function under set conditions, retaining its electrical state. Fire resistance can be tested with the cable being exposed to different conditions: fire alone, fire and impact, fire and water, or an integrated fire, water and impact.

Impact tests simulate falling materials in a building with water blasts used to replicate sprinklers or fire fighting hoses in a fire situation. Flame propagation tests examine how far a cable burns in a vertical position before it stops burning and smoke emission tests involve burning cable in a smoke cube.

Quality

Ensuring a cable carries the correct third party approvals is a small price to pay for reassurance. Comb ined with the meticulous examination of manufacturing processes and controls by cable producers, third party approvals help to guarantee continually high quality levels. Some manufacturers such as Prysmian subject their cables to more rigorous tests so that products are designed to go beyond the criteria set in British and European standards and provide customers with the best quality available.


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