Is Massive Recall of Fire Alarms Possible?

November 11, 2019

By Larry Anderson
SecurityInformed.com

Could millions of burglar and fire alarm control units be recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission?

That could be the upshot when the independent agency of the U.S. government rules on a ‘Complaint of Non-Conforming Products’ investigation requested on behalf of a consultant/forensic expert who says he has identified non-compliance dangers and vulnerabilities related to the devices.

Breaching security standards

Jeffrey Zwirn, an alarm and security forensic expert, says he has identified problems with the alarm devices and has posted online a series of videos confirming that they do not operate in conformance with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 985 and 103 and NFPA 72 (National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code) Standards. Specifically, the single data-bus circuits of the hardwired devices can be short-circuited and become either fully or partially non-functional.

The U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission is tasked with promoting the safety of consumer products by addressing “unreasonable risks” of injury, such as risk of fire, chemical exposure, electrical malfunction or mechanical failure. Typically, the CSPC evaluates such requests and determines what corrective action, if any, is appropriate, in this case possibly by the end of the year.

IDS Research & Development Inc. (Zwirn’s company) and Connaughton Group LLC, a product integrity consulting firm, sent a request to the CSPC on Sept. 20 asking for an investigation of products across the North American household fire and burglar alarm control units and commercial burglar and fire alarm control panel category.

Recalling alarm control units

The request estimates that “hundreds of millions” of the units were sold and installed across the United States. They include products sold under brand names such as Honeywell, DSC, NAPCO, ELK Products, and Interlogix. If the recall were to happen, it would be the largest recall in the history of the alarm industry.

The request states: “It is our expert opinion that these non-conforming control panels present a foreseeably dangerous and serious public safety hazard and risk to all of the unsuspecting consumers, their families and business owners who have these control panels installed in their homes and businesses.”

Zwirn has also submitted the products for investigation by UL and Intertek Testing Services Inc., which respectively provide the UL and ETL certification marks and are Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL). Outcomes of those investigations are forthcoming.

Jeffrey Zwirn also promotes and sells a product, The Interceptor, that would address the vulnerability. It is a microprocessor designed to protect the data-bus and auxiliary power output wiring installed throughout a protected premises.

Original story can be found here: https://www.securityinformed.com/insights/massive-recall-burglar-fire-alarms-sb.1571321616.html


3M Could Face “Existential Threat” from Lawsuits

October 6, 2019

Attorneys walk out of U.S. District Court in Charleston on Friday, July 26, 2019, following a meeting on more than 100 lawsuits that were filed against 3M and other companies. Andrew Brown/Staff

8/4/19

By Andrew Brown
The Post and Courier

The fortunes of an American industrial giant that developed Post-it Notes and Scotch Tape could turn in a Charleston courtroom, where 3M Co. is battling claims it contaminated the environment and polluted drinking water across the country.

The Minnesota-based company’s long-term profitability may hinge on how well it defends itself from a mountain of litigation over the production of chemicals known as per-and polyfluorinated substances – PFAS for short.

For decades, 3M was the primary manufacturer of that class of substances, which were used to make commonplace items like nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, stain-resistant carpet and grease-proof food wrappers.

The compounds were also a key ingredient in a firefighting foam that was sprayed at industrial sites, civilian airports and hundreds of military bases around the world.

It’s that product that landed 3M in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

At least 110 federal lawsuits involving the firefighting foam were consolidated here this year.

Last month, dozens of lawyers representing cities, states, individuals and water utilities in those cases packed into District Judge Richard Gergel’s courtroom to begin sorting out the high-stakes litigation.

They are all seeking damages for the chemicals that leached into the ground, seeped into drinking water and entered people’s bloodstreams.

3M maintains there is no evidence to prove the chemicals have ever harmed anyone, and it emphasized that it phased out production of PFAS chemicals in the early 2000s.

But medical scientists continue to scrutinize some of the compounds for possible links to immune problems, developmental issues, thyroid disorders and kidney and testicular cancers.

The cases involving the firefighting foam aren’t the only liabilities 3M could face as a result of its decades-long use of the chemicals. The company, which was founded in 1902, also faces allegations it contaminated the environment and drinking water near several of its manufacturing sites.

The scope of the alleged contamination is so large that it’s being compared to earlier battles over asbestos, which bankrupted companies and spawned the longest-running string of litigation in U.S. history.

That reality was not lost on Gergel, who has been assigned to manage the cases in Charleston.

He told the attorneys who crowded into his courtroom last month the litigation could pose an “existential threat” to 3M and the other defendants that manufactured, marketed and sold the firefighting foam.

“Right now, we have 110 cases,” Gergel said, “and if I’m reading the tea leaves right, there’s a lot more coming.”

“The liability could be extraordinary,” he added.

The attorneys for 3M have developed more than a few arguments to defend the Fortune 500 company, which is currently valued at more than $100 billion on Wall Street.

The chemical-laden foam 3M produced, the attorneys argue, may have been altered or misused.

The contamination, they assert, may have been caused by negligence on the part of military personnel and others who handled the foam during accidents and fire-training exercises.

The chemicals 3M utilized, the attorneys pointed out, were never regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Original article can be found here: https://www.postandcourier.com/business/m-others-may-face-existential-threat-from-charleston-court-verdict/article_fefa2990-afbb-11e9-b95d-0bbbc632b8fb.html


9th Triennial International Aircraft Fire and Cabin Safety Research Conference

September 9, 2019

The 9th Triennial International Aircraft Fire and Cabin Safety Research Conference will be held at the Resorts Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA, October 28-31, 2019.

The conference aims to inform the international aviation community about recent, ongoing, and planned research in transport category airplane fire and cabin safety. The conference is jointly sponsored by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the National Civil Aviation Agency – Brazil (ANAC), the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA), and the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB).

The Cabin Safety Evacuation and Operational Issues sessions of the conference will comprise studies related to in-flight safety, and crash/post-crash survivability. Traditionally, research topics have included exit and escape slide performance, aircraft interior arrangements, water survival equipment standards, cabin crew procedures, passenger education, and evacuation computer modelling, presented by researchers from around the world.

The crash dynamics sessions will include studies focusing on aircraft-level crash impact performance, as well as studies that address new and emerging occupant injury criteria. These sessions will also include studies regarding the use of analytical modeling in various aspects of occupant protection, particularly where gathering statistically meaningful empirical data is difficult. Previous conference sessions have addressed ditching behavior, energy absorption characteristics of nonmetallic materials, and human tolerance to high levels of lateral loading, among many others.

The fire safety sessions will include presentations on research in lithium battery fire hazards and mitigation, engine/powerplant fire protection, cabin/cockpit fires, heat flux influence in flammability tests, cargo fire protection, and advanced fire research. Previous conference sessions have addressed battery fires, development of new test methods for Appendix F, fire research projects in Europe, full-scale lithium battery testing, fire research materials and characterization.

2019 conference proceedings are available at https://www.fire.tc.faa.gov/2016Conference/conference.asp.

Conference registration is free and is open to anyone with an interest in aircraft fire and cabin safety research. Past attendees have included aviation safety professionals in the areas of engineering, design, operations, maintenance, and research. Attendance at this year’s conference is expected to reach 600-700. Conference registration and hotel reservation details are available at https://www.fire.tc.faa.gov/Meetings/meetings.asp. Conference presenter bios and presentation abstracts will be available on this website soon. Please contact April Horner, CMP, Conference Manager, with any questions at april.ctr.horner@faa.gov.


NAFED Honors Craig Voelkert, Fire Protection Legend

July 29, 2019

July 2019

The National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors (NAFED) recently honored longtime Amerex team member and industry icon, Craig Voelkert, with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Craig exemplified this significant honor through his dedication to progressing the fire suppression industry. His commitment to innovation and industry engagement led to product advancements that are critical elements of life safety.

In the early 1990s, Amerex founder Ned Paine discovered Craig at a Nevada fire school, where he was leading fire-training courses. Ned promptly offered him a position at Amerex. Craig’s responsibilities would include advancing key product innovations, engaging with technical committees and leading interactions with local and federal governments. Since accepting Ned’s offer, he successfully fulfilled these duties and accomplished much more before he retired at the end of 2018.

Craig utilized his expertise and inventive personality to shepherd Amerex into new markets, such as pre-engineered fire systems for commercial restaurants and vehicles. In addition to his involvement with NAFED, Craig served as the Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (FEMA) president and had various roles on National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) technical committees. Craig and his peers continuously pioneered new code and code improvements, which led to inventions like the K-Class Extinguishers for cooking operations.

With his leadership and vision, Craig leaves a lasting legacy on Amerex and the fire suppression industry. Thank you, Craig, for your meaningful impact. Amerex and our entire industry appreciate your many contributions over the years.

# # #

Media contact:
Jonathan Carter
Marketing Manager
Amerex Fire
205.661.4146
jonathan.carter@amerex-fire.com


Lawsuit Filed Against Multiple Fire Suppression Companies for Poor System Installation

July 15, 2019

Bonfire Restaurant fire May 2016 (Source: Downtown Grill Facebook page)

5/29/19

By Kristin Nelson
WMBF News

CONWAY, SC — A poorly installed fire suppression system is to blame for a massive fire that caused nearly $1 million dollars’ worth in damage to the Bonfire Smokin’ Taqueria restaurant, according to a newly-filed lawsuit.

The insurance company for the restaurant, Selective Way Insurance filed a lawsuit against Ashley Inc., A&A Hood Systems and several unidentified fire suppression installation companies and individuals. The suit states that they were hired to design and install a commercial kitchen fire suppression system for a 48″ Swig and Swine solid fuel smoker.

The lawsuit states that after the suppression system was installed, Ashley Inc. and A&A Hood were responsible for inspecting, cleaning and maintaining the suppression system. The companies were also responsible for inspecting and cleaning the exhaust and duct work for the smoker, according to court documents.

The lawsuit says that on May 9, 2016, Ashley Inc. and A&A Hood certified that it cleaned the exhaust system for the smoker. But it goes on to say that on May 28, 2016, a fire that originated from the smoker spread into the duct work and to other areas of the restaurant.

According to fire crews, about 35% of the fire damage took place in the kitchen area. No one was hurt in the fire.

“The fire spread from the smoker because of an accumulation of grease and combustible materials inside the duct work,” the lawsuit says. “The suppression system did not operate because it was deficient, unsafe and not compliant.”

Court documents say that the failure of the suppression system and the accumulation of grease and combustible materials caused the fire to spread and led to $835,000 in damage.

The lawsuit claims that Ashley Inc. and A&A Hood breached their duties to the restaurant and demands that the defendants pay $835,000 with interest, costs and other relief that the judge deems proper under the circumstances.

The insurance company is asking for a jury trial in the case.

The original story can be found here: https://www.wmbfnews.com/2019/05/30/lawsuit-faulty-fire-suppression-system-led-massive-blaze-bonfire-smokin-taqueria/


Raytheon-UTC Merger Highlights America’s Edge in R&D

June 28, 2019

The United Technology headquarters in Farmington, Conn., June 10.
Photo: Pat Eaton-Robb/Associated Press

6/10/19

By The Editorial Board
The Wall Street Journal

The decline and fall of American manufacturing is a oft-told story and usually fiction. The reality is that the U.S. retains significant comparative advantage in advanced manufacturing, as the merger of Raytheon Co. and United Technologies Corp. that was announced highlights.

The all-stock transaction would create Raytheon Technologies Corp., which the companies value at about $160 billion and would be second only to Boeing among U.S. defense suppliers. Raytheon, which makes Tomahawk cruise missiles and other advanced weapons, will add patents and expertise from UTC’s jet-engine and aerospace divisions.

Last year the two companies spent nearly $5 billion on R&D. The CEOs say cost savings will let the combined company increase spending on research, helping preserve the U.S. lead in defense technology as China expands its spending and military footprint.

For UTC, a conglomerate built in the 20th century, this bet on R&D is a long-coming adaptation to market pressure. CEO Greg Hayes has been trying to streamline the company by focusing on aviation and defense, and UTC is spinning off its Otis elevator and Carrier air-conditioning units over the next year. Those businesses made up a shrinking share of the firm’s sales, and meantime UTC acquired avionics company Rockwell Collins to expand in aerospace.

The marriage to Raytheon will complete UTC’s makeover, but it’s worth noting how political pressure may have delayed the transition. As President-elect in 2016, Donald Trump used Carrier as a political prop by demanding that UTC keep open an Indiana plant where it makes Carrier air conditioners.

Mr. Trump offered $7 million in subsidies over 10 years if UTC preserved at least 700 jobs and spent millions on domestic investment. It was an offer Mr. Hayes couldn’t refuse. But such industrial policy can’t overcome the laws of economics, and Carrier has continued to lay off workers at the Indiana plant as the subsidies weren’t enough to make up the costs saved by shifting jobs to Mexico.

Meanwhile, UTC added a total of 28,700 jobs from 2014-2018, and over the years has paid 38,000 employees to get a college degree. Raytheon created 6,000 new jobs in the same period. In this era of cynicism about business, politicians focus on the layoffs, not the investment in talent that companies know they need to succeed.

The merger also underscores the continuing vitality of U.S. high-value-added products. From 2009-2017, U.S. employment in advanced manufacturing rose 6%, even as automation has rapidly raised output, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. In 2016 defense and other advanced industries accounted for 60% of the total value of U.S. exports.

This advantage in high-value products comes from America’s edge in research and higher education, and it is likely to endure much longer than a strategy to outdo foreign exporters by competing on price in low-margin commodity businesses. At least it will if America can fill its growing need for engineers, either by improving education or inviting more immigrants with high-tech skills.

President Trump wondered on CNBC Monday if the tie-up would “take away more competition” in defense. His assent is necessary because, in addition to federal oversight, the Pentagon can use its clout as the top buyer to influence mergers in the defense industry.

Yet there’s little evidence that consolidation in defense leads to sluggish competition. A study released in February by the Center for Strategic and International Studies showed that mergers among defense contractors from 2000-2015 didn’t lead to higher prices. Raytheon CEO Tom Kennedy said Sunday that merger efficiencies would allow lower prices and bring up to half a billion dollars in savings to taxpayers.

The new company’s success will depend in part on rising defense spending in coming years, which is far from certain with the 2020 presidential election looming. Yet even if a Democratic President slashes spending on defense, the combined Raytheon Technologies would be better positioned to cut waste and sustain the investment that drives American security.

Appeared in the June 11, 2019, print edition.

The original article can be found here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-merger-bet-on-a-u-s-strength-11560206583


NFPA Battery Standard Could Impact Data Center UPS Designs

May 13, 2019

A battery room inside a data center campus in Richmond, Va. These batteries provide temporary emergency power for UPS systems. (Photo: Rich Miller)

4/1/19

By Rich Miller
Data Center Frontier

PHOENIX, Ariz. — A new standard being developed by the National Fire Protection Association could have a big impact on the use of batteries in UPS systems, according to a group of data center energy experts, who are seeking to mobilize the industry to seek revisions.

The new NFPA 855 standard was developed to provide safety guidance for the growing use of lithium-ion batteries in uninterruptible power supply systems (UPS) that provide emergency power in data centers and other mission-critical facilities.

NFPA 855 includes new design and testing protocols for lithium-ion UPS systems. But data center professionals say the standard has been broadened in ways that could alter current practices in deploying other types of data center UPS systems, and could potentially be applied to existing facilities.

“It’s a work in progress, but it’s impact would be profound,” said Ed Rafter, a Senior Associate at GBA (George Butler Associates), and former executive at The Uptime Institute. “The problem is that most folks in the data center industry are unfamiliar with NFPA 855.”

A group of concerned data center executives sent out a bulletin last week urging the industry to provide feedback on NFPA 855, which is open for comments through April 29. If adopted in its current form, the new standard “has the potential to disrupt all data center construction in all jurisdictions that have adopted NFPA standards,” the bulletin warned. “As written this standard can be applied retroactively to existing battery installations.”

Why NFPA Standards Matter

The NFPA is a non-profit group that develops codes and standards for the fire marshals and inspectors who enforce fire codes in cities and towns across the country. Its recommendations govern the work of AHJs (Authorities Having Jurisdiction) who inspect construction of data centers and other buildings.

NFPA 855 (Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage) would impact all battery installations providing more than 70 kilowatts (kW) of power, which includes nearly all data centers, which typically install emergency power systems to protect many megawatts of IT capacity. Sections of the new standard are already being implemented in Los Angeles, New York and other cities.

The data center UPS market has historically been dominated by valve-regulated lead acid batteries (VRLA). In recent years the industry has begun adopting lithium-ion batteries, which are commonplace in mobile devices like smartphones and laptop computers.

UPS systems using lithium-ion batteries offer multiple advantages over lead-acid batteries, including a longer lifetime, reduced weight and footprint, and less rigid cooling requirements.

But lithium-ion batteries also come with fire risks, as seen in incidences of smartphones catching fire. When improperly managed or stored, a lithium-ion battery can reach a “thermal runaway” state more easily than other types of batteries. A primary benefit of lithium-ion – its ability to store large amounts of energy – can become problematic in suppressing a fire. Advocates of lithium-ion UPS systems say these concerns can be safely managed with monitoring.

New Battery Tech, New Rules

Lithium-ion batteries are one of several new types of energy storage systems the NFPA is integrating into its fire safety standards, including storage systems to support photovoltaic solar panels and electric vehicles.

The changes in NFPA 855 prompted a response from members of the IEEE Power and Energy Society’s Energy Storage and Stationary Battery Committee (ESSB), who circulated an informational bulletin to data center professionals to raise awareness of the issues it may create for data centers.

“The effort to standardize and codify installations of Li-Ion batteries as well as other new technologies is praiseworthy,” members of the IEE ESSB wrote. “However, the 855 committee has lumped in lead acid and Ni-Cd batteries. These batteries have a very long track record of safety across multiple industries. The impact of this overreach has the potential to stall construction and retroactively require redesign of existing data centers.”

As an example, one section could require more batteries to be housed inside cabinets. Section 4.2.1 of NFPA 855 “requires all lead acid battery, vented (VLA) or sealed (VRLA) to be UL listed unless they are in cabinets and listed under UL 1778. This especially impacts data centers that use an open battery rack configuration,” the bulletin reports, adding that it is “is not aware of any UL listed lead acid batteries for stationary applications.”

“You would be required to disperse the batteries so they take up a larger amount of space,” said Rafter.

Data center power experts are encouraging manufacturers, engineers, builders and end users to review and understand the impact of the draft standard, as well as urging NFPA members to attend the NFPA Conference & Expo June 17-21, 2019 in San Antonio and vote to return the draft standard to committee for revision. NFPA members have until April 29, 2019 to file a Notice of Intent To Make A Motion (NITMAM) on this standard.

The upcoming BattCon conference in April will feature a panel on NFPA 855 led by Bill Cantor, a Vice President for TPI and long-time member of IEEE ESSB.

Data Center Frontier contacted the NFPA for a response to the concerns raised by the data center groups, but we have not yet had a response.

Testing at Issue for Lithium-Ion Deployments

The focus on lithium-ion batteries comes as these systems are beginning to gain traction in the market. “2018 was a turning point,” said Jeff Kessen, Vice President for Global Energy Storage at Vertiv, a leading vendor of UPS systems. “The number of data centers buying lithium-ion grew markedly last year, The adoption rate exceeded 25 percent of our new UPS sales by the end of last year. The rate of growth is significant, and I expect that to continue this year.”

The NFPA 855 standard calls for “large-scale fire testing” of batteries to ensure that fires will not spread, citing a testing methodology from UL (Underwriters Laboratory) which offers certification and safety testing for industrial products. The UL 9540A protocol specifically tests lithium-ion batteries for thermal runaway conditions, but industry say the guidance may not be thorough enough.

“Battery manufacturers will need to run the large scale fire tests soon, as there’s going to be increasing appetite for the data,” said Kessen. “A central issue is that there’s a specification of a fire test, but UL has not specified pass/fail targets. So there’s some ambiguity in the market.” Kessen said that leaves more interpretation of test results up to local AHJs.

“I suspect we’re going to have a protracted period where AHJs are going to need to know more about lithium-ion batteries,” said Kessen. “I think the risk to the industry is that different AHJs might look at the same data and reach different conclusions. For the short term, since the AHJ has all the responsibility and authority, anyone who wants to site (lithium-ion systems) in a facility should engage the local authority early in the process.”

The NFPA 855 standard calls for lithium-ion batteries to be used in groupings no larger than 250 kW, with each grouping separated from others by at least three feet. That creates a design consideration for power rooms.

“The implication for the industry is that if you do have to spread your lithium-ion cabinets three feet apart, it impacts the space available,” said Kessen. “I don’t think it changes the economics, as lithium-ion is justified based on its longer life.”

Seeking Context on Existing UPS Systems

A concern for some data center professionals is the potential that NFPA 855 measures designed to assess and manage lithium-ion systems could be applied to existing systems.

“We’re working with IEEE to put this into context,” said Rafter. “It started out as a response to lithium ion batteries, because of the incidents with lithium-ion batteries. There are very real concerns. It started out as an LI-specific document and grew into encompassing every battery technology. Some of those technologies have been in existence for a number of years.”

“You currently don’t have anything grandfathered in,” said Dan Lambert, Senior Product Manger at ZincFive, and also a member of the IEEE ESSB committee. “It’s not a single pain point. It’s going to have impacts on hospitals as well as data centers.”

For the data center industry, awareness is an important first step in crafting a response to the NFPA recommendations. Right now, awareness remains low, according to Lambert, who sampled his audience during a session on battery technology at last week’s Data Center World event.

“I asked how many people were aware of NFPA 855,” said Lambert. “There were 84 people in the room and only six raised their hand.”

Original story can be found here: https://datacenterfrontier.com/new-nfpa-battery-standard-could-impact-data-center-ups-designs/