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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!)

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! —

Kitchens: More Than a Place to Steal Your Coworker’s Lunch!

Commercial kitchens should be at the top of the priority list for fire safety management.

Educating your employees on proper fire safety protocols is essential to ensure their workplace safety. In order to keep them safe from harm, they need to know what steps to take in the event of a fire—and no, ‘fricken large ones’ is not correct. In an effort to help guide your fire safety training endeavors, we’ve put together a few tips to improve your employees’ education surrounding building fire safety.

Start With Necessary Information

We think it’s safe to say that most employees do not want to sit through a three-hour-long fire and life safety training. To start, ensure you’re touching on all the ‘need to know’ topics of fire safety.

As you dive deeper into fire safety training, you can go over additional topics that may not be as urgent. Urgent topics to review and discuss should include:

  • Types of fires that occur in the workplace
  • How to extinguish the different types of fires that may occur
  • Major causes of fire accidents in the workplace
  • The exits are available to employees in case of emergency

Make sure your employees know the various hazards in your workplace.

Cooking Equipment

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) claims that the main cause of fires in office buildings is cooking equipment. Office and commercial buildings typically have cooking equipment. Whether there is a mass amount of equipment or one small kitchen for employees, there are safety measures that should be taken as a part of fire prevention.

A few of these safety measures include:

Clean Grease Often 

The office kitchen isn’t known for being the cleanest place to cook food, and grease build-up can cause fires to spread quickly.

Ensure Equipment is Maintained Regularly 

Old equipment increases fire risk and puts employees and the building property at risk. There are specific commercial kitchen requirements that may apply to an in-office kitchen. 

The precautions with gas-fired appliances include being installed by professionals, no oil with gasoline, and only specific locations within the building containing gas-fired appliances.

Kitchens are typically protected by et chemical suppression systems. These Extinguishing methods 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 oils and fats it creates a foam, subsequently cooling the affected area and preventing the spread from reigniting. 

At VFS, your building’s safety is our top priority. With over 25 years of experience, our fire and life safety experts are prepared to ensure your building remains safe from harm. 

The equipment we install, inspect, and maintain is only one component of your fire and life safety initiatives. The other aspect includes employee training! Your employees must be educated on what to do in case of an emergency.

Contact us today to talk about how we might work together!

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

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

Wrong. 

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

Fire Suppression

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

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

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

Clean Agent 

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

  • Smoke Detector
  • Control Panel
  • Notification Devices

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

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

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

The Details

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

CO2 Systems

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

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

Wet Chemical 

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

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

Dry Chemical

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

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

Fire Sprinkler Systems

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

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

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

The different types of fire sprinkler systems include: 

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

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

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

Connect with us today to learn more! 

Suppress Fires, Not Feelings

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

Fire Suppression Systems

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

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

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

Clean Agent Fire Suppression

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

  • Smoke Detector
  • Control Panel
  • Notification Devices

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

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

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

The Details

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

Fun stuff, right? 

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

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

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

DAS Explained

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Talk ERRCS

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

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

How About AHJ?

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

The NFPA has regulations set under Code 70E

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

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

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

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

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

Are you smarter than a fire inspector?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Code 72

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

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

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

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

So… What About My Building?

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

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

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

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

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

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!

VFS is your partner from start to finish: A walk through the onboarding process

Maybe you’re on the fence about hiring VFS. Maybe even wondering, “How would VFS go about onboarding my company into fire protection services?”

We offer a wide variety of services, so here’s a timeline of our involvement, and remember, we partner with you from START TO FINISH (not an exaggeration). 

Since you’re on our website, odds are you need help with fire protection services. This is a smart move for you as we approach fire season. Great news, you’ve already completed the first step! By simply showing interest in protecting your commercial property and employees. 

Free Consultation

Yes, you read that right. A FREE consultation, a hard offer to pass up. Click here to schedule your consultation today. It’s as simple as having a quick conversation with one of our fire protection experts to identify your unique needs.  

Who We Serve 

No matter the industry, VFS has you covered. From our dispatch team to our field technicians we are equipped with a full staff of fire protection experts and a robust knowledge of each specialized environment. We are constantly staying up to date on emerging trends in technology as well as new requirements and code changes to keep you informed and in compliance. Here are some of the markets we help to protect: 

  • Property Management 
  • Industrial & Manufacturing 
  • Oil & Gas
  • Transportation 
  • Retail 
  • Education 
  • Data Centers
  • Hospitality 
  • Healthcare 

The Specifics

Once we’ve decided that our companies will be a great fit as partners, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. We offer a variety of services for all of your fire protection systems including the following: 

  • Service & Repair 
  • Testing & Inspection
  • Design/Build 
  • Retrofits
  • System Upgrades 

Just to name a few. 

How We Help 

At VFS we believe in a proactive business model. We manage the who, what, why and where of your fire protection assets and their inspection and maintenance schedule. It is essential to stay on top of your fire protection systems to prevent any potential accidents or costly repairs. 

Our advanced platforms and highly trained dispatch team allow us to manage inspections and testing from inception to execution. We tell you what’s due, when it’s due and why it’s due, and are constantly communicating to your team to keep you up-to-date on the latest information within your facilities. Fortify your building with reliable fire protection systems inspected and maintained by the experts at VFS

Once we help you decide which of our services are right for you, it’s go time. Visit the VFS website today for more information on becoming a partner. 

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

Surprise, fire season has come again. 

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

Duh Duh DUhhhh!

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

Video Surveillance

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

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

Outside the Building

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

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

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

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

Inside the Building

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

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

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

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

Get it together and inspect your building more than once a year!

You’ll thank us later. 

Owning a commercial building comes with a lot of responsibilities — that doesn’t mean you should slack on simple inspections. 

VFS believes that your fire protection systems are only as effective as the inspections on them. 

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code, quarterly and yearly inspections of your fire and life safety systems are mandatory. In addition, some components of a system, like a fire pump, require weekly and monthly inspections. 

It is best to consult your VFS Account Executive for details. Having your building inspected by trained and certified inspectors will help keep your safety systems in good working order.

Hot Inspection Tips

  1. Annual inspections are required for all fire and life safety systems. But, once a year isn’t the best option for overall safety of employees and the buildings. 
  1. Some systems or components of a system may require more frequent inspections like monthly or quarterly. 
  1. Inspectors should be certified by a nationally recognized organization.
    • Inspectors should wear company clothing or nametags identifying them as professionals authorized to be in the building.
  1. Your inspection reports should deliver the following information:
    • Location of every device in building
    • Whether each device passed or failed inspection and why
    • Date/time stamp when each device was inspected
    • Device inventory & warranty status
    • Indication of length of time devices have been in service
    • Verification of report results
  1. Detailed inspection reports are excellent supporting documents for insurance companies or authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs).
  1. Make sure your employees or building tenants are aware of a scheduled inspection 24 hours in advance.
    • For Fire Alarm Systems, audio/visual testing may interfere with trainings, meetings or site visits.
  1. Let inspectors know of any construction or remodeling, and additions or problems to the fire protection systems in your building since the last inspection.

We tell you what’s due, when it’s due and why it’s due. At VFS, we constantly communicate with your team to keep you up-to-date on the latest information within your facilities. Fortify your building with reliable fire protection systems inspected and maintained by the experts at VFS!

It's summer vacation ... but not for you. Get your fire safety up to par

The sun is out, the air smells like sunscreen and … summer school! 

School buildings provide an important space for youth and educators, so there is great risk if there is no evacuation plan in place. 

Seems overwhelming? Don’t worry, the best part is that we do the work for you! 

Evacuation Plan

There are other outlier factors that need to be considered while creating a solid evacuation plan. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides some startling facts about fires that start in school buildings: 

  • “School fires most often originated in a lavatory or locker room
  • Fires that were intentionally set were the leading cause of school fires, accounting for almost two of every five fires
  • Two-thirds of school fires occurred between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. 
  • In 2014-2018, the U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 3,230 structure fires in schools each year
  • These fires caused annual averages of one civilian death, 39 civilian injuries, and $37 million in direct property damage.” 

Since most fires start in locker rooms and bathrooms, the evacuation plan must be centered around those geographical locations. This will look different for each educational building based on the layout of the property. 

Draw a Floor Plan

When making a blueprint of the building, highlight exits and other fire safety tools (think fire hoses, extinguishers, and emergency phones). Make sure all staff know this plan inside and out, so in case of an emergency everyone’s prepared with the evacuation plan. 

More Tips

Cluing in students at an educational facility is also important to successfully follow through an evacuation plan. Assemblies and test fire alarms are a great way to start. 

Another option is to have posters around the educational building with reminders of fire safety tips and what to do in an evacuation. Some of these may include: 

  • Don’t use the elevator, always choose the stairs
  • Never go back into the building unless given permission by authorities
  • Call 911 as soon as possible
  • Always leave through the nearest exit
  • Leave your personal items behind

We protect property and lives, while providing a sense of security and peace of mind. 

VFS is here to help you improve your fire safety plan in educational buildings, find more on our website.  

HIGH-RISK, HIGH REWARD? NOT WHEN IT COMES TO FIRE SAFETY! (NOT A CANNABIS REFERENCE)

When it comes to buildings that contain flammable chemicals, gases, and other materials, fire protection is not something to gamble with. Not only will top-of-the-line fire protection keep your building safe, but it will also ensure that workers remain safe from harm. In this high-risk industry, it is essential that you don’t roll the dice on fire safety measures. 

According to OSHA, from 2013 to 2017, 489 oil and gas extraction workers were killed on the job. Getting your fire protection systems in check is like having pocket aces, it sets you up for the greatest success possible. Here are a few tips for you to begin prioritizing your fire safety protocols. 

Assess workplace preparedness

It’s essential to start with an inspection of your fire safety. These inspections lead to a greater understanding of your preparedness, and typically reveal vulnerabilities that you were previously unaware of. During this inspection, be sure to look for particular areas that have a higher risk for flash fires and explosions. 

You should also be on the lookout for fire equipment that is old or malfunctioning, and be sure to replace them with ones that are in good working condition. Not only should you look for vulnerabilities in your fire extinguishers, but also in your fire sprinkler systems. 

A great preventative measure is doing your own monthly visual inspections, as there are developments that can occur between the required NFPA inspections. Grab a notepad, take a walk and canvas your facility looking for any obvious visual deficiencies – corrosion, leaks, obstructions or painted sprinkler heads. With any luck you’re clear of any obvious deficiencies but if you’re not, call your fire protection company (hopefully VFS) to get these assessed and repaired preemptively. A little proactive measure can go a long way to prevent unnecessary accidents and keep your systems working in prime condition. 

Ensure emergency equipment is accessible onsite

With workers coming in and out of your facility, it’s important to have a supply of emergency equipment at their workstations and other areas near these stations. The equipment should include materials like fixed and portable fire extinguishers. This helps ensure the safety of your workers, as well as allows your employees to put out a small fire before it begins to spread. 

Ensure workers are trained to utilize equipment

In order to ensure your plan is effective, you must train your employees to know what to do in the event of a fire. They should receive instructional materials for the tools they may need to use, as well as participate in training that shows them how to physically use the equipment, and how to exit the building in case of emergency. 

Part of this training should include fire drills that help to reinforce the safety procedures and educate your workers on how to exit the building. You should also ensure all evacuation signage and exits are clearly marked, enough to see in the event of a fire. 

Utilize detection equipment to measure gas levels

In the oil and gas industry, it is essential to monitor the gas levels throughout your building. Combustible and toxic gas detection systems can help ensure your team avoids activities that may trigger a fire to occur. If a flammable gas goes beyond 10% of the lower explosive level, your workers should refrain from working. Ensure your employees know what levels are acceptable to remain working in, and which gases may be potentially hazardous. 

Ensure alert systems are installed to communicate fire risks

Lastly, ensure you have alert systems in place to communicate with your workers regarding the safety hazards throughout the facility. When a fire occurs, employees need to be immediately made aware in order to allow them to evacuate the building/work area safely. Alarm and mass notification systems are needed to alert employees of the danger.

At VFS, your high-risk facility is our top priority. We specialize in providing top-of-the-line fire safety support for special hazard facilities. Our fire and life safety systems integrate every aspect of a building from security systems, to fire protection and suppression to alarm and communication systems. We operate in 35 of the 50 states through our partnerships with local experts.

MIC PREVENTION (NOT THE KIND YOU DROP AFTER KARAOKE)

Most people hear the word MIC and are brought back to either a cringy middle school talent show or a late karaoke night. 

After reading this article, your second thoughts are going to be, “Oh, Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion.” 

M.I.C.

Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC) sounds scary—because it is. The tiny bacteria follow the process of attachment, growth, and dispersal. There are many reasons why preventing MIC is essential for fire and safety security services. 

The quick process of MIC will cause massive damage to specific points in the surface, instead of universally and evenly throughout the surface. As a result, there are costly repairs that will set your business back. 

The attachment phase needs to be targeted first in prevention. During the attachment phase, free-floating microbial bacteria anchor to a surface within minutes of the encounter and start to produce a polymer film. 

Again, within minutes. 

The rest of the MIC process is just as crucial to prevent, but harder to catch. Some of the hazards that are threatening your spaces during the MIC process are: 

  • Self-organized highly-structured biofilm starts to rapidly reproduce and grow
  • Because of the evolution portions, the cells are released to colonize new surfaces
  • The tubercle starts with the creation of biofilm in the attachment phase
  • There is a deprivation of oxygen that causes the bacteria to thrive
  •  Highly acidic environments result in a concentrated and accelerated rate of corrosion
  • This all can lead to pinhole leaks

Sounds fun, right? 

The short time frame (of once again, minutes) doesn’t leave any room for mistakes in MIC prevention.

Fear not, because VFS is here to assist in showing that there are daily habits that you can take to avoid Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion. 

GENERAL CORROSION

There are a lot of scientific terms thrown into the paragraphs above, so you may be wondering: what’s the difference between MIC and general corrosion? 

Well to sum it up, they’re both bad news. 

General corrosion is less significant than MIC because it fails to alter a pipe’s interior surface, causes less damage and repair. While MIC targets concentrated surface areas at a greater force, general corrosion is an even layer, with a slower rate of disintegration.

Both types of corrosion can cause a lot of damage, but focusing on Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion prevention will help your business for the long haul.

WHY IS IT A THREAT?

Well, MIC is primarily an issue of corrosion in both dry and pre-action sprinkler systems.

Corrosion of any type (especially MIC), is a growing concern for anyone with commercial fire protection in place. The aftermath of corrosion is not pretty and a guaranteed out-of-pocket expense. Corrosion might result in:

  • Property damage
  • Production time lost
  • Increased maintenance costs
  • Shorter service life
  • System inefficiency: pipe obstruction, plugging
  • The worsening quality of system hydraulics
  • Pinhole leaks

Both dry and pre-action fire suppression systems primarily use compressed air. This, however, is what leads to corrosion. Compressed air is made of both oxygen and moisture. Trapped oxygen within the sprinkler system mixes with water, which reacts negatively with the material of the internal pipes—the perfect environment for MIC bacteria to thrive!

OKAY WE KNOW IT’S A PROBLEM… NOW WHAT? 

There are various solutions to the scary “C-word” … aka corrosion. Some of the solutions are more intensive and expensive than others. 

CHEMICAL INJECTIONS

Chemical Injections can be included in regular system maintenance, but there are some potential side effects:

  • It’s very costly
  • Chemicals can become harmful when exposed
  • MIC can become immune to the chemicals overtime

PIPE COATINGS

Pipe coatings are specifically designed to only work as an option for new construction. 

ROUTINE MAINTENANCE

Checking in and doing sprinkler inspections and water analysis is another prevention method that should be adapted. There is Annual Single Bottle MIC testing that has MIC and mineral analysis. Another option is the 5 year, 4 bottle MIC testing and water analysis.

AIR RELIEF VALVES

Air relief valves are doable for most sprinkler systems. Because air travels upward these valves are installed at the highest points of the sprinkler system where they automatically release small amounts of air from the system.

Auto-Air relief valves are the most common solution to prevent MIC. There are multiple reasons they’re the crowd favorite: 

  • Safe
  • Cost-Effective
  • Reliable
  • Venting 

Auto-Air Relief valves are reliable because air travels at the top of pipelines and rises in water, which helps maintain proper water pressure and consistent flow. 

Automatic venting is a process that happens while the sprinkler system is being filled, where the air travels up and gets trapped. VFS has all of the knowledge and expertise to prolong the life cycle of your sprinkler system. 

WE’RE HERE TO HELP!

This all sounds scary, and not as fun as dropping the mic after karaoke. 

But remember, that we’re here to help!

At VFS Fire & Security Services, we have over 20 years of experience protecting what matters: people, property, and businesses. We recognize that fire sprinkler corrosion is still a problem many property owners and building managers don’t suspect until it’s too late!

So, get your head start! At VFS, we’re here to help you develop and implement an effective strategy for all of your industrial fire protection needs. Keep your systems in tip-top shape and call us today to see what we can do for you!

YOUR MARINE FIRE SAFETY CHECKLIST

You wouldn’t think fire could stand a chance when surrounded by a body of water—but it does. Boom! It feels like in every action movie ever created, a boat explodes in a bay or on the ocean. Although dramatized, there’s a reality to it. Directors paint the danger picture perfectly!

At VFS Fire & Security Services, we are the drivers of innovation within the fire protection industry, including specialization in marine fire safety. Although most fires seem to look the same in movies, there are a variety of different types of fires that may occur on your vessel. We’re in the business of educating people and keeping them safe when it comes to fire protection, which is why a marine fire safety checklist is necessary for any marine-related organization.

YOUR MARINE FIRE SAFETY CHECKLIST

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

CERTIFICATES AND DOCUMENTS

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

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

FIRE SAFETY EQUIPMENT

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

  • Sprinkler systems: Valves, alarms, pumps, and pressure gauges must be tested and properly working with pipework in fair condition
  • Ventilators and fire dampers: Must be clean and free of debris with flaps in fair condition
  • Proper fire detection and fire alarm systems that provide the necessary  coverage and protection of assets on board
  • Properly installed extinguishing systems
  • Personal equipment, including fire fighting protective wear, self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBAs), and emergency escape breathing devices (EEBDs)
  • Properly functioning gas and CO2 systems

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

ENGINE ROOM MAINTENANCE

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

DECK MAINTENANCE AND CREW READINESS

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

EMERGENCY EQUIPMENT

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

HERE TO HELP!

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

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

With VFS by your side, you’ll be the fire protection talk of the town! Get in touch today to see what we can do for you.

FIRE SAFETY INSPECTIONS FOR YOUR FACILITIES: YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE

Your palms are sweating, you’re biting your nails, what’s that? It’s time for your building’s routine fire safety inspection! Geez, it’s like you’re taking an exam back in high school! But it doesn’t have to be such a stress.

At VFS Fire & Security Services, we are experts in fire protection no matter what environment your facility is housed. Whether your fire inspection is for a health care center, school, oil and gas facility, or even a vessel, we’ve got you covered. But first, let’s talk about fire safety inspections, why they’re important, and what to expect during yours.

What is a Fire Safety Inspection?

A fire safety inspection is a necessary examination of a building or structure and its relevant fire safety documents. A fire safety inspection measures how well your building—whether it be a business, school, health care center, and so on—is managed in regards to fire safety. Legally, buildings must comply with a set of building codes and ordinances to keep their occupants safe. A fire safety inspection ensures you are doing so and calculates the potential risk factor in a given facility. 

Why?

Fire can be an extremely detrimental force not only to people but also to a business or organization. Whether small or large, the damage from fire to a building is often irrevocable without a large financial cost.

Fire safety inspections are often pre-arranged and are preventive at heart. They help building owners and managers to identify potential fire hazards and to make the necessary changes. For those who choose not to comply with fire safety inspections and guidelines, the punishment is substantial.

Although this routine inspection might feel like a hassle in your tight schedule, there’s no such thing as being too safe.

What to Expect

Each fire safety inspection will vary, of course, depending on your organization and building. In all inspections, however, you will be asked to provide all relevant fire safety documents. This might include:

  • Evacuation Protocol
  • Fire Risk Assessment
  • Fire Drill and Staff Fire Training Records
  • Proof that Preventative Fire Systems have been tested (fire detection, alarms, sprinklers, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, ventilation, firefighting equipment, electrical wiring, and so on)
  • List of potentially dangerous substances in building or on grounds
  • Fire Safety Maintenance Checklist

During your fire safety inspection, you can anticipate a walk-through inspection with your examiner, and for said examiner to speak with others on the premise to validate the fire safety information that you’ve provided.

Here, we’ve compiled a brief summary of what to expect within different facilities: health care, education, oil and gas, and marine.

Health Care

Fire safety inspections for health care are especially important considering a large number of people in health care facilities at any given time. This considered you should be familiar with the inspection processes—yay! Here’s a rundown of what you can expect:

During your visual inspection, the examiner will take occupancy limits and clear exit paths into special account. That means no unruly electrical wiring and definitely no using the sprinkler heads as coat racks! Hazardous materials, chemicals, and extinguishers are to be stored properly and in correct locations.

Considering the number of patients in a building, your examiner will pay special attention to your evacuation plan, policies, and maps posted. Additionally, your examiner will need proof of your fire drills, which are to be documented and executed annually if not quarterly in your building.

Lastly, the inspection will cover disaster protocols and preparation. This includes effective parking measures (i.e. can make clear, unobstructed use of fire hydrants and lanes) and questioning employees about the health care center’s fire safety measures. To ace your inspection, ensure all employees are undergoing periodic fire training and drills.

Education

There’s nothing scarier than the thought of our children being unsafe! Fire safety is extremely important in schools, especially considering the wide variety of ages and abilities in a school. Requirements for educational fire protection, in most states, are based on NFPA codes. Here are some pointers of what to expect in an educational fire safety inspection:

Educational facilities hold strict requirements on space. According to the NFPA, your examiner will ensure that there are at least 20 square feet per person. Space requirements influence how and where students can be in a building and are important in considering where certain aged children need to be in regard to floors.

Schools additionally are required to have proper fire detection systems, fire sprinkler systems, and extinguishers. Routine fire drills are a regular and necessary part of educational fire safety, and all schools must have an approved emergency action plan (EAP).

And of course, examiners pay special attention to exits, flammability and amount of decor and artwork, flammable materials, and areas of assembly.

Oil and Gas

Considering the high number of petrochemicals at an oil and gas facility—not to mention their high level of combustion—the biggest danger here is fire. Oil and gas facilities are extremely high risk, so here are some tips to successfully prepare for your fire safety adult:

We already know that properly working fire detection systems and alarms are a legal essential but have you considered installing a mass notification system? This way, a message or call can be sent out to your employees, notifying them of a potential fire or dangerous system.

Similarly, installing a gas monitoring system is a great step. Gases are often, at oil and gas facilities, highly flammable and the reason for combustion. A gas monitoring system can work to reduce fire by tracking dangerous gas levels.

During your fire safety inspection, an examiner will be looking to ensure not only that your facility goes through routine inspections and drills but also that your fire protection systems offer sufficient coverage and protection from the combustibles and chemicals that are stored within your facility. A fire brings enough chaos of its own so it is essential that your employees are informed on what to do in case of an emergency.

Additionally, implementing on-site emergency equipment is a wise choice, as often, emergency services get there after the damage has already been done. If, however, you make this choice, ensure that your employees have been properly trained on how and when to use said equipment.

Marine

We know, we can’t believe it either… fire on water! But it’s more common than you’d think. There are a lot of boxes to be checked when it comes to keeping your maritime operations safe. Let’s get you thinking about the current safety of your marine operations with a checklist.

For starters, there is a long, varying list of certificates and documents that are to be carried on board at all times. This might include a Cargo Ship Safety Equipment or Passenger Ship Safety Certificate, servicing records including proof of fire extinguisher servicing and pressure tests, a damage control manual, records of testing, drills, and maintenance, and a variety of training manuals.

Of course, let’s not forget safety equipment that must be carried and inspected during your inspection.

  • Sprinkler Systems
  • Ventilators and Fire Dampers
  • Proper fire detection and fire alarms
  • Properly installed extinguishing systems
  • Personal Equipment, including fire fighting protective wear, SCBAs (self-contained breathing apparatus), and EEBDs (emergency escape breathing devices)
  • Properly functioning gas and CO2 systems

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

Approximately 90% of marine fires start in the engine room, so be sure that this will be a big check zone during your inspection, including your engine room’s fire pumps, emergency shutdowns and valves, high-pressure fuel lines, and main zones

Lastly, ensure your crew is familiar with the use of these fire protection systems and able to abandon ship if necessary. Fire drills should be routinely performed. 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, including emergency generators, batteries, pumps, and tankers, however, must be properly maintained, inspected, and ready to be used at any given moment. Now go ace that inspection!

What Happens Next?

Well, this depends on how well your inspection went and how your structure scored! With VFS by your side, we promise you’ll get a gold star!

You should receive a report after your inspection is conducted, which contains any findings from your walk-through and action steps for you to take. These action steps will address any ways in which your building might be deemed unsafe and identify a solution. Typically, minor breaches in fire safety law are informal and the examiner will set a deadline as to when the issue needs to be fixed. However, there can be more serious deficiencies that could result in fines or possibly disruptions to your facility. At VFS Fire & Security Services, we know that there is nothing more important than keeping people safe—and we have the expertise and the tools to do so. Don’t get caught up in a fine, serving time in prison, or worst of all, putting individuals in danger. Contact us today to see how we can help make your fire safety inspections a breeze!

DO YOU HAVE A RELIABLE ALARM SYSTEM?

Do you know the benefits of having a reliable alarm monitoring system? Or the potential dangers of not implementing one? With everything that’s been thrown our way in the past year, you should have at least one reliable system in your life: a reliable alarm system!

The ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, Australian Bushfires, and Hurricane Laura across the Midwest, 2020 showed us the importance of being prepared against natural disasters. I mean, really, this past year made us expect the unexpected!

Despite the uncontrollable nature of these events, we’re pushed to remember the importance of investing in the health and safety of our organizations. Is your fire alarm monitoring reliable and ready to take on whatever comes its way? If it’s MeshWrx, it is!

There are lots of options when it comes to fire alarm monitoring services. We know, it can be overwhelming. But MeshWrx makes it easy! Here’s a rundown of what our reliable alarm systems look like.

WHAT IS THE MESH NETWORK DIFFERENCE?

Did you know that mesh network technology was originally developed for demanding military communication pathways? Talk about reliability! Today, mesh networks are still trusted by military, fire, and police departments. Simply put: Mesh networks are the crème de la crème of reliability.

But what is a mesh network system? Wireless mesh networks consist of a collection of wireless routers that provide network access to clients, typically in commercial buildings. These specific mesh routers act as entry points to reliable and established central monitoring stations.

Mesh network alarm monitoring systems were designed with the intent to be reliable, cost-effective, and hassle-free. And that’s exactly how they operate today.

Traditional, low-tier alarm systems and other single-route systems are widely susceptible to environmental disturbances and even equipment problems.

For example, a cellular alarm system uses local cellular service to relay fire alarm signals from the building to the nearest cell tower. The signal is then relayed to an internet gateway by point-to-point microwaves or fiber optic cables. Once it is on the internet, it is routed to the central monitoring station.

A traditional alarm system only shares a percentage of the reliability of a mesh network system and experiences more dead spots. And as far as reliability is concerned, cellular networks do have a single point of failure, which may cause issues. If any part of the communication system goes down, the communication link is broken.

It’s a lengthy process to contact the help you need—up to 45 seconds in some cases. In a situation like this, every second matters. And think, how many times have your cellular calls dropped or failed? Do you really want to be relying on the quality of a cell phone tower?

On the opposite side, mesh networks are continually optimizing a variety of signal pathways to get theirs through to the help you rely on most. With our network of towers, you never have to worry about the reliability of your signals getting through to the central station. We’ve got your back! 

HOW ABOUT A REAL-LIFE EXAMPLE?

Do you remember Hurricane Harvey? Way back in 2017? The aftermath of this category 4 hurricane was devastating—with catastrophic flooding that resulted in over 100 deaths. But did you know that mesh technology was the only uninterrupted source of communication during this natural disaster? 

Landlines, IP, and cellular all crashed during this emergency, but not their mesh network system. And that’s the MeshWrx difference.

A HANDY LIST OF BENEFITS

If you’re still not convinced of the reliability of a mesh network system, 1) we’re surprised and 2) let us help you. Here are some additional reasons as to why a MeshWrx alarm system might be right for you.

  • Prevent property damage
  • Communicate with professionals at top speed
  • 24-hour protection and reliability

And the greatest benefit of all? The sense of comfort and security you gain when choosing MeshWrx. Choosing MeshWrx fire alarm monitoring gives you an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality.

You can be more productive, safe, and focused on the work at hand, knowing that you and all members of your organization are safe.

Your employees will exhale a sigh of relief knowing that if a fire were to occur, emergency responders would be notified immediately and that they could proceed to safely exit the building.

IS YOUR ALARM RELIABLE?

Whatever your industry, from education to healthcare, we have a one-stop fire alarm monitoring solution that will give you confidence and peace of mind. You don’t want to be wondering if your alarm system is up to the task when an unexpected emergency hits. You need to ensure your alarm system is reliable and up for the challenge.

Mesh networks provide a holistic approach to ensuring your alarm monitoring needs are met and are trusted by the demanding military, police, and fire communication pathways.

Because when it comes to the safety of yourself and your organization, being out of style isn’t cute. Mesh networks are the future of alarm monitoring systems. Don’t be ‘that guy.’ Instead, stay prepared, stay safe. Contact MeshWrx today to see how we can help your company’s fire protection systems thrive!

FIRE PROTECTION FOR EDUCATION BUILDINGS

WHILE THE KIDS ARE AWAY THE FIRE PROTECTION MUST STAY

It’s SPRING BREAK! Woohooo! But before you go off to the beaches, ensure your building remains protected. What do you know about fire protection for education buildings? Though the kids may be away, the fire protection must stay.

Educational facilities have a few specific regulations when it comes to fire protection since so many lives need to be protected at all times. What fire protection systems do you need to be aware of?

Educational facilities’ minimum fire protection and life safety requirements are outlined in NFPA 101: Life Safety CodeIn this code, educational occupancies are defined as “any building used for educational purposes through the twelfth grade by six or more persons for four or more hours per day or more than 12 hours per week.” This is expanded to include preschools and kindergartens that meet these requirements:

  • The purpose is primarily educational, even though the children who attend such schools are of preschool age.
  • The children are all 24 months of age or older.

WHAT REQUIREMENTS ARE INCLUDED FOR EDUCATIONAL FACILITIES?

SPACE REQUIREMENTS

Determining your code requirements for your specific facility starts with the capacity of your building. According to NFPA 101, the capacity of a building is assessed by calculating the occupant load of the space, which means how large the area needs to be based on the total number of people in the school. To remain compliant with the occupant load required, you need to plan for at least 20 square feet per person. 

This code provides information on where and how students can be located throughout your building. Younger children must be located closer to the ground floor in order to make evacuation easier and more efficient. Specifically, classrooms for preschool, kindergarten, and first-grade must be on the level of exit discharge. Classrooms for second-grade can be located no more than one floor above the level of exit discharge.

WHAT IS THE LEVEL OF EXIT DISCHARGE?

The level of exit discharge is defined as “the story that is either the lowest story from which not less than 50% of the required number of exits and not less than 50 % of the required egress capacity from such a story discharge directly outside at the finished ground level; or where no story meets the conditions of item (1), the story that is provided with one or more exits that discharge directly to the outside to the finished ground level via the smallest elevation change.”

Finally, for education facilities, flexible and open floor plans that have more than 300 students per room, require at least 2 means of egress. They must open to separate atmospheres. It’s important that your local fire marshal or authority with jurisdiction signs off on these floor plans and configurations. 

OPERATIONS AND PLANNING

Education facilities are required to have an emergency action plan in place to ensure the inhabitants of the building remain safe from harm. The emergency action plan should illustrate a plan for various emergency situations. As you work to prep this plan, ensure you consider common emergencies, as well as area-related emergencies. On a basic level, without area-specific emergencies in mind, you should include the following in your action plan:

  • A procedure for reporting emergencies
  • Evacuation, relocation, and shelter-in-place procedures
  • Elevator use details
  • Occupant and staff response information
  • The design and conduct of fire drills
  • The various fire protection systems and their coverage areas
  • Other information required by local jurisdiction and fire authority

It’s important that you define which administrators will be responsible for the emergency action plan creation process and which positions will be responsible for managing it in the event of an emergency. Educational facilities should conduct and document fire and emergency egress drills at least once per month when school is in session. In these drills, all building occupants must participate and all alarms must be activated.

Staff members should inspect all exit areas, and ensure all stairwells, doors, and exit passageways are clear, unobstructed, and in proper working condition. Ensure all these inspections are documented. 

For schools, there are very specific requirements when it comes to what can go on the walls. Fire code only allows for 20% of a wall area to be covered with art and paper products, as they are extremely flammable. If fire sprinklers are installed throughout the school, that coverage can be increased to 50% of the wall area.

FIRE SAFETY EQUIPMENT

Ensure you have proper fire safety equipment in place to keep your building and your faculty, staff, and students safe from harm. Let’s dive into what equipment is essential to the safety of your building and your people. 

FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS

Educational facilities typically require fire alarm systems. Small facilities that are no larger than 1,000 square feet, with a single classroom, and located further than 30 feet from another building can be without fire alarms. For example, this includes mobile or portable buildings that are utilized as classrooms and spaced 30 feet from the school and other mobile classrooms.

There are multiple exceptions and specifications depending on specific facility needs that may affect your fire alarm system implementation. This may include the elimination of manual alarm pull stations or the addition of a mass notification or emergency alarm communication system. In order to understand your specific building needs, contact your authority having jurisdiction or a fire safety expert, like our team at VFS!

FIRE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

A building greater than 1.000 square feet with multiple rooms requires automatic fire sprinkler systems. Buildings under 1,000 square feet and those with single rooms do not require fire sprinklers. All kitchens and cooking appliances should be protected with special hood and fire suppression systems. 

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS

Lastly, education facilities require fire extinguishers to be installed throughout the building. The specific placement and number of extinguishers are based on the size and the layout of a building. Extinguishers should be installed, tested, maintained, and selected following NFPA 10: Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers. 

Our team at VFS Fire & Security Services is equipped to help with your unique fire safety needs. We firmly believe in building long-lasting relationships with our clients. From planning to implementation to testing and maintenance, our services are always tailored to meet our clients’ specific needs. 

UNDERSTANDING INSPECTIONS AND MAINTENANCE FOR YOUR BUILDING

Wowsers! You don’t have to worry about inspections anymore

Did you know that the fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the nation every 24 seconds? The numbers of fires and fire deaths have decreased since the 1970s, largely due to advancements in fire technology and quickened response time. With this being said, it’s important that your fire protection systems remain up to inspection and testing standards provided by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Here at VFS, we are the Inspector Gadget for your fire protection systems. We find what’s not working and we help fix it. Here are a few things you need to know as you look to ensure your fire protection systems remain up to date with their inspection and testing.

What items need to be inspected and maintained? How often?

Quarterly Inspection and Maintenance

There are a few fire protection systems that require quarterly regular inspections—mainly fire sprinkler systems. Fire sprinkler systems need to be inspected and maintained on a quarterly basis. This inspection and maintenance includes inspection of water flow devices, wolves, valve components, low air pressure alarms, and other components of your fire sprinklers.

Semi-Annual Inspection and Maintenance

Twice a year, your kitchen suppression systems need to be inspected (that is, if your facility has a kitchen). In addition, if your facility uses magnetic door locks, these must be inspected twice a year to ensure they remain operating correctly in the event the fire alarm is activated. 

Annual Inspection and Maintenance

Most of your fire protection systems need to be inspected and maintained annually. These inspections will be your most comprehensive and intensive inspection periods for fire alarms, fire suppression, and bi-directional amplification systems. 

In this annual inspection, over 20 components of your fire alarm systems will be tested and inspected. The major components include:

  • Control panel and component inspections
  • Fuse, LEDs, and power supply inspections
  • Component battery replacement
  • Pull station inspection
  • Voice/alarm communication system inspection

Your fire sprinkler systems will also be inspected during this time. These inspections also include 20 major components of your sprinkler systems. The major components include:

  • Main drain
  • Antifreeze solutions
  • Hose valves
  • Pump system
  • Drain test

Long-Term Inspection and Maintenance

There are a few components and systems that require long-term maintenance and inspection. Some of these components include fire alarm audibility testing, which should be performed every three years. In addition, fire extinguishers are scheduled for replacement every six years. Hood suppression systems in kitchens have multiple components that will need to be replaced every 12 years.

Fire Safety Inspection Requirements

Requirements for fire safety inspections vary state-by-state. Therefore, business owners and property managers need to be familiar with individual state fire codes, ordinances, and standards, and how to comply with these requirements. In general, some specific industries require more frequent fire safety inspections. These facilities include places of public assembly; including theaters, nightclubs, hotels, and hospitals. High-rises also need to adhere to strict fire code requirements, as these buildings have high occupancy and complex exit plans.

Are you prepared for your fire safety inspections?

Preparing for your fire inspections is essential—especially if you’re in the industries that are subject to unscheduled inspections. In order to prepare properly, you need to know how inspectors evaluate your building.

Let’s start with what inspectors are evaluating as a whole

As inspectors go through your building, they look for a few key things; including:

  • The ways fire could start within your specific building.
  • Safety systems in place, like smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and sprinkler systems. They ensure these systems are regularly maintained and in good working order. You should expect to be asked to see documentation on the regular maintenance of these systems.
  • Systems assisting in fire egress are working effectively, like lighted exit signs and exit doors. 
  • Lastly, inspectors ensure emergency personnel have easy, immediate access to the building. 

As you look to prepare for your inspections, here are a few steps you can take to make sure they occur without any issues

Collect copies of previous inspection reports and proof of system service and inspections.

When you show up with all of your inspection reports and proof of inspections ready to go, you signal to the inspector that you take your fire protection seriously. Ensure your documentation illustrates the steps the company has taken to address previous violations. 

All paperwork must prove licensed professionals have serviced your fire alarms, fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems, and fire pumps within the required timeframe are collected and kept to show your inspector.

All appointments need to be scheduled for outstanding safety systems maintenance.

Inspection, testing, and maintenance of your fire safety equipment is complex and should be outsourced to a licensed contractor and trained professionals. At VFS, our team is ready to assist you in your inspection and maintenance needs.

Make appointments for outstanding heat systems maintenance

Appliances that generate heat should be regularly maintained. These include boilers, furnaces, radiators, stoves, ovens, and other heat-producing manufacturing equipment. 

Protect special hazards

Special hazard protection is essential to keep up with for your safety. Some special hazards include gasoline pumps, computer server rooms, chemical storage areas, and other places with a high concentration of flammable or combustible materials. To ensure these hazards remain protected, you must ensure your maintenance and inspection schedules are up to date. 

Clear hallways and stairwells 

Proper means of fire egress are essential to the safety of your building. Businesses who fail their fire inspections typically do so because they have not provided adequate means of egress. Stairways, corridors, and hallways leading to the exit should remain clear of obstructions. Stairways and corridors should also include fire doors and latch release mechanisms.

Be mindful of hazardous material storage

Combustible and flammable materials should be stored at a certain distance from the ceiling in approved containers. Do not store them in the room where heat is produced, or near appliances that produce heat. 

Incompatible materials, like ammonia and bleach, should also be stored separately. Usually, they must be at least 20 feet away from each other or separated with a noncombustible partition that extends at least 18 inches above and beyond the incompatible substance.

Ensure easy and efficient entrance for the fire department

As you walk through your building, ensure all exits that emergency personnel utilize are free of obstructions. You should also ensure your address numbers are clearly marked and can be seen from the road. In order to provide safe and immediate access to your building, most businesses provide a fire department lockbox on the exterior of the building.

Label and maintain electrical system components

Electrical panels should have circuits properly labeled. These panels should have a clear space of 30 inches in front of them, so employees can reach them easily and be shut off in the event of an emergency. All electrical outlets and circuit panels should also have plate covers for safety. 

ENSURE COMPUTERS HAVE POWER STRIPS AND EXTENSION CORDS ARE USED PROPERLY

Extension cords should be kept in good condition. Ensure you and your employees do not use extension cords that are split or frayed. You should also verify all computers are plugged into a surge projector with built-in circuit breakers. Circuit breakers help reduce the risk of electrical fires. 

TEST EXIT SIGNS AND EXIT LIGHTING

Exit signs and emergency lighting must work properly on regular power and backup power. These signs and lights are essential to ensuring your employees escape the building safely in case of a fire. 

ENSURE FIRE EXTINGUISHERS ARE IN EASY-TO-ACCESS AREAS

First and foremost, ensure you have enough fire extinguishers to cover the square footage of your building. Fire extinguishers should be clearly marked and easy to access by employees and guests in the building.

ENSURE SPRINKLER HEADS HAVE PROPER CLEARANCE

Sprinkler heads should have 18 inches of clearance. The space required for overhead sprinklers is designed to help sprinkler systems distribute water effectively in a fire. Any building that is not protected by sprinkler systems requires a minimum of 24 inches of clearance from ceiling to storage.

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE PROPER SIGNAGE THROUGHOUT YOUR BUILDING

Signage including the best escape routes should be posted in all the main areas of the building. The front door should be unlocked at all times when occupants are in the building. Additionally, ensure you have proper signage by the door to inform all employees. Maximum occupancy signage should also be posted in rooms designated for assembly. Lastly, signage reminding people to use the stairs during an emergency should be posted near elevators.

YOUR PARTNER IN INSPECTIONS AND TESTING

At VFS, we partner with our clients to ensure their maintenance and inspections are scheduled and performed regularly. The expert team at VFS Fire & Security Services has the breadth of knowledge to provide all regular scheduled and code-mandated fire protection system inspections. 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 we constantly communicate to your team to keep you up-to-date on the latest information within your facilities. Allow us to be your trusted Inspector Gadget, and take on all your inspection and maintenance needs.