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No (CPR) compliance, no (fire) safety

Presented by Nicola Scirocco

Electricity has become a vital part of everyday life over the past 100 years. However, in addition to the benefits it brings, electricity can also be dangerous if not managed properly. Every year, about 5000 people in the EU die because of a residential fire.

Electrical safety issues are mainly the result of an unsuitable design, an inappropriate use of the installation or a lack of proper maintenance. More importantly, poor and sub-standard electrics and fraudulent products are finding their way into the market, increasing the risk of electrical safety issues.

Products’ and systems’ compliance with national and EU standards and regulations are essential for making Europe safer: all cables used in the European Union and permanently installed in any type of building are subject to the Construction Products Regulation (CPR). It is important that cables are compliant with the CPR, to make sure that cables reflecting the appropriate CPR classification are used in buildings to assure the required level of fire safety.

A recent study (May 2021) by Europacable, in collaboration with the Fire Service Academy (partner in the EuroFSA), shows the difference in burning behavior of high-performance cables and basic-performance cables in a realistic environment. With the basic performance, a fire propagates fast over the cables and, when installed horizontal, multiple burning droplets fall onto the floor and keep on burning. With the high performance, a fire propagates slowly over the cables; indeed, the fire is not propagated outside the affected section of the ignition source. The takeaway from the study is that a fire in the basic performance cables and in a furnished room can cause a rapid propagation of fire, resulting in an impaired escape and fatal conditions within 5 – 7 minutes and a flashover within 7 to 8 minutes.

The test results emphasize the importance of the fire safety performance of cables. It must be prevented that cables or cables in electrical installation become the ignition source of a fire. Therefore, it is important that cables in an electrical installation are designed, installed, used and maintained properly. But even in such circumstances, fire propagation over the cables due to another ignition source must be prevented as well. The tests make it clear that, using (basic) classes of cables not in line with required levels of fire safety increases the risk of electrical safety issues, which can result in a fire or a fire propagation with unacceptable risks for the level of fire safety.

Compliance with requirements is essential, especially for Europe’s vulnerable citizens, for whom – like the elderly – escaping is most often not a safe option. Specific for electrical fire safety, the findings show the importance of ensuring that the appropriate cables, according to Construction Products Regulation (CPR) requirements, are used in the respective settings. The finding also shows the need for increased market surveillance activities by the authorities and an active contribution by all stakeholders.