Flawed flame detectors found at 100 more sites

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Flawed flame detectors found at 100 more sites

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has discovered that more than 100 facilities are equipped with flame detectors from a fire-protection products manufacturer believed to have provided faulty sensors to its clients.

The findings follow revelations earlier this month that the company, based in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, had also distributed 2,000 malfunctioning flame sensors to 200 other government agencies and cultural heritage sites.

A flame detector is a cutting-edge device that sights and responds to flames made by combustion through ultraviolet or infrared rays and issues an alarm to alert people to a fire. The apparatus, which costs more than two million won ($1,972), has more advanced technology than fire detectors, which only detect heat or smoke.

Officials from the fire-protection products manufacturer, which has about a 40 percent market share, were questioned after authorities were tipped off that the company had provided flawed equipment to more than 200 cultural heritage sites, schools and many other facilities.

Its sensors are set up at the Sungnyemun Gate (Namdaemun) in central Seoul, as well as the Kori Nuclear Power Site in Busan.

The facilities found to be equipped with the devices following further investigation include Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul and Yonsei University, according to the safety authority. Some of the garages at Gimpo International Airport also carried the flame detectors.

NEMA suspects the Gyeonggi-based manufacturer manipulated its program to make the sensor less sensitive after their alarms sounded too many times in testing, or provided outdated detectors after using new equipment to pass the Korea Fire Institute’s safety evaluation.

A company representative said it merely adjusted sensitivity based on the locations where each device was fixed.

“We just adjusted the sensitivity of the detector in case the sensor is used in places like a blast furnace,” the official said earlier this month. “There were also requests from customers. This is merely a business practice.”

The Korea Fire Institute maintains that all companies manufacturing flame detectors must follow its requirements, and added that many of the devices in question did not meet test standards.

Earlier this week, NEMA held a meeting with about 20 public offices, including the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA), the Korea Airports Corporation and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power, to explain the situation and to advise them to voluntarily replace their flame detectors.

NEMA also sent an official list of the 337 establishments with flame detectors from the same manufacturer to fire stations nationwide so that any faulty devices could be replaced.

Authorities are planning to take punitive action against several officials from the Gyeonggi manufacturer and are currently looking into other companies they suspect may have also provided flawed equipment.

BY CHAE SEUNG-GI, LEE SEO-JUN [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]


















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