In 2012, ALL fire-resistance rated Circuit Integrity cable lost its UL listing due to a change in UL 2196, Standard for Fire Testing for Circuit Integrity of Fire- Resistive Power, Instrumentation, Control, and Data Cables. This left installing contractors with few options for the installation of fire alarm systems requiring Level 2 or 3 pathway survivability (such as high-rise buildings, where partial evacuation is common and Fire Emergency Voice/ Alarm Control Equipment circuitry must be protected to ensure continued operations of the communications system). In 2014, the first re-certified UL 2196 cables started coming back on the market. These cables came with new, specific, installation requirements in order to meet the new (more stringent) UL 2196 requirements while retaining other necessary listings (such as UL 1424, Cables for Power-Limited Fire Alarm Circuits).
With CI cable once again gaining popularity there are multiple offerings on the market, all of which must be considered carefully to determine the correct installation methods and maintain compliance with the manufacturer’s specifications and the parameters of the products listings. Currently, these products fall into three main groups. Through the correct application of one of these wiring types, the requirements of NFPA 72, Section 126.96.36.199 can be fulfilled in regard to circuit survivability for relocation and partial evacuation.
Circuit Integrity cable in Conduit (CIC) must be installed within conduit. The conduit, connections, junction boxes, supporting means and even screws and other hardware are often specified directly by the listing and are required to be a specific brand or product line.
Free-Air Circuit Integrity cable is intended to be run without any other mechanical protection, within its listed environment. Again, specific hardware, junction boxes, supports, etc. are required by the product listing and manufacturer’s installation instructions/specifications.
Finally, combination-type Circuit Integrity cable has provisions for installation both in conduit and in free-air. Still, the correct make/model of any accessories (conduit, connectors, boxes, supports, hardware, etc.) must be used. This gives the installing contractor the ability to provide mechanical protection where it may be subject to damage (Parking Garages, Mechanical Rooms, etc.) while simplifying installation elsewhere.
Failure to understand the nuances of each cable systems installation methods and listing can result in costly rework. However, selecting the right CI cable product and correct installation methods and materials can result in labor savings due to ease of installation; can help reclaim floor area by reducing the need for dedicated shafts or stacked closets; and can offer assurance that the pathway survivability of the cable system provides a safe, compliant means of protecting the circuitry and communications of the fire alarm system.