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. 

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. 

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!

5 THINGS CRE OWNERS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT INSTALLING ERRCS

DON’T GET IRKED BY ERRCS

What happens when an emergency occurs in your building? Will people be able to communicate outside the building for help? Will they be guided to safety? Can the occupants dial 911 from their cell phones?

It’s important that first responders are able to communicate with other emergency responders outside of the building. As a building owner, it is your responsibility to manage evacuation, communication, and signal systems. 

Buildings are typically composed of materials that inhibit cellular and other communication signals. In order to boost signals within your building and ensure public safety compliance, you can utilize ERRCS systems. 

WHAT ARE ERRCS?

An Emergency Responder Radio Communication Systems (ERRCS) is a required standard for most buildings. ERRCS is a building communication system that improves communication within the building to those outside. This extension of the public safety network utilizes small antennas called Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) that receive and transmit radio signals from the first-responder network. 

These ERRCS systems are composed of various components that ensure they are working efficiently and effectively. A Bi-Directional Amplifiers system is integrated to connect the smaller antennas to the donor antenna. This antenna then transmits and receives radio frequencies from the public safety network. 

ERRCS IS NOT REQUIRED FOR EVERY COMMERCIAL BUILDING. HOW CAN YOU DETERMINE WHEN YOU NEED TO INSTALL ERRCS?

Start by checking your local jurisdiction to see if there are ordinances in place that relate to public safety communications. The general requirements for all buildings is that public safety radios must work in the building. If public safety radios are tested and work successfully, especially in critical areas like stairwells, electrical rooms, mechanical rooms, and elevators, then you will not be required to install an ERRCS. 

It’s important to understand what might block these signals before you hire someone to test your communication capabilities. Exterior walls and glass are just the beginning when it comes to potential signal blockages. Interior walls, office furniture, equipment, and people can also impact signal transmission. 

WHEN ARE ERRCS REQUIRED?

There are various requirements for installing ERRCS in your commercial building. Here are a few of the common requirements you need to be aware of. 

BUILDING SIZE

Buildings that have 3 or more stories, are 50,000 square feet in area, or have underground parking require the installation of ERRCS. Buildings with complex layouts have a challenging time keeping the signal strength in all areas of the building.

Challenging layouts typically include thick walls and multi-room floors. If your building is made up of metal, concrete, brick, wood, or Low-E glass, the signal may be blocked or disrupted. In order to remain in compliance with IFC regulations, you must ensure the RF signal is amplified in all areas of the building. 

LICENSING REQUIREMENTS

It’s important to ensure your Federal Communications Commission licensed radiotelephone transmitters are adjusted, maintained, and repaired up to code. These services require special training, so it’s important that you hire a trusted resource to perform inspection and maintenance on your equipment. Our experts at VFS are trusted to ensure our clients remain in compliance and up to code. 

PAGING SYSTEMS

It is essential that your ERRCS work cohesively with your fire protection systems. In order for the two to work together, you need to implement paging systems. Paging systems help announce instructions to building occupants to ensure their safety. 

SIGNAL STRENGTH

In order to remain in compliance with ERRCS requirements, a building must have a 95% majority of minimum signal strength of -95 dBm. This level is a standard in emergency responder communication systems. In order to ensure this requirement is met, you may need to boost the signal through DAS or other signal boosters. 

SIGNAL TESTING

Annual testing and maintenance are required to ensure standards are met and any interference is kept to a minimum. VFS is licensed and certified to help your building remain in compliance with these testing and maintenance requirements.

BATTERY BACK-UPS

Battery back-ups are required in case of power outages. When an emergency occurs, the power may need to be cut off to all parts of the building. When your back-ups are reliable, you ensure your emergency systems are running when you need them most. 

Do you know if your building requires ERRCS to be implemented? If not, our experts can help! Contact our team today to see how we can help your building remain compliant and, more importantly, safe!

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. 

ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE FIRE PROTECTION

WHEN YOUR WIFE SAYS “I’M FINE…” HOW TO PUT OUT FIRES (BECAUSE YOUR RELATIONSHIP IS ABOUT TO GO UP IN FLAMES)

As a husband, the last thing you want to hear is your wife passive-aggressively saying “I’m fine…” You know exactly what that means- it’s time to put out a figurative fire because your relationship is about to go up in flames. As a building owner, the flames you need to avoid aren’t quite as figurative. 

In order to fight very real fires that can occur in your building, you need to implement proper fire protection systems. Both active and passive fire protection systems are necessary to keep your building, and more importantly, your people safe from harm. 

WHAT IS PASSIVE FIRE PROTECTION?

The word ‘passive’ has a connotation that the object in question is something that is not expected to produce results. Your wife’s passive-aggressive comments beg to differ, and so do your passive fire protection systems.  In fact, passive fire protection (pfp) can be equally, if not more, effective than active fire protection. 

Passive fire protection systems are stationary materials designed to prevent the spread of fire and smoke. These systems help keep the fire in its original area, therefore, stopping it from spreading throughout the building. The combination of active and passive fire protection systems can help put out fires faster and stop additional damage from occurring. 

These fire protection systems are typically built into your building. When looking to renovate or build on a property, there is a lot of careful planning needed to ensure your building has these passive fire protection systems in place. Our team can help your team design and plan your construction in order to ensure building safety. For example, using cinder block walls as opposed to traditional wood-frame walls help to reduce the spread of flames. 

However, passive systems can still be added after construction. Structures like smoke baffles, fire doors, and fire-resistant glass partitions can be installed after construction has been completed. 

The objective of a passive fire protection system is to hold the smoke and flames in one contained area. They can also be used to channel the flames out of the building. When you have passive fire protection systems in place, fires that do occur are easier to extinguish. 

WHAT IS ACTIVE FIRE PROTECTION?

With an active fire protection (afp) system, some kind of action is taking place. Whether it is manual or automatic, these systems deploy once fire, smoke, or heat is detected. These systems are designed to help combat the fire, and help put it out. 

MOST BUILDINGS ARE EQUIPPED WITH A FEW ACTIVE SYSTEMS THAT CAN BE DEPLOYED ONSITE DURING A FIRE.

SMOKE DETECTORS

Smoke detectors activate when there is smoke in the building. These detectors typically utilize noise and light to alert occupants in the building of the potential fire. 

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS

Are manually operated active fire protection measures. These help occupants put out small fires within the building. 

SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

Sprinkler systems are active fire protection systems that automatically activate to help put out the fire while building occupants move to safety. These systems trigger when the heat from the fire causes the sprinkler head to open. There are various types of fire sprinkler systems that can be beneficial for your business. 

Understanding your unique business needs is exactly what we do at VFS. Our in-house teams help with construction services, special hazard needs, inspection maintenance, and preventative maintenance. We are your partner in success. 

VENTILATION SYSTEMS

Ventilation systems help direct smoke out of the building and away from the occupants. 

These active fire protection systems are typically installed based on certain legal criteria such as occupancy and building size. Higher than average risk areas, such as areas with flames or cooking implements might require additional active systems for added protection. 

HOW DO PASSIVE AND ACTIVE FIRE PROTECTION MEASURES WORK TOGETHER?

A combined effort of passive and active systems is essential to the safety of your building and its occupants. Active systems effectively help occupants evacuate or fight the flames, these systems typically have a greater likelihood of error. 

Passive systems should be installed throughout the building as a way to support active systems. A great example of passive and active systems working together is smoke curtains. These passive fire protection systems help direct smoke toward vents, where smoke can leave the building. Passive systems can also help force flames and smoke to remain in one area.

New buildings should implement these passive fire protection systems into the design and build phase of construction. Our Design/Build team at VFS can help ensure your building is protected from harm when it is finished. Older buildings, which do not have these passive systems built-in, can be retrofitted with smoke curtains and panels as an added layer of protection. 

Active and passive fire protection systems together can prevent expensive damages, catastrophic injuries, and potential loss of life. Implementing both systems into your building is essential to the safety of your building. 

At VFS, we believe in helping your company meet the needs of your unique building. Every building is different, every building needs different protection systems in place. Our teams think creatively to come up with solutions that ensure your building remains safe from harm. Reach out to us today to see how we can help your business today! 

BRING YOUR ALARM MONITORING SYSTEMS BACK TO THE FUTURE

Great Scott! It’s time to bring your alarm monitoring systems back to the future. Mesh network systems are the Delorean ready to bring your systems up to speed with the times.

Choosing mesh technology to support your alarm monitoring system needs means choosing reliability, speed, and convenience. Your antiquated alarm monitoring systems just won’t cut it anymore. 

HOW CAN MESH ALARM MONITORING SYSTEMS HELP YOUR BUSINESS?

RELIABLE

Mesh network monitoring systems are unlike any tower-based, single-route systems. The mesh wireless technology is resistant to environmental disturbances and equipment problems. The multiple signal pathways allow for the alarm monitoring systems to remain in service for your building. 

FAST

Mesh networks communicate with alarms in under three seconds. A traditional telephone line, cellular, or IP can take up to 45-60 seconds. That extra time could be the difference between life and death for your employees. 

With mesh network systems, you don’t have to worry about slow or dropped connections. While cellular and IP systems slow and even sometimes drop when users are added to the systems, MeshWrx’s performance is improved. Radio mesh network technology creates multiple paths for an emergency signal to reach first responders. The self-configuration and smart routing results in 100% uptime. 

CONVENIENT 

Cellular and IP equipment requires consistent upgrades in order to ensure your technology does not become obsolete. With mesh technology, once installed, you don’t have to worry about it anymore. 

Not to mention the money you can save by installing mesh networks. Your current system may be costing you a small fortune. Monthly costs for traditional alarm monitoring systems are increasing as quality and reliability are decreasing.

Increased service calls and time spent tracking down issues are additional costs incurred with outdated systems. With MeshWrx, we eliminate the cost of expensive phone lines, don’t require upgrades, and instead provide more reliable technology.

MeshWrx alarm monitoring systems can help you protect your building when you need it most, just ask our clients! 

“Over the years we have had continued service issues and problems with our fire alarm monitoring telephone liens for our facilities in Southern California, and the cost and fees for phone lines have also increased year over year. By canceling our monthly fire alarm and security telephone lines services and going with MeshWrx monitoring, our organization is saving over $40,000 annually with superior technology, equipment, and service.” 

-Josh Harvey, Manager of Information Systems at Armstrong Garden Centers

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IT’S A NEW YEAR… YOU’VE ALREADY SKIPPED THE GYM DON’T SKIP ON YOUR FIRE PROTECTION. HERE’S A CHECKLIST TO HELP

We’re four days into the new year, if you haven’t already ditched your resolutions, you’re amazing. We’re not going to lie… we snuck a piece of chocolate cake after dinner last night. While a piece of chocolate cake, or a day off of the gym won’t seriously harm your wellbeing, there is one resolution you can’t forget about- fire protection for your building.

This year, it’s time to make fire protection a top priority. That being said, we’ve come up with a few items that should be on the top of your mind if you’re committed to fire safety. 

FIRST, ENSURE YOUR BUILDING HAS A CLEAR PATH OF EGRESS/ EXIT. 

Identifying the ‘means of egress’ from your building is essential to keeping your employees safe from harm. Properly designed exits provide a safe path of escape from a fire or other emergency environments. The design of the exit should permit all occupants to reach a safe place before they are endangered by fire, smoke, or heat. The goal of an effective means of egress is to get everyone out of hazardous areas in the shortest amount of time possible.

A FEW COMPONENTS MAKE UP THE MEANS OF EGRESS, INCLUDING EXIT ACCESS, EXIT, AND EXIT DISCHARGE.

  • Exit access is the travel path or area between where a person is located and an exit.
  • Exit is the portion of the means of egress that is separated by construction or equipment from other areas of the building. Components of an exit include walls, floors, doors, etc. An exit may include vertical or horizontal means of travel, like stairways, ramps, and passageways. It is important to note that elevators are not accepted as exits!
  • Exit discharge is the portion of a means of egress between the end of the exit and a public way or other safe places.

As a building manager or owner, it is important that you self-inspect these means of egress. In doing this, you need to make sure each component is easily identifiable, visible, accessible, and unobstructed. The door must operate in the direction of the exit so people won’t be trapped inside. 

NEXT, CHECK YOUR ELECTRICAL WIRING AND POWER CORDS.

NFPA 70: National Electrical Code (NEC) ensures all wiring and electrical installations comply with regulations. Building owners and managers do not need to be an expert in electrical code, however there are a few things you should be on the lookout for to be cautious!

The first thing you should do to ensure your electrical wiring is safe is to ensure all electrical boxes, switches, and outlets have their covers in place. Also, be sure to check that extension cords are in good condition and free of any cuts or splices. Extension cords should never be a substitute for permanent wiring, they are only permitted to be used with temporary equipment. 

Surge protectors must be connected directly to an outlet and, like extension cords, cannot be attached to the structure, extend through walls or the ceilings, be run under doors, or be covered by floor coverings.

The last item to check in the electrical wiring category is electrical panel boxes. Electrical panel boxes and main building disconnect must be identified and accessible for fire department personnel. All panels and breakers must be labeled and open spaces should have proper covers in place. 

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING IS ESSENTIAL– NO WE’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT DUSTING AND MOPPING. 

In the ‘fire safety’ sense, housekeeping refers to the general condition of the building and the items stored within it. Be sure you properly dispose of flammables, combustibles, trash, and debris, and ensure these items do not accumulate. Flammables and combustible liquids must be stored in approved containers and cabinets and should be clearly labeled to avoid accidental ignition. 

Electrical, boiler and HVAC rooms cannot be used for storage and must remain clear of items that are not essential to the operation of the equipment within them. 

ENSURE FIRE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS RUN EFFECTIVELY IN BETWEEN INSPECTIONS

Fire sprinkler systems must meet NFPA 25: Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-based Fire Protection Systems requirements. These standards require that different parts of the sprinkler systems receive inspections in quarterly, semi-annual, annual, and five-year intervals. 

The inspections are performed by the fire protection contractors and other qualified personnel. As a building owner or manager, you do not have to directly handle any of the actual inspections. However, as a building owner, there are a few things you can do to ensure these inspections run efficiently and effectively, starting with scheduling the inspection appointments when due!

Once you receive an inspection, you must maintain the report and other documentation, as well as ensure all problems found are repaired as soon as possible. 

A building owner or manager can utilize a simple visual inspection to ensure these systems run effectively between inspections. First, ensure that no items are stored within 18” of any sprinkler head. Next, ensure all sprinkler heads are free of paint and corrosion and nothing is attached to them. If you come across violations of these requirements during your visual inspections, the issues should be reported and remedied immediately. 

FIRE ALARM MAINTENANCE AND INSPECTIONS

Under NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code all fire alarm systems must be inspected, tested, and maintained at semi-annual, annual, and even quarterly intervals. Like sprinkler systems, these inspections are done by trained and certified inspection personnel. Fire alarm system experts are trained in the inspection, maintenance, and testing of a particular brand of fire alarm systems. 

As a building owner, your responsibility is to maintain all reports and correct any deficiencies noted. Building owners and managers can also make sure the fire alarm panel is accessible, the location is labeled, and all documentation is maintained and available. Manual pull stations should be visible and accessible. All alerts should be reported to the alarm company so that any issues can be addressed quickly. 

LASTLY, LOOK AT YOUR FIRE EXTINGUISHER. 

NFPA 10: Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers illustrates the requirements to select, place, test, and maintain fire extinguishers. A trained and certified expert must perform annual inspection and maintenance. Additionally, building owners are responsible for inspecting all extinguishers once a month.

The inspection requires that extinguishers are visible and accessible. They must also be free of rust, damage, and the gauge read in the “green” operation level. Additionally, all extinguishers must mount on the wall. The weight of the extinguisher determines the appropriate height of placement: 40 lbs or less may be installed at 5 feet above the floor. Any heavier should sit at a maximum height of 3 ½ feet. The base must be at least 4 inches above the floor. 

As you look to ensure your fire safety in your building for the new year, start by utilizing this checklist! Ensuring you remain prepared for the unexpected is the first step to ensuring the safety of your people and your building’s safety.

Building security systems

SANTA’S COMING DOWN THE CHIMNEY, AND SO IS A BURGLAR. ARE YOU KEEPING AN EYE ON YOUR OFFICE WHILE EVERYBODY’S OUT?

Most people know that crime escalates around the holiday season. Whether it be burglary, cyberattacks, or theft, it’s important that your business is prepared for everything. Understanding the importance of implementing proper security measures into your building is essential to the safety of your team. 

WHAT SECURITY MEASURES SHOULD YOU BEGIN IMPLEMENTING TODAY TO PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS LATER?

START BY TRAINING YOUR EMPLOYEES ON PROPER PROTOCOL.

Inform your employees of the best ways to protect your business and those who work within it. Security efforts throughout your company will not work if your employees are not on board. This training should cover physical security protocols. It should also cover what to do if someone dangerous is within the facility as well as cybersecurity protocols. 

Be sure your upper management has a large role in the implementation of security training and protocols. Upper management’s buy-in is essential. It helps ensure the rest of your staff understands the importance of the training. It also leads to greater follow-through with implementation.

ASIDE FROM EMPLOYEE EDUCATION, IMPLEMENT PROPER ACCESS CONTROL SYSTEMS.

Access control into your facility is one of the most straightforward ways to protect your business’ assets, inventory, and most importantly, your employees. An access control system that functions properly and is custom-tailored for your company is a powerful management tool. It helps to restrict access to certain rooms or track movement throughout your facility. 

At VFS, our security experts understand what it takes to implement proper security controls. We design access control systems that also integrate into your intrusion alarm systems.

ANOTHER ASPECT TO CONSIDER IMPLEMENTING IS INTRUSION ALARM SYSTEMS.

Intrusion alarm systems not only deter trespassers, but they also alert you and the authorities when someone unlawfully enters your building. Because every client has unique needs for their security measures, we design your security plan to meet your specific needs. VFS’ alarm systems integrate into your access control and video surveillance to ensure you are covered in the event of an emergency.

IMPLEMENT VIDEO SURVEILLANCE TECHNOLOGY TO PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS.

Video monitoring within your facility can help identify internal and external threats, like theft, vandalism, and workplace violence. Video surveillance deters people from actually performing these threats, while also making it easier to identify those that do. 

We connect your video surveillance system to your IP network. This means historical footage and live video can be viewed from a computer anywhere you have internet access. These systems can also work in conjunction with your access control system to ensure your business remains safe and secure.

Implementing video surveillance technology into your business’ security plans can also lower insurance premiums. As the insurance companies see it, your risk goes down immensely with proper security systems in place.

LASTLY, REVIEW YOUR SECURITY SYSTEMS AND PROTOCOLS REGULARLY.

At VFS, we implement security measures for your specific business needs. In doing this we also analyze where your business might need more or less security. We track each client’s activity and reliability using an in-depth reporting system.

These analytics dictate our recommendations and information on which systems you use the most. It also helps to inform us where your business has the potential to improve.

Understanding where your business’ security needs work is essential to keeping your people and your business safe from harm. When you have the proper systems and processes in place, you’re ready to handle anything that may come your way. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business remain safe and secure.

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.

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.

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!

4 REASONS TO INVEST IN FIRE PROTECTION SERVICES TODAY.

History is destined to repeat itself if we don’t learn from it. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 is a perfect example of what can happen if you don’t have proper fire protection services in place. This fire ran rampant throughout the city of Chicago for 3 days, destroyed thousands of buildings, and caused an estimated $200 million in damages. How can you prevent losing millions in damages? Invest in fire protection services. Here are 4 reasons to invest in fire protection services today.

RETHINK YOUR PRIORITIES!

One of the best reasons to invest in fire protection services is to keep your employees and your business safe. When your employees feel safe in their workplace, they will be more productive. Your business is their livelihood and protecting it is not just about protecting your assets, it’s about protecting them too. According to OSHA, “businesses operate more efficiently when they implement effective safety and health management systems.” 

FIRE BAD 

The Frankenstein character in Young Frankenstein had it right… Fire IS bad. Of the companies that experience a major fire, 70% of them do not reopen or, if they do, they fail within 3 years of the fire. This is largely due to the intensity of the business interruption fires cause. If you are well-equipped to handle a major fire, you will be better prepared to survive business interruption. How you prepare to continue running, fulfilling orders, attending appointments, and using undamaged equipment, can determine whether your company survives, or not. 

PENNYWISE AND POUND FOOLISH

Insurance companies assess your potential risk when they determine the cost of your coverage. The cost of fire safety is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of recovering from a fire and subsequent increases in insurance premiums. Therefore, it is important to have all the precautions in place to reduce any potential risk. Not to mention, the additional savings of keeping your business open and avoiding potential workers’ compensation payments.

LIABILITY IS NO LAUGHING MATTER

Lastly, by investing in the right fire safety systems and monitoring,  you can avoid potential liability. You already know that you need to ensure your building is up to code before it is safe to open. If you don’t comply with building regulations, you are opening yourself up to potential liability. The best way to keep yourself and those in your building safe is to invest in high-quality fire protection.

As they say, better safe than sorry.

Safety is our top priority at VFS, it’s in our DNA.  We want to help protect your employees, your company, your assets, and your building from any potential fire risk. Contact us today to see how we can help.

On June 14, 2017, one of the most devastating fires hit the Grenfell Towers high rise buildings in London.  There at least 80 people confirmed dead, over 70 additional injured and hospitalized.  The fire burned for over 60 hours and over 250 firemen were involved in putting out this blaze.  The apartment building was a 24 story high rise and the fire started in a fridge-freezer on the 4th floor.

Anger is rising amongst the British people in the aftermath of this fire and many people are calling for justice!  Reports from London state that safety concerns in the building had been ignored for quite some time.  There was no sprinkler system in the building and in fact some of the materials used to renovate the building were considered highly flammable and probably helped the fire to spread.  Joe Ruane, the former deputy chief fire officer for US Air Force bases in Britain, stated that he has never seen a blaze like this before and it appears that more than one fire protection safeguard failed. Labour MP David Lammy denounced the fire as “corporate manslaughter”. He said arrests should be made based on the negligence of the building owners.

This type of tragic fire raises the need for awareness in following the laws and codes set forth by Fire Protection Agencies. A fire sprinkler system could have prevented this catastrophe fire on the 4th floor before it could spread throughout the entire building. Neglecting to protect people, or not to inspect and maintain existing fire & life safety systems at the expanse of corporate savings, can result in tragedy such as the Grenfell Towers fire.

For more details on this tragic story, Click Here:  http://www.newser.com/story/244311/london-blaze-called-corporate-manslaughter.html