Make Fire Safety Part of your New Year’s Resolution

2021 was a dumpster fire that we can roast marshmallows in for 2022.

Looking at the new year is an exciting time. 2022 has created a fresh start after a challenging year (or two or three!).

If you’re like most people, one of your practices is making New Year’s resolutions. We applaud everyone who will try that new diet, meditate in the morning, and go to the gym consistently (then bail after a month— but hey, it’s the thought that counts!)

At VFS, we’ve realized there’s one resolution that always seems to be left out, which is fire safety!

Please, we’re begging you, don’t let fire safety fall by the wayside like the gym. Here are some tips to help guide you into making fire safety part of your New Year resolutions (one that will actually stick!)

Stay Up-To-Date with NFPA Codes

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is constantly updating codes for fire safety for commercial buildings, above-ground storage tanks, and everything in between.

The NFPA Journal highlights changes that are crucial to be aware of as a business or property owner in 2022. The two codes to keep top of mind in the new year include NFPA Code 72 and 13.

NFPA Code 72

NFPA 72 is a National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. This means that the Code includes requirements for “mass notification systems used for weather emergencies, terrorist events, biological, chemical, and nuclear emergencies.”

The newest change in 2022 to be aware of is the introduction of cybersecurity guidance for fire alarms. There has been a rise in break-ins through older fire security systems because hackers have incentives to steal data and sell it.

Some of the 2022 additions listed by the NFPA include:

  • Remote Access
  • Color Tagging
  • Survivability
  • Multi-Criteria Detectors

So, make sure to keep an eye out for more updates with cybersecurity and fire alarms.

NFPA Code 13

NFPA Code 13 is the Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems. If you’re new to our blog, we’re the experts in sprinkler systems. Learn more about the updates in sprinkler systems on our blog.

Anyway, Code 13 is considered, “The industry benchmark for design, installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems.”

The NFPA Journal claims that the main changes to Code 13 will include sprinkler density, rack storage, and elevator shaft protection. The most impactful change will be the shift towards “beyond single-point density.” 

Update Team Training

With the constant change in NFPA Codes, it’s valuable to also keep your team updated with the differing fire safety measures.

The updates to highlight and refresh your team with could include the following:

  • Updated Equipment
  • Fire Protection Systems
  • Safe Operation of Equipment and Tools
  • Emergency Action Plan
  • And More

There are various online training available through the NFPA. For example, the online series on “NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (2022) Online Training Series” is a great starting point. 

Create a Calendar of Safety Inspections

At VFS Fire and Security Services, we believe that your fire protection systems are only as effective as the inspections performed on them. The inspections we specialize in include:

  • Fire Sprinkler Systems
  • Fire Suppression Systems
  • Alarm and Detection Systems
  • Portable Fire Extinguishers
  • Sound and Communication 
  • Integrated Security
  • Life Safety
  • Above Ground Storage Tanks

That’s kind of a long list, right? That’s exactly why the professionals are here to help keep your commercial property up-to-date with the proper equipment and fire safety measures.

On the topic of fire safety, have you heard of the cargo crisis that’s going on? The lag in shipping has created bottlenecks in many industries. Read more about how the cargo crisis has impacted our VFS Houston branch on our blog.

Why do fire inspection reports take so long?

Don’t tell anyone, but we know that a fire inspection report takes a long time. 

In an effort to explain why we’re going to lead you in a ‘behind the scenes look at the internal processes and why these reports take what seems like forever. 

When systems or devices need maintenance we often can send a repair technician to you within 24 hours (or sooner in emergencies!) Our goal is to be proactive and ensure that our systems keep you safe from harm.

What’s Included in a Fire Inspection Report? 

Clear Sightlines

One of the main elements of your fire inspection report is ensuring there are clear paths for firefighters to reach the building and for patrons to exit the building. If an emergency does happen at your commercial property, there needs to be easy access in and out of the building. This part of the inspection report will likely also include making sure your building remains up to date with fire codes. 

If there are main identifiers around the building that firefighters should be aware of (think trees or other identifying information), that also needs to be included in the fire inspection report. 

Certified Fire Extinguishers

Included in this inspection is counting the number and type of fire extinguishers throughout the building.  VFS Fire and Security services specialize in portable fire extinguishers. Per NFPA code fire extinguishers are required to be inspected and certified by a licensed fire protection contractor. There are a LOT of different types of fire extinguishers including:

  • Water Mist
  • Clean Agent
  • Foam
  • Wet Chemical
  • CO2
  • ABC Dry Chemical
  • Class A, B, C, D, and K

Inspecting all of these extinguishers takes time, which further delays that report hitting your desk. 

Emergency Lighting

Emergency illumination could mean life or death in an intense situation. Ensuring your emergency lighting is working and in the correct areas is essential to the fire prevention and safety of your building. 

We can help! 

There are so many other moving parts that are included in a fire safety inspection. The expert team at VFS Fire and Security Services has a breadth of knowledge to provide all regularly scheduled and code-mandated fire protection system inspections. The frequencies of these inspections ensure the most effective operating conditions for your building all year round and are critical to keeping current with industry and insurance codes. 

We have a diverse team of experienced fire protection professionals capable of inspecting and servicing even the most complex fire protection systems. Our advanced platforms and highly trained dispatch team allow us to manage inspections and testing from inception to execution. 

We tell you what’s due, when it’s due and why it’s due, and are constantly communicating to your team to keep you up-to-date on the latest information within your facilities. 

How frequently do you need fire inspections? Learn more about your inspection schedule in this blog post. 

Fire Prevention vs. Fire Protection

VFS Fire and Security Services believes in protecting what matters most. A major component of fire protection that is often overlooked is fire prevention. 

It’s important to understand the difference between fire prevention and fire protection as you look to create a holistic approach to your building’s fire safety.

What is fire prevention?

Fire prevention consists of the actions you take outside of your fire protection systems to help prevent a fire from occurring. The prevention really occurs before a fire occurs, while the protection is for during a fire emergency. While there are many ways to bring fire prevention into the workplace, we’ve pulled together a few of the most common, and most essential parts of your fire prevention plan.

Establish an evacuation strategy.

Establishing an evacuation strategy for your team is essential to the safety and protection of your people. Your evacuation strategy makes it safer and more efficient for your employees and potential customers to exit the building. 

Not only is it essential to keep your employees safe from harm, but OSHA guidelines also require that a business have an emergency evacuation plan in place. See the OSHA regulations for emergency action plans here.

Maintain & Service Your Fire Safety Equipment.

Testing and Inspection

VFS Fire and Security Services believes that your fire protection systems are only as effective as the inspections performed on them. There are main systems that should be considered when looking at your commercial property during a fire and safety inspection: 

  • Fire Sprinkler Systems
  • Fire Suppression Systems
  • Alarm & Detection Systems
  • Portable Fire Extinguishers
  • Sound and Communication
  • Integrated Security
  • Life Safety

Annual (or even more frequent) inspections are a huge part of fire prevention because if a system or piece of equipment fails, then any efforts towards fire protection are most likely to fail. 

Service and Repair

Service and repair of equipment and systems is the next step in understanding fire protection. Service and repair mean staying up to code and in compliance with all service and repair requirements is the goal of fire prevention. 

System Upgrades

How long do you think a fire protection system is supposed to last? If your first thought is 30 years, think again. 


The average lifespan of a fire protection system is 12 to 15 years. 

Keeping your systems updated is a key role in fire protection. Fire protection systems are complicated and there are a lot of moving parts involved. Don’t worry, when an individual part fails, the entire system does not need to be replaced (most of the time). Even if a single part being replaced doesn’t automatically mean throwing out the whole system, there are components that might need to be upgraded with older systems to improve your interconnectivity. 

Fire prevention is the first piece of the puzzle when diving into fire safety for your commercial property.

Employee Fire Prevention Training

One of the major causes of fires in the workplace is human error. People can start fires in a variety of ways in the workplace (really… we’ve seen some crazy stuff!), a few of the most common mishaps typically deal with mishandling chemicals, improper storage of combustible materials, and kitchen accidents. 

Because of this, it is essential that your employees understand proper fire safety and understand what to do in case a fire occurs. Train your employees on the proper ways to operate the business’ machinery, and how to store and remove of hazardous materials. 

Communicate with your Team

One of the best ways you can prevent fires from occurring is with communication. Perform routine fire drills, how to leave the building in a calm and safe manner during this stressful situation. We recommend having both scheduled and unannounced fire drills to ensure your employees are ready when they need to be.

Communication goes beyond practice and proper training. Communication also refers to clear exits and escape routes. Smoke can easily fill a room with people still in it. This smoke makes it difficult to see and find the exit. Posting easy-to-read exit signs and escape routes is essential to the safety of your employees. We would also recommend installing floor lights for easy visibility. 

What is fire protection? 

Safeopedia defined fire protection as, “Measures are taken to prevent fire from becoming destructive, reduce the impact of an uncontrolled fire, and save lives and property.” 

So, a fire protection system exists to lessen the damage of a fire if it occurs. The three main essentials of fire protection are: 

  • Study of Fire
  • Active Fire Protection
  • Passive Fire Protection

The study of fire is our role at VFS Fire and Security Services and paves the way for how we implement fire protection systems. 

Fire protection systems all orchestrate together to prevent the fire from becoming even more destructive or deadly. Making sure that all NFPA building codes are followed with building construction and fire protection system implementation is important with fire safety. 

Having both active and passive fire protection systems in place is important to ensure your building, and more importantly, your team remains safe from harm. 

What is passive 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. 

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. 

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 helps 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. 

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. 

What active fire protection systems do I need?

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 a 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. 

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. 

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. 

Are you thinking it might be time for a fire protection system upgrade? Learn how much they cost here. (Hint there are many factors that will impact the final cost.) 

Hurricane season preparation

Hurricane Nicholas threatened Texas in September, starting the dreaded hurricane season. Port Houston even closed their terminals to prepare for the tropical storm.

Hurricane Nicholas was a wake-up call that protecting your port and your commercial building by following marine safety is crucial.

Prepping for Hurricane Season

Your commercial building or property is an investment, so losing it in a natural disaster would be catastrophic for your bottom line and building. When it comes to natural disasters, taking preventative measures is key for protecting your commercial property.

All Hands and Hearts provides valuable preventatives for all business owners. Here are a couple of the main points outlined that will help take measures to prepare your commercial property for a hurricane.

Review the Local Authority’s Plan

The Houston Office of Emergency Management lists valuable information for Houston-specific hazards. They also provide lists of items that should be included in a “Stay-at-Home Safety Kit” and a “Shelter-in-Place Kit.” The main hazards that fall under the hurricane warning category are:

Storm Surge

“Along the coast, storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane. In the past, large death tolls have resulted from the rise of the ocean associated with many of the major hurricanes that have made landfall.”  

Power Outage

“When power lines are brought down by strong winds, falling trees or debris, it may take days, weeks, or longer to get power back up and running.” This website is actively updating power outages and can be a helpful tool for hurricane readiness.

Rainfall Flooding

“Flash flooding, defined as a rapid rise in water levels, can occur quickly due to intense rainfall.”

Wind

“The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. This scale estimates potential property damage.” 

Create a Plan

Based on the above factors, create an action plan for your marine port or commercial property. Ensure all employees understand this preventative plan thoroughly.

Some factors to consider for a hurricane plan include but are not limited to:

  • A shelter plan
  • Company-wide communication
  • Evacuation route
  • Emergency warnings and alerts. 

Prepare Your Property

A small act of preparation might save your building. When walking through your commercial property, there are a few key steps to take:

  • Clear all gutters and drains
  • Install check valves in plumbing
  • Trim and remove trees close to your building
  • Add sandbags as necessary (water pumps can be covered by water insurance in some cases but is not guaranteed)

Financial Preparation

As a business owner, it is crucial to understand your insurance policies and exactly what is covered. For example, most property insurance policies have a surface water exclusion. Have a safety fund available in case of the worst-case scenario. 

Marine Fire Safety

Port Houston has already experienced the effects of hurricanes, and there are steps to prepare for hurricanes and other natural disasters (well, like fires). 

Some of the key points to remember with marine safety are properly managing your:

  • Certifications and Documents
  • Fire Safety Equipment
  • Hurricane Preparedness Equipment
  • Engine Room Maintenance
  • Deck Maintenance and Crew Readiness
  • Emergency Equipment

This is just a starting point for general marine safety. Read on for more here.

Unfortunately, there is a long list of natural disasters to prepare for, like fires. And news flash, fire suppression and fire sprinklers are not the same thing!

cargo ship crisis

You’ve likely heard about the cargo crisis in Houston and around the country on the news. One often-overlooked angle of the cargo crisis, however, is its relationship to following a strict marine fire safety checklist. 

What Is the Cargo Crisis?

There are currently shipping backlogs across the country, and globe even. 

A press release from Port Houston delivered a high cargo record with record low air emissions. In the report, Executive Director Roger Guenther stated that with the rise of cargo deliveries in the peak season, “the unprecedented surge in import volumes has created significant challenges across the nation… Houston is not immune to current disruptions in the global supply chain.”

The high volume of cargo ships brings up issues of ship safety. 

Port Houston, however, “remains closely engaged with customers, ocean carriers, stevedores, labor, truckers, and all other industry partners,” says Guenther. He continues on to share that their goal is “to seek solutions to maximize the opportunities to keep freight moving efficiently.”

Ship Fire Safety

With so many cargo ships backed up, incidents like the California Pipe Line oil spill must be prevented. Yahoo News reports that the oil spill may have been caused by, “a ship’s anchor snagging a pipeline.”

You wouldn’t think fire could stand a chance when surrounded by a body of water—but it does.

There are preventative measures that need to be taken following all marine fire and oil spill safety regulations and guidelines.

Marine Safety Checklist

There are a multitude of boxes to check when it comes to keeping your maritime operations safe and fire-free. We’re providing a comprehensive list to get you thinking about the safety of your marine operations. 

CERTIFICATES AND DOCUMENTS

There is a long list of certificates and documents that must be carried on board at all times. This list varies based on region, whether or not your vessel carries passengers, and vessel type. 

This list might include a Cargo Ship Safety Equipment or Passenger Ship Safety Certificate, all servicing records including proof of fire extinguisher servicing and pressure tests, a damage control manual, any records of testing, drills, and maintenance, a variety of training manuals, the list goes on! For more specific information on staying up to code and what you need to keep on board, contact our VFS team.

FIRE SAFETY EQUIPMENT

There are hundreds of safety measures in place to prevent fire aboard your vessel, including a handful of safety equipment that must be carried and tests that must be performed. Let’s shoot for smooth sailing, please.

  • Sprinkler systems: Valves, alarms, pumps, and pressure gauges must be tested and properly working with pipework in fair condition
  • Ventilators and fire dampers: Must be clean and free of debris with flaps in fair condition
  • Proper fire detection and fire alarm systems that provide the necessary  coverage and protection of assets on board
  • Properly installed extinguishing systems
  • Personal equipment, including fire fighting protective wear, self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs), and emergency escape breathing devices (EEBDs)
  • Properly functioning gas and CO2 systems

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

ENGINE ROOM MAINTENANCE

Did you know that approximately 90% of marine fires start in the engine room? This considered, don’t underestimate the importance of routinely checking your engine room’s fire pumps, emergency shutdowns and valves, high-pressure fuel lines, and main zones for proper functionality and cleanliness.

DECK MAINTENANCE AND CREW READINESS

In case of an emergency, your crew should be familiar with the use of these fire protection systems and able to abandon ship if necessary. Fire drills should be performed routinely. 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

Fingers crossed, this equipment doesn’t need to be used. Your emergency equipment, including emergency generators, batteries, pumps, and tankers, however, must be properly maintained, inspected, and ready to be used at any moment.

HERE TO HELP!

While you’re on the water, whether it be for pleasure or work, marine fire safety and preparation cannot be overlooked. Having the right fire safety equipment and performing the right maintenance and routine inspections may be the difference between life and death.

Our VFS team is prepared to get your vessel in tip-top shape with the right marine fire safety equipment. In fact, the VFS Houston Team has been continuing to grow our marine department and has recently acquired four new Tug & Barge Companies—bringing their annual total of vessels to perform fire safety inspections and testing to approximately 375.

So, does all this talk of oil make you nervous about oil fires — out on the open or in your very own commercial kitchen? Don’t worry, read here to know what to do in case of an oil or grease fire.

Choose your player… the Best Fire Safety Equipment of 2021

Protecting your commercial building is a huge decision and financial commitment. Here are some of the best options in Southern California for fire prevention. 

Autocall

Autocall believes that people and facilities everywhere deserve to be protected by fire detection systems that deliver unparalleled performance. Backed by a legacy of innovation and invention, Autocall is pushing the industry forward with feature-rich fire detection systems that help to ensure that our customers are safe and their facilities are secure.

AES Corporation

AES Corporation is the leading manufacturer of communication products and services designed for the fire, burglary, and facility applications. Learn how an investment in AES’s wireless mesh telecommunications technology can help you take control of your network, pricing, and future.

Ansul

ANSUL® is a global premium brand of Tyco Fire Protection Products. ANSUL special hazard fire protection products are designed and manufactured to strict standards and tested under the scrutiny of national and international independent testing laboratories and approval agencies.

Kidde Fire Systems

Since 1917, Kidde Fire Systems has been a global leader in fire protection, protecting people, property, and processes from fire hazards. Our fire protection solutions include conventional & intelligent detection and control systems that complement a complete line of fire suppression systems.

Potter

Potter Today, Potter is carrying on the legacy of Charles E. Potter by combining the latest technology in fire protection with the dedicated manpower for which they have been known for over one hundred years. With an unwavering dedication to their customers, Potter looks to continue as the industry standard in both product and service.

Valcom

Valcom’s long tradition of communication leadership and innovation addresses our customers’ most complex communication concerns. Our products are developed based on the customer’s need to relay information rapidly so individuals in various locations throughout an organization receive relevant instructions, and act upon them in emergency situations.

Learn what sprinkler system would work best for commercial buildings here

Best Fire Safety Equipment

How much does a fire alarm system cost?

Well, the short answer is ‘it depends.’

The long answer is that we can help you understand the factors that will influence the cost of a fire alarm system for your commercial property! Let’s get started.

What to Consider

Depending on your property, each of these factors could require different levels and types of fire alarm systems. A good rule of thumb to follow is understanding that the larger and more complex your facility is, the more you will need to invest in your fire protection systems to keep everyone safe in case of an emergency. 

Size of Building

Yes, the cost of a fire alarm system for Knottsberry farms is going to be different than the tiny mom and pop shop on the corner. 

In general, a good rule of thumb to follow is the larger your building, the higher the cost to keep everyone safe in case of an emergency. If the building is older, there will most likely be obstacles for a fire safety crew (like VFS!) to work with.

Additionally, if there are special system preferences and repairs, the cost will reflect this. 

Types of Facilities

The cost of your fire alarm system depends greatly on the environment. Below are some of the more complex environments that may require a little more fire alarm TLC: 

  • Oil Refineries
  • Data Centers
  • Aircraft Hangers
  • Manufacturing & Testing Facilities 
  • Power Generation
  • Healthcare Facilities

What Are You Storing? 

Another big factor in cost depends on what contents you are storing within your facility. More complex environments usually mean high hazard equipment or contents such as: 

  • Chemicals
  • Combustibles
  • Flammable Liquids
  • Corrosives
  • Spray Painting Equipment
  • Welding Equipment

Fire Season 

Fire season is in full swing. As a result, fire safety costs and insurance is going up in price! This can be a factor in how expensive a fire alarm system will cost. This can be another factor in the cost of your fire protection. 

There are different aspects that will contribute to the cost of a fire alarm system like: 

  • Where is it? 
  • What state? 
  • How big is the building?

Depending on these factors, additional monthly fees could apply. 

Looking for more specifics about your commercial or educational building? Reach out to VFS Fire and Security Services today to learn more information. For more on the different fire sprinkler systems available to you, read on here. (Psst! Fire suppression and fire sprinklers are not the same!)

What to do in case of an Oil Fire

It’s fire season. 

There are standard fire precautions that are taught since middle school. Unfortunately, “Stop, drop, and roll” isn’t enough to do if there’s an oil fire

What is an oil fire?

There are different classifications of fires. UCLA Health lists an oil fire as “Class B.” This includes, “Flammable liquids such as alcohol, ether, oil, gasoline, and grease, which are best extinguished by smothering.” 

An oil fire often starts in commercial kitchens, areas where spontaneous combustion can occur, or areas where hot work is done. 

VFS specializes in Kitchen Hood Suppression Systems. Kitchen systems are essential to the safety of a commercial kitchen and the people that work within it. These systems release wet chemical extinguishing agents designed to put out the unique components of cooking fires.

As soon as the system is activated the gas line to the appliance will immediately be cut off depriving the fire of fuel and the chemical agents will be released covering the flames and depriving them of oxygen. It is much less expensive to invest in a commercial kitchen suppression system than it is to repair structural damage after a fire occurs. 

What to Do

DON’T USE WATER. I REPEAT, DO NOT AT ANY COST USE WATER. 

This can cause the flames to grow even faster. The goal is fire suppression —  so try and smother the flames with a towel or fire blanket if it is safe to do so. Another option that will work is fire extinguishers. Having these tools (especially fire extinguishers) accessible throughout your commercial building is key to fire safety and fire protection.

If the fire is not smothered successfully, RUN! 

Seriously, this could grow fast and is a danger to all your employees. There are ways to prepare for this so that the worst outcome doesn’t happen.

Preventatives

If your commercial building doesn’t have a hot work permit, you’re at a greater risk. A hot work permit guarantees that safety measures have been addressed and implemented throughout your commercial building. This means that your building and employees are prepared in case of an emergency. 

As mentioned above, having fire extinguishers or fire towels around commercial kitchens and hot work zones is important. 

Learn how to Suppress Fires, not Feelings here! —

Kitchens: More Than a Place to Steal Your Coworker’s Lunch!

Commercial kitchens should be at the top of the priority list for fire safety management.

Educating your employees on proper fire safety protocols is essential to ensure their workplace safety. In order to keep them safe from harm, they need to know what steps to take in the event of a fire—and no, ‘fricken large ones’ is not correct. In an effort to help guide your fire safety training endeavors, we’ve put together a few tips to improve your employees’ education surrounding building fire safety.

Start With Necessary Information

We think it’s safe to say that most employees do not want to sit through a three-hour-long fire and life safety training. To start, ensure you’re touching on all the ‘need to know’ topics of fire safety.

As you dive deeper into fire safety training, you can go over additional topics that may not be as urgent. Urgent topics to review and discuss should include:

  • Types of fires that occur in the workplace
  • How to extinguish the different types of fires that may occur
  • Major causes of fire accidents in the workplace
  • The exits are available to employees in case of emergency

Make sure your employees know the various hazards in your workplace.

Cooking Equipment

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) claims that the main cause of fires in office buildings is cooking equipment. Office and commercial buildings typically have cooking equipment. Whether there is a mass amount of equipment or one small kitchen for employees, there are safety measures that should be taken as a part of fire prevention.

A few of these safety measures include:

Clean Grease Often 

The office kitchen isn’t known for being the cleanest place to cook food, and grease build-up can cause fires to spread quickly.

Ensure Equipment is Maintained Regularly 

Old equipment increases fire risk and puts employees and the building property at risk. There are specific commercial kitchen requirements that may apply to an in-office kitchen. 

The precautions with gas-fired appliances include being installed by professionals, no oil with gasoline, and only specific locations within the building containing gas-fired appliances.

Kitchens are typically protected by et chemical suppression systems. These Extinguishing methods are specific to the type of cooking fires that may occur in a commercial kitchen. When triggered, the system discharges immediately with a liquid that, when sprayed onto the fire, cools the flames almost instantaneously.

When this liquid comes into contact with oils and fats it creates a foam, subsequently cooling the affected area and preventing the spread from reigniting. 

At VFS, your building’s safety is our top priority. With over 25 years of experience, our fire and life safety experts are prepared to ensure your building remains safe from harm. 

The equipment we install, inspect, and maintain is only one component of your fire and life safety initiatives. The other aspect includes employee training! Your employees must be educated on what to do in case of an emergency.

Contact us today to talk about how we might work together!

VFS is your partner from start to finish: A walk through the onboarding process

Maybe you’re on the fence about hiring VFS. Maybe even wondering, “How would VFS go about onboarding my company into fire protection services?”

We offer a wide variety of services, so here’s a timeline of our involvement, and remember, we partner with you from START TO FINISH (not an exaggeration). 

Since you’re on our website, odds are you need help with fire protection services. This is a smart move for you as we approach fire season. Great news, you’ve already completed the first step! By simply showing interest in protecting your commercial property and employees. 

Free Consultation

Yes, you read that right. A FREE consultation, a hard offer to pass up. Click here to schedule your consultation today. It’s as simple as having a quick conversation with one of our fire protection experts to identify your unique needs.  

Who We Serve 

No matter the industry, VFS has you covered. From our dispatch team to our field technicians we are equipped with a full staff of fire protection experts and a robust knowledge of each specialized environment. We are constantly staying up to date on emerging trends in technology as well as new requirements and code changes to keep you informed and in compliance. Here are some of the markets we help to protect: 

  • Property Management 
  • Industrial & Manufacturing 
  • Oil & Gas
  • Transportation 
  • Retail 
  • Education 
  • Data Centers
  • Hospitality 
  • Healthcare 

The Specifics

Once we’ve decided that our companies will be a great fit as partners, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. We offer a variety of services for all of your fire protection systems including the following: 

  • Service & Repair 
  • Testing & Inspection
  • Design/Build 
  • Retrofits
  • System Upgrades 

Just to name a few. 

How We Help 

At VFS we believe in a proactive business model. We manage the who, what, why and where of your fire protection assets and their inspection and maintenance schedule. It is essential to stay on top of your fire protection systems to prevent any potential accidents or costly repairs. 

Our advanced platforms and highly trained dispatch team allow us to manage inspections and testing from inception to execution. We tell you what’s due, when it’s due and why it’s due, and are constantly communicating to 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

Once we help you decide which of our services are right for you, it’s go time. Visit the VFS website today for more information on becoming a partner. 

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.

Sound and Communication vs. Alarm and Detection... what?

Communication is key, especially in an emergency situation. The type of communication used is also an important factor in ensuring your building and, more importantly, your people remain safe from harm. 

When it comes to alarm & detection and sound & communication, it’s important to understand what your unique building needs in order to remain safe. 

Sound and Communication

Your building requires sound and communication systems that work cohesively with your fire and security systems. These should include internal and external sound, text, and visual notifications that are sent from a centralized location. At VFS, our clients have access to:

  • Localized notifications based on the type and severity of the threat
  • Emergency responder notification systems
  • Location tools to identify at-risk personnel and assets
  • Two-way voice communication for loud environments
  • Code compliance tools and support

There are a few different types of sound and communication systems that you can implement. 

Emergency communications

These notification systems are customized for your specific needs and location size. These include audible and visual notifications and text displays. These communication systems are used to alert people of events like natural disasters, fires, active shooters, and other emergency events. At VFS, we offer our clients emergency voice systems, fire alarm voice systems, visual strobes, and visual displays. 

PA and Intercom

These solutions can be utilized in multi-level buildings, campuses, warehouses and factories, airports, restaurants, and other shared-use spaces. PA and Intercom sound and communication systems can be live or pre-recorded, and offer 2-way communication through the speaker systems. These systems also allow for programmatic distribution, as well as audio transmission using LAN/WAN and internet connectivity.

Telephone Networks

Telephone networks are a sound and communication system that should not be overlooked. These systems help with communication on and off-site through telephone networks, as well as transferring calls off-site in case of incapacity of a site location.  Telephone networks can be integrated with these systems to incorporate intercoms, microphones, and loudspeakers. 

Wireless networks

Wireless networks utilize app-based technologies to remain in contact with on and off-site workers using existing wireless handsets. These networks allow alerts and emergency notifications to be delivered in real-time and integrated with other alert systems.

EVACs

EVAC systems are an extremely reliable option as they can be used when voice communication is not required by code. Voice alerts have a higher success rate of getting people out of the building, therefore it’s important to share accurate, specific information that reinforces the evacuation instructions and increases evacuation response time and adherence.

Alarm and Detection

Alarm and detection systems, on the other hand, are designed to discover fires early in their development while there is still time for evacuation. Fire alarm and detection systems work together to detect the fire and then alert people when smoke/fire is present through smoke detection, heat detection, or manual pull stations. 

Inspection, testing, and maintenance are crucial to the success of your alarm system. 

Pull Stations

Pull stations are a manual version of fire alarm systems that are triggered by people in the building. The pulled alarm station triggers the alert for the building as well as necessary authorities. These stations are typically located in fire-prone areas, like electrical rooms and mechanical workshops. 

Visual Alarm Systems

These alarm systems are flashing lights that are used to signal to occupants that there is a fire. These can be used in both self-contained units, as well as building-wide systems. ADAAG requires that when fire detection systems are installed, they must have a visual component. 

Audible Alarm Systems

There are a few options when it comes to audible alarm systems. These include air horns, sirens, bells, buzzers, and speakers. 

Flame Detection

Infrared flame detectors use charge-coupled devices (CCD) to identify fire. On the other hand, ultraviolet detectors work with wavelengths shorter than 300nm. These detect fires and explosions within 3-4 milliseconds. With UV detectors, false alarms are more commonly triggered due to UV sources, like lightning, arc welding, radiation, and sunlight. 

Smoke Detection

Smoke detectors are electronic fire protection devices that automatically sense the presence of smoke and sound a warning to building occupants. Smoke detectors used in commercial and industrial properties issue a signal to a fire alarm control panel as part of the building’s central fire alarm system.

Heat Detection

Lastly, heat detection devices detect heat rather than smoke. These devices are extremely beneficial in areas where other means of detection may be damaging or inefficient for your unique building. 

VFS is a nationwide source for exemplary fire and security services for commercial buildings, and special hazards. Our teams work with the most advanced technologies and systems to create intelligent, efficient fire and life safety solutions.

HIGH-RISK, HIGH REWARD? NOT WHEN IT COMES TO FIRE SAFETY! (NOT A CANNABIS REFERENCE)

When it comes to buildings that contain flammable chemicals, gases, and other materials, fire protection is not something to gamble with. Not only will top-of-the-line fire protection keep your building safe, but it will also ensure that workers remain safe from harm. In this high-risk industry, it is essential that you don’t roll the dice on fire safety measures. 

According to OSHA, from 2013 to 2017, 489 oil and gas extraction workers were killed on the job. Getting your fire protection systems in check is like having pocket aces, it sets you up for the greatest success possible. Here are a few tips for you to begin prioritizing your fire safety protocols. 

Assess workplace preparedness

It’s essential to start with an inspection of your fire safety. These inspections lead to a greater understanding of your preparedness, and typically reveal vulnerabilities that you were previously unaware of. During this inspection, be sure to look for particular areas that have a higher risk for flash fires and explosions. 

You should also be on the lookout for fire equipment that is old or malfunctioning, and be sure to replace them with ones that are in good working condition. Not only should you look for vulnerabilities in your fire extinguishers, but also in your fire sprinkler systems. 

A great preventative measure is doing your own monthly visual inspections, as there are developments that can occur between the required NFPA inspections. Grab a notepad, take a walk and canvas your facility looking for any obvious visual deficiencies – corrosion, leaks, obstructions or painted sprinkler heads. With any luck you’re clear of any obvious deficiencies but if you’re not, call your fire protection company (hopefully VFS) to get these assessed and repaired preemptively. A little proactive measure can go a long way to prevent unnecessary accidents and keep your systems working in prime condition. 

Ensure emergency equipment is accessible onsite

With workers coming in and out of your facility, it’s important to have a supply of emergency equipment at their workstations and other areas near these stations. The equipment should include materials like fixed and portable fire extinguishers. This helps ensure the safety of your workers, as well as allows your employees to put out a small fire before it begins to spread. 

Ensure workers are trained to utilize equipment

In order to ensure your plan is effective, you must train your employees to know what to do in the event of a fire. They should receive instructional materials for the tools they may need to use, as well as participate in training that shows them how to physically use the equipment, and how to exit the building in case of emergency. 

Part of this training should include fire drills that help to reinforce the safety procedures and educate your workers on how to exit the building. You should also ensure all evacuation signage and exits are clearly marked, enough to see in the event of a fire. 

Utilize detection equipment to measure gas levels

In the oil and gas industry, it is essential to monitor the gas levels throughout your building. Combustible and toxic gas detection systems can help ensure your team avoids activities that may trigger a fire to occur. If a flammable gas goes beyond 10% of the lower explosive level, your workers should refrain from working. Ensure your employees know what levels are acceptable to remain working in, and which gases may be potentially hazardous. 

Ensure alert systems are installed to communicate fire risks

Lastly, ensure you have alert systems in place to communicate with your workers regarding the safety hazards throughout the facility. When a fire occurs, employees need to be immediately made aware in order to allow them to evacuate the building/work area safely. Alarm and mass notification systems are needed to alert employees of the danger.

At VFS, your high-risk facility is our top priority. We specialize in providing top-of-the-line fire safety support for special hazard facilities. Our fire and life safety systems integrate every aspect of a building from security systems, to fire protection and suppression to alarm and communication systems. We operate in 35 of the 50 states through our partnerships with local experts.

HOW SPRINKLER SYSTEMS CAN SAVE YOUR BUILDING

SPRINKLER SYSTEMS DON’T JUST PROTECT YOUR BUILDING FROM POTENTIAL FIRES, BUT FROM ALIEN INVASIONS TOO!

I think we all agree, it’s best to be prepared for anything. We’ve seen quite a few once-in-a-lifetime events in the last few months, proving that anything can really happen. We’ve seen footage of UFOs, a Firenado, simultaneous hurricanes, and, oh yes, a global pandemic this year. So how outrageous could an alien invasion be?

As we’ve seen in Aliens 3, the best way to defeat aliens is by using your building’s sprinkler system. Aside from protecting you from an alien invasion, why do commercial buildings require sprinkler systems?

THE REASON YOU NEED A FIRE SPRINKLER SYSTEM

Fire sprinkler systems assist all your fire safety protocols in fighting potential fires and protecting your building’s assets, people, and contents. These systems are an active measure to protect against fires and prevent lives and property damage. They help to limit the fire’s spread and give firefighters ample time to save your building.

Fire sprinklers detect heat from a fire source and trigger the sprinkler head to release water in specific locations. Their purpose is to extinguish the fire or slow it down before the firefighters arrive.

HOW DO I KNOW IF A FIRE SPRINKLER SYSTEM IS REQUIRED FOR MY BUILDING?

Most commercial buildings require a sprinkler system to be installed, especially in new construction, remodels, and renovations. There are a few sprinkler systems requirements in commercial buildings, the International Building code states the following: 

  1. SPRINKLER SYSTEMS ALLOW BUILDERS TO INCREASE THE FOOTPRINT OF THE BUILDING. 

Adding sprinkler systems throughout your building allows for a larger building footprint and a higher building height. At VFS, our teams help to plan and budget for new construction sites and assist your team from the planning stages all the way through to completion. Our in-house Design/Build departments produce the highest quality and most accurate results to ensure the safety of your building.

  1. DIFFERENT OCCUPANCIES AND USES REQUIRE SPECIFIC SYSTEMS.

Certain commercial buildings use group or occupancy-use to determine how the sprinkler systems will be implemented throughout the building. All residential buildings require occupancy load determinants, while other commercial buildings typically use fire areas to determine sprinkler systems management.

  1. SPECIAL HAZARDS REQUIRE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS. 

Special hazards environments require the most reliable and advanced fire suppression systems on the market. At VFS we provide not only the systems but the specialized knowledge and certified and trained technicians who install, service, and inspect special hazards fire protection systems including, deluge, foam-based, water mist, dry chemical, and clean agent systems, including FM-200 and carbon dioxide. Special hazard safety begins with the professional integration of the specific fire protection systems required within the environment.

WHAT TYPE OF COMMERCIAL FIRE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS DO YOU NEED?

WET PIPE COMMERCIAL SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

Wet pipe commercial sprinkler systems are made up of piping that fills with water when under pressure. These pipes remain filled with water until a fire triggers the sprinkler head to turn on. These are the most frequently used sprinkler systems, as they are extremely simple to use and reliable when you need them most. These systems are also cost-effective in both installation and maintenance. One of the major issues with these sprinkler systems is leaks can occur when temperatures go below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

PRE-ACTION COMMERCIAL SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

In certain commercial buildings, some instances may cause sprinkler systems to discharge accidentally. Pre-action sprinkler systems are designed with a valve to hold water back until certain events have taken place that will then trigger water to flow within the pipes and extinguish the fire. There are two types of pre-action systems, single interlock, and double interlock. These systems require certain events to happen in order to trigger water to flow. Let’s talk about them! 

Single Interlock 

Single interlock pre-action systems operate in a similar manner as the dry pipe system. This type of system requires a singular event to occur before water is released into the system; fire detection from a heat or smoke detector that will trigger the pre-action valve to open.

Each sprinkler head individually opens, to ensure the sprinkler head doesn’t turn on preemptively. These systems are uniquely effective for spaces that contain sensitive equipment or costly materials. However, these systems are complex in design, which therefore makes them higher in installation price and in maintenance costs.

Double Interlock 

As you could probably guess the double interlock pre-action system requires two events to occur before releasing water in the system; fire detection from a heat or smoke detector and automatic sprinkler operation. One of the above actions occurs the pre-action valve operates allowing water into the system piping. These actions introduce an extra layer of security from accidental discharge where unintended activation can be damaging to sensitive environments. 

FOAM WATER COMMERCIAL SPRINKLER SYSTEM

Typically sprinkler systems utilize water to extinguish fires. However, for some fires, water will actually make it worse. Foam water fire sprinkler systems mix water with foam concentrate mix that works to put out the fire. The fire started by gas or alcohol needs a foam solvent to extinguish it as quickly and as safely as possible. The foam is used to stifle the flames and eliminate the opportunity for a re-flash. 

DRY PIPE COMMERCIAL SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

These sprinkler systems were designed to mitigate the leaking issue that comes with wet pipe sprinkler systems. Rather than pressurized water remaining in the entire sprinkler system, these systems are only filled with air or nitrogen indirect, non-heated piping. These systems are designed for buildings that reside in freezing temperatures. Because the water doesn’t reside in the piping system from the start, these sprinkler systems have a delay of up to 60 seconds until the water is discharged. 

DELUGE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

Deluge fire sprinklers are used in high hazard environments such as power plants, aircraft hangars, and chemical storage facilities where significant amounts of water are needed to cool and control the development of a fire. They are connected to a water supply through a deluge valve while the sprinkler heads remain open which releases water to all open sprinkler heads simultaneously. These systems are incredibly effective in high-hazard environments because they release water or another suppressing agent to all open sprinkler heads simultaneously.

At VFS Fire & Security Services we don’t stop at the basics, we apply our full book of expertise to the systems that need them and follow the specific requirements depending on the particular authority having jurisdiction. Every environment is unique and has its own set of specific requirements and the experts at VFS will help get your business up to code every step of the way.

You need to be prepared for whatever comes your way — including alien invasions! At VFS, we offer preventative and inspection maintenance to ensure your systems are running effectively and efficiently. 

Your business needs to be kept safe, we understand what it takes to make that happen.  

MIC PREVENTION (NOT THE KIND YOU DROP AFTER KARAOKE)

Most people hear the word MIC and are brought back to either a cringy middle school talent show or a late karaoke night. 

After reading this article, your second thoughts are going to be, “Oh, Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion.” 

M.I.C.

Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC) sounds scary—because it is. The tiny bacteria follow the process of attachment, growth, and dispersal. There are many reasons why preventing MIC is essential for fire and safety security services. 

The quick process of MIC will cause massive damage to specific points in the surface, instead of universally and evenly throughout the surface. As a result, there are costly repairs that will set your business back. 

The attachment phase needs to be targeted first in prevention. During the attachment phase, free-floating microbial bacteria anchor to a surface within minutes of the encounter and start to produce a polymer film. 

Again, within minutes. 

The rest of the MIC process is just as crucial to prevent, but harder to catch. Some of the hazards that are threatening your spaces during the MIC process are: 

  • Self-organized highly-structured biofilm starts to rapidly reproduce and grow
  • Because of the evolution portions, the cells are released to colonize new surfaces
  • The tubercle starts with the creation of biofilm in the attachment phase
  • There is a deprivation of oxygen that causes the bacteria to thrive
  •  Highly acidic environments result in a concentrated and accelerated rate of corrosion
  • This all can lead to pinhole leaks

Sounds fun, right? 

The short time frame (of once again, minutes) doesn’t leave any room for mistakes in MIC prevention.

Fear not, because VFS is here to assist in showing that there are daily habits that you can take to avoid Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion. 

GENERAL CORROSION

There are a lot of scientific terms thrown into the paragraphs above, so you may be wondering: what’s the difference between MIC and general corrosion? 

Well to sum it up, they’re both bad news. 

General corrosion is less significant than MIC because it fails to alter a pipe’s interior surface, causes less damage and repair. While MIC targets concentrated surface areas at a greater force, general corrosion is an even layer, with a slower rate of disintegration.

Both types of corrosion can cause a lot of damage, but focusing on Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion prevention will help your business for the long haul.

WHY IS IT A THREAT?

Well, MIC is primarily an issue of corrosion in both dry and pre-action sprinkler systems.

Corrosion of any type (especially MIC), is a growing concern for anyone with commercial fire protection in place. The aftermath of corrosion is not pretty and a guaranteed out-of-pocket expense. Corrosion might result in:

  • Property damage
  • Production time lost
  • Increased maintenance costs
  • Shorter service life
  • System inefficiency: pipe obstruction, plugging
  • The worsening quality of system hydraulics
  • Pinhole leaks

Both dry and pre-action fire suppression systems primarily use compressed air. This, however, is what leads to corrosion. Compressed air is made of both oxygen and moisture. Trapped oxygen within the sprinkler system mixes with water, which reacts negatively with the material of the internal pipes—the perfect environment for MIC bacteria to thrive!

OKAY WE KNOW IT’S A PROBLEM… NOW WHAT? 

There are various solutions to the scary “C-word” … aka corrosion. Some of the solutions are more intensive and expensive than others. 

CHEMICAL INJECTIONS

Chemical Injections can be included in regular system maintenance, but there are some potential side effects:

  • It’s very costly
  • Chemicals can become harmful when exposed
  • MIC can become immune to the chemicals overtime

PIPE COATINGS

Pipe coatings are specifically designed to only work as an option for new construction. 

ROUTINE MAINTENANCE

Checking in and doing sprinkler inspections and water analysis is another prevention method that should be adapted. There is Annual Single Bottle MIC testing that has MIC and mineral analysis. Another option is the 5 year, 4 bottle MIC testing and water analysis.

AIR RELIEF VALVES

Air relief valves are doable for most sprinkler systems. Because air travels upward these valves are installed at the highest points of the sprinkler system where they automatically release small amounts of air from the system.

Auto-Air relief valves are the most common solution to prevent MIC. There are multiple reasons they’re the crowd favorite: 

  • Safe
  • Cost-Effective
  • Reliable
  • Venting 

Auto-Air Relief valves are reliable because air travels at the top of pipelines and rises in water, which helps maintain proper water pressure and consistent flow. 

Automatic venting is a process that happens while the sprinkler system is being filled, where the air travels up and gets trapped. VFS has all of the knowledge and expertise to prolong the life cycle of your sprinkler system. 

WE’RE HERE TO HELP!

This all sounds scary, and not as fun as dropping the mic after karaoke. 

But remember, that we’re here to help!

At VFS Fire & Security Services, we have over 20 years of experience protecting what matters: people, property, and businesses. We recognize that fire sprinkler corrosion is still a problem many property owners and building managers don’t suspect until it’s too late!

So, get your head start! At VFS, we’re here to help you develop and implement an effective strategy for all of your industrial fire protection needs. Keep your systems in tip-top shape and call us today to see what we can do for you!

YOUR MARINE FIRE SAFETY CHECKLIST

You wouldn’t think fire could stand a chance when surrounded by a body of water—but it does. Boom! It feels like in every action movie ever created, a boat explodes in a bay or on the ocean. Although dramatized, there’s a reality to it. Directors paint the danger picture perfectly!

At VFS Fire & Security Services, we are the drivers of innovation within the fire protection industry, including specialization in marine fire safety. Although most fires seem to look the same in movies, there are a variety of different types of fires that may occur on your vessel. We’re in the business of educating people and keeping them safe when it comes to fire protection, which is why a marine fire safety checklist is necessary for any marine-related organization.

YOUR MARINE FIRE SAFETY CHECKLIST

There is a multitude of boxes to check when it comes to keeping your maritime operations safe and fire-free. We’re providing a comprehensive list to get you thinking about the safety of your marine operations.

CERTIFICATES AND DOCUMENTS

There is a long list of certificates and documents that must be carried on board at all times. This list varies based on region, whether or not your vessel carries passengers, and vessel type. 

This list might include a Cargo Ship Safety Equipment or Passenger Ship Safety Certificate, all servicing records including proof of fire extinguisher servicing and pressure tests, a damage control manual, any records of testing, drills, and maintenance, a variety of training manuals, the list goes on! For more specific information on staying up to code and what you need to keep on board, contact our VFS team!

FIRE SAFETY EQUIPMENT

There are hundreds of safety measures in place to prevent fire aboard your vessel, including a handful of safety equipment that must be carried and tests that must be performed. Let’s shoot for smooth sailing, please! 

  • Sprinkler systems: Valves, alarms, pumps, and pressure gauges must be tested and properly working with pipework in fair condition
  • Ventilators and fire dampers: Must be clean and free of debris with flaps in fair condition
  • Proper fire detection and fire alarm systems that provide the necessary  coverage and protection of assets on board
  • Properly installed extinguishing systems
  • Personal equipment, including fire fighting protective wear, self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs), and emergency escape breathing devices (EEBDs)
  • Properly functioning gas and CO2 systems

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

ENGINE ROOM MAINTENANCE

Did you know that approximately 90% of marine fires start in the engine room? This considered, don’t underestimate the importance of routinely checking your engine room’s fire pumps, emergency shutdowns and valves, high-pressure fuel lines, and main zones for proper functionality and cleanliness.

DECK MAINTENANCE AND CREW READINESS

In case of an emergency, your crew should be familiar with the use of these fire protection systems and able to abandon ship if necessary. Fire drills should be performed routinely. 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

Fingers crossed, this equipment doesn’t need to be used! Your emergency equipment, including emergency generators, batteries, pumps, and tankers, however, must be properly maintained, inspected, and ready to be used at any moment.

HERE TO HELP!

While you’re on the water, whether it be for pleasure or work, marine fire safety and preparation cannot be overlooked. Having the right fire safety equipment and performing the right maintenance and routine inspections may be the difference between life and death.

Our VFS team is prepared to get your vessel in tip-top shape with the right marine fire safety equipment. In fact, the VFS Houston Team has been continuing to grow our marine department and has recently acquired four new Tug & Barge Companies—bringing their annual total of vessels to perform fire safety inspections and testing to approximately 375.

With VFS by your side, you’ll be the fire protection talk of the town! Get in touch today to see what we can do for you.

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!