Every building, whether it houses commercial, industrial, municipal, healthcare, or educational operations, must include life safety systems. Obviously those fire alarms, emergency lighting, evacuation, and mass notification systems must be reliable to help ensure the safety of the building's occupants. Equally obvious is that the tools used to verify that those systems' performance must be accurate and reliable.
To get an idea of the critical issues related to these systems, we recently talked to Jesse, a Tech Supervisor who holds Level III National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) certification for fire alarms. Jesse has been installing life safety systems for more than 15 years. His team hires electricians to do the cabling in buildings. The electricians set up all the field wiring and mount all the related peripherals. Then Jesse's team terminates the wires to the electronic circuit boards and runs commission testing.
After the cabling and circuit boards for the safety systems are installed, Jesse and his crew run a pre-test to verify that everything they installed is working properly and meets all the specs required by the customer. Jesse has been using Fluke test tools ever since he got his first digital multimeter (DMM) when he was a freshman in high school. Today he uses Fluke ScopeMeter® Portable Oscilloscopes and DMMs to commission new installations.
“We use different technologies for various systems and some require the ability to view the sine wave over the two-pair wire that talks to the devices,” Jesse says. “I use a ScopeMeter a lot to verify that the communications between the field devices and the control panel are working properly. It shows that my sine wave is a true square all the way to the end, so I can make sure I don't have noise on the wires.”
Not long ago Jesse used his ScopeMeter to solve a particularly prickly issue that could have had serious consequences. A new product they were installing had a problem communicating data with the field devices. After exhausting all the product company's tech support without finding a solution, he decided to look deeper into the problem on his own.
“I scoped the circuits in question and found that the sine wave was rounded, causing the devices to report as different addresses,” says Jesse. He tracked the findings and sent a report to the product design engineers. They ended up changing the product's firmware and issuing new calculation software to all the system designers.
“The ScopeMeter solved a major issue, when even senior level tech support couldn't solve it,” says Jesse.