Major loss of property and life can be avoided by eliminating non-certified cables, according to a fire safety expert. To decrease fire incidents in the UAE, the civil defence authorities have been working closely with factories and cable manufacturing companies to ensure fire resistant products are installed in public places.
"Non-certified cables can produce poisonous gases with black smoke obscuring visibility in the event of a fire," said Dr Dragan Andelkovic, chief engineer at Ducab. He made the statement while he gave Khaleej Times an exclusive tour to the new fire testing laboratory opened in 2017.
"The possibility of a major loss in lives due to cable malfunction is the reason behind the establishment of the fire testing lab to ensure all cables are subject to extensive testing during each phase of production. The facility offers various fire and smoke tests of cables especially installed for power supply to equipment used in fire-fighting, elevators, sprinkler pumps and in large complex buildings, where fire strategy involves evacuation of occupants in a phased manner.
"Low Smoke and Zero Halogen features are also put to test to ensure the cable does not emit black smoke or toxic halogen gases, providing for better visibility in the event of a fire and ensuring that sensitive equipment in the surrounding areas is not adversely affected.
"Through the tests, we ensure that all material used will behave predictably in the unfortunate instance of a fire," said Andelkovic.
Types of testing
The lab runs around six tests a day, for a duration that varies to up to three hours, subjecting cable samples to the direct impact of fire, mechanical shock and a water jet simultaneously for different time-related periods, between 30 to 180 minutes.
The intensive tests include the vertical flame, CWZ (fire, water and mechanical impact), smoke density measurement and fire resistance tests where the cables are verified for circuit integrity during a fire.
"In principle, we run about 10 tests per day, but smaller cables take one minute of testing, while the larger ones that supply corridors and emergency lighting, for example, can take up to three hours of testing," said Dr Dragan Andelkovic, chief engineer at Ducab. He stated that the key is to subject cables to real-life fire conditions where larger ones can withstand up to two hours of fire without propagation.
Two types of cables are subjected to different tests. The cables that prevent flame propagation are tested without power supply, while the flame resistant or fire survival cables operate in normal conditions transferring power or signals are tested under mechanical impact, water and flame all the time.
"Just like a typical fire condition in a building where a cable in fire alarms and emergency lighting is subjected to sprinkles, flame and mechanical stress, we subject the cable sample to same conditions and up to 950-degree fire. It should continue operating without any smoke emission so people can have clear view in evacuation cases."
In the flammability ladder test, fire was ignited on a thick cable, which can withstand fire up to 30-60 minutes depending on the degree of fire. "If this cable was not fire resistant, it would have burned like a candle and propagated fire everywhere," stated Andlekovic.
Meanwhile, small cables used in kitchen appliances and lighting can withstand 45 degrees Celsius of fire for one minute. "It depends on the cable diameter, the bigger the diameter is, the more it can withstand the heat," said Jayarajan Kadach, test and inspection manager at Ducab. "The material of the cable must be good enough to avoid the spread of fire in a given space and withstand as much heat as possible."
The company has been working closely with the construction industry to ensure cables and accessories are certified to meet strict codes of practice and reduce risk to life and property.
Source: Khaleej Times
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