Tag Archive for: fire evacuation

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

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. 

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. 

How to Prepare Your Business for Cold Weather

(ERRCS ERRCS BABY… too cold too cold)

Cold winter weather doesn’t mean your fire safety can take the back burner (not actually burning, please) 

Fire Evacuation

Did you know that your fire evacuation plan will need to alter based on seasonal change? In the winter, there are more factors to consider when creating an evacuation plan. 

Maintenance for your building (inside and outside) is crucial during all seasons, but especially during the winter. While it depends on what climate you’re in, snowy conditions bring on a whole new level of hazards when creating a fire evacuation plan. 

In the summer, we recommend you keep brush clear around the building to avoid fires. In contrast, during the winter we suggest keeping snow-free pathways and doorways. If there is snow and ice in the walkway, then this creates a hazard for people who are running out of a building. All pathways should be gridded and cleared of snow at all times. 

An additional step to take with a commercial building is making sure that all employees are updated with the changes in a fire evacuation plan during the winter. For example, making sure all employees have warm coats in the case of a fire. However impactful the fire, they will likely be standing outside for a long period of time. Additionally, it’s important that employees are not smoking in non-smoking designated areas in the commercial building to prevent more fire risks. 

Portable Space Heaters

Electrical fires are a common occurrence during winter. The NFPA reports that there are 45,000 electrical fires a year, with one of the main culprits being portable space heaters. While there are some sources that recommend banning space heaters altogether and just increasing the overall temperature in your building, that might not be a realistic option. 

When using a portable space heater, it’s important to keep the heater on a flat surface at all times. So, the preferred spaces to keep your heater are floors and counters (please don’t keep your space heater balanced on your bedstand). The U.S. Fire Administration suggests only having one appliance plugged into an outlet at one time, and avoiding using extension cords at all costs. 

Another tip from the U.S. Fire Administration that’s crucial to implement in your commercial building is having space heaters that have an automatic shut-off. This means that if a space heater tips over, it will shut off. This is especially true for commercial buildings or warehouses that have multiple space heaters. 

Power Outages and Generators

Generators are another culprit for starting winter fires. Most commercial buildings and warehouses have generators in case of a power outage. In California, the power companies implement routine “brownouts” to avoid fires with windy conditions, making generators the new norm. 

With the influx of generators being used, there has been an increase in electrical fires during both the summer and winter months. A good rule of thumb to follow when using a generator is not to keep it on if nobody is in the building to monitor its use. Aside from making sure a generator is in a ventilated area with working carbon monoxide alarms, the NFPA also gives instructions for fueling a generator. 

“Turn off generators and let them cool down before refueling. Never refuel a generator while it is hot. Store fuel for the generator in a container that is intended for the purpose and is correctly labeled as such.” 

Winter Storms 

Lighting McQueen isn’t the only one leaving scorch-marks in his wake.

While an animated car from a Pixar movie is not going to start a fire during a winter storm, lighting is a real concern for fire safety. With winter storms the high chance of lightning causes increased concern for fires. Oftentimes if the storm is really bad, a county will perform a ‘brown out’ as mentioned above. If this isn’t the case, then the NFPA has steps to take to prevent lightning-induced winter fires as much as possible from lightning. 

High winds can cause downed power lines increasing the risk of electrocution and fire. In addition to having an evacuation that is clearly communicated to all employees, the NFPA states, “Always assume fallen power lines are energized. Stay away from the area and report any downed lines to authorities immediately.” This is especially true for commercial buildings that are surrounded by power lines. 

Fireplace Use

There’s nothing as cozy as cuddling up in front of a big fireplace, especially during one of those “brownouts” we’ve referred to.  But fireplaces offer their own set of risks. 

When using a fireplace, maintenance is key. The NFPA recommends that you perform an annual inspection of your vents and chimney by a professional. They also suggest storing cooled ashes from your fireplace in a metal container that is sealed tight outside, with at least 10 feet of distance from any buildings. 

In addition to keeping up with maintenance with your fireplace, it’s important to keep track of sparks that could ignite. Keeping a glass or metal screen in front of your fireplace is one simple way to keep sparks at bay. 

Safety Inspections in the winter

In addition to getting your chimney and vents inspected, VFS Fire & Security Services recommends regular inspections on your commercial buildings. 

Fire safety inspections are pre-arranged preventive measures to keep your buildings, assets, and the people you care about safe. They help building owners and managers to identify potential fire hazards and to make the necessary changes before a catastrophe. Compliance with fire safety inspections and guidelines is mandatory and failure to stay on top of scheduled maintenance can have consequences from a regulatory standpoint as well as added risk to your business and staff. 

Worried about not meeting all the NFPA guidelines for winter storms and fire protection for your commercial building? Learn what fire safety inspections you need for your commercial building here on our blog.

Why do fire inspection reports take so long?

Don’t tell anyone, but we know that a fire inspection report takes a long time. 

In an effort to explain why we’re going to lead you in a ‘behind the scenes look at the internal processes and why these reports take what seems like forever. 

When systems or devices need maintenance we often can send a repair technician to you within 24 hours (or sooner in emergencies!) Our goal is to be proactive and ensure that our systems keep you safe from harm.

What’s Included in a Fire Inspection Report? 

Clear Sightlines

One of the main elements of your fire inspection report is ensuring there are clear paths for firefighters to reach the building and for patrons to exit the building. If an emergency does happen at your commercial property, there needs to be easy access in and out of the building. This part of the inspection report will likely also include making sure your building remains up to date with fire codes. 

If there are main identifiers around the building that firefighters should be aware of (think trees or other identifying information), that also needs to be included in the fire inspection report. 

Certified Fire Extinguishers

Included in this inspection is counting the number and type of fire extinguishers throughout the building.  VFS Fire and Security services specialize in portable fire extinguishers. Per NFPA code fire extinguishers are required to be inspected and certified by a licensed fire protection contractor. There are a LOT of different types of fire extinguishers including:

  • Water Mist
  • Clean Agent
  • Foam
  • Wet Chemical
  • CO2
  • ABC Dry Chemical
  • Class A, B, C, D, and K

Inspecting all of these extinguishers takes time, which further delays that report hitting your desk. 

Emergency Lighting

Emergency illumination could mean life or death in an intense situation. Ensuring your emergency lighting is working and in the correct areas is essential to the fire prevention and safety of your building. 

We can help! 

There are so many other moving parts that are included in a fire safety inspection. The expert team at VFS Fire and Security Services has a breadth of knowledge to provide all regularly scheduled and code-mandated fire protection system inspections. The frequencies of these inspections ensure the most effective operating conditions for your building all year round and are critical to keeping current with industry and insurance codes. 

We have a diverse team of experienced fire protection professionals capable of inspecting and servicing even the most complex fire protection systems. Our advanced platforms and highly trained dispatch team allow us to manage inspections and testing from inception to execution. 

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

How frequently do you need fire inspections? Learn more about your inspection schedule in this blog post. 

‘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.

Fire Prevention vs. Fire Protection

VFS Fire and Security Services believes in protecting what matters most. A major component of fire protection that is often overlooked is fire prevention. 

It’s important to understand the difference between fire prevention and fire protection as you look to create a holistic approach to your building’s fire safety.

What is fire prevention?

Fire prevention consists of the actions you take outside of your fire protection systems to help prevent a fire from occurring. The prevention really occurs before a fire occurs, while the protection is for during a fire emergency. While there are many ways to bring fire prevention into the workplace, we’ve pulled together a few of the most common, and most essential parts of your fire prevention plan.

Establish an evacuation strategy.

Establishing an evacuation strategy for your team is essential to the safety and protection of your people. Your evacuation strategy makes it safer and more efficient for your employees and potential customers to exit the building. 

Not only is it essential to keep your employees safe from harm, but OSHA guidelines also require that a business have an emergency evacuation plan in place. See the OSHA regulations for emergency action plans here.

Maintain & Service Your Fire Safety Equipment.

Testing and Inspection

VFS Fire and Security Services believes that your fire protection systems are only as effective as the inspections performed on them. There are main systems that should be considered when looking at your commercial property during a fire and safety inspection: 

  • Fire Sprinkler Systems
  • Fire Suppression Systems
  • Alarm & Detection Systems
  • Portable Fire Extinguishers
  • Sound and Communication
  • Integrated Security
  • Life Safety

Annual (or even more frequent) inspections are a huge part of fire prevention because if a system or piece of equipment fails, then any efforts towards fire protection are most likely to fail. 

Service and Repair

Service and repair of equipment and systems is the next step in understanding fire protection. Service and repair mean staying up to code and in compliance with all service and repair requirements is the goal of fire prevention. 

System Upgrades

How long do you think a fire protection system is supposed to last? If your first thought is 30 years, think again. 


The average lifespan of a fire protection system is 12 to 15 years. 

Keeping your systems updated is a key role in fire protection. Fire protection systems are complicated and there are a lot of moving parts involved. Don’t worry, when an individual part fails, the entire system does not need to be replaced (most of the time). Even if a single part being replaced doesn’t automatically mean throwing out the whole system, there are components that might need to be upgraded with older systems to improve your interconnectivity. 

Fire prevention is the first piece of the puzzle when diving into fire safety for your commercial property.

Employee Fire Prevention Training

One of the major causes of fires in the workplace is human error. People can start fires in a variety of ways in the workplace (really… we’ve seen some crazy stuff!), a few of the most common mishaps typically deal with mishandling chemicals, improper storage of combustible materials, and kitchen accidents. 

Because of this, it is essential that your employees understand proper fire safety and understand what to do in case a fire occurs. Train your employees on the proper ways to operate the business’ machinery, and how to store and remove of hazardous materials. 

Communicate with your Team

One of the best ways you can prevent fires from occurring is with communication. Perform routine fire drills, how to leave the building in a calm and safe manner during this stressful situation. We recommend having both scheduled and unannounced fire drills to ensure your employees are ready when they need to be.

Communication goes beyond practice and proper training. Communication also refers to clear exits and escape routes. Smoke can easily fill a room with people still in it. This smoke makes it difficult to see and find the exit. Posting easy-to-read exit signs and escape routes is essential to the safety of your employees. We would also recommend installing floor lights for easy visibility. 

What is fire protection? 

Safeopedia defined fire protection as, “Measures are taken to prevent fire from becoming destructive, reduce the impact of an uncontrolled fire, and save lives and property.” 

So, a fire protection system exists to lessen the damage of a fire if it occurs. The three main essentials of fire protection are: 

  • Study of Fire
  • Active Fire Protection
  • Passive Fire Protection

The study of fire is our role at VFS Fire and Security Services and paves the way for how we implement fire protection systems. 

Fire protection systems all orchestrate together to prevent the fire from becoming even more destructive or deadly. Making sure that all NFPA building codes are followed with building construction and fire protection system implementation is important with fire safety. 

Having both active and passive fire protection systems in place is important to ensure your building, and more importantly, your team remains safe from harm. 

What is passive fire protection?

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

They can also be used to channel the flames out of the building. When you have passive fire protection systems in place, fires that do occur are easier to extinguish. 

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

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

What is active fire protection?

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

What active fire protection systems do I need?

SMOKE DETECTORS

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

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS

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

SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

Sprinkler systems are active fire protection systems that automatically activate to help put out the fire while building occupants move to safety. These systems trigger when the heat from the fire causes the sprinkler head to open. 

VENTILATION SYSTEMS

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

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

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

Are you thinking it might be time for a fire protection system upgrade? Learn how much they cost here. (Hint there are many factors that will impact the final cost.) 

Hurricane season preparation

Hurricane Nicholas threatened Texas in September, starting the dreaded hurricane season. Port Houston even closed their terminals to prepare for the tropical storm.

Hurricane Nicholas was a wake-up call that protecting your port and your commercial building by following marine safety is crucial.

Prepping for Hurricane Season

Your commercial building or property is an investment, so losing it in a natural disaster would be catastrophic for your bottom line and building. When it comes to natural disasters, taking preventative measures is key for protecting your commercial property.

All Hands and Hearts provides valuable preventatives for all business owners. Here are a couple of the main points outlined that will help take measures to prepare your commercial property for a hurricane.

Review the Local Authority’s Plan

The Houston Office of Emergency Management lists valuable information for Houston-specific hazards. They also provide lists of items that should be included in a “Stay-at-Home Safety Kit” and a “Shelter-in-Place Kit.” The main hazards that fall under the hurricane warning category are:

Storm Surge

“Along the coast, storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane. In the past, large death tolls have resulted from the rise of the ocean associated with many of the major hurricanes that have made landfall.”  

Power Outage

“When power lines are brought down by strong winds, falling trees or debris, it may take days, weeks, or longer to get power back up and running.” This website is actively updating power outages and can be a helpful tool for hurricane readiness.

Rainfall Flooding

“Flash flooding, defined as a rapid rise in water levels, can occur quickly due to intense rainfall.”

Wind

“The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. This scale estimates potential property damage.” 

Create a Plan

Based on the above factors, create an action plan for your marine port or commercial property. Ensure all employees understand this preventative plan thoroughly.

Some factors to consider for a hurricane plan include but are not limited to:

  • A shelter plan
  • Company-wide communication
  • Evacuation route
  • Emergency warnings and alerts. 

Prepare Your Property

A small act of preparation might save your building. When walking through your commercial property, there are a few key steps to take:

  • Clear all gutters and drains
  • Install check valves in plumbing
  • Trim and remove trees close to your building
  • Add sandbags as necessary (water pumps can be covered by water insurance in some cases but is not guaranteed)

Financial Preparation

As a business owner, it is crucial to understand your insurance policies and exactly what is covered. For example, most property insurance policies have a surface water exclusion. Have a safety fund available in case of the worst-case scenario. 

Marine Fire Safety

Port Houston has already experienced the effects of hurricanes, and there are steps to prepare for hurricanes and other natural disasters (well, like fires). 

Some of the key points to remember with marine safety are properly managing your:

  • Certifications and Documents
  • Fire Safety Equipment
  • Hurricane Preparedness Equipment
  • Engine Room Maintenance
  • Deck Maintenance and Crew Readiness
  • Emergency Equipment

This is just a starting point for general marine safety. Read on for more here.

Unfortunately, there is a long list of natural disasters to prepare for, like fires. And news flash, fire suppression and fire sprinklers are not the same thing!

cargo ship crisis

You’ve likely heard about the cargo crisis in Houston and around the country on the news. One often-overlooked angle of the cargo crisis, however, is its relationship to following a strict marine fire safety checklist. 

What Is the Cargo Crisis?

There are currently shipping backlogs across the country, and globe even. 

A press release from Port Houston delivered a high cargo record with record low air emissions. In the report, Executive Director Roger Guenther stated that with the rise of cargo deliveries in the peak season, “the unprecedented surge in import volumes has created significant challenges across the nation… Houston is not immune to current disruptions in the global supply chain.”

The high volume of cargo ships brings up issues of ship safety. 

Port Houston, however, “remains closely engaged with customers, ocean carriers, stevedores, labor, truckers, and all other industry partners,” says Guenther. He continues on to share that their goal is “to seek solutions to maximize the opportunities to keep freight moving efficiently.”

Ship Fire Safety

With so many cargo ships backed up, incidents like the California Pipe Line oil spill must be prevented. Yahoo News reports that the oil spill may have been caused by, “a ship’s anchor snagging a pipeline.”

You wouldn’t think fire could stand a chance when surrounded by a body of water—but it does.

There are preventative measures that need to be taken following all marine fire and oil spill safety regulations and guidelines.

Marine Safety Checklist

There are a multitude of boxes to check when it comes to keeping your maritime operations safe and fire-free. We’re providing a comprehensive list to get you thinking about the safety of your marine operations. 

CERTIFICATES AND DOCUMENTS

There is a long list of certificates and documents that must be carried on board at all times. This list varies based on region, whether or not your vessel carries passengers, and vessel type. 

This list might include a Cargo Ship Safety Equipment or Passenger Ship Safety Certificate, all servicing records including proof of fire extinguisher servicing and pressure tests, a damage control manual, any records of testing, drills, and maintenance, a variety of training manuals, the list goes on! For more specific information on staying up to code and what you need to keep on board, contact our VFS team.

FIRE SAFETY EQUIPMENT

There are hundreds of safety measures in place to prevent fire aboard your vessel, including a handful of safety equipment that must be carried and tests that must be performed. Let’s shoot for smooth sailing, please.

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

Additionally, pathways must always be free of obstruction and clearly marked in the event of an emergency evacuation. Doors must only be held open by approved methods.

ENGINE ROOM MAINTENANCE

Did you know that approximately 90% of marine fires start in the engine room? This considered, don’t underestimate the importance of routinely checking your engine room’s fire pumps, emergency shutdowns and valves, high-pressure fuel lines, and main zones for proper functionality and cleanliness.

DECK MAINTENANCE AND CREW READINESS

In case of an emergency, your crew should be familiar with the use of these fire protection systems and able to abandon ship if necessary. Fire drills should be performed routinely. Preparation is key for tip-top marine fire safety. As for deck safety, structures in place might include a variety of paint lockers, ventilators, and international shore connections.

EMERGENCY EQUIPMENT

Fingers crossed, this equipment doesn’t need to be used. Your emergency equipment, including emergency generators, batteries, pumps, and tankers, however, must be properly maintained, inspected, and ready to be used at any moment.

HERE TO HELP!

While you’re on the water, whether it be for pleasure or work, marine fire safety and preparation cannot be overlooked. Having the right fire safety equipment and performing the right maintenance and routine inspections may be the difference between life and death.

Our VFS team is prepared to get your vessel in tip-top shape with the right marine fire safety equipment. In fact, the VFS Houston Team has been continuing to grow our marine department and has recently acquired four new Tug & Barge Companies—bringing their annual total of vessels to perform fire safety inspections and testing to approximately 375.

So, does all this talk of oil make you nervous about oil fires — out on the open or in your very own commercial kitchen? Don’t worry, read here to know what to do in case of an oil or grease fire.

Choose your player… the Best Fire Safety Equipment of 2021

Protecting your commercial building is a huge decision and financial commitment. Here are some of the best options in Southern California for fire prevention. 

Autocall

Autocall believes that people and facilities everywhere deserve to be protected by fire detection systems that deliver unparalleled performance. Backed by a legacy of innovation and invention, Autocall is pushing the industry forward with feature-rich fire detection systems that help to ensure that our customers are safe and their facilities are secure.

AES Corporation

AES Corporation is the leading manufacturer of communication products and services designed for the fire, burglary, and facility applications. Learn how an investment in AES’s wireless mesh telecommunications technology can help you take control of your network, pricing, and future.

Ansul

ANSUL® is a global premium brand of Tyco Fire Protection Products. ANSUL special hazard fire protection products are designed and manufactured to strict standards and tested under the scrutiny of national and international independent testing laboratories and approval agencies.

Kidde Fire Systems

Since 1917, Kidde Fire Systems has been a global leader in fire protection, protecting people, property, and processes from fire hazards. Our fire protection solutions include conventional & intelligent detection and control systems that complement a complete line of fire suppression systems.

Potter

Potter Today, Potter is carrying on the legacy of Charles E. Potter by combining the latest technology in fire protection with the dedicated manpower for which they have been known for over one hundred years. With an unwavering dedication to their customers, Potter looks to continue as the industry standard in both product and service.

Valcom

Valcom’s long tradition of communication leadership and innovation addresses our customers’ most complex communication concerns. Our products are developed based on the customer’s need to relay information rapidly so individuals in various locations throughout an organization receive relevant instructions, and act upon them in emergency situations.

Learn what sprinkler system would work best for commercial buildings here

Best Fire Safety Equipment

How much does a fire alarm system cost?

Well, the short answer is ‘it depends.’

The long answer is that we can help you understand the factors that will influence the cost of a fire alarm system for your commercial property! Let’s get started.

What to Consider

Depending on your property, each of these factors could require different levels and types of fire alarm systems. A good rule of thumb to follow is understanding that the larger and more complex your facility is, the more you will need to invest in your fire protection systems to keep everyone safe in case of an emergency. 

Size of Building

Yes, the cost of a fire alarm system for Knottsberry farms is going to be different than the tiny mom and pop shop on the corner. 

In general, a good rule of thumb to follow is the larger your building, the higher the cost to keep everyone safe in case of an emergency. If the building is older, there will most likely be obstacles for a fire safety crew (like VFS!) to work with.

Additionally, if there are special system preferences and repairs, the cost will reflect this. 

Types of Facilities

The cost of your fire alarm system depends greatly on the environment. Below are some of the more complex environments that may require a little more fire alarm TLC: 

  • Oil Refineries
  • Data Centers
  • Aircraft Hangers
  • Manufacturing & Testing Facilities 
  • Power Generation
  • Healthcare Facilities

What Are You Storing? 

Another big factor in cost depends on what contents you are storing within your facility. More complex environments usually mean high hazard equipment or contents such as: 

  • Chemicals
  • Combustibles
  • Flammable Liquids
  • Corrosives
  • Spray Painting Equipment
  • Welding Equipment

Fire Season 

Fire season is in full swing. As a result, fire safety costs and insurance is going up in price! This can be a factor in how expensive a fire alarm system will cost. This can be another factor in the cost of your fire protection. 

There are different aspects that will contribute to the cost of a fire alarm system like: 

  • Where is it? 
  • What state? 
  • How big is the building?

Depending on these factors, additional monthly fees could apply. 

Looking for more specifics about your commercial or educational building? Reach out to VFS Fire and Security Services today to learn more information. For more on the different fire sprinkler systems available to you, read on here. (Psst! Fire suppression and fire sprinklers are not the same!)

What to do in case of an Oil Fire

It’s fire season. 

There are standard fire precautions that are taught since middle school. Unfortunately, “Stop, drop, and roll” isn’t enough to do if there’s an oil fire

What is an oil fire?

There are different classifications of fires. UCLA Health lists an oil fire as “Class B.” This includes, “Flammable liquids such as alcohol, ether, oil, gasoline, and grease, which are best extinguished by smothering.” 

An oil fire often starts in commercial kitchens, areas where spontaneous combustion can occur, or areas where hot work is done. 

VFS specializes in Kitchen Hood Suppression Systems. Kitchen systems are essential to the safety of a commercial kitchen and the people that work within it. These systems release wet chemical extinguishing agents designed to put out the unique components of cooking fires.

As soon as the system is activated the gas line to the appliance will immediately be cut off depriving the fire of fuel and the chemical agents will be released covering the flames and depriving them of oxygen. It is much less expensive to invest in a commercial kitchen suppression system than it is to repair structural damage after a fire occurs. 

What to Do

DON’T USE WATER. I REPEAT, DO NOT AT ANY COST USE WATER. 

This can cause the flames to grow even faster. The goal is fire suppression —  so try and smother the flames with a towel or fire blanket if it is safe to do so. Another option that will work is fire extinguishers. Having these tools (especially fire extinguishers) accessible throughout your commercial building is key to fire safety and fire protection.

If the fire is not smothered successfully, RUN! 

Seriously, this could grow fast and is a danger to all your employees. There are ways to prepare for this so that the worst outcome doesn’t happen.

Preventatives

If your commercial building doesn’t have a hot work permit, you’re at a greater risk. A hot work permit guarantees that safety measures have been addressed and implemented throughout your commercial building. This means that your building and employees are prepared in case of an emergency. 

As mentioned above, having fire extinguishers or fire towels around commercial kitchens and hot work zones is important. 

Learn how to Suppress Fires, not Feelings here! —

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

Your general thought process might look something like this: “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 its 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

There are a lot of factors that go into commercial sprinkler systems. Learn more details about the different types of sprinkler systems on our blog.

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.

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.

 

Building Compliance vs. Building Complaints (clearly marked fire exits)

Building Compliance vs. Building Complaints (Not a Spelling Error!)

There’s a good reason for the codes and standards established by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Compliance isn’t a punishment, it’s a roadmap to safety, protection, and long-term sustainability.

With over 300 codes written in “legal-ese,” it’s not always as intuitive as it should be to comply with fire safety codes. So, we’ve created a cheat sheet to steer you in the right direction— it doesn’t have to be so overwhelming.

300 Fire Protection Compliance Codes?!?

Do you think you know them all? If you dare, check out our latest quiz to test your fire code knowledge. 

Unless you score perfectly on the fire safety quiz, it’s likely that your building does not have to comply with all 300 NFPA codes and standards. Searching the NFPA’s database here can simplify the process.

Codes you’ll regularly encounter, however, might include: 

NFPA 99

Health Care Facilities Code

NFPA 72®

National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code®

And others that are very specific, such as: 

NFPA 418

Standard for Heliports

Compliance isn’t the goal. Safety is the goal, and—in that vein—we always recommend the following precautions be taken.

Dispose of Excess Packaging in Real-Time

It seems like the stuff of action moves, and yet, it happens all the time. Piles of boxes can fuel a fire that might otherwise be easily managed. Oily rags can spontaneously combust. Rag disposal is essential to safety. Ensure you dispose of excess packaging in real-time.

Don’t Put a Lantern in the Shed with The Cow. 

Check your fire extinguishers. An expired extinguisher is not only frustrating, but it can be deadly. A popping sound when you turn on the light is a warning! Inspect electric lines that are old or unreliable. These tips and tricks might all seem out of pocket, but one day you might thank us for not putting that lantern next to your beloved cow, Betty. 

Get Honest Regarding our Disaster Preparedness

Whether it be for fire, earthquake, flood, locusts, and any other eventuality, get honest about your current disaster preparedness.

If you haven’t already, make sure everyone knows what to do, who is in charge, how to get out, and where to go following. This is a serious one for anyone who owns a business in California especially. The earthquakes have already started and don’t seem to be slowing down. 

Bring in the VFS Experts

We’ve seen it all. Our teams can ensure compliance and that it isn’t all you’re doing to prevent fires. We are a full fire and life safety contractor and after-market service, provider. Whether your fire prevention needs are related to fire sprinkler systems, alarms systems, extinguishers, backflows, fire pumps, suppression, special hazards, monitoring, DAS systems, emergency notification (the list goes on and on!), we can not only inspect and maintain those systems but also design, build, and install! With our inspections program, we manage, schedule, and track your inspections, deficiencies, and repairs so you don’t have to. 

At VFS Fire & Security Services, we pride ourselves on the caliber of our team members, our commitment to a holistic understanding of your needs, and our-list wine collection (get to know our founder!). We are the team you want to bring to your project.  Connect with us, take a look inside our new site!