Ships in Supply Chain being delayed due to issues

Current supply chain issues affect many industries and goods. These impacts range from limited toilet paper on shelves, expensive loaves of bread, and cars taking months at a shop. In addition to these effects, supply chain issues also significantly affect the fire and security industry. 

Let’s discuss what supply chains are and how these issues came to be before we hand the reins over to IFSEC Global.

What is a Supply Chain?

According to Fire Apparatus Magazine, a supply chain is defined as “the entire process of making and selling commercial goods including every stage from the supply of materials and the manufacture of the goods to their distribution site.” Supply chains include many elements and moving parts, such as warehouses, production sites, various modes of transportation, fulfillment centers, and inventory storage. 

What Caused the Supply Chain Issues?

 

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed inefficient areas by creating a series of issues that trickled down the chain.

First, any lockdowns, regulations, or ordinances kept workers out of the workplace. Additionally, workers missed work due to COVID-19-related illness, exposure, or other issues. This led to a labor shortage and soon a deficit in materials. The pandemic caused freight costs to spike, shipments to delay and the costs of goods to increase. 

Read on for the full article from FSEC Global to learn how these issues affected the fire and security industry. 

What are the current supply chain issues affecting the fire and security industry?

Supply chains provide companies with the certainty that raw materials and components will be continually available to ensure the smooth production goods. In this article, Euralarm looks at current issues within the supply chain, and the repercussions those problems are having on the fire and security industry.

The various lockdowns due to the pandemic, paired with high demand due to digitization and economic recovery, meant that the certainty surrounding supply chains was, and is still being, challenged. When manufacturers are looking for alternative material and components they can face re-certification of their products, or newly developed products cannot be released.

As a result, existing products must stay available for longer. The fire safety and security markets are highly dependent on electronics and are largely affected by the supply chain crisis.

Supply chains are formed by complex connections between companies. It starts with the raw materials and ends with finished goods for industry and end user; one chain can include thousands of companies.

Thanks to proven forecasting methods, the activities of the companies in the supply chain are precisely coordinated. This considers demand, supply, seasonal influences or specific characteristics of regions.

What is not considered – and what is not possible – are unknown factors. These can lead to the forecasts no longer being correct. The well-oiled machine of the supply chain then quickly starts to creak and squeak.

COVID-19

One unknown factor the world faced in 2019 was COVID-19, making it clear that society is not prepared for events that are not likely to happen but can have a major impact on society.

Unfortunately, the start of pandemic happened in a country where a large part of the world’s production takes place.

Several industries had problems even before COVID-19. Producers of chips, computer parts and other components needed for the digitalisation of our society were already under great pressure. The production capacity of these goods is limited worldwide and the slightest change in demand can cause supply problems.

This was already the case with smartphones, (game) computers or televisions. Chips had already entered the automotive industry on a large scale, and with the electrification of this industry, the demand for chips soared. We are seeing a similar development in industries and parts of society where the (Industrial) Internet of Things is becoming commonplace.

Risky dependencies

The consequences of the COVID-19 crisis have led many governments to recognise that the high dependence on producers out of one region poses a great a risk to certain sectors. For example, the fact that many European countries have no production capacity for facemasks which were needed during the pandemic.

For electronic chips and components, we face the same challenge; to reduce the risks there is simply a need for more distribution facilities. In the pursuit of lean manufacturing, production has been outsourced to Asia which means that a shutdown of factories in one country can have a global impact. The EU also recognised this even before the pandemic. Accelerated by the corona crisis, the EU is focusing its policy, among other things, on increasing domestic capacity and diversifying the number of suppliers.

Following the rapid spread of the coronavirus in China, European companies were affected. The lockdowns introduced in China led to a virtual standstill in production and restricted the freedom of movement of residents, which also brought logistics providers to a standstill. As quickly as companies were caught off guard by these lockdowns, the recovery in demand was also swift.

For many companies that were caught off guard by global lockdowns, the speed of recovery is almost as insidious and led to another supply chain crisis during the pandemic. Increased consumer spending and thus demand for products, combined with delayed transportation by sea and air, caused major shortages and record backlogs.  The tightness on container capacity is expected to continue for some time. This will not help to clear shortages of electronic components, which is expected to continue for some time.

Fire and security

Manufacturers of electronic fire safety and security equipment are affected by the disruption in transport and shortages on natural resources and core materials. COVID-19 has shown that unexpected events can shatter the basic premise that materials will be easily accessible, disrupting supply chain performance. The chain reaction initially caused by the shutdown of factories in countries effected not only the supply chains but also the workflows within and between companies.

Product compliance

Paul van der Zanden, General Director of Euralarm adds: “Another relevant topic that affects our industry is the compliance of the products that the industry delivers. With electronic components not being available due to the supply chain problems, manufacturers need to reconsider replacement of parts that aren’t available. However, with the replacement of certain components, the conformity of the final product may also be at stake.”

This could make it necessary to have the product retested and recertified, resulting in high costs.

When service and maintenance companies were faced with problems in reaching the customers during the pandemic, these organisations learned other flexible ways to stay in contact with their customers.

Many industries and businesses have started modifying their operational methods, now operating online. The fire safety and security industries are doing the same, forming virtual offices and using remote service and diagnostic tools to support their customers.

Customers are moving to hybrid working models which are applied throughout society and could lead to downsizing or repurposing of buildings.

The Green Deal

Securing a sustainable supply of metals and minerals used for components in fire safety and security equipment is also key to meet the energy and climate targets for 2030 and beyond. The European Green Deal aims to make the EU’s economy sustainable. That creates many opportunities for the European society and industry in the current context of both the climate crisis and the COVID-19-outbreak.

However, the transition towards green technologies, like renewable energy, e-mobility and stationary energy storage relies heavily on critical raw materials, such as cobalt, neodymium, tungsten, etc. and on new products and services.

Both globally and in Europe it is expected that the demand for these materials will continue to increase, creating challenges for the Green Deal.

The impact of extracting and processing these resources is high while the supply chains are often not transparent and may lack traceability. Another challenge is the recycling of the materials. For most critical raw materials, the recycling efficiencies are low while the dependency on non-EU countries is high and still increasing.

The green ambitions of the EU could therefore also lead to certain activities being brought back to the West, either to reduce the dependency of non-EU countries, or to avoid CO2 emission as result of transporting goods from other parts of the world to Europe. This could lead to shorter logistics chains and more sustainability in several sectors. In that sense the current crisis in the high-tech supply chains contributes to a greener world and a stronger Europe.

Professional Conducting a inspection on a fire system in need of repair

Frequent fire system inspections and repairs can help commercial real estate owners prevent fires from damaging or destroying their buildings. According to U.S. Fire Administration,  out of the 100,000 fires that occur annually, 52% of the larger fires in commercial properties occur in buildings that either:

  • Do not have smoke detectors
  • The smoke detectors do not function properly

At VFS Fire and Security Services, we believe that being proactive minimizes your chances of an emergency. 

If your building’s fire system is being regularly inspected and is up to code, it significantly decreases the probability that your property will be destroyed in the event of a fire. 

To help you prepare, we’ve broken down what a fire system inspection is, outlined some common fire code violations as well as offered some tips on how to stay up to code and in compliance. 

What Is a Fire System Inspection?

A fire inspection is a process in which the fire department inspects a building or proper

ty to identify and access potential fire safety hazards. 

How Often Should Fire System Inspections Occur?

According to the NFPA code, inspections of your fire and life safety systems are required to occur on a quarterly and annual basis. 

What is NFPA Code?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has over 300 codes and standards that apply to nearly all buildings, services, installations, and processes. NFPA codes are designed to reduce or minimize the effects of fires and other safety risks. 

 

A little intimidated to start reading 300 NFPA codes and standards? That’s okay- we get it! Begin by checking out our article, make fire safety part of your New Year’s resolution, where we break down a couple of codes and help you get started.

What Will Be On My Inspection Report?

Your inspection report will include:

  • The location of every device in the building
  • Whether each device passed or failed inspection
  • The reasons why each device passed or failed inspection
  • Date and time stamps of when each device was inspected
  • Device inventory 
  • Device warranty status
  • Indication of the length of time devices have been in service
  • Verification of report results

Yikes, kind of a lengthy list, right? Consider using a professional fire safety service to inspect your property–and make sure you didn’t miss anything–to ensure your building is up-to-code and in compliance. 

Do All Fire System Components Need to Be Checked With The Same Frequency?

In the same way that the brakes in your car should get checked every six months but your oil should be checked every few weeks, some components of a fire system need to be checked more often than others. 

For example, a fire pump may require weekly or monthly inspections whereas sprinkler systems may only need a quarterly check. 

What Fire Code Violations Should I Look Out For?

We’re so glad you asked. According to the NFPA,  the most common fire code violations are:

  • Blocked exits or fire doors
  • Extension cords
  • Improper storage
  • Exit signs and faulty lighting
  • Fire extinguisher issues
  • Broken smoke detectors
  • Improper records
  • Hanging items from sprinkler heads or pipes
  • Fire alarms or pull stations not working
  • Incorrect sprinkler system
  • Blocked valves or exterior access points

Learn more about understanding inspections and maintenance for your building, here.

How Do Repairs Affect My Fire Code Compliance?

Components of the fire system needing repair can result in your property being out of compliance and penalized with hefty fines. And, as you can see from our list of common code violations, components in need of repair –ranging from broken smoke detectors, fire alarms, and pulls stations to faulty lighting– aren’t a rare occurrence. 

Avoid the penalties and let us help with fire system inspection and repairs to make sure your building is safe and up to code. 

Tips for Staying Up 

To Code and In

 Compliance

Keep Hallways and Storage Areas Clear

Clutter and disorganized spaces can serve as both fuel for the fire as well as block emergency exits. Clean up messes, such as piles of cardboard boxes or papers, that may fuel a fire and move large objects, such as furniture, out of the path of a fire exit. 

 Properly Dispose of Combustible and Flammable Materials

These materials could be a safety risk to your building. Follow protocols in disposing of items such as cooled ashes and oiled rags.

Create and Post an Evacuation Plan

Designing and posting an evacuation plan can lead to a more efficient evacuation in the event of a fire. The plan and escape route information should be posted in the public areas of your building to familiarize residents and employees with safety precautions. 

Work with a Professional Fire Protection Company 

Ensure your building is safe and up to fire protection code compliance by partnering with a company that specializes in fire protection. While these tips can get you started in ensuring your building is in compliance, with over 300 NFPA codes and standards, the rules can get complicated quickly– especially if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Luckily, we do. 

At VFS Fire and Security, we offer a range of services to make sure your building is safe and in compliance. Start a conversation with us today.

Still have more questions about your building’s compliance? We’ve got 

you covered with our building compliance cheat sheet. 

Fire Extinguisher on Wall

In the event of a fire, knowing the five classes can help you to use the most effective fire extinguishing agents and techniques to safely suppress the flames. 

In this article, we’ll cover each fire class, how each type of fire can happen, the varying materials that can serve as fuel, and how you can safely extinguish the flames. (Hint: don’t always use water to put out fires– it can make it worse!) 

Please note these fire classifications follow the U.S. standard system for classifying fires. 

What is a Fire Class?

Fire classes are a system of categorizing fires by factors such as the type of material and fuel for combustion as well as the best methods to extinguish or suppress them. The fire classes are Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class K.

Class A Fires: Ordinary Combustibles

Class A fires are the most common of the classes of fires. Class A fires occur when common combustibles–such as wood, paper, trash cloth, and some plastics– serve as fuel for the fire.  Some of these materials may include:

  • Cloth and fabric: clothing, home furnishings, curtains
  • Wood: furniture, building, crafting or construction supplies, logs in fireplaces
  • Paper: books, office supplies, magazines, newspapers, trash 
  • Plastics: plastic containers, toys, disposable bags
  • Rubber: such as the rubber in shoes

How Do Class A Fires Start?

Class A fires are the most common because ordinary combustibles are often found in everyday life. An ordinary combustibles fire can start through scenarios such as a candle falling over or a hot match being tossed into the trash.

How to Extinguish Class A Fires

According to the Fire Equipment Manufacturer’s Association, the best methods to extinguish Class A fires is either with a foam fire extinguisher or with water.   

Class B Fires: Flammable Liquids and Gases

Class B fires involve flammable liquids and gases, especially petroleum or petroleum-based products. Some examples include:

  • Gasoline
  • Paint
  • Kerosine
  • Propane
  • Butane

However, Class B does not typically include fires involving cooking oils or grease. These materials are in their own class, Class K.

How Do Class B Fires Start?

Class B fires occur when flammable liquids ignite. For example, lighter fluid may catch fire on a charcoal grill or gasoline, grease or paint may ignite while a mechanic is working on a car. 

How to Extinguish Class B Fires

The best method of extinguishing Class B fires is by smothering them or cutting the oxygen supply using foam, powder, or carbon dioxide fire suppression equipment, such as extinguishers. 

It is important not to use a water extinguisher on a Class B fire as water may spread the flammable material and cause the fire.

Class C Fires: Electrical Fires

Class C fires involve an electricity source and/or electric equipment. They may begin from:

  • A short circuit
  • Faulty wiring
  • Electrical/power cord damage 
  • Faulty Breaker boxes
  • Damaged appliances
  • Overloaded electrical outlets

How Do Class C Fires Start?

Class C fires can occur in many situations. An example would be an overloaded outlet causing the plug and/or cord of the device to spark and set on fire.

How to Extinguish Class C Fires

Since suppressing Class C fires can be complicated, we’ve broken down the process into a few short steps:

  1. If it is safe, disconnect the item from its power source. 
  2. Extinguish the fire using a carbon dioxide or dry powder fire extinguisher. These are non-conductive extinguishing agents that will help protect you from electrical shock and cut off the fire’s oxygen supply.
  3. Do not use water or a foam extinguisher, as you would with Class A fires. Water and foam conduct electricity and could make the situation more dangerous.

Class D Fires: Combustible Metal Fires

Class D fires involve metals catching on fire. Flammable metals include, but are not limited to:

  • Titanium
  • Aluminum
  • Calcium
  • Sodium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium

How Do Class D Fires Start?

Metallic fires require extreme heat to ignite and start most often when the materials are in the form of fines, such as metal dust. This may occur, for example, at manufacturing plants, laboratories or warehouses that cut, drill or mill metal materials.

How to Extinguish Class D Fires

Class D fires should not be put out with water because water can make the fire more dangerous. Instead, use a dry powder fire extinguisher or other dry powder agents to smother the fire. 

Class K Fires: Cooking Fires

Class K fires, similar to Class B fires, occur as a result of the combustion of flammable liquids. Class K fires are categorized separately because of their unique setting and are instead associated with cooking liquids in the food service and restaurant industry. These liquid cooking materials include:

  • Grease
  • Oils
  • Animal fats
  • Vegetable fats 

How Do Class K Fires Start?

Cooking fires can happen by leaving cooking food unattended–remember when your mom told you not to do that? This is why!– or forgetting to turn off the stove. 

Commercial kitchens have a high risk of a Class K fire occurring and can contain an array of safety risks and hazards. Learn more about kitchen fire safety management, here. 

How to Extinguish Class K Fires

It may be your instinct in the kitchen to toss a glass of water on the fire, but that could make it worse. Cooking fires can spread quickly and are often worsened by water.  Instead, smother the fire-like putting a large metal lid over a small fire in a pan- to cut off the oxygen supply or use a wet agent fire extinguisher.  

Still have some questions on how to best protect your property from the five classes of fire? Contact us at VFS Fire and Security Services and we’ll find a solution that fits your needs, property, and budget.

Fire Alarm in Building

The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that fires in commercial buildings cost owners over $2.4 billion per year. Wowza! This considered, monitored fire alarm systems are essential in the prevention of fires in commercial buildings.

Moreover, fire alarm systems can help to:

  • Reduce damage to property
  • Protect valuable assets
  • And, save lives

But today, we have to ask: Is a regular fire alarm system enough?

OK, OK… Before you roll your eyes, hear us out. Fire alarm systems are an excellent and crucial first step in protecting your property. However, as a property owner, you may be able to do more!

A monitored fire alarm system can help to further prevent or reduce costly damage to your property while also better protecting its residents.

Read on to learn what a monitored fire alarm system is and how it can better protect your property.

What is a Monitored Fire Alarm System?

A monitored fire alarm system is an alarm system that has been programmed to transmit signals to a central station or fire control center. In simple terms, when the alarm goes off, the system will immediately alert an operator who will dispatch the appropriate fire protection team to your building.

A monitored fire alarm system ensures that the fire department is alerted to the fire as quickly as possible, without someone having to make the call. The seconds or minutes that a monitored fire alarm system might save you could make the difference between life and death (as dramatic as it sounds, it’s true!)

Monitored fire alarm systems are most commonly used in commercial facilities—and for good reason.

What is the Difference Between a Fire Alarm System and Fire Alarm Monitoring?

A fire alarm system sets off an alarm—usually a series of local, audible devices—to alert people in the building that a fire has been detected and to evacuate immediately. A fire alarm system does not notify the fire department of the detected fire. The fire department will not be dispatched unless someone calls 911.

On the other hand, a monitored fire alarm system will transmit a signal to a central station or fire control center where an operator will dispatch the appropriate fire department to your building—without anyone in the building calling 911.

How Does a Monitored Fire Alarm System Work?

A monitored fire alarm system has an installed control panel that will detect a fire and immediately transmit a signal to a monitoring station. The operator at the station will notify the fire department when they receive the signal. 

 

Signals can be transmitted via:

  • Cell phones
  • Phone lines
  • Radios
  • The internet

Why Does My Building Need a Monitored Fire Alarm System?

The answer to this is simple: Monitored fire alarms buy you, at the very least, a few extra minutes. In the case of a fire, a few extra minutes can be the difference in both saving buildings and saving lives.

In as little as thirty seconds, a fire can double in size, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Additionally, a fire will spread even quicker if its surroundings are flammable, such as products that may be found in a warehouse or particular furniture.

If your building is equipped with a fire alarm system that isn’t monitored, the fire department will only be dispatched when someone manages to call 911 after sounding alarms, a fire suppression system or sprinklers, and a quick evacuation of all residents.

Considering these stressful protocols, how quickly do you trust your residents to call 911?

When Will the Monitored Fire Alarm System Protect My Building?

Monitored fire alarm systems provide 24-hour protection, seven days a week. 

For instance, even if a fire occurs at nighttime or while your building is unoccupied, a monitored alarm system will ensure there is no delay in notifying the fire department.

How Do I Know If My Fire Alarm is Monitored?

A common error amongst commercial building owners is incorrectly assuming their fire alarm systems are monitored. Consequently, when a fire occurs, the call to 911 is severely delayed. This error leads to the destruction of the buildings that might have been saved if the proper precautions had taken place.

At VFS Fire & Security Services, we urge you not to wait until a catastrophic loss to have your system inspected.

The default option for many fire alarm systems is the installation of a single-station fire alarm, which doesn’t include the feature of sending a signal to the fire department.

If you’re not sure if your fire alarm system is monitored, you can have a fire and security service quickly inspect your system to let you know. At VFS, our system upgrades team can review your existing plans and make scalable proposals to meet your building, code, safety needs, and budget. 

Not sure if your building is due for an inspection? Read our complete guide to fire and safety inspections for your facilities.

The Bottom Line

Fires happen often—every 63 seconds, in fact. This considered, commercial property owners should be adequately prepared to avoid the costly damages to their valuable assets and protect their residents.

Monitored fire alarm systems are a strong method of improving the protection of your property and its residents by ensuring the fire department is dispatched as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Start a conversation with us today and let’s figure out how to best protect your building.

Commercial Fire Protection Systems

We’ll Answer Your Burning Question… 

Your commercial property is just as flammable as any other building. In fact, the National Fire Protection Agency reports that between 2015 and 2019 fire departments across the nation reported 19,156 fires in business properties alone. Property loss totaled over $800 million. These statistics don’t include fires in other types of commercial buildings. 

With fire season emerging, stay ahead of the catastrophic damage a wildfire can do to your commercial building by protecting it ahead of time. Are you prepared? We answer your burning question below. 

What is a Commercial Property?

A commercial property is any real estate that is used for business purposes or activities. Typically, they are buildings- not residential dwellings. Think malls, industrial real estate, and grocery stores … you get the picture.  

These buildings contain important materials, documents, and people inside which means it’s even more important to protect your building from the potential damage of a fire. 

High-Risk Fire Zones

A high-risk fire zone is “a designated zone that considers wildfire hazards such as fire history, topography, vegetation, blowing embers, and weather” according to Spectrum News

These zones are broken down into three sections: moderate risk, high risk, and very high risk. Determining which category a zone falls in depends on the likelihood of it catching fire based on history and fire patterns. 

Check your commercial property’s zone to determine your risk of being impacted by a wildfire.  

Commercial Fire Insurance Policies

Having a commercial fire insurance policy, especially for commercial properties in high-risk zones is an added layer of protection. This policy type mitigates risk by reimbursing you for fire damage to the property for losses. 

Fire insurance is defined as “a form of property insurance that covers damage and losses caused by fire.”

This policy often covers building damage, building contents (i.e. furniture, tools, and equipment), and the belongings of others. 

Depending on your policy, it may also cover damage from smoke, charring, or loss of income due to business closure from the fire. 

Ways to Protect Your Property From Wildfires  

Wildfires can cause catastrophic damage, especially to properties without property protection and prevention plans in place. The National Interagency Fire Center reported that 2021 faced 58,985 wildfires which damaged 7.1 million acres.  

Protect your building by implementing the following steps.

Create a “Buffer Zone” 

Wildfire Property Protection

A buffer zone divides the surrounding area of your building into three sections to keep an active fire from moving quickly to your building. Learn more about how to implement a buffer zone here

Ensure Working Fire Hydrants Nearby

Have access to a fire hydrant no more than 250 feet away from main buildings. They should be connected to reliable water sources. 

Use Noncombustible Materials

Any signage, exterior cladding, siding, etc. should be made out of noncombustible material. This keeps a hungry fire from finding more materials to damage because they will not burn when exposed to fire. 

Choose Dual-Paned Windows 

Dual-paned windows made with tempered glass will help keep a fire at bay. 

Cover Vents

All vents should be covered with non-combustible ⅛ inch mesh screenings to fight against embers that may fall through. 

Keep Gutters and Roofs Clean 

The building’s roof and gutters should be kept clear of debris that can be easily ignited by embers. 

Flame Resistant Upholstery 

Use flame-resistant or flame-retardant chemicals on curtains, furniture, and drapes. 

Perform Regular Fire Protection System Servicing 

Stay in touch with your fire marshal or authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to make sure your fire protection system is up-to-date. Ensure your fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems and other fire protection systems are inspected and maintained on a regular basis.

Have an Emergency Plan

Prepare an evacuation plan should a wildfire break out nearby. Make sure all staff inside the building understand what to do in a fire emergency. Clearly post emergency evacuation signs inside the building. 

Read our next why high-risk high reward does not apply to fire safety, and other ways to keep your building safe. 

fire protection systems service and maintenance

… Yeah That’s Something You Have To Do

Just because your building has the proper safety equipment doesn’t mean your work is done. Believe it or not, you have to actively maintain each of the devices throughout the year. After all, you have to change the oil in your car – your building’sfire protection system service and maintenance fire protection systems are no different.

How often you service or inspect your fire protection services depends on the device. Some require weekly, monthly, semi-annual, or annual inspections. Hot tip- all fire and life safety systems require at least an annual inspection. Let’s discuss how often different fire protection systems need servicing.

Fire Protection Maintenance and Inspection Schedules

Fire protection maintenance schedules are set in place to make sure your fire protection is up to par in the event of a fire. A fully functioning system reduces the risk of damage or injury.

Typically, a fire marshall or other authority holding jurisdiction (AHJ) will review your fire protection system to review if the system is up to code. Local regulations determine how the frequency of service for your different systems. There are, however,  overarching trends as to when each needs a look.

Fire Sprinkler Systems

The best practice for a fire sprinkler system is to perform quarterly and annual sprinkler inspections. Particularly in colder areas, regular maintenance and inspections are essential.

For example, a wet pipe sprinkler system needs to be kept at above freezing temperature during the colder months in order to prevent costly damage to the system.

Fire Suppression Systems

Fire suppression systems include extinguishing fires through gaseous chemical or foam agents instead of water. Examples of fire suppression systems include:

  • Clean agent
  • CO2 Systems
  • Wet chemicals

They must be inspected on a semi-annual basis according to NFPA guidelines.

Fire Alarm & Detection

Fire alarms or smoke alarms should be inspected by a professional on an annual basis- at a minimum.

Inspect these systems for leaks, cracks, warning lights or obstructions weekly. Local rules and regulations determine the service timeline.

For example, school buildings typically require periodic testing of fire alarm systems and regular fire drills.

Fire Extinguishers

A fire extinguisher, also known as the first line of defense is a piece of fire safety equipment you want operable at any given moment. Inspections must take place once a month.

Devices prone to rust, impact, or tampering require the most frequent inspections.

Their external maintenance examination occurs annually during the hydrostatic test, or when specified. Internal fire extinguisher tests occur every 1 – 6 years depending on the extinguisher.

A Final Word

Keeping a well-maintained fire protection system can be the difference between minor and major structural damage. It can also save lives. Proactively maintain your system to have the peace of mind that if the time comes, your building is fully prepared.

Most building owners find that waiting on the fire inspection report is often the most painstaking part of the process. Why do these reports take so long? Take a look at one of our recent articles explaining why the fire inspection report takes so long.

use the warm summer months while students are on vacation to fire proof campus buildings

(While the kids are away, you should probably fire-proof the Sigma Chi house)

 

You survived another semester! Congratulations! While college students return home for the summer, best practice is to go through and fireproof your buildings… especially the Sigma Chi house (they love lighting up… candles, of course).

 

After all, in just a few short months, students will be back in full force. They may get a break for the warm summer months, but your fire safety procedures never take a vacation. 

Campus Fire Safety

Based on research from the National Fire Protection Association, campus fires peak between September and October– especially between 5-9 pm. 

 

“U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 3,840 structure fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and other related properties. These fires caused annual averages of 29 civilian injuries and $11 million in direct property damage.”

 

In order to protect your building and your students from these worrisome statistics, you must ensure your fire safety systems are up-to-date and you should regularly conduct proper fire safety training for both students and faculty. 

Fire Proofing Campus Buildings

So, how does one fireproof an education facility? Most education facilities abide by NFPA Code 101 which “addresses minimum building design, construction, operation, and maintenance requirements necessary to protect building occupants from danger caused by fire, smoke, and toxic fumes.”

 

A few ways you can fireproof your campus buildings are:

 

  • Determining space requirements and maximum occupancy for each room. Hint- to remain compliant with NFPA 101, each person requires at least 20 square feet of space
  • Prepare and update fire evacuation plans
  • Plan fire drills
  • Establish communication with your local jurisdiction and fire authority, and implement their guidelines 
  • Ensure exit areas, stairwells, etc are unobstructed and clear
  • Inspect fire safety equipment to make sure it’s working and updated (i.e. fire alarms, fire sprinkler systems, and fire extinguishers)

What are the Main Causes of Campus Fires?

Fires can break out in multiple ways, however, here are the top five causes of campus-related fires according to data gathered by the U.S. Fire Administration: 

 

  1. Cooking on hot plates, microwaves, portables grills, etc. 
  2. Careless smoking 
  3. Unattended candles 
  4. Overloaded extension cords and outlets

More on how to communicate fire safety with students below. 

Communicating Fire Safety 

Keeping students and faculty educated on fire safety on campus is essential to protecting your people in the event of a fire. Before they step on campus for the semester, send them a pamphlet with fire safety information. This can include:

  • Fire evacuation plans 
  • How to prevent fires
  • How to properly notify the fire department if a fire breaks out 

 

Once students arrive on campus:

  • Review evacuation procedures
  • Show them where the nearest fire extinguishers are located
  • Conduct fire drills
  • Deter tampering with smoke alarms or sprinklers
  • Ensure your RAs are regularly inspecting rooms for fire hazards

 

Remind students that the most common fire causes of campus fires are 

 

  • Check for cigarette buts after parties in chairs, sofas, couches, etc.
  • Use deep, wide ashtrays 
  • Don’t smoke indoors

cooking, candles, smoking, and

fire prep your campus's buildings this summer

 overused power strips. 

Cooking Reminders

  • Keep kitchens clean and clear of flammable materials
  • If cooking– don’t leave the kitchen unattended
  • Only cook in designated areas

Candle Reminders 

  • Do not leave lit candles unattended 
  • Keep candles away from flammable materials

Smoking Reminders

Electrical Safety 

  • Keep light fixtures away from flammable materials
  • Do not plug large appliances into an extension cord 
  • Do not overload outlets or power strips

A Final Word

The perfect time to review your campus facility’s fire safety is during the summer, when fewer students are on campus. For more tips on how to use summer vacation to get your fire safety up to par, read our article here.

 

ajh keeps your buildings safe

As Paul Blart says, “Safety never takes a holiday.” And your facility’s Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) abides by that same standard.  This organization is designed to enforce the NFPA standards and codes on your building. Their mission is to keep both you and your building safe from harm and ensure all of your systems are up to code in case an emergency occurs. 

 

via GIPHY

Let’s dive into what the AHJ is, and why they’re important. 

What is AHJ?

 

AHJ stands for authority having jurisdiction. It’s not a singular entity, rather, it is the authority having jurisdiction for whoever visits the premises to inspect your fire, life and electrical safety programs to meet code standards. 

 

This could be:

 

  • A fire marshal
  • Fire Chief 
  • Labor department 
  • Building official 
  • And more

 

According to the NFPA, AHJ includes, “an organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, and installation or a procedure.” 

 

Members of AHJ can come from various places, including federal or state government or private sectors. They are a collective force rather than a specific person. Among this group, you’ll see:

 

  • Fire chief
  • Fire marshal
  • Chief of a fire prevention bureau
  • Labor department member
  • Health department member
  • Building official
  • Electrical inspector
  • Insurance company representative
  • Others having statutory authority

Why Should you Proactively Work With AHJ?

Proactivity is always beneficial when thwarting fire damage. By working with your AHJ before a fire occurs, you increase the odds of protecting your building and, more importantly, your people during an emergency. 

 

If you’re in the beginning stages of building or renovating your commercial property, consulting an AHJ can help ensure all your systems are meeting strict code regulations. This prevents potential fines and issues with compliance that might arise if you are found not up to code.

 

These fire safety codes and standards are strict because you are dealing with people’s lives. The members of AHJ strive to ensure your building is meeting code requirements during the design, construction, and functioning phases. 

 

It’s important to remember that each district has different codes and regulations. 

While following OSHA’s fire safety codes are important, you may find that your local code has additional standards that you must meet in order to remain in compliance. 

 

When was your last fire inspection and maintenance? Our team at VFS supports our clients with regular inspection and testing on their fire protection systems. How much do you know about your fire inspection? Take our quiz to see if you’re smarter than a fire inspector here. 

 

AJH helps keep your building safe

Special Hazards Require Special Solutions

Remember that when you try to fight fire with fire, the Fire Department uses water. This is why VFS Fire and Security highly recommends implementing special solutions into your fire safety plan to tackle special hazards.

What is a special hazard? 

NFPA Code 470 highlights hazardous materials standards for responders. A special hazard is anything from a building, material, or piece of equipment that can cause a fire in an abnormal way.  

As mentioned above, a special hazard isn’t simply an area, it can be a building, area, room, or a piece of equipment. From a fire protection perspective, certain industries bring about additional challenges in the fire safety realm. 

Special hazards are generally found in 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. 

Oil Fire

An oil fire is an example of a special hazard that requires a special solution. 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.” 

Oil fires often start in commercial kitchens, areas where spontaneous combustion can occur, or areas where high-temperature work is done. Learn more about the hazards of kitchens in our blog, “Kitchens: More than a place to steal your coworker’s lunch.” 

Because kitchens are such a hot spot for hazards, the NFPA requires many inspections and equipment guidelines to help prevent oil fires from occurring. NFPA Code 31 is listed as the Standard for the Installation of Oil-Burning Equipment, which provides the starting point for special solutions.  

In the event of an oil fire, DO NOT use water. We repeat, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE WATER. Adding water to an oil fire will make the fire grow and become a greater danger. This is where the difference between fire suppression vs. fire sprinklers is important to understand. 

Fire Suppression Systems

Fire suppression systems are part of the magical formula for dealing with special hazards. Here are the various fire suppression systems VFS specializes in. 

Clean Agent 

Clean agent fire suppression, is a term used to describe the use of inert gases to extinguish a fire. These systems have three main components: 

  • Smoke Detector
  • Control Panel
  • Notification Devices

When a smoke detector is triggered, it sends a signal to the control panel which alerts the notification devices, activating the release devices to suppress the fire. 

Clean agent fire suppression systems are fast-acting and most effective at protecting sensitive equipment and environments because they are designed to suppress the fire in its incipient stage. They are electronically nonconducting and unlike water, they won’t ruin electronics or electrical components. 

They are most often found in server rooms, record and file repositories, and data centers that require an increased level of protection to prevent unnecessary and accidental discharge of systems.

The Details:

  • Inert gases: Nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide work together by lowering oxygen content in a room below the level that supports combustion, while still allowing a person to breathe keeping your environment and your personnel safe. 
  • Fluorocarbon-based extinguishers are described as “clean agents” as they do not leave any oily residues, particulates, or water damage and rapidly extinguish fires with a superb weight to effectiveness ratio. These extinguishing agents are also safe to use in occupied spaces and offer unique advantages in speed, performance, and safety. 

CO2 Systems

C02 is an effective method of extinguishing a wide range of flammable and combustible materials in both surface and deep-seated fires. Carbon dioxide is a colorless and odorless three-dimensional clean agent. It is typically harmless to equipment, materials, and property preventing excessive damage to equipment and your facility in the event of a discharge. 

There are high and low-pressure CO2 systems. High-pressure systems use individual storage cylinders ranging from 35 lbs to 120 lbs. Low-pressure C02 systems are ideal for non-occupied fire hazards requiring large amounts of extinguishing agents in a limited space. 

Wet Chemical 

Extinguishing methods of wet chemical suppression systems are specific to the type of cooking fire that may occur in a commercial kitchen. When triggered, the system immediately discharges 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 that cools the affected area and prevents the spread and the potential of reignition. 

Dry Chemical

Dry chemical is a type of fire protection system that makes use of a dry chemical powder to extinguish a fire. Most dry chemical fire suppression systems use a large tank that is filled with dry chemical powder, which is then pressurized. 

If your business functions in one of the environments discussed above, ensuring that you have special solutions to protect against special hazards is imperative. 

 

So, how are your New Year’s resolutions coming along? It’s okay if you’ve already ditched the gym at this point— as long as fire safety is still a part of your New Year’s resolutions. Read more on our blog. 

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. 

Boater Safety: Tips that Will Float Your Boat

Yes, typically water does put out fires… However there are times when fire can occur on water.  There is an extremely high fire risk on boats and marine machinery. It’s important to understand what preventative measures should be taken in order to avoid fire hazards on marine machinery. So, how do you prevent fires on your boat?

 

Let’s dive into tips that will help keep your boat afloat.

 

Ship Safety Requirements

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Code 301 is the “Code for Safety to Life from Fire on Merchant Vessels.” This code focuses on the construction, arrangement, protection, and space utilization of merchant vessels that aim to limit the danger.

 

Taking precautions is critical to the safety of your boat and your passengers in case of a fire emergency, not only from the fire itself, but also from fumes, smoke, and human response.

 

Having the proper amount of fire extinguishers on your vessel is a great start, however, it is not the whole picture. There are additional elements of preparedness that you should have in place to keep your ship safe. 

 

How to Protect Your Ship From a Fire

The steps mentioned above are considered large-scale. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty details of boat safety. 

 

Ships Business provides some insight into what should be checked in your engine room to ensure proper safety.

 

Some of these items include:

 

  • Having proper escape routes that are properly lit by emergency illumination 
  • All railings on the boat are properly secured
  • There are more than enough life jackets per person that are easily accessible 
  • All safety signs are updated and easy to read
  • Escape routes are not blocked
  • All portable fire extinguishers are correctly stored and up-to-date on inspections
  • Anyone onboard the ship is wearing the proper protective gear depending on the type of boat
  • Prevention of steam, water, or oil leaks in the machinery space
  • Pipe insulations are oil-free
  • Walkways, stairways, and ladders are clean and dry
  • Any supplies and materials are properly stored
  • Approved first aid supplies are readily available, accessible, and clearly marked

 

These, among many other checks, are essential to the safety of your vessel.

 

The Engine Room

The engine room of your vessel is one spot that should be triple-checked for equipment that is functioning properly, in order to best prevent fire or an explosion. It’s a place that heats up quickly and may contain flammable items. One of the major fire safety requirements in the engine room is to install automatic fire suppression systems. About 90% of marine fires start in the engine room. 

 

Another simple way to prevent fires on your boat is to keep everything clear and organized. When you check that your equipment is working, it’s important to familiarize yourself with where everything is located in case an emergency arises and you need to quickly navigate the space. 

 

Freeze Protection

Yes, boats can freeze. In the winter, ships that are in the water, docked, or stored in cold environments need to be winterized. This means going through a process of removing water from any place on the boat that could freeze, expand and cause damage to the ship. 

 

When temperatures drop below freezing, water inside the engine or gears can cause cracks or blockages. The damage they cause will result in expensive repairs. 

 

Remember that a heat lamp is not a good substitute for winterizing your boat. They may cause an unexpected and unwanted fire. According to Xtreme Heaters, “the leading causes of winter vessel fires are unattended portable heaters and overtaxed electrical systems.” A portable heater as a substitute for winterizing your boat is unpredictable because it can be tipped over by waves or other elements– causing a dreaded fire. 

 

Marine Fire Safety

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.

 

As we approach the highly anticipated boating season, what summer shouldn’t bring is more fire hazards! Learn more about fire safety on a ship in our article here. 

 

boater safety tips for marine safety

 

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.

  • Water Based Systems: Valves, Alarms,  Fire Pumps, and Pressure Gauges must be tested and properly working with pipework in satisfactory condition: Water Mist, High & Low Expansion Foam Systems.
  • Ventilators and Fire Dampers: Must be clean and free of debris with flaps in fair condition.
  • Proper Functioning Fire Detection, Smoke Detection & Gas Detection Systems that provide the necessary coverage and protection of assets on board.
  • Properly installed and maintenanced Fixed Extinguishing Systems: Co2, Clean Agent & Dry Powder Systems.
  • Personal equipment: including firefighting  & protective wear, Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBAs), and Emergency Escape Breathing Devices (EEBDs), Inflatable Life Jackets, Portable Gas Detectors, Immersion Suits, Fireman’s Outfits & Chemical Suits.

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!