Prepping your commercial property for fire season! (Yes, you need to)

Surprise, fire season has come again. 

This means hot weather, dry winds, and perfect conditions for a fire that could destroy your property. 

Duh Duh DUhhhh!

Fire season is scary and unpredictable, but don’t worry, VFS is here to help prepare your commercial property for an emergency. Fire safety regulations for a commercial building can look differently depending on the property. 

Video Surveillance

VFS offers systems from video surveillance to business intelligence. This means that if a fire starts, your company will have access to visuals around the property. We design systems that optimize your existing infrastructure and augment them with the latest in proven technologies. 

Adding this extra layer of security is just a stepping stone towards having a foolproof plan in place for fire season. 

Outside the Building

The surrounding area of any property should be cleared of extra brush and dead plants. This includes trees, shrubs, bushes and dead grass. Another good rule of thumb to follow is to make sure any tree branches stay at least 10 feet from any other trees. 

The area outside the building needs to be free of flammable materials is also known as a ‘buffer zone.’ This buffer zone would help slow down the pace of the fire.

Another hazard to be aware of is gutters. The key is to maintain a consistent routine of cleaning out the building gutters to avoid build-up of dry leaves and other highly flammable materials. 

The parking lot is another focus area for fire prevention. Depending on the commercial building layout, parking lots can become a hotspot for sparks to fly. To avoid this, inform your staff that they need to avoid parking over any grass or spilled oil.

Inside the Building

Aside from video surveillance, there are other steps you can take to ensure your commercial building is prepped for fire season. 

Any vents throughout the building should be cleaned consistently because they are highly flammable. There are metal vents that can be added that would act as a temporary barrier between embers and vent. 

An evacuation plan is something that should be perfected and taught to all employees. Performing practice drills with your company will ensure everyone understands their role in the event of an emergency. 

Remember, VFS Fire & Security Services take you from idea to operations and everything in between. Schedule your free expert consultation today, and get prepared for the dreaded fire season. 

Get it together and inspect your building more than once a year!

You’ll thank us later. 

Owning a commercial building comes with a lot of responsibilities — that doesn’t mean you should slack on simple inspections. 

VFS believes that your fire protection systems are only as effective as the inspections on them. 

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code, quarterly and yearly inspections of your fire and life safety systems are mandatory. In addition, some components of a system, like a fire pump, require weekly and monthly inspections. 

It is best to consult your VFS Account Executive for details. Having your building inspected by trained and certified inspectors will help keep your safety systems in good working order.

Hot Inspection Tips

  1. Annual inspections are required for all fire and life safety systems. But, once a year isn’t the best option for overall safety of employees and the buildings. 
  1. Some systems or components of a system may require more frequent inspections like monthly or quarterly. 
  1. Inspectors should be certified by a nationally recognized organization.
    • Inspectors should wear company clothing or nametags identifying them as professionals authorized to be in the building.
  1. Your inspection reports should deliver the following information:
    • Location of every device in building
    • Whether each device passed or failed inspection and why
    • Date/time stamp when each device was inspected
    • Device inventory & warranty status
    • Indication of length of time devices have been in service
    • Verification of report results
  1. Detailed inspection reports are excellent supporting documents for insurance companies or authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs).
  1. Make sure your employees or building tenants are aware of a scheduled inspection 24 hours in advance.
    • For Fire Alarm Systems, audio/visual testing may interfere with trainings, meetings or site visits.
  1. Let inspectors know of any construction or remodeling, and additions or problems to the fire protection systems in your building since the last inspection.

We tell you what’s due, when it’s due and why it’s due. At VFS, we constantly communicate with your team to keep you up-to-date on the latest information within your facilities. Fortify your building with reliable fire protection systems inspected and maintained by the experts at VFS!

It's summer vacation ... but not for you. Get your fire safety up to par

The sun is out, the air smells like sunscreen and … summer school! 

School buildings provide an important space for youth and educators, so there is great risk if there is no evacuation plan in place. 

Seems overwhelming? Don’t worry, the best part is that we do the work for you! 

Evacuation Plan

There are other outlier factors that need to be considered while creating a solid evacuation plan. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides some startling facts about fires that start in school buildings: 

  • “School fires most often originated in a lavatory or locker room
  • Fires that were intentionally set were the leading cause of school fires, accounting for almost two of every five fires
  • Two-thirds of school fires occurred between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. 
  • In 2014-2018, the U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 3,230 structure fires in schools each year
  • These fires caused annual averages of one civilian death, 39 civilian injuries, and $37 million in direct property damage.” 

Since most fires start in locker rooms and bathrooms, the evacuation plan must be centered around those geographical locations. This will look different for each educational building based on the layout of the property. 

Draw a Floor Plan

When making a blueprint of the building, highlight exits and other fire safety tools (think fire hoses, extinguishers, and emergency phones). Make sure all staff know this plan inside and out, so in case of an emergency everyone’s prepared with the evacuation plan. 

More Tips

Cluing in students at an educational facility is also important to successfully follow through an evacuation plan. Assemblies and test fire alarms are a great way to start. 

Another option is to have posters around the educational building with reminders of fire safety tips and what to do in an evacuation. Some of these may include: 

  • Don’t use the elevator, always choose the stairs
  • Never go back into the building unless given permission by authorities
  • Call 911 as soon as possible
  • Always leave through the nearest exit
  • Leave your personal items behind

We protect property and lives, while providing a sense of security and peace of mind. 

VFS is here to help you improve your fire safety plan in educational buildings, find more on our website.  

Back-to-School Already? Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Students Safe on Campus

Is it time to go back to school already?! Not quite… you still have a few more months of freedom! However, it’s never too early to start thinking about fire protection precautions as you head back to the classroom. The NFPA states that 4,980 structure fires occurred in educational buildings each year from 2011 to 2015. Fire safety training and implementation are essential in schools to ensure the safety of your students, faculty, and staff. 

In a study performed by the NFPA, they found:

  • Most school fires occur in the daytime—especially around lunch.
  • About 41% of school fires are started intentionally
  • Around one-third of these fires occur in school bathrooms
  • In preschools, about two-thirds of fires occur between 6 am and 3 pm

In an effort to help get those fire safety wheels turning and mitigate these school fire risks, we’ve put together a few tips for your educational building’s fire safety.

Fire Protection Practices

Office Protocols and Procedures

First and foremost, your faculty and staff must be familiar with fire evacuation protocols and fire safety training. Fire emergencies don’t stop because your fire safety administrator is out sick or on vacation. Therefore, you must ensure all employees are well-equipped to handle an emergency. Be sure your school officials and faculty are familiar with the chain of command in order to mitigate commotion during an emergency. 

Fire Evacuation Plans

Every student is excited for a fire drill because that typically means cutting the math or history lesson short! As exciting as they can be for your students, they are also essential to your fire safety success as a school.

Fire drills get more complicated with larger buildings, changing class schedules, and changing faculty members. Therefore, students and faculty should be made aware of the proper routes to safety regardless of where they are in the building. These fire evacuation drills should be planned monthly at various times in the day to provide training on the best route to safety for everyone in the building. 

Fire Safety Training

You can find fire training courses, webinars, conferences, videos, and events at the NFPA or with your local fire department. These resources can be extremely useful for students at the elementary level, as building foundational knowledge for fire safety is important at this age. During this training, students will receive a greater understanding and knowledge of fire hazards and fire safety protocols.

Campus safety for those not-so-responsible college students:

According to Fire Science, firefighters respond to about 3,810 college fires each year. The large majority of these fires are due to kitchen fires. At the university level, it is important you provide four types of fire safety training: on-campus fire safety, campus lab fire safety, off-campus fire safety, and a general overview of college fire precautions.

On-Campus Fire Safety

Be sure your students know a few key fire safety tips when they reside on campus or are utilizing your facilities. First and foremost, cook only in designated areas––we all know what a cooking mishap with a hot plate in a college dorm can turn into! Additionally, it’s important that your students understand cooking areas should be kept clean, free of clutter and grease, and always attending to anything dealing with fire or heat in the kitchen. These among many additional fire safety tips are essential to teach your first-time cooks in college dorms! 

Campus Lab Fire Safety

The campus lab can be an extremely fun place to experiment and study all that science has to offer. It can, however, be dangerous if fire and chemicals are involved. Therefore, it is essential that students understand the danger of a potential fire in the lab. Be sure students know to never leave lab experiments or pressure vessels unattended. They should also know to keep flammable gases and chemicals away from heat. You don’t want their science experiment to go up in flames!

Off-Campus Fire Safety

As your students begin to move off-campus and into apartment buildings and homes, it’s important that they are prepared for fire off-campus as well. It can be helpful to train students on what to look for as they look to move away. They should know to look for working smoke alarms in every room, as well as ensuring the building has a well-maintained sprinkler system. Students should also be prepared to ask their building manager if building heating and fire prevention systems have been checked annually by fire officials.

General College Fire Precautions

Lastly, there is some general knowledge that can help college students navigate the world of fire safety. First and foremost, they should identify possible exits and evacuation routes as soon as they walk into a building. They should also identify the locations of fire alarms and the best way to use them. Lastly, students should know that fire equipment that has been vandalized must be reported to campus security.

At VFS, we take fire safety seriously and our team of experts is ready to assist you in all your fire safety needs. From design and build to testing and maintenance, we’re with you every step of the way. Our goal is to ensure your students, faculty, and staff remain safe from harm, which is why we implement top-of-the-line fire safety equipment into every building we work with.

WHY DOES YOUR BUILDING NEED PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE?

Preventative fire and life safety system maintenance can save your building costly repairs.  More importantly, it can keep your people safe from faulty equipment accidents.

Why does your building need preventative maintenance inspections?

Your building occupants’ safety and wellbeing is your top priority as a building owner. Fires and other incidents are unpredictable, but you should prepare for the possibility they do occur. In order to stay properly prepared for emergencies, regular fire system inspections are essential. You need to know when your systems are faulty, in order to fix them before potential emergencies occur. 

The National Fire Protection Association, your local authorities who have jurisdiction, and the International Code Council implement fines for not following inspection standards. Fines and penalties, however, are the least of your worries if your alarm, sprinkler, or fire suppression systems don’t work when you need them.

How else can fire system inspection help your business?

With ongoing fire preventative maintenance, you create a safer work environment for your employees. Your employees won’t fear the danger of a fire breaking out in the office, because your systems will be running efficiently and effectively. Because of this, your employees, visitors, and customers will have a greater sense of security.

Your employees will also be able to be more productive. Not to mention, avoiding costly long-term losses and limited operations in a building that has experienced fire. 

Fire system inspections can also prevent your business from paying large fees for noncompliance, as stated above. When you perform preventative maintenance on your systems, you mitigate the cost of replacing unmaintained, corroded, or damaged equipment.

What types of fire systems need inspection and maintenance?

Your fire inspection requirements will vary depending on your facility, the state you operate in, and the various fire protection systems within your building. The type of preventative maintenance varies based on the type of fire system. The NFPA and ICC require that these systems receive an inspection regularly as follows: 

Fire Sprinkler Systems

These systems require weekly, employee inspections for dry, pre-action, deluge systems gauges, and control valves. Monthly employee inspections for wet pipe system gauges, and alarm valves.

Annual professional inspections are required for specific pieces of equipment. They are required for the building, hanger/seismic bracing, pipes/fittings, and sprinkler heads. Along with information signage, spare sprinkler heads, pre-action/deluge valves, dry pipe valves, and backflow prevention assemblies.

Lastly, they require a 5-year inspection for internal inspection of sprinkler piping, obstructions, and a valve check. 

Backflow Preventer Assemblies

Backflow preventer assemblies require a licensed sprinkler inspection company to inspect these systems annually. These inspections ensure your facility’s drinking water is safe and to ensure the sprinkler systems work properly.

Fire Suppression Systems

These non-water based fire suppression systems require a bi-annual inspection by a licensed fire protection technician. These inspections ensure there is the proper amount of clean agent available, the container is pressurized, and there is no damage to the container. 

Kitchen Hood Suppression Systems 

A licensed fire protection company must inspect your kitchen hood fire suppression systems every 6 months. These inspections are done to ensure your suppression systems will activate in the event of a fire. It ensure they put the fire out and shut off the gas or electricity used to run the equipment.

Fire Alarms

Routine maintenance is required by a trained employee must inspect the fire alarm components, control panels, power supplies, fuses, LEDs, and trouble signals once a week. They must also inspect the batteries for corrosion once a month. A licensed technician must inspect the initiating devices (heat, smoke, dust detectors) semi-annually. They must also inspect all the fire components and equipment once a year. 

Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers require monthly inspections to ensure the pressure gauge is on full, the hose is intact, and the pin is secure. A certified professional must inspect the fire extinguishers yearly. 

At VFS, we provide inspections, testing, and maintenance of fire sprinklers and fire alarm systems. Our trained personnel conduct all inspections as outlined by the requirements of NFPA. As well as abiding by the local codes that apply to your specific area of operation.

With VFS, your preventative maintenance is top-of-mind. Your inspections will always be up to code and easy to access and schedule with our team!

FIRE SAFETY INSPECTIONS FOR YOUR FACILITIES: YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE

Your palms are sweating, you’re biting your nails, what’s that? It’s time for your building’s routine fire safety inspection! Geez, it’s like you’re taking an exam back in high school! But it doesn’t have to be such a stress.

At VFS Fire & Security Services, we are experts in fire protection no matter what environment your facility is housed. Whether your fire inspection is for a health care center, school, oil and gas facility, or even a vessel, we’ve got you covered. But first, let’s talk about fire safety inspections, why they’re important, and what to expect during yours.

What is a Fire Safety Inspection?

A fire safety inspection is a necessary examination of a building or structure and its relevant fire safety documents. A fire safety inspection measures how well your building—whether it be a business, school, health care center, and so on—is managed in regards to fire safety. Legally, buildings must comply with a set of building codes and ordinances to keep their occupants safe. A fire safety inspection ensures you are doing so and calculates the potential risk factor in a given facility. 

Why?

Fire can be an extremely detrimental force not only to people but also to a business or organization. Whether small or large, the damage from fire to a building is often irrevocable without a large financial cost.

Fire safety inspections are often pre-arranged and are preventive at heart. They help building owners and managers to identify potential fire hazards and to make the necessary changes. For those who choose not to comply with fire safety inspections and guidelines, the punishment is substantial.

Although this routine inspection might feel like a hassle in your tight schedule, there’s no such thing as being too safe.

What to Expect

Each fire safety inspection will vary, of course, depending on your organization and building. In all inspections, however, you will be asked to provide all relevant fire safety documents. This might include:

  • Evacuation Protocol
  • Fire Risk Assessment
  • Fire Drill and Staff Fire Training Records
  • Proof that Preventative Fire Systems have been tested (fire detection, alarms, sprinklers, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, ventilation, firefighting equipment, electrical wiring, and so on)
  • List of potentially dangerous substances in building or on grounds
  • Fire Safety Maintenance Checklist

During your fire safety inspection, you can anticipate a walk-through inspection with your examiner, and for said examiner to speak with others on the premise to validate the fire safety information that you’ve provided.

Here, we’ve compiled a brief summary of what to expect within different facilities: health care, education, oil and gas, and marine.

Health Care

Fire safety inspections for health care are especially important considering a large number of people in health care facilities at any given time. This considered you should be familiar with the inspection processes—yay! Here’s a rundown of what you can expect:

During your visual inspection, the examiner will take occupancy limits and clear exit paths into special account. That means no unruly electrical wiring and definitely no using the sprinkler heads as coat racks! Hazardous materials, chemicals, and extinguishers are to be stored properly and in correct locations.

Considering the number of patients in a building, your examiner will pay special attention to your evacuation plan, policies, and maps posted. Additionally, your examiner will need proof of your fire drills, which are to be documented and executed annually if not quarterly in your building.

Lastly, the inspection will cover disaster protocols and preparation. This includes effective parking measures (i.e. can make clear, unobstructed use of fire hydrants and lanes) and questioning employees about the health care center’s fire safety measures. To ace your inspection, ensure all employees are undergoing periodic fire training and drills.

Education

There’s nothing scarier than the thought of our children being unsafe! Fire safety is extremely important in schools, especially considering the wide variety of ages and abilities in a school. Requirements for educational fire protection, in most states, are based on NFPA codes. Here are some pointers of what to expect in an educational fire safety inspection:

Educational facilities hold strict requirements on space. According to the NFPA, your examiner will ensure that there are at least 20 square feet per person. Space requirements influence how and where students can be in a building and are important in considering where certain aged children need to be in regard to floors.

Schools additionally are required to have proper fire detection systems, fire sprinkler systems, and extinguishers. Routine fire drills are a regular and necessary part of educational fire safety, and all schools must have an approved emergency action plan (EAP).

And of course, examiners pay special attention to exits, flammability and amount of decor and artwork, flammable materials, and areas of assembly.

Oil and Gas

Considering the high number of petrochemicals at an oil and gas facility—not to mention their high level of combustion—the biggest danger here is fire. Oil and gas facilities are extremely high risk, so here are some tips to successfully prepare for your fire safety adult:

We already know that properly working fire detection systems and alarms are a legal essential but have you considered installing a mass notification system? This way, a message or call can be sent out to your employees, notifying them of a potential fire or dangerous system.

Similarly, installing a gas monitoring system is a great step. Gases are often, at oil and gas facilities, highly flammable and the reason for combustion. A gas monitoring system can work to reduce fire by tracking dangerous gas levels.

During your fire safety inspection, an examiner will be looking to ensure not only that your facility goes through routine inspections and drills but also that your fire protection systems offer sufficient coverage and protection from the combustibles and chemicals that are stored within your facility. A fire brings enough chaos of its own so it is essential that your employees are informed on what to do in case of an emergency.

Additionally, implementing on-site emergency equipment is a wise choice, as often, emergency services get there after the damage has already been done. If, however, you make this choice, ensure that your employees have been properly trained on how and when to use said equipment.

Marine

We know, we can’t believe it either… fire on water! But it’s more common than you’d think. There are a lot of boxes to be checked when it comes to keeping your maritime operations safe. Let’s get you thinking about the current safety of your marine operations with a checklist.

For starters, there is a long, varying list of certificates and documents that are to be carried on board at all times. This might include a Cargo Ship Safety Equipment or Passenger Ship Safety Certificate, servicing records including proof of fire extinguisher servicing and pressure tests, a damage control manual, records of testing, drills, and maintenance, and a variety of training manuals.

Of course, let’s not forget safety equipment that must be carried and inspected during your inspection.

  • Sprinkler Systems
  • Ventilators and Fire Dampers
  • Proper fire detection and fire alarms
  • Properly installed extinguishing systems
  • Personal Equipment, including fire fighting protective wear, SCBAs (self-contained breathing apparatus), and EEBDs (emergency escape breathing devices)
  • Properly functioning gas and CO2 systems

Additionally, pathways must be always free of obstruction and clearly marked in the case of evacuation. Doors must always only be held open by approved methods.

Approximately 90% of marine fires start in the engine room, so be sure that this will be a big check zone during your inspection, including your engine room’s fire pumps, emergency shutdowns and valves, high-pressure fuel lines, and main zones

Lastly, ensure your crew is familiar with the use of these fire protection systems and able to abandon ship if necessary. Fire drills should be routinely performed. Preparation is key for tip-top marine fire safety! As for deck safety, structures in place might include a variety of paint lockers, ventilators, and international shore connections.

Emergency equipment, including emergency generators, batteries, pumps, and tankers, however, must be properly maintained, inspected, and ready to be used at any given moment. Now go ace that inspection!

What Happens Next?

Well, this depends on how well your inspection went and how your structure scored! With VFS by your side, we promise you’ll get a gold star!

You should receive a report after your inspection is conducted, which contains any findings from your walk-through and action steps for you to take. These action steps will address any ways in which your building might be deemed unsafe and identify a solution. Typically, minor breaches in fire safety law are informal and the examiner will set a deadline as to when the issue needs to be fixed. However, there can be more serious deficiencies that could result in fines or possibly disruptions to your facility. At VFS Fire & Security Services, we know that there is nothing more important than keeping people safe—and we have the expertise and the tools to do so. Don’t get caught up in a fine, serving time in prison, or worst of all, putting individuals in danger. Contact us today to see how we can help make your fire safety inspections a breeze!

FACILITIES MANAGERS! JUMP INTO THE MESH PIT

Why You Need MeshWrx in your Building

Announcing! MeshWrx alarm monitoring systems are coming to a building near you. Take a leap into the mesh pit and see what all the hype is about! 

Facilities managers, ensuring you have top-of-the-line alarm monitoring systems throughout your facility is essential. Traditional alarm systems just won’t cut it anymore. It’s time to cut the cords. Mesh alarm monitoring systems are designed to make alarm systems more reliable, cost-effective, and fast.

What is MeshWrx?

MeshWrx was created from the experience that VFS Fire & Security Services had in making sure our clients fire safety was top-of-the-line. VFS has continually developed industry-leading technology that complements our services to provide the best customer experience in the fire and life safety industry. 

Our CEO, Randy Nelson, recognized a need to deliver a more reliable fire and life safety monitoring system in the market. He invested in technology to impact life-saving communication and, thus, MeshWrx was born! Contact us today to see how our MeshWrx systems can help your company!

What are mesh network alarm monitoring systems?

Mesh network alarm monitoring systems were designed to be reliable, cost-effective, and hassle-free. Traditional tower-based solutions and other single-route systems can be affected greatly by environmental disturbances and equipment problems and interrupted more frequently with more dead spots than mesh network systems. Mesh networks continually optimize multiple signal pathways to find a way to send a signal. 

When Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, mesh technology was the only uninterrupted communication source. All landlines, cellular, and IP failed during this emergency. When an emergency occurs you need to ensure your alarm systems are up to the task of communicating to the outside. Mesh networks provide a holistic approach to ensuring your alarm monitoring needs are met. 

The networks were originally built for the demanding military, police, and fire communication pathways. The radio frequency’s quick response times and reliability have proven to be the most effective choice in protecting lives and property.  MeshWrx has created a solution for facilities managers to get the greatest reliability based on industry standards and the fastest method available in the industry for fire alarm monitoring. 

Why do you need a mesh network alarm system?

Prevent Property Damage

Top-of-the-line alarm monitoring systems respond when they detect the slightest amount of smoke, which allows the fire department and those in the building to respond as quickly as possible. Quick response times help you ensure that smoke doesn’t turn into a large fire. 

COMMUNICATE WITH THE FIRE DEPARTMENT QUICKLY

Quick response is essential to saving your building and your people. The alarm monitoring system you choose needs to be able to communicate quickly and consistently with the fire department. Instead of worrying about calling and reporting the fire, people inside can focus on evacuating the building and helping those in need.

24-HOUR PROTECTION AND RELIABILITY

When you install a mesh alarm monitoring system your building remains protected 24/7. You can ensure your building is protected when people aren’t in it. With mesh network systems, you can feel at ease that your building is safe especially during an emergency.

Cellular and IP systems tend to slow or drop as more users are added to the system. MeshWrx’s performance is actually improved when more users are added. Mesh networks create multiple pathways for an emergency signal to reach first responders. 

MOST IMPORTANTLY, IT KEEPS YOUR EMPLOYEES SAFE

Lastly, and most importantly, installing an alarm monitoring system ensures your employees remain safe. It’s important your employees know that they can safely exit the building when a fire occurs, as the alarm system will notify emergency responders. 

DELUGE VS. PRE ACTION SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAY FLOWERS- AND ALSO BUILDING PROTECTION

As they say, April showers bring May flowers, we just hope those showers stay on the outside of your building. However, if you happen to need your indoor showers (sprinkler systems and fire suppression systems) it’s best to understand what systems serve your specific building’s needs. Deluge vs. Pre Action Sprinkler Systems—what’s the difference? —–When it comes to fire protection for your building there are many options to consider, and it’s important to understand what these options may entail. 

DELUGE SYSTEMS 

WHAT IS A DELUGE SYSTEM?

Deluge suppression systems are typically used in special hazard installations when water must be applied to an entire area for fire protection. These systems are considered a ‘dry fire protection system’ as the piping for the system is empty and at an atmospheric pressure with the sprinkler heads all open. When heat or fire is detected by the system, the deluge valve releases the water, dry chemicals, inert gases, or foam. 

The type of agent used in the systems is dependent on the hazard type and location of the fire protection system. Once filled, it releases from all sprinkler heads simultaneously, which helps to blanket the entire area, which, in turn, controls the fire. 

These systems are typically used for facilities where an entire area needs to be protected immediately, rather than by a zone or specific location of the source of the heat or fire. Typical facilities that utilize deluge suppression systems are airport hangars, chemical plants, processing plants, and data storage centers. These systems are especially useful when you need to quickly flood an area to prevent a fire from expanding. 

WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF DELUGE SYSTEMS?

There are a few different types of deluge systems. These systems can be electronically operated, others are pneumatic. The electronically operated systems work when an alarm is set off via a detector, pull station, or another alarm system. Once the alarm is activated, it will energize the solenoid valve, which releases the prime water, or other agents, off the top of the valve, which allows the deluge valve to trip and deliver the agent to the hazard. 

PRE-ACTION SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

WHAT IS A PRE-ACTION SPRINKLER SYSTEM?

Pre-action sprinkler systems, on the other hand, are used to protect areas where water damage from damaged sprinklers or piping needs to be avoided. These are a middle ground between dry and wet fire protection systems. 

The major difference between a deluge suppression system and a pre-action system is that pre-action systems are filled with compressed air. The sprinkler heads remain closed until needed, and a pre-action valve holds back the water. It is a hybrid dry/wet system as it is a dry system until it is activated at which point it becomes a wet system. 

Pre-action fire sprinkler systems require two steps to discharge the agent. When the system first detects heat or fire the pre-action valve opens. Next, the pipes are flooded with water, dry chemicals, inert gases, or foam. After it’s filled, the specific sprinkler head must detect heat or fire to open. Then, the system will work to extinguish the fire in the immediate area.

Unlike deluge systems, these systems only cover an area that detects heat or fire. Coverage expands as more sprinkler heads detect heat/fire.

WHY WOULD YOU CHOOSE A PRE-ACTION SPRINKLER SYSTEM?

One of the best reasons to incorporate pre-action sprinkler systems into your building is because sprinkler heads may be falsely triggered. When these sprinkler heads accidentally activate, there may sometimes be costly, irreversible property and water damage to your building. Because pre-action fire sprinkler systems require two-part discharge, they provide an elevated level of protection from accidental discharges. 

Another reason to utilize pre-action fire sprinkler systems is the ability of the pressurized air or nitrogen to detect leaks in the system. This allows you to ensure your system is functioning properly when you need it most. 

WHAT OTHER SPRINKLER SYSTEMS SHOULD I CONSIDER?

There are a few other fire sprinkler systems to consider as you work to ensure your building remains protected. 

WET PIPE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

These systems are the most popular sprinkler systems. They are extremely effective, low-cost, and low-maintenance. This system’s pipes remain filled with water. Once triggered by the heat-source, water flows through the activated sprinkler to the source of the fire. These systems are extremely quick to react to potential fires, however they are at risk of freezing in cold environments. 

DRY PIPE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

In freezing climates, dry pipe sprinkler systems are a better choice than wet pipe systems. These systems do not carry water in the piping until they are activated. 

Instead, these pipes are filled with pressurized air and nitrogen. When the system is activated, the dry pipe valve opens and water flows in when the sprinkler head is triggered. 

The disadvantage of these systems is that their response time is delayed. Another potential downfall to these systems is the required maintenance. Sprinkler corrosion is more prevalent in these systems, as the compressed air and oxygen create an enticing environment for corrosion. 

SINGLE INTERLOCK

These systems require a single, preceding fire detection event. This event is typically an activation of heat or smoke detectors. When the event occurs, the pre-action valve allows water to enter the piping system. With these systems, if a sprinkler head activates before this, it will sound a trouble alarm. However, no water will be discharged. 

DOUBLE INTERLOCK

Double interlock pre-action systems provide an added layer of protection. These systems require a preceding fire detection to occur in conjunction with an automatic sprinkler activation, prior to water releasing into the pipes. One alarm activation will not be enough to discharge these sprinkler systems. 

At VFS Fire & Security Services we understand that your unique building needs unique fire protection systems. Our team is equipped to ensure you receive the fire protection you need to keep your building and your people safe from harm.

HEALTHCARE FACILITY FIRE SAFETY REQUIREMENTS

THIS ISN’T GREY’S ANATOMY- AVOID THE UNNECESSARY DRAMA AND ENSURE YOU HAVE PROPER FIRE PROTECTION IN PLACE

Paging Dr. Grey. Code Red. A fire has broken out in Grey-Sloan Hospital and all the patients and doctors are at risk. We know… you’re glued to your television. This is some intense drama. While yes, a fire in a hospital makes for a drama-filled, intense episode of Grey’s Anatomy, we don’t want that to become a reality for your healthcare facility. 

Healthcare facilities have greater requirements than most other facilities because they are governed by the Joint Commission. Because of these stringent requirements, hospitals need to be better equipped to withstand a sudden fire. You all hold lives in your hands every day and documentation is critical in your facilities to validate that you are upholding critical safety measures required by governing agencies such as NFPA and Joint Commission. 

HERE ARE A FEW OF THE REQUIREMENTS NEEDED FOR YOUR HEALTHCARE FACILITY. 

COMPARTMENTATION IN MEDICAL FACILITIES

Compartmentation typically utilizes a passive fire protection system that prevents or slows the spread of fire by walking it off. Fire-resistant walls, doors, and corridors should be in place to protect patient rooms, operating areas, special hazard space, and egress paths. 

FIRE SPRINKLERS

Sprinkler systems must be installed throughout healthcare occupancies. These systems must be inspected, tested, and maintained regularly. Major components should be inspected quarterly, semi-annually, and annually. Each of these inspections requires specific components to be maintained. 

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS AND SPECIAL HAZARD FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

Any facility with a commercial kitchen or cooking facility requires hood and fire suppression systems to ensure fires don’t spread throughout the rest of the building. Fire extinguishers must be selected, placed, inspected, tested, and maintained following NFPA 10.

KITCHEN HOOD AND FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

Any commercial kitchen and cooking facilities in a medical facility must be protected with a hood and fire suppression system, which requires semi-annual inspections, testing, and maintenance. Additionally, the filters and exhaust ductwork that make up the hood system require regular cleaning—the frequency of which is based on the amount of grease that is used in the cooking process. These specific requirements are outlined in NFPA 96: Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations.

FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS

NFPA requires a fire alarm system throughout the facility. NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, outlines the installation and ITM requirements for these systems. A facility manager should understand the basic operation of fire alarms and what the various signals may mean. Quarterly, semi-annual, and annual system inspection, testing, and maintenance are required, and diligent records must be maintained of all ITM work and results.

GENERATOR AND ALTERNATE POWER SOURCES

A facility, like a hospital, with alternate sources of power, connected to distribution systems and ancillary equipment require specific fire safety protocols. Depending on your risk category your EES (Essential Electrical System) may change. Category 1 Requires Type 1 EES, Category 2 can use either Type 1 or Type 2 EES, Category 3 and 4 do not require and EES.

EMERGENCY EVACUATION PLANS

In a healthcare facility, your emergency planning must be communicated often and well-thought-out. Quarterly evacuation drills are required for each shift, and records must be diligently kept. General housekeeping of keeping egress paths clear, “no smoking” policies, decorated hallways and patient rooms should be fire-resistant, and soiled lines and trash should be regularly emptied is essential to communicate to your team. 

With all these requirements, it’s important to understand exactly what you need to do in order to keep your building safe from harm. Here are a few items on your checklist you need to go over.

FIRE PROTECTION OPERATIONS:

  • First and foremost, make sure your hazard emergency plans are in place and are well-thought-out for your specific building. Healthcare facilities must maintain emergency and evacuation plans, and employees must be regularly trained on these plans and their roles within them. Emergency plans should include instructions for fire emergencies and general building evacuations.
  • Once you have found your plan, make sure all employees are trained regularly, and that training is documented. Quarterly evacuation drills are required for each shift, and records of these drills must be maintained. Additionally, hospital staff should be aware of and sustain general housekeeping standards. These activities include maintaining clear access to exits, enforcing “no smoking” policies, making sure decorations in halls and patient rooms are fire resistant and do not exceed allowed limits, and ensuring soiled linens and trash are regularly emptied and not permitted to accumulate beyond allowed maximums (0.5 gallons per room, 32 gallons total in a protected area).
  • Make sure you conduct fire drills quarterly, and these drills are documented.
  • Are your “non-smoking” areas in place and enforced?

FIRE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS:

  • Fire sprinklers must be installed throughout healthcare occupancies. These systems are installed following NFPA 13: Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, and they are maintained according to NFPA 25: Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems.
  • NFPA 25 outlines the required inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) frequency and procedures. Major system components are required to be inspected quarterly, semi-annually, and annually. At each of these intervals, specific items must be maintained and tested. There are also weekly and monthly inspection requirements for items that must only be visually inspected—these components include gauges, valves, private hydrants, and fire pumps.
  • Monthly inspections of your fire sprinkler systems must be conducted and documented.
  • Quarterly, semi-annual, and annual inspection, testing, and maintenance should be conducted and documented. 
  • Five-year inspection, testing, and maintenance should be conducted and documented (if applicable)
  • Your fire hose should be tested and the testing should be documented.


FIRE PUMPS:

  • Pump runs should be conducted and documented on a weekly or monthly basis depending on type.
  • Annual pump testing should be conducted and documented.

FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS

  • Quarterly, semi-annual, and annual inspection, testing, and maintenance should be conducted and documented.

FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS:

  • The kitchen hood and ductwork should be cleaned regularly depending on your building (quarterly, semi-annually, or annually) and documented.
  • Your kitchen suppression system should be inspected, tested, and maintained semi-annually and the services should be documented. 

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS 

  • Monthly inspections of your fire extinguishers must be conducted and documented. 
  • Annual inspections by a licensed fire protection professional must be conducted and documented. Any deficiencies found from that inspection must be corrected and fire extinguishers must be certified. Inspection reports and repairs must be documented.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

THE FOAM ON THE TOP OF YOUR GUINNESS SHOULDN’T BE THE ONLY THING YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT THIS ST. PATRICK’S DAY

Your needs as a business owner vary on the type of building you own. You’ve likely heard and implemented many fire protection systems, but do you know the key differences between a fire sprinkler system and a fire suppression system? It’s important to understand these differences. 

CLEAN AGENT FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

These fire suppression systems utilize environmentally-friendly chemical reagents to put out fires. These are typically found in sensitive areas, such as a data center. The chemicals used are water-free and safe for the environment. Once a clean agent system activates, the clean-up is minimal. 

CARBON DIOXIDE FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

These systems use CO2 colorless, odorless gas to extinguish a fire. This option is an incredibly efficient and cost-effective approach to fire protection. The clean-up after the system has been activated is minimal.

These systems are currently being used by the U.S Navy in commercial shipping applications. It is common to find these systems in industries that handle steel and aluminum. 

INDUSTRIAL FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

Industrial plants need extra attention when it comes to fire protection, as most of the areas are in high-hazard environments. The fires that occur in these areas typically involve some type of chemical, liquid fuel, or other hazardous materials, therefore proper fire protection systems are essential. These systems typically use dry chemicals to extinguish the fire. 

RESTAURANT FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

When you’re at the pub this St. Patrick’s Day (virtually or with a mask on) you’ll find that in the kitchen there are specific fire suppression systems. (We know you won’t notice, because you’ll be singing along to Sweet Caroline with a Guinness in hand- and we don’t blame you, we’ll be doing the same.)

However, those fire suppression systems are essential to keeping you and your drunk counterparts from going up in flames! These suppression systems extinguish fires fueled by grease in a kitchen environment. They typically utilize wet chemicals in a mist form to extinguish the fire quickly and effectively. 

Fire protection systems needed for high-hazard areas are among the most technical and specialized fire equipment systems. At VFS, we pride ourselves on being a renowned leader in the special hazards sector

Our founder and CEO, Randy Nelson, sits on the technical committee for NFPA 16 (Code Standard for the Installation of Foam-Water Sprinkler) and understands just how critical proper installation and maintenance is on these specialized systems. We bring our robust knowledge, expertise, and experience to find the safest and most reliable solution for every unique need and environment your building has!

SPECIAL HAZARD FIRE PROTECTION

WE REALLY KNOW HOW TO SUCK THE AIR OF THE ROOM

You have likely heard the rumor that the Yale library’s fire extinguishing system removes the air from the book stacks in the event of a fire, which would doom anyone inside the building. While the special hazard fire protection system utilized is designed to save the books from harmful sprinklers, it actually will not harm anyone inside the building! This is only one example of how special hazard fire protection systems protect your people and your valuable assets. 

WHAT IS A ‘SPECIAL HAZARD’?

An area deemed a ‘special hazard’ area can mean a few things. For one, it can be an area containing equipment or processes of exceptionally high value. It can also be an area containing unique, or irreplaceable assets- like the Yale library! Lastly, they can be areas where the revenue produced or its function is of greater value than the equipment itself. 

A special hazard isn’t simply an area, it can be a building, area, room, or a piece of equipment. From a fire protection standpoint, certain industries bring about additional challenges in the fire safety realm. Places like data centers, telecommunications, power generation, manufacturing and testing facilities, machinery spaces, and healthcare facilities. A typical fire alarm and sprinkler system simply won’t cut it for these types of buildings. 

At VFS, we’re experts in special hazard protection. We know how to ensure your unique building needs are met in terms of fire protection. We also know that special hazard protection begins with fire suppression systems, sounds, and communication systems. 

FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

Fire suppression systems are designed to extinguish or control fires. They are activated by heat, smoke, or a combination of the two. Unlike typical wet-pipe sprinkler systems, suppression systems use gaseous, chemical, or foam agents to suppress the fire. Like the Yale library- we know how to suck the air out of the room! 

Because these fire suppression systems do not utilize water, they aid in protecting and preserving sensitive equipment and content within a very specific environment. Specific environments typically need specific different types of fire suppression systems. At VFS, we have the expertise to design, install, and maintain these systems with integrity. A few of the major special hazard systems we provide our clients include portable fire extinguishers, pre-engineered systems, marine, vehicle, pre-engineered kitchen systems, and gaseous systems. 

SOUND AND COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS

In an emergency, especially in a special hazard situation, communication is key. These communication systems work with your fire protection systems to ensure the safety of your people. At VFS, we support our clients in crafting internal and external sound, text, and visual notifications sent from a centralized location. 

These notifications are based on the type and severity of the threat. As well as location tools that identify at-risk personnel and assets. It is essential to have top-of-the-line sound and communication systems that ensure the safety of your most valuable assets.

We are a renowned leader in fire and life safety systems for special hazard facilities. We take pride in being one of the select few companies capable of performing highly technical and sophisticated projects. Our clients have access to our team every step of the way. From the design/ build stages to the implementation. 

The robust knowledge and vast experience our team retains provide the best possible solutions for all clients. Our technical and design expertise is recognized nationally. Our CEO and Founder, Randy Nelson sits on the Technical Committee for NFPA 16 (Code Standard for Installation of Foam-Water Sprinkler), so you could say we know what we’re doing! If you need a partner in your fire protection, contact us today!

FIRE SAFETY TIPS FOR COMMERCIAL PROPERTY OWNERS

EYEWASH STATIONS ARE NOT JUST FOR GETTING DEL FUEGO OUT OF YOUR EYES (WE GET IT… WE LOVE TACO BELL TOO)

Commercial Property Owners: Ensuring your building remains safe from harm is essential to your ongoing success. The foundation of your building safety protocol is fire safety. According to Chad Connor at AZ Big Media, about 120,000 commercial property fires occurred in 2019, resulting in $4.3 billion in property damage, 1,200 injuries, and 110 deaths. In order to ensure your commercial property isn’t included in that number, you need to put the proper fire safety precautions in place. 

START WITH REGULAR INSPECTIONS

Safety alert lights, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and sprinkler systems must be inspected on a regular basis. Each fire protection system requires a different maintenance schedule. It’s important to stay on top of your inspection schedule in order to ensure your property remains up to code and safe for its occupants. 

  • NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems
  • NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code
  • NFPA 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers
  • NFPA 17A Standard for Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems (Kitchen Systems)
  • NFPA 17 Standard for Dry Chemical Extinguishing Systems (Paint Spray Booths)
  • NFPA 2001 Standard on Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems

At VFS, we assist our clients in maintaining their inspection schedules to ensure ongoing fire and life safety success. As a business owner, it’s important that you or your facilities manager are present for all inspections. Knowing the overall health of your facility allows you to plan for future expenses and report accurate safety updates to your insurers. 

ENSURE YOU HAVE THE PROPER FIRE PROTECTION SYSTEMS IN PLACE FOR YOUR UNIQUE BUSINESS

Your commercial property is unique to the needs of your business. Similarly, the necessary fire protection is unique to your commercial property. Understanding what fire protection systems you need in place to ensure your building remains safe is essential. Here are a few fire protection systems you may need to consider:

  • Smoke management systems
  • Automatic closing doors
  • Private fire hydrants
  • Fire alarm systems
  • Communication systems
  • Emergency generator and standby power systems
  • Sprinkler Systems
  • Standpipe systems
  • Pressurized stair shaft
  • Elevators automatic Phase 1 & 2
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Fire pumps

MAINTAIN PROPER SIGNAGE THROUGHOUT THE BUILDING

Indoor and outdoor signage is essential to the safety of your building. Firefighters cannot do their job if they do not have access to equipment and pathways to access the emergency. Floors and rooms should be clearly mapped, access to specific areas like the roof should be clearly labeled, and fire safety equipment and hazardous materials need to be identified. 

Occupants cannot get to safety without understanding where the nearest exit is. Exit lighting can be an overlooked area of your fire safety. When a fire begins, the conditions will likely induce chaos and confusion. Smoke can cause occupants’ vision to be obscured and make it difficult to navigate around the office space. Ensure all exit signs are illuminated and easy to read. Consider auditory alerts as well as visual alerts for those who are visually impaired or in the case of heavy smoke. 

COMMUNICATE YOUR EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN WITH EMPLOYEES

Written emergency action plans are a vital part of ensuring your employees know what to do if an emergency occurs. These plans should cover actions both employers and employees should take to remain safe during fire emergencies. It should include the equipment that needs to be shut down, escape routes, and when and where manual fire suppression efforts should take place. 

Ensure the management team occupying your building reviews the emergency action plan with all employees at various times throughout their time in the building. It should be reviewed when it’s developed, when employee’s responsibilities change, and when the plan changes. 

ENSURE YOU HAVE SPECIAL HAZARD PROTECTION IN PLACE IF NECESSARY.

Special hazard protection is not a commonly discussed fire safety topic. Ensuring buildings are up to special hazard standards takes a very specialized skill set to perform. 

Custom fire and life safety doesn’t stop with fire suppression and sprinkler systems.   Emergency eyewash stations or emergency showers are a vital part of certain special hazardous situations.  In cases where chemicals are in play, eyewash stations are a critical safety element. 

At VFS, we pride ourselves on our expertise when it comes to special hazard protection. We understand that special hazard safety begins with the integration of custom fire sprinkler systems, special hazard solutions, and fire alarms. 

protection during the holidays

IT’S THE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS, AND ALL THROUGH THE OFFICE, NOT A FIRE WAS BURNING… BECAUSE OF VFS

The last thing you want to deal with during the holiday season is an office fire or a security breach. Being around extended family is enough stress for all of us! With that being said, it’s important to have all the systems in place to keep your business safe while you’re not there. 

At VFS, we believe in protecting your business like it’s our own. We implement specific systems catered to your business’ needs. A few of the systems and processes we put in place include:

FIRE SPRINKLERS

Our full-service in-house Design/Build departments and our in-house manufacturing shop work together to ensure the highest quality and most accurate results. We use state of the art hydraulic modeling software for our Fire Sprinkler Services. Some of our Fire Sprinkler Services include:

  • Commercial/Industrial and Retail New Construction sprinkler installation
  • Retrofit or Tenant Improvement 
  • Wet or Dry Pipe Systems
  • Special Hazards
  • In-Rack Sprinklers
  • Fire Pumps
  • Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion Testing and Remediation
  • Underground pipe repair
  • NFPA-25 Inspection, Testing and Maintenance
  • 24-hour Emergency Service
  •  Fire Alarm Design, Detection, and Monitoring

ALARMS

VFS offers our clients in-house design experts to develop solutions and meet your site-specific needs. Whether that means protecting your healthcare institution, your education facility, a distribution center, or a refinery, our experts are ready to help. With our alarm systems, we offer a few unique services:

  • Installation by trained and certified technicians
  • In-house design
  • Testing and mass-notification
  • Safety monitoring
  • 24-hour emergency service
  • Preventative maintenance

SECURITY SYSTEMS

Taking proper security measures for your business, especially during the holidays, is essential to its safety. At VFS, we implement the proper security measures that address your specific business needs. These measures include:

  • Access control systems
  • Mass notification systems
  • Video surveillance
  • Intrusion alarm systems. 

We utilize the best combination of hardware and software to provide reliable, cost-effective, integrated solutions for your business’ needs. 

SPECIAL HAZARD PROTECTION 

We pride ourselves on our expertise in special hazard protection. As renowned leaders in Fire and Life Safety Systems for Special Hazard Facilities, we have a reputation to uphold! 

VFS is one of the few companies able to perform the highly technical and sophisticated projects surrounding special hazards. We provide design-build solutions from the concept and budgeting phase to the final construction and occupancy phase for facilities across all 50 states!

Our company pillars are built on safety and security in everything we do, so you have peace of mind that you’re entrusting your business in good hands. Our CEO, Randy Nelson sits on the technical committees for NFPA 16 (code standard for the installation of foam-water sprinkler). Needless to say, we’re prepared to provide your business with the best possible solutions.

ONGOING INSPECTIONS

We utilize state-of-the-art technology to keep inspections simple for our clients. We give you a one-stop-shop to manage all your inspection requirements, whether that be for your single facility or your nationwide portfolio of properties. 

EMERGENCY RESPONSE COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS (ERRCS)

VFS Fire & Security Systems is an FCC licensed hold contractor, which is required for the installation of ERRCS. Our experts are prepared to design, furnish, and install the systems that your specific building requires. The ERRCS signal enhancement systems include indoor antennas, coaxial cables, DAS headend (booster amplifier), outside coax cable, outside directional antenna, and vertical 2-hour rated enclosures. 

The holiday season brings about a lot of stress for most people. At VFS, we want to eliminate the stress surrounding your building’s safety and security. Contact us today to implement proper systems and processes today.

5 things not to do

Stop, drop, and roll, that’s all we need to know about fires right? Not exactly… While that advice is extremely important when you catch on fire, during a fire you need to know exactly what to do, and what not to do. Here are a few tips!

ONE OF THE BIGGEST MISTAKES PEOPLE MAKE IN STRUCTURAL FIRES IS OPENING VARIOUS DOORS WITHOUT CHECKING FOR AN ALTERNATE ESCAPE ROUTE.

While yes, fleeing the scene is an important instinct during a fire, sometimes opening a door can cause more damage than good.  Fires require oxygen to spread. When you open a door (especially one that is warm) the fire receives that oxygen, therefore exposing you to dangerous heat levels and toxic carbon monoxide gas. 

Before you open a door to exit, check for alternate routes where flames have not spread. If you are on the first level of the building, a window can also act as a great exit plan. 

WHAT IF THE FIRE STARTED OR SPREAD IN THE ROOM YOU’RE IN?

If the fire is in the room you’re in, and you need to open a door to exit the danger, please do! However, be sure you close the door behind you to ensure you give a barrier to the fire. Opening the door will invite the fire to spread and potentially follow you out. In an effort to contain the fire, close the door behind you! 

WHILE THE ELEVATOR MAY SEEM LIKE THE QUICKEST WAY OUT, IF THERE’S A FIRE IT COULD PUT YOU IN REAL DANGER! 

If there’s a fire in your building, avoid the elevators at all costs. The stairs are the safest, best option during a fire. During a fire, elevators can malfunction, disable, or experience various electrical issues. When you are in a high-rise or larger building locate the emergency exits and stairwells to ensure you remain safe. 

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS ARE GREAT, BUT YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW TO USE THEM!

Fire extinguishers can save you during a fire. With fire extinguishers, it is important to understand how to use them. The most common mistake with fire extinguishers is that you aim too high on top of the flames. In order to be most effective, the fire extinguisher needs to be pointed at the base. 

When using a fire extinguisher, pull the pin, aim at the base of the flames, squeeze the trigger, and sweep from side to side. As a business owner, it’s important to check fire extinguishers for expiration. Fire extinguishers should be replaced every few years. 

DON’T BREAK THE WINDOWS

Fire-related deaths are typically caused by smoke inhalation rather than the heat of the fire itself. With that being said, breaking windows during a fire allows the fire to gain more access to oxygen, helping the fire grow, and decreasing your ability to escape. When you keep the windows closed you are starving the fire. 

DO NOT RETURN TO THE BUILDING FOR YOUR BELONGINGS. 

As you’re told when you’re in elementary school, leave all your belongings and allow the first responders to fight the fire. You might think you have time to grab a few things, but fire can move quicker than you expect. 

It’s important to understand what you need to do, and not do in case of a fire. We understand it can be challenging to not panic when a fire occurs. The best thing you can do is leave it in a safe way, and allow the first responders to take care of it.

5 movie myths

THE ONLY THING THAT SHOULD BURN IS A DISCO INFERNO

We’ve all seen the scene in The Incredibles when a small amount of smoke from a self-destructing note causes the entire sprinkler system to go off and douse the family. Movies are designed to bring impossibility to reality for viewers. With alien invasions, transforming cars, and flying humans that’s just fine. But one movie effect that is misconceived too frequently is fire safety, and it can be dangerous. 

SPRINKLER SYSTEMS DON’T DRENCH YOU.

One of the most blatant false portrayals of fire protection systems is the use of fire sprinklers. Countless movies have shown us characters getting doused with water after a tiny amount of smoke is near a single sprinkler. 

Sorry to disappoint, but the scene in Die Hard when John McLean sets off all the sprinklers with a lighter is not feasible outside of the big screen. Hollywood dramatics make our perception of fire protection systems skewed.

In reality, each sprinkler head is triggered individually. As the heat spreads throughout a building, more sprinkler heads are activated. While deluge systems do exist, they are not as common and are typically used in very specific applications such as power plants, aircraft hangers, and chemical plants. 

A LITTLE SMOKE DOESN’T TRIGGER YOUR SPRINKLER SYSTEM

Smoke actually does not trigger a sprinkler system to turn on. Despite what The Incredibles depicts, sprinkler systems detect heat in a building and activate based on the heat temperature within the room. In Changing Lanes we see a similar movie myth, Ben Affleck lights a piece of paper on fire and holds it under a sprinkler head, triggering all the sprinkler heads in the office building. As this might add to the theatrics of a Hollywood flick it is not the mechanical truth of a fire sprinkler system.

PULLING THE FIRE ALARM DOES NOT DISCHARGE WATER.

Remember the scene in Mean Girls when the principal hits the fire alarm pull station with a baseball bat and all the sprinkler heads go off? Yeah… that’s not true either. Activating a pull station doesn’t trigger the sprinklers to dispel water, it sends a signal to the main fire alarm panel which activates the alarm and notifies occupants to get out of the building. 

If every time a fire alarm pull station was activated, even accidentally (which happens quite frequently especially in educational environments) and the sprinklers went off, it would cause an immense amount of property damage. Here’s how it REALLY works: when pulling a fire alarm pull station, the alarm sends a signal to the fire alarm panel and activates the alarm to notify occupants to leave. 

YOU CAN USE THE WRONG TYPE OF FIRE EXTINGUISHER. 

Firefighters use dry chemical extinguishers or hose lines to extinguish fires, like the car fire in Terminator 3. The firefighters in Terminator 3 use carbon dioxide fire extinguishers to try to put out the car fire, which, in reality, could have made it worse. In real fire situations, the wrong type of fire extinguisher could spread the fire or not put out the flames. Here’s a quick recap of the different types of fire extinguishers and their uses: 

  • Class A: freely burning, combustible solid materials such as wood or paper
  • Class B: flammable liquid or gas
  • Class C: energized electrical fire (energized electrical source serves as the ignitor of a class A or B fire – if electrical source is removed, it is no longer a class C fire)
  • Class D: metallic fire (titanium, zirconium, magnesium, sodium)
  • Class K: cooking fires – animal or vegetable oils or fats

USING THE ELEVATOR AFTER THE FIRE ALARM OR SPRINKLER GOES OFF WON’T WORK.

A fire breaks out on the 13th floor, the main character jumps into the elevator to get away. If this was actually possible, it would be extremely dangerous. When fire protection systems activate, the elevators will be removed from normal service and recalled to a specific landing. This action prevents the possibility of occupants being delivered to a smoke or flame-filled area. 

Understanding what fire protection services can do for you is an important part of your building safety. While most of the movie scenes are extremely entertaining, they don’t give you an accurate representation of what you should do when a fire occurs. As you start considering your fire prevention tactics, begin with implementing the proper fire safety measures in your building.

TOP 5 CAUSES OF COMMERCIAL FIRES

We didn’t start the fire🎶

While Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire is an extremely catchy tune, it’s not something you want to hear as a building manager. It’s important to have all the fire protection systems in place to ensure your building’s safety. Fire prevention should be your main priority.

Having all the important precautions in place is important, but you also need to understand why fires start in commercial buildings. Here are the top 5 causes of commercial fires, so you can be prepared when you need it most. 

Cooking Fires

One of the most common causes of fires in commercial buildings are cooking fires. Any business that has a kitchen area is susceptible to cooking fires. Some of these fires begin by human error, while others stem from appliance malfunction. Your kitchen should be considered a high-risk zone and should be adequately protected with sprinkler systems, alarms, and fire extinguishers.

Here are a few of the leading commercial buildings affected by cooking fires:

  • 64% of fires in healthcare facilities are related to cooking.
  • 61% of fires in restaurants are related to cooking.
  • 38% of fires in educational institutions are related to cooking.
  • 29% of fires in office properties are related to cooking.
  • 13% of fires in stores and mercantile properties are related to cooking.

Heating equipment-related fires

During colder months, most commercial buildings require additional heat in order for workers to remain comfortable. The equipment required to keep your building warm is susceptible to overheating and starting fires. This equipment might include central heating units, fireplaces, water heaters, and other heating appliances. Heating equipment accounts for 14% of fires in industrial/manufacturing properties and 11% of fires in office buildings.

Electrical and lighting equipment

Any electricity within your building carries inherent fire risks. Electrical fires can occur with overloaded circuits, loose connections, faulty fuses, imbalanced electrical loads, and other electrical and lighting problems.

Most electrical fires stem from older buildings’ electrical wiring. However, it is important to stay proactive and have your new building inspected. You should also perform preventative maintenance annually. 

Intentional Fires

Intentional fires account for 10% of fires that occur in commercial buildings. These fires tend to cause the most damage and unfortunately, result in the most civilian injuries and deaths.

It is important to implement active fire safety measures and include fire safety in areas that may seem uncommon. These fires typically occur in bathrooms, trash bins, garages, or open areas like a lawn or field.

Human Error

Human error and unexpected fires account for about 10% of fires started in commercial buildings. Unplanned fires happen. They may stem from a variety of situations. For example, employees may leave a space heater on or plug too many things into an extension cord. 

While you can’t stop carelessness, you can implement proper employee training programs. These programs help educate your employees on how to prevent fires and put them out when they do occur. 

At VFS, we are dedicated to ensuring that your building and your employees remain safe from harm. We partner with our clients to develop the best fire protection solutions and safety training based on your business’s specific needs. Fortify your building, protect your employees and gain the peace of mind you deserve knowing that VFS is protecting your business.

be alarmed be very alarmed

Be alarmed, be very alarmed. Not about ghosts, witches, and warlocks. About your building’s alarm system! It’s time to invest in Fire Alarm systems that work effectively and keep your business safe from harm. Not only will it save your business, but it will also save you money. Here’s how.

PROTECT YOUR PEOPLE

One of the biggest reasons to invest in a commercial fire alarm system is to protect your team. Your people are your biggest asset and are the people who care most about your business. It is so important that they are protected with the best and most reliable fire alarm systems on the market. Just as important as the system itself, is the company you entrust to inspect and maintain them! Entrust VFS Fire & Security Services to support the integrity and reliability of your fire alarm systems and the safety of your people!

THE COST OF RECOVERY

Recovering from a catastrophic fire can bring about a greater investment for your company than protecting your business in the first place. Even if one catastrophic fire can be prevented, the investment in a professionally installed fire alarm system is worth it. Not only do they help you prevent fires while you’re in the office, but they also prevent them when you are away. With proper design, early detection, and advanced technology you can avoid potential damage and loss of assets from an unforeseen fire. 

HAVE YOUR ALARM SYSTEM INSTALLED PROFESSIONALLY

A fire event can have devastating consequences for businesses and their employees. A professionally installed fire alarm system can help to prevent or lessen the severity of such events. Through proactive measures such as staying up-to-date on required inspections, professional maintenance,  and mass notification systems VFS can help protect your employees, your customers, and your property. 

SAVE ON INSURANCE

Insurance companies offer discounts for systems that guarantee their investment in your building. When you implement a top-of-the-line commercial fire alarm system, insurance companies feel safe insuring your business. As an insurance agency, if a fire alarm system saves your building during the night, when you’re on vacation, or if any other unforeseen circumstance occurs, they will feel much better about their investment. The average savings on insurance for installing a commercial fire system is around 20%! 

At VFS, safety is our top priority. We offer top-of-the-line fire alarm systems installed and maintained by licensed professionals to keep your business and people safe! Our team offers in-house design, inspection and testing, maintenance and repair, mass notification systems, safety training, monitoring, 24-hour emergency service, and preventative maintenance. Want to know more? Contact us!

security measures to implement today

Do you know what’s going on in your building when you’re not there? 5 Security measures you should implement today.

Do you know what’s going on in your building when you’re not there? Probably not. Your old school security system just isn’t going to cut it anymore. It’s important to implement a few security measures to better understand what’s happening in your building at all times. Why do you need to know? There are multiple safety issues that can occur, and with proper security measures in place, you can prevent them! Here are 5 security measures you should implement today.

Access Control

Controlling the access into your building helps to mitigate many risks to your business assets, inventory, and employees. When your access control system is running properly it can help you manage your team, restrict access to certain rooms, and track movement throughout your facility.  At VFS, we readily design top of the line Access Control Systems that integrate into your intrusion alarm systems.

Intrusion Alarm Systems

This is not your simple ‘Beware of Dog’ sign! Intrusion alarm systems help to deter trespassers and alert both you and the authorities when someone unlawfully enters your building. Every building is unique, at VFS our alarm systems are designed for your specific building needs, we integrate Access Control with Video Surveillance to ensure your business’s safety.

Mass Notification

If something happens in your building wouldn’t you like to know? Mass notification systems can help guide and direct your team in an emergency situation. With our advanced technology and proper safety protocols in place, these notification systems can help protect against potential threats that could cause damage or loss of critical assets. Whether you are in a municipal, civil, and defense or manufacturing and industrial environment these systems cut through the noise to clearly communicate critical life-saving information as well as general notification announcements throughout your facility. With industry-leading intelligibility VFS can assist your business in delivering the right message, to the right people, at the right time to help save lives and protect your assets. 

Security Analytics

Along with multiple security system offerings, we track activities and reliability through our in-depth reporting system. With these analytics, we can better understand the needs of your business. Which systems are you using most? What areas of your business need more protection? We’ll find out what you need and implement it. 

Video Surveillance

Digital video monitoring can help protect your facility from theft (both internal and external), vandalism, and workplace violence. If an incident occurs, your team can be on top of it. We connect your system to your IP network so that recorded or live video can be viewed from a computer anywhere there is internet access. These systems can also integrate with your Access Control Systems. 

At VFS, we work to keep your business as safe as possible. Our systems are put in place to do just that. If something isn’t working for your business, we pivot and find something that will better serve your specific building. Contact us to learn more!

“RUN LIKE HELL” IS NOT A FIRE SAFETY PROTOCOL

“Run like hell” is not a fire safety protocol. For large corporations, organization is key. For both the safety of your employees and your building, you must prioritize implementing proper fire safety protocols. We’ve put together our top 5 tips for improving fire safety in your building. 

PERFORM A FIRE ASSESSMENT AND CRAFT THE PERFECT FIRE SAFETY PLAN. 

Fire risk assessments should be regularly scheduled to ensure your business has the necessary processes and procedures in place in case of emergency. This assessment will likely include identifying fire hazards, evaluating and reducing the risk, and crafting a plan.

You likely have an old plan, created by a far-off company and tucked away in a drawer, never to be seen again.  This is also not a great fire safety protocol.  For the plan to work, everyone needs to know what the plan is. Be sure to run drills periodically throughout the year. All employees should share problems that arise in those drills with management to avert problems in a real emergency. 

Your fire safety plan should include employee education, fire escape routes, fire drill, and a plan to ensure that all team members have an evacuation plan that fits their needs. The plan should be detailed and robust, to ensure you are prepared for anything that may come your way!

IMPLEMENT THE PROPER TECHNOLOGY. 

We don’t just mean fire extinguishers placed randomly around the office. This means fire detection and alarm systems that can overcome potential loss of power, emergency lighting to guide your team in the dark, industrial fire sprinkler systems to help prevent the spread of a fire, and monitoring to alert the authorities to your emergency. Having the proper technology in place will allow your team to stay safe and your building to come out with limited damage.

DISPLAY SIGNAGE TO HELP LEAD YOUR TEAM TO SAFETY.

Communicate proper health and safety information through illuminated signs, which can include fire safety warning signs, fire-fighting equipment signs, and marking dangerous substances. Be sure the signage is easy to ready and communicates the message clearly.

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE FLAMES… DON’T LET YOUR BUSINESS GO UP IN SMOKE.

Smoke can be just as deadly as flames if your building has a fire. Be sure to have the proper equipment in place, like smoke and fire curtains, to limit the spread of smoke damage as well as the damage caused by fire. 

MAKE SURE YOUR STAFF IS EDUCATED.

Imagining worst-case scenarios is not just for Sci-Fi TV writers… While it can be easy to forget to address the real dangers of fire when you haven’t experienced it, this can be a business’ greatest downfall. Ensure you give your employees annual fire safety training to teach them about the common causes of workplace fires. Address how to prevent a fire, and what to do if a fire takes place in the workspace.

“Run like hell” doesn’t have to be your fire safety protocol. Take these steps to improve your office’s fire safety. Want to know more? Contact us today!

BUILDING COMPLIANCE VS BUILDING COMPLAINTS (NOT JUST A SPELLING ERROR)

BUILDING COMPLIANCE VS BUILDING COMPLAINTS (NOT JUST A SPELLING ERROR)

There’s a good reason for the codes and standards established by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).  Compliance isn’t a punishment, it’s a roadmap to safety, protection, and long term sustainability. Building Compliance vs Building Complaints (not just a spelling error)– it doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. 

With over 300 codes written in “legal-ese”, it’s not always as intuitive as it should be to comply with fire safety codes so we’ve created a cheat sheet to steer you in the right direction. 

300 FIRE PROTECTION COMPLIANCE CODES?!?

The likelihood is that your building does not have to comply with all 300 NFPA codes and standards. Searching the NFPA’s database can simplify the process: https://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/all-codes-and-standards/list-of-codes-and-standards

THERE ARE CODES YOU’LL REGULARLY ENCOUNTER SUCH AS 

NFPA 99Health Care Facilities Code

And 

NFPA 72®National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code®

And others that are very specific such as: 

NFPA 418Standard for Heliports

Compliance isn’t the goal, safety is the goal, and – in that vein – we always recommend the following precautions be taken: 

DISPOSE OF EXCESS PACKAGING IN REAL-TIME.  PILES OF BOXES CAN FUEL A FIRE THAT MIGHT OTHERWISE BE EASILY MANAGED. 

Oily rags can spontaneously combust, it seems like the stuff of action moves, and yet, it happens all the time.  Rag disposal is essential to safety.

DON’T PUT A LANTERN IN THE SHED WITH THE COW. 

Check your fire extinguishers.  An expired extinguisher is not only frustrating, it can be deadly. 

A popping sound when you turn on the light is a warning!  Inspect electric lines that are old or unreliable. 

REFINE YOUR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS PLAN FOR FIRE, EARTHQUAKE, FLOOD, LOCUSTS, AND ANY OTHER EVENTUALITY.

Make sure everyone knows what to do, who is in charge, how to get out, and where to go once they get out. 

BRING IN THE EXPERTS AT VFS.  WE’VE SEEN IT ALL. 

Our teams can ensure compliance and ensure that compliance isn’t all you’re doing to prevent fires. We are a full fire and life safety contractor and after-market service provider. Whether your needs are related to fire sprinkler systems, alarms systems, extinguishers, backflows, fire pumps, suppression, special hazards, monitoring, DAS systems, emergency notification (the list goes on and on) we can not only inspect and maintain those systems but we also design, build and install! With our inspections program, we manage, schedule, and track your inspections, deficiencies, and repairs so you don’t have to. 

At VFS we pride ourselves on the caliber of our team members, our commitment to a holistic understanding of your needs, and our sommelier level wine collection (get to know our founder).  We are the team you want to bring on to your project.  Connect with us, take a look inside.

Take theses precautions to keep your building safe