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News Flash! Fire Suppression and Fire Sprinklers Are Not the Same!

Your general thought process might look something like: “Water puts out fires, so sprinklers must be a type of fire suppression, right?” 

Wrong. 

There is a difference between fire suppression and fire sprinklers, and VFS Fire & Security Services is here to help figure out which fire safety measures are right for your commercial building! 

Fire Suppression

Fire suppression systems are considered one of our specialties at VFS. Fire suppression systems are used to extinguish or control fires and are activated by heat, smoke, or a combination of the two.

These systems are typically found in places like museums, libraries, data centers, and archives. Unlike wet-pipe sprinkler systems, suppression systems use gaseous, chemical or foam agents to suppress the fire, rather than water. 

This aids in the preservation of sensitive equipment and content within a particular environment. There are many different applications of fire suppression depending on the area in which these systems are housed. There are various types of fire suppression systems.

Clean Agent 

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

  • Smoke Detector
  • Control Panel
  • Notification Devices

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

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

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

The Details

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

CO2 Systems

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

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

Wet Chemical 

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

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

Dry Chemical

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

There are other types of fire suppression systems (including pre-engineered system applications and water mist systems), but what’s the difference between suppression and sprinkler systems? 

Fire Sprinkler Systems

The biggest difference between the suppression systems already mentioned and sprinkler systems is the use of water instead of foam. 

All sprinkler systems are designed and engineered in different ways depending on the environment, the assets being stored in a particular space, and NFPA requirements and specifications. 

The methods of activation vary depending on the system but one thing is for sure-fire sprinkler systems are designed to protect your assets by controlling and extinguishing fires!

The different types of fire sprinkler systems include: 

  • Wet Pipe
  • Dry Pipe
  • Pre Action
  • Deluge
  • Foam Water Systems
  • Fire Pumps
  • Fire Backflow

Learn more details about the different types of sprinkler systems here.

From pre-planning and budgeting, to design and engineering, and installation and maintenance, VFS has a full spectrum of specialized and certified service professionals to reinforce your building with the integrity of properly installed and maintained fire sprinkler systems and fire suppression systems. 

Connect with us today to learn more! 

Suppress Fires, Not Feelings

We get it, you’re working with a tight budget and didn’t consider fire safety as a part of the bottom line. While each commercial building might have different needs and pricing, investing in a clean agent fire suppression system is cheaper than the financial consequences of your building burning down. 

Fire Suppression Systems

Fire suppression systems are used to extinguish or control fires and are activated by heat, smoke, or a combination of the two. Suppression systems are typically found in places like museums, libraries, data centers, and archives. 

Unlike wet-pipe sprinkler systems, suppression systems use gaseous, chemical or foam agents to suppress the fire, rather than water. This aids in the preservation of sensitive equipment and content within a particular environment. There are many different applications of fire suppression depending on the area in which these systems are housed. 

There are different types of fire suppression systems that VFS can install. 

Clean Agent Fire Suppression

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

  • Smoke Detector
  • Control Panel
  • Notification Devices

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

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

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

The Details

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

Fun stuff, right? 

There is a range of costs and options available when it comes to clean agent fire suppression systems. Contact VFS Fire & Security Services today to learn more! 

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…)

Are you smarter than a fire inspector?

Are you smarter than a fire inspector? Test your knowledge in our NFPA fire codes quiz!

Our fire and life safety systems integrate every aspect of a building from security systems, to fire protection and suppression to alarm and communication systems. We operate nationwide through our partnerships with local experts. Contact us today for more information!

 

Sound the Alarm—How Many Notification and Detection Devices Do You ACTUALLY Need?

Depending on the size of your commercial or educational building, there are requirements set in place for the number of notification and detection devices needed for maximum safety.

A fire alarm system is a system of connected devices working together to detect and warn people when smoke or fire is present. Alarms can be triggered by smoke detection, heat detection, or manual pull stations. Alarms vary from traditional systems to motorized bells, wall-mountable sounders, and even to electronic notification systems, strobes, and voice alert systems.

The NFPA has over 300 different types of fire codes, but Code 72 is reserved exclusively for fire alarms. 

Code 72

Code 72 is a great guide to follow when considering fire alarm requirements. The NFPA states that “with today’s modern furnishings, fires can spread much more rapidly than in the past when more natural materials were used. Because of this, having a sufficient number of properly located smoke alarms is essential to maximize the amount of available escape time.” 

In general, a good foundation to follow is to have fire alarms in: 

  • Office rooms
  • Hallways
  • At least one on every floor

In addition, there are outdated smoke alarms that are no longer recognized by NFPA’s standards. This is another crucial reason that annual or monthly checkups on fire safety codes are essential. If the fire alarms in your commercial building have not been recognized by NFPA, then it’s time for a major update.

So… What About My Building?

Well, there’s no clear-cut answer for what fire safety system will work for your unique building. (In case you forgot, we haven’t seen it!) There are various factors that impact the number of fire alarms needed. Some of these might include:

  • Types of ceilings
  • Amount of square footage
  • Number of floors
  • Number and condition of stairwells
  • Window location
  • And more fun fire safety stuff!

A great standard to follow is to have notification and detection devices on every level in order to follow national fire protection standards. Fire prevention and safety tips should always be updated, and emergency exit signs and emergency lighting should become a focal point in a fire inspection.

Alarm and detection systems from VFS Fire & Security Services address both internal alarms and the detection of fires in critical areas of your business. We provide top-of-the-line systems, installation, maintenance, and options for monitoring based on your risk and the complexity of your fire alarm needs.

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! 

 

Prepping your commercial property for fire season! (Yes, you need to)

Surprise, fire season has come again. 

This means hot weather, dry winds, and perfect conditions for a fire that could destroy your property. 

Duh Duh DUhhhh!

Fire season is scary and unpredictable, but don’t worry, VFS is here to help prepare your commercial property for an emergency. Fire safety regulations for a commercial building can look differently depending on the property. 

Video Surveillance

VFS offers systems from video surveillance to business intelligence. This means that if a fire starts, your company will have access to visuals around the property. We design systems that optimize your existing infrastructure and augment them with the latest in proven technologies. 

Adding this extra layer of security is just a stepping stone towards having a foolproof plan in place for fire season. 

Outside the Building

The surrounding area of any property should be cleared of extra brush and dead plants. This includes trees, shrubs, bushes and dead grass. Another good rule of thumb to follow is to make sure any tree branches stay at least 10 feet from any other trees. 

The area outside the building needs to be free of flammable materials is also known as a ‘buffer zone.’ This buffer zone would help slow down the pace of the fire.

Another hazard to be aware of is gutters. The key is to maintain a consistent routine of cleaning out the building gutters to avoid build-up of dry leaves and other highly flammable materials. 

The parking lot is another focus area for fire prevention. Depending on the commercial building layout, parking lots can become a hotspot for sparks to fly. To avoid this, inform your staff that they need to avoid parking over any grass or spilled oil.

Inside the Building

Aside from video surveillance, there are other steps you can take to ensure your commercial building is prepped for fire season. 

Any vents throughout the building should be cleaned consistently because they are highly flammable. There are metal vents that can be added that would act as a temporary barrier between embers and vent. 

An evacuation plan is something that should be perfected and taught to all employees. Performing practice drills with your company will ensure everyone understands their role in the event of an emergency. 

Remember, VFS Fire & Security Services take you from idea to operations and everything in between. Schedule your free expert consultation today, and get prepared for the dreaded fire season. 

FIRE SAFETY TIPS FOR COMMERCIAL PROPERTY OWNERS

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

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

START WITH REGULAR INSPECTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAINTAIN PROPER SIGNAGE THROUGHOUT THE BUILDING

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

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

COMMUNICATE YOUR EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN WITH EMPLOYEES

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

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

ENSURE YOU HAVE SPECIAL HAZARD PROTECTION IN PLACE IF NECESSARY.

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

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

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

TOP 5 CAUSES OF COMMERCIAL FIRES

We didn’t start the fire🎶

While Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire is an extremely catchy tune, it’s not something you want to hear as a building manager. It’s important to have all the fire protection systems in place to ensure your building’s safety. Fire prevention should be your main priority.

Having all the important precautions in place is important, but you also need to understand why fires start in commercial buildings. Here are the top 5 causes of commercial fires, so you can be prepared when you need it most. 

Cooking Fires

One of the most common causes of fires in commercial buildings are cooking fires. Any business that has a kitchen area is susceptible to cooking fires. Some of these fires begin by human error, while others stem from appliance malfunction. Your kitchen should be considered a high-risk zone and should be adequately protected with sprinkler systems, alarms, and fire extinguishers.

Here are a few of the leading commercial buildings affected by cooking fires:

  • 64% of fires in healthcare facilities are related to cooking.
  • 61% of fires in restaurants are related to cooking.
  • 38% of fires in educational institutions are related to cooking.
  • 29% of fires in office properties are related to cooking.
  • 13% of fires in stores and mercantile properties are related to cooking.

Heating equipment-related fires

During colder months, most commercial buildings require additional heat in order for workers to remain comfortable. The equipment required to keep your building warm is susceptible to overheating and starting fires. This equipment might include central heating units, fireplaces, water heaters, and other heating appliances. Heating equipment accounts for 14% of fires in industrial/manufacturing properties and 11% of fires in office buildings.

Electrical and lighting equipment

Any electricity within your building carries inherent fire risks. Electrical fires can occur with overloaded circuits, loose connections, faulty fuses, imbalanced electrical loads, and other electrical and lighting problems.

Most electrical fires stem from older buildings’ electrical wiring. However, it is important to stay proactive and have your new building inspected. You should also perform preventative maintenance annually. 

Intentional Fires

Intentional fires account for 10% of fires that occur in commercial buildings. These fires tend to cause the most damage and unfortunately, result in the most civilian injuries and deaths.

It is important to implement active fire safety measures and include fire safety in areas that may seem uncommon. These fires typically occur in bathrooms, trash bins, garages, or open areas like a lawn or field.

Human Error

Human error and unexpected fires account for about 10% of fires started in commercial buildings. Unplanned fires happen. They may stem from a variety of situations. For example, employees may leave a space heater on or plug too many things into an extension cord. 

While you can’t stop carelessness, you can implement proper employee training programs. These programs help educate your employees on how to prevent fires and put them out when they do occur. 

At VFS, we are dedicated to ensuring that your building and your employees remain safe from harm. We partner with our clients to develop the best fire protection solutions and safety training based on your business’s specific needs. Fortify your building, protect your employees and gain the peace of mind you deserve knowing that VFS is protecting your business.