UL Helps Security Industry Pass the Test

On March 24, 1894, 25-year-old electrician/entrepreneur William Henry Merrill set out to prove electricity could be mankind’s servant rather than its master. Advances in alternating current, concerns about untested networked electrical devices and the mysteries of new fire alarm systems created the perfect opportunity for Merrill, who started in a one-room testing and certification laboratory that eventually became Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

Today, there are more than 64,000 manufacturers supplying UL-certified products. It is estimated that in excess of 17 billion UL Marks, or labels, were applied to these products in 2001. Currently, UL represents 175 inspection centers located in 65 countries. There are currently greater than 840 UL standards.

Let’s take a closer look at the UL testing process, what certification means for manufacturers, dealers, municipal authorities and end users, and how it is working with industry associations to achieve better standards and inform people about its services.

Approval Requires Extensive Testing

If a manufacturer was having a passive infrared (PIR) motion-sensing unit tested for example, the device would receive a Category Control Number such as ANSR for Intrusion Detection Devices. The device would then be scheduled for testing against at least one UL standard. In the case of the PIR, the UL testing standard is UL639.

In testing the PIR device, the following UL639 standard tests would be completed: Sensitivity; Range; Under/Over Voltage; Variable Temperature; Humidity; Corrosion; Overload; Endurance; Jarring; Vibration; Dielectric Voltage Breakdown; Temperature; Enclosed Mechanical Strength; 30-Day Stability Operations; Static Discharge; Radio Frequency Interference (RFI); Signal Line/Internally Induced Transients; AC Induction; and Abnormal Operations.

UL Unit Concentrates on National Security

With new national security initiatives such as Homeland Security, UL has been busy realigning existing security service areas in order to become more focused on the urgent and heightened security concerns of the U.S. government, private industry and the public. It has internally taken its already unique security certification and service areas and concentrated them into what is now called the Security and Signaling Business Unit.

One of the new tasks for the Security and Signaling Business Unit is working with the U.S. government’s Technical Support Working Group (TSWG) of the Office of Counter-Terrorism. This TSWG project includes members from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Energy, as well as Homeland Security.

Due to the expediency and budgeting concerns of the Homeland Security initiative, the government is interested in applying plain, off-the-shelf (POTS) equipment to combat terrorism. However, it was discovered early on that more than just manufacturers’ specifications data was needed to satisfy government security performance modeling.

UL Assures Quality Throughout the Supply Chain

SIA is expected to provide at least a of couple dozen security equipment standards during the next two years, at which time UL will provide its services of product and services certification to the newly created standards. Currently, UL provides the security industry, its manufacturers, dealers, service providers and customers with a variety of quality assurance services.

Manufacturers submit their products in order to pass rigorous testing. Commercial/residential customers and jurisdictional authorities look to UL for independent certification of burglar and fire alarm product and service standards. Alarm dealers look to UL to provide the structure and program material to assist them in providing certification of fire and burglar alarm systems and services.

UL has been working on many fronts in a major effort to inform non-UL savvy security customers and dealers on what it has to offer. Classroom seminars and Web site information have been two popular programs.

Web Site, Seminars Help Spread the Word

UL realized that not only did it have to get the word out about its services to alarm dealers, but also had to reach out more to assist jurisdictional authorities, or as they are more commonly known, authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ). These folks are the fire marshals and code inspectors for fire alarm systems.

In the past year, UL has worked with organizations such as CSAA and has been able to increase the number of participating cities from 70 to 140. UL seminars, which are usually one- or two-day sessions, typically attract 25 to 100 attendees.

The Code Authority is a UL newsletter for AHJs and the code community. UL has a considerable amount of high-quality informational flyers and videos available. As mentioned, all this material can be ordered online at the UL Web site (www.ul.com).

UL and CSAA have jointly launched a dealer informational program. The seminars have been specially designed for alarm dealers considering certification. Attendees are encouraged to bring photographs, drawings and plans for discussion of what is expected in a UL audit and installation.

UL has also been discussing future programs for non-UL central station operators with other security organizations, such as the NBFAA. Presently, seminar activity has been concentrated in Northern California, Minneapolis/St. Paul, the eastern seaboard and Florida.

Discount programs are also being discussed with various security trade organizations. It has been indicated that, with increased participation in the program, UL inspectors will be able to consolidate their field certification inspections, thereby substantially reducing the cost per site visit.

Customer Relations Program to Soon Hit U.S.

UL’s Web site has gone through a major upgrade during the past year and now includes a new Oracle Customer Relations Management (CRM) system. This system is presently servicing Canada and is being rolled out in Europe. The CRM system for the U.S. and its UL Northbrook (Ill.) facility is expected to be brought online in April.

The new CRM system will not only provide new services online but will also have dedicated CRM personnel to assist with daily processing inquiries. According to UL, the Canadian CRM rollout has been quite successful in improving customer service.

UL, SIA Join Forces for Control Panel Standards

Another exciting program at UL is its joint marketing program with SIA. A few years ago, SIA created new control panel standards in an effort to reduce false alarms. The control panel standard, CP-01, was submitted by SIA to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It then became the nationally recognized ANSI/SIA CP-01-2000 standard.

A similar PIR-01 standard, ANSI/SIA PIR-01-2000, is also recognized. Several control panel manufacturers have already submitted their equipment to UL and now reflect the new SIA/UL CP-01 label.

UL has indicated that the security manufacturing industry has been a bit slow in implementing the CP-01 standard. If the market is not asking for the features, it is difficult to justify the expense of certification.

NFPA Codes Among Those on the Horizon

Looking down the road, alarm dealers can anticipate legislative bodies and jurisdictions around the country to start implementing false alarm ordinances that will require systems to be UL/SIA CP-01 (FAR) compliant.

Additionally, new and upcoming codes, such as NFPA 730, are just getting off the ground and must go through a shaking-out process. Per NFPA, the scope of this code is

Once these model codes become approved and recognized by the building code community and organizations such as Building Officials and Code Administrators Int’l (BOCA), then the security industry, government and law enforcement will have a new common platform similar to existing NFPA 72 fire codes.

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