Security Watch: Inside ISO’s New Fire Detection and Alarm Standard

Q&A with Peter Parsons on the international design and installation guidelines

A fire detection and alarm system must be installed and maintained correctly by experienced personnel. This is where ISO has stepped in, with its new international ISO 7240-14:2013 standard on the design and installation of fire systems for commercial and industrial buildings. Here’s an excerpt from a Q&A with Peter Parsons, ISO’s Chairman for this standard. 


What exactly is ISO 7240-14 and can you give examples or an overview of the types of standards it sets for installation and maintenance of fire detection/alarm systems and their components?

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has published a new Standard for the design and installation of fire detection and alarm systems. To give the Standard its full title, ISO 7240-14:2013, Design, installation, commissioning and service of fire detection and fire alarm systems in and around buildings, we see it is more than just a system design and installation Standard. The new Standard references multiple product Standards that have been published by ISO over the past decade, specifying the requirements that will provide a life-safety system for installation in and around buildings.

ISO 7240-14 establishes a minimum-requirement Standard for life-safety – to provide building occupants with early warning so they can take action (such as evacuation) in the event of a fire. Property protection is also a concurrent outcome, but property protection is essentially a commercial business risk decision for a building owner to address independently of what has been specified in ISO 7240-14.

How will this new standard impact the security dealer/integrator community?

ISO 7240-14 requires that industry professionals have the required level of knowledge and experience to undertake the work required by their role. ISO took the decision that ISO 7240-14 should not be a tutorial on how a fire detection and alarm system (FDAS) should work. Other documents, including existing national codes and standards, already exist that contain large sections of commentary (eg BS 5839-1) and informative annexes (eg NFPA 72) that provide industry professionals with guidance information on the selection and use of equipment.

ISO 7240-14 is aligned with the way a project will proceed, through the stages of design, installation, commissioning and approval of a fire detection and alarm system. Each of these key stages include subclauses that identify both the responsibilities and qualifications required for each role. For example, the design of the FDAS shall be undertaken by persons having professional qualifications or experience relevant to the scope of the particular design requirements. Experience may include:

  • an engineer with proven experience in the field of fire detection and alarm technology,
  • an experienced consulting company, or
  • an experienced FDAS designer.

Once a system has been approved, additional requirements are included that specify requirements for how it should be used in normal operation, and regular service requirements to maintain the reliable operation of the FDAS. An emergency management plan is an important component of the use of the fire detection and alarm system to ensure on-site personnel are trained and exercised for actions required in the event of a fire.


Does this standard apply to a specific type of facility?

The Standard is applicable to most commercial and industrial buildings. Exceptions exists, where special considerations may be required. One of the strengths of ISO 7240-14 is that although prescriptive requirements are specified, such as where detection is required to be installed, the designer can vary from these requirements, as long as the documentation shows how the design objectives will be achieved. This includes documenting all assumptions that are made. Detailed design documentation allows approval authorities to make informed decisions regarding the integrity of the FDAS and its ability to provide early warning to building occupants.

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