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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! 

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!

 

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! 

 

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

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

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

Sound and Communication

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

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

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

Emergency communications

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

PA and Intercom

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

Telephone Networks

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

Wireless networks

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

EVACs

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

Alarm and Detection

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

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

Pull Stations

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

Visual Alarm Systems

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

Audible Alarm Systems

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

Flame Detection

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

Smoke Detection

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

Heat Detection

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

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