Reaction to fire of cables as construction products in the European Union: Classification and test methods

In the context of the European Construction Products Directive (CPD), the Euroclasses and the relevant reaction-to-fire tests for surface products (linings) and floor coverings have been published as standards in 2002. The classification and testing systems for other, linear construction products such as pipes, pipe insulation, and cables may require the use of other tests and modified classification systems. 

It was found that the Single Burning Item (SBI) test basically developed for surface products is probably not the best choice for testing linear products such as cables. Therefore, the Commission mandated a research programme to develop methods for measuring the fire performance of electric cables (FIPEC). A variant of IEC 332-1, which is a large-scale test in which a cable ladder is installed in a chamber about 4 m high, and which has long been used internationally was developed. In the FIPEC procedure, measurement of the heat release rate was added to the conventional measurement of vertical flame spread. Further, limit values for smoke production, flaming droplets/particles and acidity of smoke were proposed as additional, non compulsory criteria. The results of the FIPEC study were taken over by the European Commission and resulted in a new classification system and a fire test for cables.

The Commission decision on the European classification for the reaction to fire performance of cables is dated 27 October 2006 and was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 4.11.2006. In parallel, the new fire test was published in 2007 as draft "prEN 50399:2007 Common test methods for cables under fire conditions - Heat release and smoke production measurement on cables during flame spread test". It may be published as a standard in 2010.

The standardisation work is jointly done by CENELEC TC20 (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization, TC20 Electric cables, WG10 Fire performance tests for cables) and CEN/TC 127 (Fire safety in buildings). The classification of cables will be introduced as a new part of EN 13501 "Fire classification of construction products and building elements", probably also in 2010.