Tag Archive for: fire protection systems

Fire Alarm in Building

The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that fires in commercial buildings cost owners over $2.4 billion per year. Wowza! This considered, monitored fire alarm systems are essential in the prevention of fires in commercial buildings.

Moreover, fire alarm systems can help to:

  • Reduce damage to property
  • Protect valuable assets
  • And, save lives

But today, we have to ask: Is a regular fire alarm system enough?

OK, OK… Before you roll your eyes, hear us out. Fire alarm systems are an excellent and crucial first step in protecting your property. However, as a property owner, you may be able to do more!

A monitored fire alarm system can help to further prevent or reduce costly damage to your property while also better protecting its residents.

Read on to learn what a monitored fire alarm system is and how it can better protect your property.

What is a Monitored Fire Alarm System?

A monitored fire alarm system is an alarm system that has been programmed to transmit signals to a central station or fire control center. In simple terms, when the alarm goes off, the system will immediately alert an operator who will dispatch the appropriate fire protection team to your building.

A monitored fire alarm system ensures that the fire department is alerted to the fire as quickly as possible, without someone having to make the call. The seconds or minutes that a monitored fire alarm system might save you could make the difference between life and death (as dramatic as it sounds, it’s true!)

Monitored fire alarm systems are most commonly used in commercial facilities—and for good reason.

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

A fire alarm system sets off an alarm—usually a series of local, audible devices—to alert people in the building that a fire has been detected and to evacuate immediately. A fire alarm system does not notify the fire department of the detected fire. The fire department will not be dispatched unless someone calls 911.

On the other hand, a monitored fire alarm system will transmit a signal to a central station or fire control center where an operator will dispatch the appropriate fire department to your building—without anyone in the building calling 911.

How Does a Monitored Fire Alarm System Work?

A monitored fire alarm system has an installed control panel that will detect a fire and immediately transmit a signal to a monitoring station. The operator at the station will notify the fire department when they receive the signal. 


Signals can be transmitted via:

  • Cell phones
  • Phone lines
  • Radios
  • The internet

Why Does My Building Need a Monitored Fire Alarm System?

The answer to this is simple: Monitored fire alarms buy you, at the very least, a few extra minutes. In the case of a fire, a few extra minutes can be the difference in both saving buildings and saving lives.

In as little as thirty seconds, a fire can double in size, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Additionally, a fire will spread even quicker if its surroundings are flammable, such as products that may be found in a warehouse or particular furniture.

If your building is equipped with a fire alarm system that isn’t monitored, the fire department will only be dispatched when someone manages to call 911 after sounding alarms, a fire suppression system or sprinklers, and a quick evacuation of all residents.

Considering these stressful protocols, how quickly do you trust your residents to call 911?

When Will the Monitored Fire Alarm System Protect My Building?

Monitored fire alarm systems provide 24-hour protection, seven days a week. 

For instance, even if a fire occurs at nighttime or while your building is unoccupied, a monitored alarm system will ensure there is no delay in notifying the fire department.

How Do I Know If My Fire Alarm is Monitored?

A common error amongst commercial building owners is incorrectly assuming their fire alarm systems are monitored. Consequently, when a fire occurs, the call to 911 is severely delayed. This error leads to the destruction of the buildings that might have been saved if the proper precautions had taken place.

At VFS Fire & Security Services, we urge you not to wait until a catastrophic loss to have your system inspected.

The default option for many fire alarm systems is the installation of a single-station fire alarm, which doesn’t include the feature of sending a signal to the fire department.

If you’re not sure if your fire alarm system is monitored, you can have a fire and security service quickly inspect your system to let you know. At VFS, our system upgrades team can review your existing plans and make scalable proposals to meet your building, code, safety needs, and budget. 

Not sure if your building is due for an inspection? Read our complete guide to fire and safety inspections for your facilities.

The Bottom Line

Fires happen often—every 63 seconds, in fact. This considered, commercial property owners should be adequately prepared to avoid the costly damages to their valuable assets and protect their residents.

Monitored fire alarm systems are a strong method of improving the protection of your property and its residents by ensuring the fire department is dispatched as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Start a conversation with us today and let’s figure out how to best protect your building.

Commercial Fire Protection Systems

We’ll Answer Your Burning Question… 

Your commercial property is just as flammable as any other building. In fact, the National Fire Protection Agency reports that between 2015 and 2019 fire departments across the nation reported 19,156 fires in business properties alone. Property loss totaled over $800 million. These statistics don’t include fires in other types of commercial buildings. 

With fire season emerging, stay ahead of the catastrophic damage a wildfire can do to your commercial building by protecting it ahead of time. Are you prepared? We answer your burning question below. 

What is a Commercial Property?

A commercial property is any real estate that is used for business purposes or activities. Typically, they are buildings- not residential dwellings. Think malls, industrial real estate, and grocery stores … you get the picture.  

These buildings contain important materials, documents, and people inside which means it’s even more important to protect your building from the potential damage of a fire. 

High-Risk Fire Zones

A high-risk fire zone is “a designated zone that considers wildfire hazards such as fire history, topography, vegetation, blowing embers, and weather” according to Spectrum News

These zones are broken down into three sections: moderate risk, high risk, and very high risk. Determining which category a zone falls in depends on the likelihood of it catching fire based on history and fire patterns. 

Check your commercial property’s zone to determine your risk of being impacted by a wildfire.  

Commercial Fire Insurance Policies

Having a commercial fire insurance policy, especially for commercial properties in high-risk zones is an added layer of protection. This policy type mitigates risk by reimbursing you for fire damage to the property for losses. 

Fire insurance is defined as “a form of property insurance that covers damage and losses caused by fire.”

This policy often covers building damage, building contents (i.e. furniture, tools, and equipment), and the belongings of others. 

Depending on your policy, it may also cover damage from smoke, charring, or loss of income due to business closure from the fire. 

Ways to Protect Your Property From Wildfires  

Wildfires can cause catastrophic damage, especially to properties without property protection and prevention plans in place. The National Interagency Fire Center reported that 2021 faced 58,985 wildfires which damaged 7.1 million acres.  

Protect your building by implementing the following steps.

Create a “Buffer Zone” 

Wildfire Property Protection

A buffer zone divides the surrounding area of your building into three sections to keep an active fire from moving quickly to your building. Learn more about how to implement a buffer zone here

Ensure Working Fire Hydrants Nearby

Have access to a fire hydrant no more than 250 feet away from main buildings. They should be connected to reliable water sources. 

Use Noncombustible Materials

Any signage, exterior cladding, siding, etc. should be made out of noncombustible material. This keeps a hungry fire from finding more materials to damage because they will not burn when exposed to fire. 

Choose Dual-Paned Windows 

Dual-paned windows made with tempered glass will help keep a fire at bay. 

Cover Vents

All vents should be covered with non-combustible ⅛ inch mesh screenings to fight against embers that may fall through. 

Keep Gutters and Roofs Clean 

The building’s roof and gutters should be kept clear of debris that can be easily ignited by embers. 

Flame Resistant Upholstery 

Use flame-resistant or flame-retardant chemicals on curtains, furniture, and drapes. 

Perform Regular Fire Protection System Servicing 

Stay in touch with your fire marshal or authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to make sure your fire protection system is up-to-date. Ensure your fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems and other fire protection systems are inspected and maintained on a regular basis.

Have an Emergency Plan

Prepare an evacuation plan should a wildfire break out nearby. Make sure all staff inside the building understand what to do in a fire emergency. Clearly post emergency evacuation signs inside the building. 

Read our next why high-risk high reward does not apply to fire safety, and other ways to keep your building safe. 

fire protection systems service and maintenance

… Yeah That’s Something You Have To Do

Just because your building has the proper safety equipment doesn’t mean your work is done. Believe it or not, you have to actively maintain each of the devices throughout the year. After all, you have to change the oil in your car – your building’sfire protection system service and maintenance fire protection systems are no different.

How often you service or inspect your fire protection services depends on the device. Some require weekly, monthly, semi-annual, or annual inspections. Hot tip- all fire and life safety systems require at least an annual inspection. Let’s discuss how often different fire protection systems need servicing.

Fire Protection Maintenance and Inspection Schedules

Fire protection maintenance schedules are set in place to make sure your fire protection is up to par in the event of a fire. A fully functioning system reduces the risk of damage or injury.

Typically, a fire marshall or other authority holding jurisdiction (AHJ) will review your fire protection system to review if the system is up to code. Local regulations determine how the frequency of service for your different systems. There are, however,  overarching trends as to when each needs a look.

Fire Sprinkler Systems

The best practice for a fire sprinkler system is to perform quarterly and annual sprinkler inspections. Particularly in colder areas, regular maintenance and inspections are essential.

For example, a wet pipe sprinkler system needs to be kept at above freezing temperature during the colder months in order to prevent costly damage to the system.

Fire Suppression Systems

Fire suppression systems include extinguishing fires through gaseous chemical or foam agents instead of water. Examples of fire suppression systems include:

  • Clean agent
  • CO2 Systems
  • Wet chemicals

They must be inspected on a semi-annual basis according to NFPA guidelines.

Fire Alarm & Detection

Fire alarms or smoke alarms should be inspected by a professional on an annual basis- at a minimum.

Inspect these systems for leaks, cracks, warning lights or obstructions weekly. Local rules and regulations determine the service timeline.

For example, school buildings typically require periodic testing of fire alarm systems and regular fire drills.

Fire Extinguishers

A fire extinguisher, also known as the first line of defense is a piece of fire safety equipment you want operable at any given moment. Inspections must take place once a month.

Devices prone to rust, impact, or tampering require the most frequent inspections.

Their external maintenance examination occurs annually during the hydrostatic test, or when specified. Internal fire extinguisher tests occur every 1 – 6 years depending on the extinguisher.

A Final Word

Keeping a well-maintained fire protection system can be the difference between minor and major structural damage. It can also save lives. Proactively maintain your system to have the peace of mind that if the time comes, your building is fully prepared.

Most building owners find that waiting on the fire inspection report is often the most painstaking part of the process. Why do these reports take so long? Take a look at one of our recent articles explaining why the fire inspection report takes so long.