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.  

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.

WHY DOES YOUR BUILDING NEED PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE?

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

Why does your building need preventative maintenance inspections?

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

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

How else can fire system inspection help your business?

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

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

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

What types of fire systems need inspection and maintenance?

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

Fire Sprinkler Systems

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

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

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

Backflow Preventer Assemblies

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

Fire Suppression Systems

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

Kitchen Hood Suppression Systems 

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

Fire Alarms

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

Fire Extinguishers

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

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

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

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.  

WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR FIRE SAFETY TRAINING: A COMPLETE GUIDE

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 THE NECESSARY INFORMATION.

We think it’s safe to say that most employees do not want to sit through a 3-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 available to employees in case of emergency

OTHER INFORMATION REGARDING FIRE SAFETY CAN BE INCLUDED AS ADDITIONAL RESOURCES. 

First, it’s important to ensure your fire and life safety training is compatible with various devices. Giving employees access to the training on the device of their choice will ensure they complete the training without the headache of trying to navigate a different device! 

Another way to ensure employees remain engaged in the content you’re providing is to use various types of content. Utilizing text, images, and audio helps communicate with all employees in a way that keeps them engaged in the content. 

IMPLEMENT ACTIVITY-BASED LEARNING 

Combining your assessments with activities helps reinforce the content your employees are learning. For example, you can offer simulations or other interactive assessments that make the learning feel more casual while they learn how to operate a fire extinguisher. 

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. 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 will cause fires to spread quickly.

ENSURE ALL 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 that they must be installed by professionals, oil with gasoline is not allowed, and only specific locations within the building can contain gas-fired appliances. 

MAINTAIN FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

Suppression systems are essential in your building. They can save your small kitchen fire from spreading to the rest of your building and putting your employees at risk. Maintaining these suppression systems is essential to the safety of your building. 

ELECTRICALS

Electrical fires are common and complex and preventing them can be tricky. Some of the common precautions that should be performed routinely are checking for corroded wiring, keeping a clear space around electrical units, and preventing a circuit overload. The same precautions should be taken with heating equipment. 

LIQUID FLAMMABLES

Liquid flammables are dangerous and require special precautions. Fires are multifaceted, and stopping the flames can still fail to extinguish the hazard fully. Liquid flammables can expand into the air, which is almost impossible to contain. 

Fire protection products like foam agents can dispel flammable vapors to portable equipment including fire hoses and dry chemical agents. 

Cleaning chemicals are flammable, and should always be stored in an airtight container. The traditional plastic containers that cleaning supplies come in are not enough to protect against hot flames. Buying containers that are made of glass or metal can help. 

COVID-19 has significantly increased the amount of alcohol-based hand sanitizer stored in buildings. If a company purchases gallons of hand sanitizer, they can split up the bulk into smaller amounts of flammable liquids. 

THE NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION SAYS THE ACCEPTABLE AMOUNT IN EACH CONTAINER IS, “1.2 LITERS FOR DISPENSERS IN ROOMS, CORRIDORS, AND AREAS OPEN TO CORRIDORS,” AND 18 OZ FOR AEROSOLS. THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION CLAIMS THAT THE LIKELIHOOD THAT HAND SANITIZER COMBUSTS IS LOW, BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE. THE BEST WAY TO PREVENT THIS IS TO SEPARATE THE LIQUID INTO SMALLER CONTAINERS AND STORE THEM AT A LOW ROOM TEMPERATURE. 

SMOKING AREAS

Depending on the type of work, a non-smoking environment can prevent fatal fires. Fire danger increases in the presence of welding and sparks. The flammable air vapor that can surround liquid flammables will combust if met with a spark from machines of smoke. This is true for all forms of smoking including vaping. 

At VFS, your building’s safety is our top priority. With over 25 years of experience, our fire and life safety experts 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 need education on what to do in case of an emergency. 

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.

FACILITIES MANAGERS! JUMP INTO THE MESH PIT

Why You Need MeshWrx in your Building

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

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

What is MeshWrx?

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

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

What are mesh network alarm monitoring systems?

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

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

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

Why do you need a mesh network alarm system?

Prevent Property Damage

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

COMMUNICATE WITH THE FIRE DEPARTMENT QUICKLY

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

24-HOUR PROTECTION AND RELIABILITY

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

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

MOST IMPORTANTLY, IT KEEPS YOUR EMPLOYEES SAFE

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

DELUGE VS. PRE ACTION SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAY FLOWERS- AND ALSO BUILDING PROTECTION

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

DELUGE SYSTEMS 

WHAT IS A DELUGE SYSTEM?

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

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

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

WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF DELUGE SYSTEMS?

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

PRE-ACTION SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

WHAT IS A PRE-ACTION SPRINKLER SYSTEM?

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

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

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

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

WHY WOULD YOU CHOOSE A PRE-ACTION SPRINKLER SYSTEM?

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

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

WHAT OTHER SPRINKLER SYSTEMS SHOULD I CONSIDER?

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

WET PIPE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

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

DRY PIPE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

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

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

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

SINGLE INTERLOCK

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

DOUBLE INTERLOCK

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

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

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

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

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

CLEAN AGENT FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

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

CARBON DIOXIDE FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

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

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

INDUSTRIAL FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

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

RESTAURANT FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

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

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

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

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

SPECIAL HAZARD FIRE PROTECTION

WE REALLY KNOW HOW TO SUCK THE AIR OF THE ROOM

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

WHAT IS A ‘SPECIAL HAZARD’?

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

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

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

FIRE SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

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

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

SOUND AND COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS

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

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

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

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

5 THINGS CRE OWNERS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT INSTALLING ERRCS

DON’T GET IRKED BY ERRCS

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

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

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

WHAT ARE ERRCS?

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

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

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

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

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

WHEN ARE ERRCS REQUIRED?

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

BUILDING SIZE

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

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

LICENSING REQUIREMENTS

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

PAGING SYSTEMS

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

SIGNAL STRENGTH

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

SIGNAL TESTING

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

BATTERY BACK-UPS

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

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

FIRE SAFETY TIPS FOR COMMERCIAL PROPERTY OWNERS

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

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

START WITH REGULAR INSPECTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAINTAIN PROPER SIGNAGE THROUGHOUT THE BUILDING

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

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

COMMUNICATE YOUR EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN WITH EMPLOYEES

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

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

ENSURE YOU HAVE SPECIAL HAZARD PROTECTION IN PLACE IF NECESSARY.

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

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

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

ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE FIRE PROTECTION

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

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

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

WHAT IS PASSIVE FIRE PROTECTION?

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT IS ACTIVE FIRE PROTECTION?

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

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

SMOKE DETECTORS

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

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS

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

SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

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

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

VENTILATION SYSTEMS

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

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

HOW DO PASSIVE AND ACTIVE FIRE PROTECTION MEASURES WORK TOGETHER?

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR V-DAY BUILDING FIRE PROTECTION CHECKLIST

It May Not Be Romantic, But It Can Be Life-Saving

Valentine’s Day is here and love is in the air. While it’s easy to get swept up in the romance, it’s important to ensure that the air remains clear of smoke. Before lighting the candles and sitting down for dinner, make sure your building is protected. 

The four main goals of fire protection are:

  1. Prevent a Fire From Starting
  2. Prevent Loss of Life When a Fire Does Start
  3. Confine the Fire to Its Origin
  4. Extinguish the Fire

VFS provides systems that can quickly alert everyone that a fire is in the building and to help stop the fire in its tracks. There are many types of fire protection systems in buildings and we can make sure yours are cutting edge. When you need fire protection, you need it to be the best. 

Keep the Flame Alive, Not Ablaze

The first of the four goals of fire protection is to prevent fires from starting in the first place. This is accomplished through cautious actions and awareness of people in the building. Informing building occupants of common fire risks can help them avoid risky mistakes. 

Common Valentine’s Day Firestarters

  • Candles and fireplaces provide light, warmth, and they set the mood for a romantic night — but they can also be a hazard. Many fires begin in the bedroom, usually because candles are too close to bedding, mattresses, or upholstered furniture that easily lights on fire. 
  • Cooking fires are incredibly common and are often the result of an unattended stove. When pouring your heart into a Valentine’s Day dinner for your significant other, make sure to stay in the kitchen and practice caution.
  • Helium balloons are a delightful surprise, but try to keep them inside. If they float away, they may hit a power line on the way. This can cause a small explosion that melts the electric wire and leads it to fall. The fallen electrical wire can spark a fire. 

Posting warnings around flammable objects can bring awareness and help prevent the romantic gesture from blowing up in your face.  

Smoke Alarms May Kill the Mood, But They’re Vital

It’s not romantic music, but a smoke alarm will respond to fire and smoke to alert everyone in the building that it’s time to leave. While preventing fires altogether is preferable, planning for the event of a fire is an essential step to save lives. 

Both automatic and manual smoke alarms play an important role in a timely evacuation. To prevent the loss of life during a fire, having a highly responsive alarm system can make all the difference. If your alarm systems haven’t been updated for a while, they may not work properly. We’ll make sure your fire alarm system is fully functional and ready to alert you. 

What’s Your Sign? Safe Fire Exits

Once the alarm is going, people need to know where to exit. Having properly marked fire exits expedites the escape plan. Even if you go over a fire safety plan together, the plan can fly out the window in the panic of the moment. 

Clearly marking exits and exit routes can guide people to safety, even when it’s hard to process the situation. LED fire exit signs can easily be seen through smoke and show people where to go. Multiple signs leading the way to the fire exit are helpful in larger buildings where the exit sign may not be visible from down a hallway.  

What’s More Romantic Than Showering Together?

Sprinkler systems are a vital part of stopping fires. Automatic fire sprinkler systems reduce fatalities by 87% when compared to properties without any fire sprinklers. Sprinklers help prevent the spread of fire and confine the blaze to its area of origin. 

Fire sprinkler systems are highly effective at controlling fires and keeping them from growing. They’re triggered individually when the heat of a room reaches a certain temperature, activating the sprinkler. Not all sprinklers will be activated at once, so water damage is minimized. 

If your fire sprinkler systems aren’t checked often, they may not work when they’re needed most. VFS can help you ensure your sprinkler system is functioning properly so your building will be protected in the worst-case scenario. Our inspection and maintenance teams are prepared to help keep your building up to NFPA and local codes. Inspection and maintenance is essential to ensuring your sprinkler and fire alarm systems are functioning properly when you need them most. 

Light a Spark in Your Love Life, Not in Your Building

Building fire systems are essential for keeping your romantic night from going up in flames. While they may not be used very often, the importance of protection can’t be overstated. Top-tier fire protection is better to have and not need than need and not have. 

So before the mood heats up this Valentine’s Day, make sure your building won’t. These tips can keep the romance — as well as everyone in the building — alive and well.

BRING YOUR ALARM MONITORING SYSTEMS BACK TO THE FUTURE

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

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

HOW CAN MESH ALARM MONITORING SYSTEMS HELP YOUR BUSINESS?

RELIABLE

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

FAST

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

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

CONVENIENT 

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

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

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

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

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

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