Where there is smoke, is there Fire?


Article by Schalk Bothma

Fire alarm cable has always been a contentious issue, especially in South Africa, but it seems of late that the market has become a free-for-all when it comes to supplying PH30 and PH120 Cable.

Cables used for the purpose of fire detection differ from cables used for other services. Fire alarm cables are designed to provide circuit integrity during the fire while exposed to high temperatures. These cables are carrying power and data to alarm sounders and visible fire indications during the course of the fire to ensure people in all areas of the building can evacuate safely.

Fires have a high cost in terms of loss of human life and damages to industrial plants, structures and other property. Research states that the most commonly identified cause of death from a fire accident is being overcome by gas or smoke (Department for Communities and Local Government – formerly ODPM – Fire Statistics, United Kingdom, 2005).

It goes without saying, one should not cut corners when installing a piece of cable that could in the end be responsible for the life of a human being. Never has the saying been more true “penny wise, pound foolish” or even more concerning “life foolish”!

The Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings Standard BS 5839-1:2002 — Part 1: Code of practice for system design, installation, commissioning and maintenance clearly states that copper cables must be used.

We are seeing more and more CCA (Copper Coated Aluminium) cable being sold in South Africa, there is a massive difference in how firstly power is conducted over copper cable vs aluminium cable and secondly and more importantly how aluminium reacts to heat vs copper.

Due to suppliers cutting corners, and contractors being put under pressure to provide cheapest possible price, CCA cable is being dumped in South Africa more and more these days, not only in fire alarm cable but in other communication cables as well.

The BS EN50200:2015 testing standard is seen as the benchmark test for the fire resistance of cable including PH30 and PH120 fire alarm cable. Although many of the PH30 and PH120 cables available in South Africa has this standard printed on the sheath of the cable, it is merely that, printed on the sheath with no proper evidence of conforming to this standard in South Africa.

We do however have a third-party certification and testing authority in South Africa with the needed certification and testing equipment to verify if the cable you are buying conforms to the BS EN50200:2015 standards.

Other considerations to keep in mind when deciding on which cable to use for you next installation, if the above was not enough to make you think:

1. The overall thickness of the cable, is your pathways big enough?

2. Overall construction of the cable, will the sheath stay intact when pulling through pathways?

3. Is the insulation over the COPPER cores fire resistant silicon rubber or PVC?

4. Is the overall sheath HFFR (Halogen Free Flame Retardant) or something else?

At the very least, why not do a small test for yourself, expose the different supplier’s cable to a small open flame and see for yourself; you will be amazed at the result.

1. Remember it is easy to spot the fake CCA (Copper Coated Aluminium) cable as well:

2. Compare the weight of the same amount of cable – aluminium is much lighter.

3. Burn the bare strand or strands – aluminium disappears and copper stays.

4. Price – Counterfeit cables are often sold well below the average price. You may come across an unbelievably good deal that could save your company hundreds of Rands. It is likely these cables are counterfeit and buying them will cause problems that could cost your company more in the end. More often it is better to pay a little bit more for cables you know are legitimate and avoid the risk of winding up with counterfeit parts.

5. Source – When shopping for cables and components, stick with reputable sellers. Stay away from fly-by-night suppliers. If you are unsure of a company’s standing, research the company to find out if they have been reported for selling counterfeit cables.

Cable Feeder Systems Africa was established in 1995, and is a value-added distributor of cable networking systems and equipment, built on the foundation of cost effective quality products with responsive service.

We carry a variety of Fire Resistant Cable stock – please contact use to discuss any of your needs.