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What goes into a ULC S561 Fire Monitoring Installation?

Often, when customers are calling FMC, they ask what is ULC-S561 and how can they become a ULC-S561 listed site.  To understand this better, we must first understand what CAN/ULC-S561 is, and then we can talk about what it may take to become a listed site.  CAN/ULC-S561 is a monitoring standard written by the Underwriter’s Laboratories of Canada (ULC), an internationally-recognized standards body.  This standard is the point of reference in the Fire Code and Building Code for any building that is required to have its fire alarm or sprinkler system monitored.  This standard “raises the bar” for fire monitoring, and defines the following:

  • What type of equipment may be used;
  • How the Signals Receiving Centre (SRC) is constructed;
  • How the monitoring transmitter is physically installed on site;
  • How the monitoring transmitter communicates with the SRC, and;
  • How alarms are handled when received in the SRC

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We shall briefly go over each one of these items for clarity:

ULC-S561 Fire Monitoring Compliant Equipment

CAN/ULC-S561 requires that equipment which is used for the purposes of monitoring fire alarm systems be manufactured and tested to the CAN/ULC-S559 standard. This includes equipment used in the field at your building, as well as equipment used in our SRC to receive signals.  This standard ensures rugged construction of the equipment and that the equipment will properly handle fire alarm-related signals. For example, panels listed to CAN/ULC-S559 must be able to prioritize fire alarm signals above all others and have that signal received at its SRC within 60 seconds of fire alarm activation. Not all security equipment is able to perform these functions, so becoming S561 listed ensures the proper handling of signals from an equipment perspective.

SRC Construction

CAN/ULC-S561 covers how the signals receiving centre is built, ensuring the building that is being used for the monitoring of your fire alarm is robust and secure.  Fire detection, 24/7 back-up power, fire-rated doors, controlled security access are but 3 components of the construction of the SRC that CAN/ULC-S561 covers.  Becoming listed ensures that the company you have chosen to monitor your property has invested in security and redundancy so that your building remains monitored in the most trying circumstance.  FMC remained fully active throughout the duration of the 2003 Blackkout.

Fire Alarm Monitoring Transmitter Installation

The CAN/ULC-S561 standard also covers how the monitoring transmitter is installed in your building for maximum security.  Mechanically protected wiring between the fire alarm and the transmitter, tamper-protected locked cabinets, and dedicated 120VAC hardwired circuits (to be provided by your electrician) are 3 main components of the installation.  Installers must also be listed with the ULC, and installations are randomly inspected by the ULC on a yearly basis.  FMC is a full service company, meaning that we own and operate our own SRC and maintain our own service fleet ensuring that both sides of the monitoring equation (installation and monitoring) are ULC-listed.  Being monitored by a ULC-listed monitoring station is NOT the same as have a ULC-listed installer and ULC-listed installation. More on this later.

Communications

CAN/ULC-S561 also regulates how alarms are transmitted to our SRC.  This can be done through “active” or “passive” means, a topic which is covered more in depth in this article. Different forms of communication can be used, and this is covered more in depth here.

Fire Alarm Monitoring Signal Handling

The ULC-S561 standard regulates how alarms are handled when received at our SRC.  Fire alarms must be dispatched to the fire department within 30 seconds of receipt without verification.  Where available, FMC utilizes OPEN ACCESS™ to achieve this time criteria, electronically sending pre-verified data to participating fire departments, ensuring every fire alarm signal received at FMC is handled within this time constraint. Other alarm conditions also have time criteria attached (trouble conditions must be dispatched within 5 minutes, communication troubles within 5 minutes, etc.).  The ULC audits FMC’s performance within these alarm handling criteria, so we are held accountable to our performance by an independent 3rd party.

There are many criteria to fulfill to become a ULC-listed monitored site, as you can see.  The easiest way to ensure that the monitoring at your site meets all of these criteria is to ask for a ULC Certificate.  These certificates are the only physical proof that the entire process mentioned above meets the ULC criteria, and most fire prevention offices only accept this certificate as proof – a letter from your security company stating you are being monitored by a ULC-listed monitoring company doesn’t cut it.
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If you’d like to know more about the ULC program, what it may take to become ULC-listed or have questions about your current installation as it relates to CAN/ULC-S561, please contact us and we’d be happy to take time to visit your site and go over this with you in person.

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