While most Fire Departments have embraced the CAN/ULC-S561-03 fire alarm monitoring standard, and are asking building owners to do the same, there remain many facilities using monitoring providers which have not (or cannot) provide monitoring to the S561 standard.
There are many benefits for a building owner to obtaining the ULC certificate for the monitoring of their fire alarm or sprinkler system.
The simple act of a building owner subscribing to a CAN/ULC-S561-03 certificate in essence shifts a large portion of the building owner’s responsibility back to their fire monitoring provider. Once a fire monitoring provider requests and delivers a CAN/ULC-S561-03 certificate on behalf of a building or customer they are stating that this particular building’s fire monitoring services are installed and operating in accordance with CAN/ULC-S561-03’s standard for “Installation and Services for Fire Signal Receiving Centers and Systems”.
Providing the building owner continues with the certificate subscription, they have now placed the onus on their fire monitoring provider to ensure they meet the prescribed requirements as laid out in the standard which includes:
- Contacting the appropriate public fire service communication centre within a maximum of 30 seconds of the receipt of the signal (OPEN ACCESS™ can be used to satisfy this time requirement)
- Contacting the subscriber’s designate within 5 minutes to indicate that a trouble and/or supervisory signal in the fire alarm control unit has been received by the Signal Receiving Centre (SRC)
- Contacting the subscriber’s designate within 5 minutes of receiving a failure to communicate signal from the fire monitoring panel has been received by the SRC
This is just a few of the requirements of the standard, and if the monitoring provider does not meet these requirements they are subject to penalization by the Underwriters’ Laboratories of Canada (ULC), to include removal of their listing as a standards’ compliant business.
This leads to the question: Is it not scary to think that if you in fact do not have a CAN/ULC-S561-03 certificate for your fire monitoring system, that your fire monitoring provider does not need to meet these requirements, and face no consequences if they do not perform to a level as set out in the Fire Code?
This brings us back to the independent study conducted by Leber/Rubes in which they discovered that it took, on average, two full minutes for fire alarm signals to be delivered to the fire service communication centre (Fire Department) from a monitoring company. Two minutes; and the CAN/ULC-S61-03 requirements are a maximum of 30 seconds. Time is precious when dealing with fire. If the Ontario Fire Code has adopted this standard, then why are building owners still settling for anything less than requirements as determined by fire safety officials?
The issuing of a certificate stating compliance with CAN/ULC-S561 is not something that is automatic from every monitoring provider when monitoring a fire alarm or sprinkler system. As we’ve noted previously (here and here), there are many requirements to a ULC -S561 certification and it’s something that the building owner may need to request.
Fire Codes have been established to set the bar for life safety of the public, and choosing to ignore those standards is simply increasing the risk to any person affected by your building.
If there’s a message that I can leave with everyone it would be to ask your monitoring provider if they are CAN/ULC-S561-03 listed for the Installation and Services for Fire Signal Receiving Centres and Systems, and if they can issue a certificate stating this compliance for your fire alarm monitoring situation. If the answer to either of these questions is no, are you comfortable with that?
At Fire Monitoring of Canada Inc. we firmly believe that fire monitoring is a valuable life safety service, and accepting anything less than a CAN/ULC-S561-03 certified fire monitoring system leaves you vulnerable.