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Demonstrating the risk of fake cable in a fire

11 September 2018

To see the difference in smoke emissions from different standards of burning cable in the event of a fire, we set up a demonstration to compare the performance of Prysmian’s low smoke cable with a sample of fake cable, which claimed to be low smoke.

The importance of low smoke properties in cable cannot be underestimated. 

Many cables are insulated and sheathed with PVC. This is effective in the job that it does, however in the event of a fire, PVC will burn persistently and release toxic gas and smoke as it does so. This smoke will be thick, black and noxious and may completely obscure windows and doors, fire escape routes and escape signs, and other people in the room. 

Low Smoke Zero Halogen cables are now frequently used throughout public buildings such as airports, shopping centres, train stations, offices and hospitals, for exactly these reasons, as it is manufactured specifically to produce very little smoke, and virtually no acid gas. 

However, it is important to ensure that the performance of the cable is as it claims, as unfortunately all cables are not the same. We previously investigated how fake cable gets into the UK and how its claims can be dangerously misleading. 

In our smoke test demonstration, two samples of cable, one of Prysmian’s FP cables with low smoke performance, and one from another brand, were set up over identical Bunsen burners. Air tight chambers were placed over each rig to catch the smoke and gas emitted. Standard emergency escape route signs were also placed inside these chambers. A controlled flame was applied with the Bunsen burners for 90 seconds, during which time, we were able to observe just how obscured the signs became by the smoke. 

Neil Jarvis, Fire Test Lab Engineer at Prysmian commented that: “This demonstration really brought it home that in a real fire, this would be terrifying—you can’t see the escape route sign at all in the chamber containing the fake cable.”

See the full demonstration here:

Low smoke cable demonstration
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