AS1670 Access to detectors, control and indicating equipment

Australian Standard AS 1670.1:2008 provides limited guidance to the installation and subsequent access to fire detectors as well as control and indicating equipment. This article covers the requirements in the Standard and follows up with scenarios where limited access to this equipment could adversely affect routine servicing and maintenance.

CEO, Firewize

Section 3 of Australian Standard AS1670.1:2008 sets out the installation requirements for "components and other equipment" forming part of a fire detection and alarm system.  For the purpose of this article, we take the components and other equipment to include a fire detector (heat or smoke), input modules, output control relays, control and indicating equipment, power supplies and batteries.

Clause 3.1 of the Standard states the following;

Clause 3.1 - General
Components and other equipment shall be installed in locations that will not prejudice their performance and reliability. Components shall be installed so that the correct performance is maintained.  Where the sensitivity of detectors can be varied, the sensitivity shall be set within the limits of the appropriate Standard to which the fire detectors were assessed.

Access for servicing all components shall be provided.

All too often we find new fire detection and alarm systems installed with components and other equipment installed in locations that are inaccessible at the time of installation or become inaccessible due to other conditions.

Access for servicing components

Clause 3.1 states that "access for servicing all components shall be provided" however this requirement is sufficiently liberal in its interpretation that building owners are inheriting fire detection and alarm systems where the access to components is impractical or unsafe.  Examples include;

  • fire detectors installed above hard plaster ceilings;
  • fire detectors installed where obstructions that limit safe access;
  • components with restricted or minimal access;
  • components in unsafe or protective containment (PC) facilities;
  • components installed in roof spaces away from walkways;
  • ceilings or roof spaces that are inaccessible;
  • tenant space in Class 5 (office) buildings.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does provide some typical examples where we find access for servicing either impractical or unsafe.

The presence of hazardous materials

The presence of hazardous materials is another factor that can adversely affect access for servicing of components (of a fire detection and alarm system).  There are many examples of this in all types of buildings, however this seems to a more prevalent problem in hospitals, medical facilities, medical research, aged care facilities where the presence of hazardous materials (list below) could limit access;

  • asbestos;
  • synthetic mineral fibre;
  • lead;
  • mercury;
  • mould, fungi.

Providing access at the time of installation and for future access needs to be a consideration of the Standard and will help ensure access for servicing of components.

Methods of providing access to components

Hierarchy of Controls

All too often installers provide access to a component such as a fire detector (concealed space) by way of an access hatch or panel.  These panels need to enable reasonable and safe access to the component, but that may not be enough.

Designers and installers should provide access to components through the filter of the "Hierarchy of Controls" such as elimination or substitution;

  • Elimination
    Eliminating the need for a component to be installed in a location is the first and obvious choice for enabling access. Examples include redesigning the system to remove the need for the component or moving the component to an alternative location so that it is accessible.
  • Substitution
    Substitute the risk by installing a component such as a fire detector using a bracket that enables safe access to the detector from below the ceiling.

Of course there are many other examples of controls that do not significantly add to the expense of the installation that should be considered.  That said event if there is a slightly higher installation cost, the total cost of ownership, over the lifetime of the component being in service would be dramatically lower, while improving accessibility and safety.

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