Tag Archive for: building safety

Engineer checking Industrial fire control system,Fire Alarm controller, Fire notifier, Anti fire.System ready In the event of a fire.

An unscheduled fire safety inspection can feel like a pop quiz for property owners. However, just like in school, this pop quiz won’t be too bad… if you did your homework!

(Don’t worry, you won’t need to do any pre-calc to prepare for a scheduled or unscheduled fire safety inspection!) All you need to do is follow a few simple steps.

Below, we’ve prepared a fire safety checklist to help you prepare and pass your next inspection—whether it’s scheduled or a drop-in—with flying colors.

Let’s take a look!

Prep Your Paperwork

Collect and organize paperwork showing any steps your business takes to address fire protection and any previous inspection violations. This demonstrates that your business is committed to meeting requirements.

Collect Proof of Services and Inspections

Keep track of services and inspections that licensed professionals have performed on your systems, such as:

  • Serviced fire alarms
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Sprinkler systems, and
  • Fire pumps

Make Appointments for Outstanding Maintenance

It’s time to sit down and make some appointments—yay! Contact some trained professionals (like our team at VFS) to help with the maintenance of your fire protection systems. This will not only help you pass inspections but also will protect your people and property.

Not sure if your commercial property needs servicing? Read on to learn how often fire protection systems should be serviced.

Take Precautions Against Special Hazards

Special hazards are areas that require special hazard fire equipment and fire alarms.

Building owners should note that special hazards are not specific fire hazards that occur as a result of certain situations or triggers, such as a flammable liquid being too close to a heat source.

Instead, special hazards can be things like gasoline pumps, computer server rooms, or storage areas that may contain flammable or combustible chemicals.

Read on to learn more about solutions to special hazards.

Clear Clutter

To prepare for a fire safety inspection, building owners should make it a priority to avoid clutter. Why? Clutter can quickly become combustible waste and serve as fuel for fires.

Combustible waste can take many forms, including:

  • Trash (i.e. cardboard boxes, paper, cartons, etc.)
  • Debris
  • Plant matter
  • Yard trimmings
  • Fallen trees
  • Wood, and
  • Leaves

Fire laws prohibit the accumulation of these items anywhere except intended disposal locations.

Lastly, property owners should make an active effort to keep their hallways free from obstructions.

Properly Store Combustible Waste

It can be difficult to keep combustible materials off your property at all times. Instead, we suggest prioritizing safe storage for these materials to prepare for an inspection. 

For example, property owners can:

  • Use lids on containers 40 gallons or greater
  • Keep containers exceeding a capacity of 40.5 cubic feet outdoors and over five feet away from construction work
  • Keep storage containers away from the building, and
  • Ensure storage containers near facilities don’t contain oily rags or other unsafe materials without proper container identifications

This will help keep any staff working on the property safe as well as help prepare the space for inspection.

Ensure Efficient Entry for the Fire Department 

According to national codes, all buildings must offer firefighters safe and immediate access.

Complying with this code should be simple. Most businesses comply with this code by mounting fire department lock boxes on the outside of their building.

This way, in the event of an emergency, the fire department can open the lock boxes with a master key and enter the building.

Part of the reason for keeping clutter out is to allow firefighters to safely navigate the building. Trust us, you don’t want firefighters tripping over the cardboard boxes from Amazon during a fire!

Make Sure the Fire Department Has Access to Water

Building owners should clearly mark all fire hydrants and ensure they are available for use. Additionally, fire hydrants must have three feet of clear space on all sides to allow firefighters access. This means that the building occupants should not be parking within this space—sorry Brandon from HR, it’s time to learn to parallel park!

Further, to prepare for inspection, building owners can check the fire department connection (FDC) that allows firefighters to supply water to a sprinkler system. This system should also be marked and accessible.

Need Help Preparing For Inspection?

At VFS Fire & Security Services, we have a diverse team of experienced fire protection professionals who are capable of inspecting and servicing even the most complex fire protection systems.

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

Read on to learn more about our testing and inspection services.

 

How to Prepare For Fire Safety Inspections infographic

employees walking in a healthcare building with sound and communication systems

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities face a unique set of challenges in an emergency, such as mobility issues with patients, additional obstacles with emergency evacuation, and a large staff to inform of safety protocols.

This is why sound and communication systems in healthcare buildings are essential in protecting property and residents in the event of an emergency.

Sound and communication systems serve to protect property and residents as well as combat these challenges in the event of an emergency.

Let’s discuss a few sound and communication systems, how they work, and how they can be used for the safety of residents in healthcare facilities.

ERRCS and DAS

ERRCS stands for Emergency Responder Radio Communication Systems, also known as Bi-Directional Antenna Systems, or DAS.

ERRCS and DAS are similar; both systems are used within commercial and residential buildings to allow emergency responders to communicate with each other via two-way radio.

Why Are ERRCS and DAS Important?

During the September 11th attacks in New York City, emergency responders struggled to communicate with each other in rescue and recovery efforts. 

These difficulties, such as full radio communication failures, made the first responders inside buildings lose contact with dispatch and fire crews outside. Ultimately, these communication issues risked the lives of the first responders and hindered their rescue efforts.

The communication failures on 9/11 raised awareness of the need for tools that would allow responders to communicate during an emergency. Since 9/11, these systems have become a critical priority for commercial building owners.

How Do ERRCS and DAS Work?

ERRCS and DAS are made of distributed antennas that are installed within a building to amplify particular radio and/or cellular signals ensuring the highest functioning communication for first responders.

These antennas receive external public safety radio signals and retransmit them within the building to ensure penetration in all areas of the building including stairwells, elevators, basements, and other heavily shielded areas.

As an amplification system, ERRCS amplifies the radio signals between first responders’ radios during an emergency. 

Read on to learn more about ERRCS and DAS and how they are crucial in protecting lives and your building.

Area of Refuge

Like an intercom system, an area of refuge two-way communication system ensures that healthcare buildings have a way for individuals to call for help in the instance of an emergency.

These systems are also used in schools, commercial buildings, and other public venues.

How Do Areas of Refuge Work?

Areas of refuge provide a location for building occupants to assemble by an exit and await assistance. These residents may require assistance for a variety of reasons, such as difficulty using stairs or other disabilities.

With these difficulties in mind, these systems were designed to provide hands-free, two-way communication with intelligible audio and visible signals to indicate communication has occurred. These features will allow patients and staff to more easily communicate and receive the assistance they need in the event of an emergency.

Voice Paging and Intercom

Voice paging and intercom systems allow for one-way communication with a larger audience. These systems allow users to announce information to others. This allows the called party to receive information without having to pick up a handset or radio.

How Do Video Paging and Intercom Systems Work?

The paging employee speaks into the telephone and the message is broadcast through a network of speakers to relay. Messages can also be prerecorded and broadcast at different times, depending on the needs of the facility.

Patient Wandering

These systems are essential to preventing patients from getting lost, injured, or exposing themselves to potentially life-threatening situations.

How Do Wander Management Systems Work?

Wander management systems consist of RFID-enabled technology that keeps track of patients within the set parameters of the system to guarantee their protection within the hospital, nursing home, or senior living home. 

Infant Protection Systems

Infants are some of the most vulnerable patients in a hospital. Ensuring infant security is critical not only to the reputation of your hospital but also to nursing staff and new moms.

How Do Infant Protection Systems Work?

These systems can vary depending on the wants and requirements of the hospital. Typically, hospital staff will put some form of location system on the infants, which will monitor their location throughout the building.

With these tracking systems, staff can monitor the location of the infants during an emergency as well as be notified if the infant is taken out of the secured area of the hospital. These systems allow the staff to better protect infants in the healthcare building.

The Bottom Line

These systems allow various teams to communicate with each other to optimize safety protocols and protect staff, patients, and other residents. Further, sound and communication systems can bring peace of mind to building owners as well as the staff and patients in the healthcare facility.

Read on to learn more about our other sound and communication system options.

infographic describing sound and communication systems

security system on a building

As a business owner, building security is crucial to protecting your property and staff.  According to statistics provided by the FBI, 60% of burglaries occur outside of working hours. Why? Outside of working hours, your staff is typically less equipped to respond quickly and efficiently to the incident. In some cases, the staff may not even notice the incident is occurring.

Additionally, following the COVID-19 pandemic, more business owners are managing their business remotely. Not being at their building in person can cause business owners to feel concerned about the security of their business, but they don’t have to!

With the right protocols and systems in place, business owners can feel confident that their building is secure and safe, whether they are clocking in upstairs or from their living room. 

Let’s dive into how to make this possible.

First, How Can Improved Security Benefit Your Business?

We understand–business owners have a lot on their plate and security may not always be the first priority. However, the right security can provide a host of benefits for your business. For example:

  • Improved customer confidence in shopping on the premises
  • Prevention of issues like  break-ins, vandalism, or robbery
  • Heightened employee safety both during and outside of business hours 

Let’s Talk about Integrated Security Systems

Integrated security systems provide a solution to many security challenges faced by business owners. Let’s discuss what integrated security systems are and how they can protect your building and business (even after business hours or from home!).

Intrusion and Detection Alarm Systems

Intrusion systems are designed to use your existing IT infrastructure to increase efficiency. These solutions are scalable, reliable systems used for a wide variety of applications. They can be utilized in spaces such as mixed-use commercial office complexes to high-risk facilities.  

How do Intrusion and Detection Alarms Work?

State-of-the-art technologies in intrusion systems implement event notifications sent to mobile phones and remote system management. These technologies can keep you up-to-date with the status of your facility, even when you are not there. 

Closed-Circut Television (CCTV)

Closed-circuit television, or CCTV,  is a television system in which signals are monitored for surveillance and security purposes. These signals are not publicly distributed. 

How Does CCTV Work?

CCTV relies on the strategic placement of cameras as well as the consistent monitoring of the footage. CCTV cameras communicate with monitors and/or video recorders through private coaxial cable runs or wireless communication links. This allows the communication to be private and allows only the intended audience to be able to view the footage.

Access Control Systems

As the name implies, access control systems manage access. These systems control who enters the building or site and prevents unauthorized visitors from entering the facility. Access control systems are designed to maintain control over who comes into the building without impeding the work of those who are authorized.

How Do Access Control Systems Work?

While the details can vary depending on the types of access control and system the business owner selects, the main elements of an access control system are typically the same. These elements include: 

  • The tag
  • Tag reader
  • Access control panel
  • Lock(s)

These elements cooperate to create an easy and simple experience for the user. 

Further, these systems can be scaled from small businesses to multi-location companies with thousands of employees.

Video Monitoring Systems

Video monitoring systems provide an array of benefits for a business, such as improving employee safety and productivity.  Hybrid digital and analog camera systems deter theft by preventing unfounded lawsuits and reducing incidents of work-site harassment. 

How Do Video Monitoring Systems Work?

Video Monitoring systems can be analog, digital or hybrid. Business owners can select which of these options works best for their business and their budget.

A digital video surveillance system is “a surveillance system capable of capturing images and videos that can be compressed, stored or sent over communication networks. Digital video surveillance systems can be used for nearly any environment.” Depending on the system, internet protocol (IP) cameras may be used. These cameras require only a local network.

Analog systems use traditional cameras you see in camera systems. These cameras record images to a video recorder and send them through a coaxial cable to a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). Analog systems tend to be simpler than digital surveillance systems. 

Need Help With Building Security For Your Business?

We got you covered.

From high-end access control systems to basic intrusion detection components, our highly skilled VFS Teams design systems that optimize your existing infrastructure and augment them with the latest in proven technologies.

Learn more about our security systems here and start a conversation with us today.

infographic about business owner building safety

a fire hydrant being checked to protect a building during the fall season

Fires can happen anytime but occur more frequently during fall and winter.

Why? Heating equipment, ranging from commercial heating systems to portable space heaters, increases the risk of fire. Additionally, candles, decorations, and cooking contribute to this increased risk.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to put out your favorite pumpkin spice-scented candle or take down those new decorations! We’re here to discuss some fire safety tips to help protect your building during the fall.

Let’s dive in.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Fires?

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the five most common causes of fires in commercial buildings are:

  • Cooking Equipment
  • Heating Equipment
  • Electrical and Lighting Equipment
  • Smoking Materials
  • Arson

How to Reduce These Fire Risks

Commercial property owners can use a few strategies to prevent building fires.

1. Keep Away the Clutter

Clutter can quickly become combustible waste and serve as fuel for fires. Combustible waste can take many forms, such as:

  • Trash, including cardboard boxes, paper, or cartons
  • Debris
  • Plant matter
  • Yard trimmings
  • Fallen trees
  • Wood
  • Leaves

Fire laws prohibit the accumulation of these items anywhere except intended disposal locations. Without proper treatment, such combustible waste can become a significant fire hazard for your building.

Additionally, clutter can block exits and evacuation routes as well as make it more difficult for firefighters to do their job in the event of a fire.

Owners should make an effort to keep the building free from obstructions and keep hallways clear.

Learn How to Store Combustible Waste

We get it—you can’t keep combustible waste off of your property at all times. Instead, you can store this waste safely to improve fire safety.

Property owners should:

  • Keep storage containers away from the building
  • Storage containers near facilities shouldn’t contain oily rags or other unsafe materials without proper container identifications
  • You must use lids on containers 40 gallons or greater
  • Keep containers exceeding a capacity of 40.5 cubic feet outdoors and over five feet away from construction work

Additionally, OSHA provides guidelines you can follow for storing combustible waste, such as:

  • “All solvent waste, oily rags, and flammable liquids shall be kept in fire-resistant covered containers until removed from the work site.
  • All scrap lumber, waste material, and rubbish shall be removed from the immediate work area as the work progresses.
  • Whenever materials are dropped more than 20 feet to any point lying outside the exterior walls of the building, an enclosed chute of wood, or equivalent material, shall be used.

2. Be Aware of Ignition Sources

Other items can also contribute to fire hazards. Ignition sources include heaters, lamps, and other items that can get hot or cause a flame (i.e. exposed cords or electrical outlets).

Other possible sources of open flames include the following:

  • Matches
  • Cigars and cigarettes
  • Signal markers
  • Flaming food and drink preparations in restaurants
  • Decorative devices
  • Candles and lanterns
  • Gas heaters
  • Barbecue pits

3. Post an Evacuation Plan

In the event of a fire, a well-executed evacuation plan can provide many benefits, such as saving lives and allowing emergency services to do their jobs easier.

Property owners can post evacuation plans in public areas to familiarize residents and employees with safety precautions.

4. Avoid Overloading Circuits and Extension Cords

Many commercial buildings, such as office spaces, have an abundance of cords. Outlets become crowded due to monitors, computers, printers, and other devices. 

With the addition of items such as portable heaters in the fall, the number of cords in a commercial space may increase and lead to overheating.

Property owners should encourage residents to check the fit of the plug in the outlet and avoid loose electrical connections. A poor connection may cause overheating or a fire.

5. Ensure You Have Correct Safety Equipment

Property owners should ensure they have the correct safety equipment for their building. Additionally, to reduce the increased risk of fire during fall, owners should take the time to locate fire extinguishers and replace batteries in smoke alarms.

6. Keep Up with Inspection and Testing

Inspection and testing of fire suppression systems are crucial. To comply with NFPA 72 regulations, inspection, testing, and maintenance of your fire alarm system are required on a semi-annual basis. A well-maintained fire alarm system keeps residents and property safe.

What is a Fire System Inspection?

A fire inspection is a process in which the fire department inspects a building or property to identify and access potential fire safety hazards.

How Often Should Fire Systems Be Inspected?

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

Read on to learn about understanding inspections and maintenance for your building.

7. Consider a Monitored Fire Alarm System

A monitored fire alarm system can help prevent costly damage to your property while protecting its residents.

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.

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

Unlike a monitored fire alarm system, 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.

As we approach the fall and winter months, the risk of a fire occurring in your building rises. However, monitored fire alarm systems can help to protect your building and its residents, even when it is unoccupied.

Read on to learn more about monitored fire alarm systems.

Is It Time for Your Building to Be Inspected?

Ensure your building is safe and up to fire protection code compliance by partnering with a company that specializes in fire protection. Start a conversation with us today and let’s figure out how to best protect your building.

Infographic about fire safety tips

Fire Suppression System Pipes without Blockages

Fire sprinkler obstructions can hinder the effectiveness of any fire protection system, resulting in costly damages. Luckily, building owners can take steps to prevent these obstructions to ensure their fire system is protecting their commercial property at the highest level of efficiency.

Let’s dive into how to avoid the most common fire sprinkler obstructions; but first, let’s review what fire sprinkler obstructions are and why they happen.

What is a Fire Sprinkler Obstruction?

A fire sprinkler obstruction is any material that causes partial or full blockage of a pipe and prevents water from flowing through.

As you can guess, these blockages stop fire sprinkler systems from doing their job in the event of a fire. Think: If the correct amount of water can’t flow through the pipe properly, the fire system is not able to release the amount of water necessary to reduce heat, flames, and smoke quickly.

Therefore, fire sprinkler obstructions can lead to increased damage to property and even put lives at risk.

Read on for more information about fire protection systems.

What Causes Fire Sprinkler Obstructions? 

Pipes in fire sprinkler systems can be as small as 1” in diameter. This considered, it doesn’t take much to cause a blockage! Obstructions can be caused by many objects and materials, but some occur more frequently than others. The most common fire sprinkler obstructions are:

  • Ice
  • Corrosion
  • Foreign materials

Let’s review each of these in detail and take a look at some strategies on how to prevent these blockages.

Ice Blockages

When temperatures dip below 32°F, water in pipes may freeze and create blockages in your fire sprinkler system. Water can freeze into solid ice plugs, which can damage your system and prevent water from flowing through the pipes.

Many building owners assume that ice plugs only occur during the winter months; however, ice can form in pipes at any time of year because ice plugs occur most often based on their surroundings in a building, not by the weather. For example, ice plugs most commonly occur in sprinkler systems surrounded by storage or freezer systems.

How to Avoid Ice Plugs in Fire Sprinkler Systems

Building owners can prevent ice plugs by dehumidifying air supplied into the sprinkler system. Most ice plugs are caused by the air supply being cooled as it travels from a heated area into an extremely cold environment, such as near a freezer system.

Moisture collects in the air and freezes once the condensation reaches the cold environment. 

By dehumidifying the air going into the system, owners can prevent condensation from freezing and turning into an ice plug. Additionally, building owners can take measures to ensure their system is air-tight. 

Read on to learn more about how to prevent your fire system from freezing.

Corrosion

The combination of metal, water, and oxygen in some systems makes it extremely difficult to avoid corrosion entirely. Although corrosion is common in fire sprinkler systems, it usually doesn’t pose a significant risk. 

However, when corrosion becomes extreme, obstruction can occur. A few types of corrosion that commonly obstruct fire sprinkler systems include:

  • Iron oxide corrosion (i.e. Rust)
  • Microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC), and
  • Galvanic corrosion

Read on to learn more about MIC prevention.

How to Avoid Corrosion in Fire Sprinkler Systems

Building owners can install a system that maintains an extremely high level of pure nitrogen to combat corrosion. While these systems can’t reverse existing corrosion, they can help to prevent corrosion from becoming extreme and causing obstructions.

Foreign Materials

Raw or poorly filtered water sources may lead to foreign materials entering and obstructing pipes in a fire sprinkler system. For example, water from rivers or ponds may carry sands or stones. Even if these materials are extremely fine, they can still build up and cause a blockage.

How to Avoid Foreign Materials in Fire Sprinkler Systems

Building owners can prevent foreign materials from blocking pipes in their sprinkler systems by correctly filtering their water source and understanding specific risks a source may pose.

How to Know if Your Fire Sprinkler System is Obstructed 

Fire sprinkler systems often don’t show signs of obstruction, which means building owners may not know there is an issue until it’s too late (AKA your system doesn’t work properly when there’s a fire…)

Because of this, the best way to know if your building’s fire sprinkler system is functioning properly is to have the system assessed and inspected. Fire protection system assessments can help property owners determine what repairs are needed to ensure their system will protect their building in the event of a fire.

Not sure if you need servicing? Read on to learn more about how often fire protection systems should be serviced.

Worried Your Fire Sprinkler System Might Have An Obstruction?

Let VFS Fire & Security Services help—fortify your building with reliable fire protection systems inspected and maintained by the experts at VFS!

When systems or devices need maintenance, we most often can send a repair technician to you within 24 hours (and sooner in emergencies!) Our goal at VFS is to be proactive, staying ahead of the curve.

Read on for more information about our testing and inspection services.

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.

Your Guide to Smart Classrooms and Fire Safety

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that in general, fire departments respond to over 3,000 structural fires in schools each year. So, prevention and preparation have become essential for all school systems to tackle fire safety.

With many schools re-opening their doors after being remote with Covid-19, educators are re-evaluating how to use smart classrooms and fire safety technology in the case of an emergency. VFS Fire & Security Services specialized in Emergency Responder Communication Systems (ERRCS) and Public Safety Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), which are communication systems for responders, often in the case of a fire or an active shooter. 

The rise in school technology

Smart classrooms have become the new norm. Say goodbye to chalkboards because QR codes and smart boards have entered the chat. With the rise in technology and education, there are pros and cons to having smart classrooms with emergency situations like a fire or active shooter on campus. 

Pros of Smart Classrooms

For example, some schools use the smartboard as a tool to teach fire safety. This downloadable template provided by ABC teach is a simple way to incorporate tech and fire safety between staff and students. 

Another pro with smart classrooms is more accessible communication. If there is an emergency, most schools have upgraded from walkie-talkies to more developed communication radio systems (such as ERRCS and DAS). Communication with these systems can reach more than internal contacts, but first responders as well. 

ScholarChip provides insight into the benefits of visual security at a school. They highlight the importance of a school district’s visual security for emergencies, which should include the following factors: 

  • “Promote a positive and innovative representation of your school through visible mobile kiosks and mobile monitoring apps.
  • Enhances security mobility and real-time data for security teams and IT staff.
  • Overcomes vulnerability that stems from using front desk check-in logs and unmonitored premise access.” 

ERRCS & DAS

ERRCS and DAS are examples of technology working in education’s favor. Learn more about how ERRCS and DAS work on our blog. 

While both systems are fairly similar, there are some slight differences between the two. Their main similarity is that they are both used within commercial and residential buildings to allow emergency responders to communicate with each other via two-way radio in areas that they may not have been able to in the past. 

These systems are made of distributed antennas that are installed within a building to amplify particular radio and/or cellular signals ensuring the highest functioning communication for first responders. These antennas receive external Public Service radio signals and retransmit them within the building to ensure penetration in all areas of the building including:

  • Stairwells
  • Elevators
  • Basements
  • and other heavily shielded areas 

It’s an amplification system that amplifies the radio signals between first responders’ radios during an emergency. 

For example, during the events of 9/11, the need for high-functioning ERRCS/DAS systems came to the forefront of everyone’s attention. 

During that tragedy, there was a lot of commotion, which highlighted the need for a tool where emergency responders can communicate without interruption or signal loss.

Previously, the requirements for ERRCS used to be that any building that was three stories or had subterranean parking would be required to be tested for ERRCS. Now, it has transitioned to where these guidelines are required for most new buildings. 

Cons of Smart Classrooms

Although technology has taken the world by storm in the last year, how many teachers struggled to work Zoom? 

Teachers and professors who do not have a background in technology need the time and training to fully understand how to use the equipment and programs used. In the case of an emergency, like an active shooter on campus, it’s essential that all staff are trained to respond quickly and efficiently to keep everyone safe. 

Also, with the use of technology cyber crimes are more likely to happen. Government Technology reports that “With cybercriminals routinely holding school networks hostage and threatening the sensitive personal data of students, teachers, and families, only the federal government has the ability to collect and disseminate interstate data about new cyber threats, provide resources to help school districts acquire technological safeguards and work across international borders to target bad actors.”

Fire safety and smart tech

Again, prevention is key when it comes to fire safety. An education building is a huge responsibility and should be maintained to have clear pathways for an evacuation plan, frequent inspections, and be up-to-date with NFPA code. 

Once a fire is detected, smart tech and communication radios can be used to alert administration and then students, who should be trained on what the fire evacuation plan is. 

Emergency lighting should be a part of annual inspections. Learn why emergency lights deserve love and attention on our blog. If emergency signs aren’t properly lit during a case of a fire, it can cause confusion and be fatal. 

Active shooter protocol with technology

The FBI gathered data as part of a 20 – Year review from 2000-to 2019. In the 20 years they studied, there have been 333 incidents. Out of those incidents, 62 of them happened in education environments with 419 casualties. 

Clearly implementing technology correctly is crucial for the education system. 

Prevention is important for all emergency situations, whether it be a fire or active shooting. The Department of Health and Human Services suggests a Multi-Tiered System of Support with the use of a student management system and smart technology. The use of this tiered system has “shown support to students who deal with the range of learning, mental health, and emotional-behavioral health concerns that a student may have.” 

In the case of an active shooting, the use of mass communication systems, like ERRCS and DAS is one step towards working with the first responders. Similar to a fire evacuation plan, it’s important to make sure all students and staff are fully trained on what procedure to follow if an active shooter comes onto campus. 

The education system has faced challenging years when it comes to safety and communication. The biggest key factor to remember is that fire safety equipment (and smart tech) is only as effective as its inspections. Learn why regular inspections lead to safer buildings on our blog for more information about preparing your education building. 

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. 

‘Tanks A Lot!’ — Your Guide to Above Ground Storage Tanks

Most likely, your commercial property has an above-ground storage tank (AST). When’s the last time you had your tank(s) inspected? Odds are, your above-ground storage tank has taken the back burner in regards to safety regulations and guidelines.

Don’t worry, that’s why we’re here at VFS Fire & Safety Services—to help you navigate any changes that need to be made to your safety protocols! 

Above Ground Tank Requirements

The National Institute for Storage Management (NISTM) located in Houston, Texas, outlines regulations and guidelines that should be followed for your commercial property’s safety.

In fact, NISTM has a course called “Tanks 101” that provides all the information that you need to know about your above-ground storage tank. The course overview talks about both aboveground and underground tanks in horizontal and vertical configurations.

Here’s a quick rundown of what NISTM has to say. “Having designed and built a good tank, the next problem is to ensure it remains safe and leak-free. The focus is on the well-known tank inspection standard API 653.”

The NISTM also claims that the following basic principles are key to understanding the safety of your above-ground storage tank:

  • “Shell design
  • Floating roofs
  • Foundations
  • Fixed roofs
  • Venting
  • Hydrostatics tests
  • Materials of construction”

As a commercial property owner, it’s important to be aware of these factors when building a new tank so that future inspections run smoothly.

Are you still itching to hear more from NISTM? You’re in luck! NISTM is soon hosting the 14th Annual National Aboveground Storage Tank Conference and Tradeshow this December. Visit the link above to learn more.

Common Challenges with Tank Inspections and Testing

Now for some common challenges regarding tank inspections and testing.

The federal requirements for above-ground storage tanks say there should be frequent inspections and evaluations for any bulk storage container. 

Similarly, The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) provides a downloadable “Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Plan (SPCC) Program” that contains a Bulk Storage Container Fact Sheet. 

The fact sheet states you must “determine, in accordance with industry standards, the appropriate qualifications for personnel performing tests and inspections, the frequency and type of testing and inspections, which take into account container size, configuration, and design.”

The EPA also provides the difference between containers, which include:

  • Shop-built
  • Field-erected
  • Skid-mounted
  • Elevated
  • Equipped with liner
  • Double-walled
  • Partially buried

Required Testing 

The inspections that are required for bulk storage containers include: 

  • “Test or inspect each container for integrity on a regular schedule and whenever you make material repairs
  • Frequently inspect the outside of the container for signs of deterioration, discharges, or accumulation of oil inside diked areas. This visual inspection is intended to be a routine walk-around and inside the container’s supports and foundations,
  • You must retain testing and inspection records for 3 years. EPA recommends that formal test records or reports be retained for the life of the container.” 

It’s important to keep reports and inspections organized so you have evidence and reference of inspections that have been performed as well as when the next routine inspection should take place.

Integrity Testing

Some integrity tests that aren’t federally mandated, but HIGHLY encouraged include: 

  • Visual inspections
  • Hydrostatic testing
  • Radiographic testing
  • Ultrasonic testing
  • Acoustic emissions testing
  • Signs of deterioration
  • Accumulation of oil
  • Other systems of non-destructive testing

With the amount of testing that is required for any property or business owner, sometimes reports and small inspections fall through the cracks. 

Additionally, there are frequent changes in industry standards. Take the extra step of checking in with your Fire and Safety Inspection team to ensure all above-ground tank requirements are being met. 

Cargo Crisis got you down? Us too. Learn more about how the cargo crisis might be affecting your industry in the future and why marine safety should be a top priority with a large number of cargo ships currently being stalled.

How long do you keep your safety inspection records and paperwork? It can be tempting to chuck the paperwork into the trash and forget about the details of your inspection.

But, did you know that after a safety inspection of your above-ground tank, you’re supposed to keep those records for a minimum of 3 years?

Check out our recent blog for more inspection guidelines for your commercial property.

sprinkler systems updates in commercial buildings

Scott Santos, our Director of Sprinkler Operations at VFS Fire and Security highlights the changes that have occurred in fire sprinkler systems over the past year. Watch the video below for more information. 

 

Fire Industry Changes

We’ve seen a lot of recent challenging changes in our sprinkler industry including:

  • Finding enough manpower 
  • Finding employees with talent  

Project Shifts 

Types of projects have also changed. We used to have a world where retail and brick and mortar were a big commodity of projects. Today with the uptake of e-commerce and increased online shopping, we’ve seen big changes in the types of projects. For example,  brick and mortar retail spaces are not as prevalent as warehousing. Warehousing now has been pushed up.

Clientele 

Many of our clients are big-box companies that are looking for storage. This means they are searching for warehousing. However, there’s not enough warehousing out here. What we’ve seen in the last two years is that simply rehabilitating buildings, upgrading buildings provides a higher level of storage. Currently, many distribution centers are coming up. The Amazons and the Targets of the world are looking for space and for distribution centers.

So as we look at warehouse spaces, things do change. The solutions to the sprinkler systems definitely change. We need to upgrade them. The systems that are in there now are only as good as the storage that they had previously. As the storage grows in height, and as we start to put more material handling equipment in there, we need to upgrade systems.

Three Sprinkler System Updates

There are three different ways that we usually look at it. The first and easiest way is looking at the systems that are in place already. If we change sprinkler heads and make current ones larger sprinkler heads to provide more water, that’s one way to update the system. 

A second way is to actually upgrade the system for a higher density. Once those higher densities are in there, we must consider if interactive sprinklers or any other sprinklers need to be included that are different from what the system demands.

The third way is we have to consider if they’re storing plastics and higher commodity systems or higher commodities. If so, we need to protect the commodities with ESFR systems. This means early suppression and fast response systems are popular now. Now we’re going into the buildings and tearing out old systems to put in new ones to accommodate what they’re putting in the buildings.

Material Shortage 

As we upgrade these systems, the most challenging part is trying to actually buy materials. There’s a shortage throughout the industry trying to find piping and materials for actual systems. Pricing throughout the industry has also gone through the roof, making purchasing material tough.  

It also costs building owners more money. Many owners want to lease out these buildings to the Amazons, the Targets, or the Sketchers. What’s tough for us is that we’re getting pushed on every project to upgrade this quickly. That’s probably one of the challenges that we’re meeting right now is materials, manpower, and getting things done on time for customers.

One of the things that we’re doing is trying to get contracts in place quickly. And then what we’re able to do is try to go out and procure our materials early. 

So we’re saying, “Hey, if we can buy the materials quickly, then we can have it on site. We’re not having to worry about time spans or how long it’s going to take to get equipment.”

Client Communication

One of the things we’re trying to ensure is going out and purchasing the materials as quickly as possible. On our side, it’s good because we’re getting quicker contracts.

The other solution is just making sure that we communicate well with our clients, to say, “Hey, what exactly are you doing?” 

We make sure that we provide them with the correct systems, the correct products, and that everything that meets their needs because there’s nothing worse than getting something in that doesn’t meet their needs. So we’re really aiming to satisfy our customers. Obviously, our customers are number one, so we’re making sure that we go after them.

How do we train new employees? 

We’ve been able to bring in individuals with less experience. We provide them with a training program or an apprenticeship program that allows them to eventually receive their certification as a pipe fitter. 

In the state of California, they’re required to have a fitter card. So we’re bringing them in, and we’re trying to grow them from down up, right from the bottom up. Let’s get these employees in quickly and train them. It’s a five-year program that develops them and our crew. 

When it comes to manpower, we are aiming at growing within through finding tradesmen. We’re even speaking to high schools, trade schools, or anywhere we can to get somebody interested in the fire protection industry. That’s probably been our biggest gap in this industry throughout the last 30 years. 

At VFS we’re trying to grow, whether through pipefitters, sprinkler designers, fire alarm designers, and beyond, we are looking to grow from within. We do this by providing them with training and continuing to be the best professional company we can be.

Do you know what to do in case of an oil or grease fire? Heads up, don’t throw a bucket of water on it. Learn more about what the right steps are.

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!

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! —

What is a Public Safety DAS? NFPA, ERRCS and AHJ (Plot Twist, these letters actually mean something...)

You’re not alone if you see all the abbreviations in fire safety and think, “How the h*ll am I supposed to know what that all means?” 

DAS Explained

The amount of NFPA codes is a large number (like large as in over 300…), so we understand it’s hard to keep track of them all! Actually, are you trying to test your knowledge? Take our NFPA Fire Codes quiz and see how you do! 

Anyways, DAS stands for, “Distributed antenna system.” And no, we don’t mean the antenna for your cable TV.

The NFPA requires that “Buildings and structures that cannot support the required level of radio coverage shall be equipped with a radiating cable system or a distributed antenna system (DAS) with FCC-certified signal boosters, or both, or with a system that is otherwise approved, in order to achieve the required adequate radio coverage.” 

There are additional factors of the distributed antenna system that any commercial property owner should consider (based on NFPA standards). This might include:

  • Signal Strength
  • Isolation
  • System Radio Frequencies
  • Frequency Changes
  • Critical Areas
  • Radio Coverage

Another main component of NFPA 72 Section 24.5.2 is non-interference. 

In other words, “no amplification system capable of operating on frequencies or causing interference on frequencies assigned to the jurisdiction by the FCC shall be installed without prior coordination and approval of the authority having jurisdiction,” according to the NFPA. “The building manager/owner shall suspend and correct other equipment installations that degrade the performance of the public safety radio system or public safety radio enhancement system.” 

Let’s Talk ERRCS

So surprise, ERRCS is one in the same as DAS. An Emergency Responder Radio Communication (ERRCS) is crucial to have in commercial buildings. An ERRCS can also be identified as a Public Safety or First Responder DAS. 

It turns out all of the fire protection abbreviations can be interchangeable!

How About AHJ?

AHJ, the last acronym to understand for today’s lesson! AHJ stands for, “Authority Having Jurisdiction.” It can be a common misconception that the local fire marshall is responsible for any updates in fire safety. But this is not the case. Oftentimes there are multiple people or authorities who have jurisdiction and are responsible for a facility’s fire safety standards and practices.

The NFPA has regulations set under Code 70E

“In a commercial or industrial facility, subsequent installation of electrical equipment or modification of the distribution system is often not done under a government permit nor is this inspected by the government AHJ.” 

A good question to keep in mind listed from the NFPA is, “Does your management invite a government AHJ to inspect and approve the installation of a new subpanel, the move of a production line, the retrofit for a breakroom, the extension of a circuit, or the addition of a backup generator in your facility?”

Have more questions about these confusing acronyms? Reach out to VFS Fire & Security Services today! 

What is a Public Safety DAS? NFPA, ERRCS and AHJ (Plot Twist, these letters actually mean something...)

What is a Public Safety DAS? NFPA, ERRCS and AHJ (Plot Twist, these letters actually mean something…)

Emergency Lights and Exit Signs Deserve Love and Attention, too!

Although they are sometimes overlooked, emergency lights and exit signs actually should fall into regular fire safety maintenance rhythms. It’s actually a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) fire safety requirement to keep up-to-date emergency lights and exit signs. So, stay up-to-date and understand NFPA 101.

The code states that “emergency illumination shall be provided for a minimum of 90 minutes in the event of failure of normal lighting. The illumination must not be less than an average of one foot along the path of egress at floor level.”

Here’s what giving some love and attention to your overlooked exit signs and emergency lights might look like.

Emergency Lights and Exit Signs Deserve Love and Attention, too!

Testing

Since there are clear NFPA codes in place, there are guidelines to follow for annual inspections and emergency protection. Professionals are trained to know what to look for when it comes to emergency illumination.

There are a few steps you can take in your commercial building to ensure that your inspection goes as smoothly as possible. For one, make sure all emergency exit signs are easily accessible for the fire safety professional. 

This means making sure that the area surrounding the emergency illumination is free of obstructions for full access. For monthly inspections, some emergency exit signs have test buttons that can easily be pressed with the help of a ladder. Again, each commercial and educational building will have a different setup and might require specific inspections and maintenance. 

Red flags to look for while testing includes dull lighting, light bulbs that have blown out, and flickering. Overall, there is an emergency light combo that will work for your commercial building.

What Could Go Wrong?

If you fail to have your emergency lights and exit signs checked monthly (or at least annually), lives could be at risk. These systems are essential to guiding occupants out of a building in an emergency situation.  If the equipment in your commercial building malfunctions during an actual emergency, there is a huge liability risk. Fire prevention is our specialty, so connect with us to learn more about annual inspections.

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.

Learn more on our updated website today! 

 

The Sprinkler is More Than an Outdated Dance pressure monitors for fire safety

It’s summertime! Time for dancing, talking, and sunshine. Maybe you’re feeling rusty with your social skills, and have a big party coming up without any amazing talking points.

Well, might as well give it a shot with different types of sprinklers! (But here’s a major hint: leave the sprinkler dance at home. You know, that cringy 80s dance move…) Here’s a rundown of different sprinkler systems for national fire prevention.

Wet Pipe System

These systems are the most popular sprinkler systems. They are extremely effective, low-cost, and low-maintenance. The 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 in reacting to potential fires; however, they are at risk of freezing in cold environments.

Dry Pipe System

In freezing climates, dry pipe sprinkler systems are a more suitable choice than wet pipe systems. These systems do not carry water in the piping until activation.

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

As the water is not housed in the actual piping, you can guess that the disadvantage of dry pipe 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.

Pre-Action System

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

Water is not contained in the sprinkler piping and is held back by a pre-action valve. The valve is opened when flame, heat, or smoke is detected. The detection system must detect a fire and the valve must open to initiate water to flow within the pipes. These systems are ideal for water-sensitive environments such as museums, data centers, libraries, vaults, and freezer warehouses as they carry a low risk of accidental discharge. They prevent excessive water damage and work ideally in cold conditions as the water is not held within the pipes to prevent freezing in the pipes.

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 atmospheric pressure with the sprinkler heads open. When heat or fire is detected by the system, the deluge valve releases the water, dry chemicals, inert gases, or foam.

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 growing.

The Sprinkler is More Than an Outdated DanceFoam Water Systems

Foam water systems are a type of wet sprinkler system that combines both water and a foaming agent for large-scale fire extinguishment. These specific irrigation systems are generally installed in facilities where extinguishing a fire can be more challenging than usual, due to the flammable and combustible contents housed within. 

Additional Fire Safety

Fire Pumps

Fire pumps are designed to supply water to the fire sprinkler system and its components at a higher pressure rate to effectively extinguish a potential fire. There are two main types of fire pumps: diesel and electric and they require different frequencies of maintenance and inspections due to their different components needs.

Fire Backflow

This equipment is designed to prevent water from flowing back into the main water supply. This prevents the water supply from being contaminated or polluted due to backflow. 

How to Install (VFS, Of Course!) 

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.