Tag Archive for: fire safety

use the warm summer months while students are on vacation to fire proof campus buildings

(While the kids are away, you should probably fire-proof the Sigma Chi house)

 

You survived another semester! Congratulations! While college students return home for the summer, best practice is to go through and fireproof your buildings… especially the Sigma Chi house (they love lighting up… candles, of course).

 

After all, in just a few short months, students will be back in full force. They may get a break for the warm summer months, but your fire safety procedures never take a vacation. 

Campus Fire Safety

Based on research from the National Fire Protection Association, campus fires peak between September and October– especially between 5-9 pm. 

 

“U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 3,840 structure fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and other related properties. These fires caused annual averages of 29 civilian injuries and $11 million in direct property damage.”

 

In order to protect your building and your students from these worrisome statistics, you must ensure your fire safety systems are up-to-date and you should regularly conduct proper fire safety training for both students and faculty. 

Fire Proofing Campus Buildings

So, how does one fireproof an education facility? Most education facilities abide by NFPA Code 101 which “addresses minimum building design, construction, operation, and maintenance requirements necessary to protect building occupants from danger caused by fire, smoke, and toxic fumes.”

 

A few ways you can fireproof your campus buildings are:

 

  • Determining space requirements and maximum occupancy for each room. Hint- to remain compliant with NFPA 101, each person requires at least 20 square feet of space
  • Prepare and update fire evacuation plans
  • Plan fire drills
  • Establish communication with your local jurisdiction and fire authority, and implement their guidelines 
  • Ensure exit areas, stairwells, etc are unobstructed and clear
  • Inspect fire safety equipment to make sure it’s working and updated (i.e. fire alarms, fire sprinkler systems, and fire extinguishers)

What are the Main Causes of Campus Fires?

Fires can break out in multiple ways, however, here are the top five causes of campus-related fires according to data gathered by the U.S. Fire Administration: 

 

  1. Cooking on hot plates, microwaves, portables grills, etc. 
  2. Careless smoking 
  3. Unattended candles 
  4. Overloaded extension cords and outlets

More on how to communicate fire safety with students below. 

Communicating Fire Safety 

Keeping students and faculty educated on fire safety on campus is essential to protecting your people in the event of a fire. Before they step on campus for the semester, send them a pamphlet with fire safety information. This can include:

  • Fire evacuation plans 
  • How to prevent fires
  • How to properly notify the fire department if a fire breaks out 

 

Once students arrive on campus:

  • Review evacuation procedures
  • Show them where the nearest fire extinguishers are located
  • Conduct fire drills
  • Deter tampering with smoke alarms or sprinklers
  • Ensure your RAs are regularly inspecting rooms for fire hazards

 

Remind students that the most common fire causes of campus fires are 

 

  • Check for cigarette buts after parties in chairs, sofas, couches, etc.
  • Use deep, wide ashtrays 
  • Don’t smoke indoors

cooking, candles, smoking, and

fire prep your campus's buildings this summer

 overused power strips. 

Cooking Reminders

  • Keep kitchens clean and clear of flammable materials
  • If cooking– don’t leave the kitchen unattended
  • Only cook in designated areas

Candle Reminders 

  • Do not leave lit candles unattended 
  • Keep candles away from flammable materials

Smoking Reminders

Electrical Safety 

  • Keep light fixtures away from flammable materials
  • Do not plug large appliances into an extension cord 
  • Do not overload outlets or power strips

A Final Word

The perfect time to review your campus facility’s fire safety is during the summer, when fewer students are on campus. For more tips on how to use summer vacation to get your fire safety up to par, read our article here.

 

Your Guide to Smart Classrooms and Fire Safety

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that in general, fire departments respond to over 3,000 structural fires in schools each year. So, prevention and preparation have become essential for all school systems to tackle fire safety.

With many schools re-opening their doors after being remote with Covid-19, educators are re-evaluating how to use smart classrooms and fire safety technology in the case of an emergency. VFS Fire & Security Services specialized in Emergency Responder Communication Systems (ERRCS) and Public Safety Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), which are communication systems for responders, often in the case of a fire or an active shooter. 

The rise in school technology

Smart classrooms have become the new norm. Say goodbye to chalkboards because QR codes and smart boards have entered the chat. With the rise in technology and education, there are pros and cons to having smart classrooms with emergency situations like a fire or active shooter on campus. 

Pros of Smart Classrooms

For example, some schools use the smartboard as a tool to teach fire safety. This downloadable template provided by ABC teach is a simple way to incorporate tech and fire safety between staff and students. 

Another pro with smart classrooms is more accessible communication. If there is an emergency, most schools have upgraded from walkie-talkies to more developed communication radio systems (such as ERRCS and DAS). Communication with these systems can reach more than internal contacts, but first responders as well. 

ScholarChip provides insight into the benefits of visual security at a school. They highlight the importance of a school district’s visual security for emergencies, which should include the following factors: 

  • “Promote a positive and innovative representation of your school through visible mobile kiosks and mobile monitoring apps.
  • Enhances security mobility and real-time data for security teams and IT staff.
  • Overcomes vulnerability that stems from using front desk check-in logs and unmonitored premise access.” 

ERRCS & DAS

ERRCS and DAS are examples of technology working in education’s favor. Learn more about how ERRCS and DAS work on our blog. 

While both systems are fairly similar, there are some slight differences between the two. Their main similarity is that they are both used within commercial and residential buildings to allow emergency responders to communicate with each other via two-way radio in areas that they may not have been able to in the past. 

These systems are made of distributed antennas that are installed within a building to amplify particular radio and/or cellular signals ensuring the highest functioning communication for first responders. These antennas receive external Public Service radio signals and retransmit them within the building to ensure penetration in all areas of the building including:

  • Stairwells
  • Elevators
  • Basements
  • and other heavily shielded areas 

It’s an amplification system that amplifies the radio signals between first responders’ radios during an emergency. 

For example, during the events of 9/11, the need for high-functioning ERRCS/DAS systems came to the forefront of everyone’s attention. 

During that tragedy, there was a lot of commotion, which highlighted the need for a tool where emergency responders can communicate without interruption or signal loss.

Previously, the requirements for ERRCS used to be that any building that was three stories or had subterranean parking would be required to be tested for ERRCS. Now, it has transitioned to where these guidelines are required for most new buildings. 

Cons of Smart Classrooms

Although technology has taken the world by storm in the last year, how many teachers struggled to work Zoom? 

Teachers and professors who do not have a background in technology need the time and training to fully understand how to use the equipment and programs used. In the case of an emergency, like an active shooter on campus, it’s essential that all staff are trained to respond quickly and efficiently to keep everyone safe. 

Also, with the use of technology cyber crimes are more likely to happen. Government Technology reports that “With cybercriminals routinely holding school networks hostage and threatening the sensitive personal data of students, teachers, and families, only the federal government has the ability to collect and disseminate interstate data about new cyber threats, provide resources to help school districts acquire technological safeguards and work across international borders to target bad actors.”

Fire safety and smart tech

Again, prevention is key when it comes to fire safety. An education building is a huge responsibility and should be maintained to have clear pathways for an evacuation plan, frequent inspections, and be up-to-date with NFPA code. 

Once a fire is detected, smart tech and communication radios can be used to alert administration and then students, who should be trained on what the fire evacuation plan is. 

Emergency lighting should be a part of annual inspections. Learn why emergency lights deserve love and attention on our blog. If emergency signs aren’t properly lit during a case of a fire, it can cause confusion and be fatal. 

Active shooter protocol with technology

The FBI gathered data as part of a 20 – Year review from 2000-to 2019. In the 20 years they studied, there have been 333 incidents. Out of those incidents, 62 of them happened in education environments with 419 casualties. 

Clearly implementing technology correctly is crucial for the education system. 

Prevention is important for all emergency situations, whether it be a fire or active shooting. The Department of Health and Human Services suggests a Multi-Tiered System of Support with the use of a student management system and smart technology. The use of this tiered system has “shown support to students who deal with the range of learning, mental health, and emotional-behavioral health concerns that a student may have.” 

In the case of an active shooting, the use of mass communication systems, like ERRCS and DAS is one step towards working with the first responders. Similar to a fire evacuation plan, it’s important to make sure all students and staff are fully trained on what procedure to follow if an active shooter comes onto campus. 

The education system has faced challenging years when it comes to safety and communication. The biggest key factor to remember is that fire safety equipment (and smart tech) is only as effective as its inspections. Learn why regular inspections lead to safer buildings on our blog for more information about preparing your education building. 

How to Prepare Your Business for Cold Weather

(ERRCS ERRCS BABY… too cold too cold)

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

Fire Evacuation

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

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

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

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

Portable Space Heaters

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

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

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

Power Outages and Generators

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

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

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

Winter Storms 

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

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

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

Fireplace Use

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

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

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

Safety Inspections in the winter

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

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

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

Special Hazards Require Special Solutions

Remember that when you try to fight fire with fire, the Fire Department uses water. This is why VFS Fire and Security highly recommends implementing special solutions into your fire safety plan to tackle special hazards.

What is a special hazard? 

NFPA Code 470 highlights hazardous materials standards for responders. A special hazard is anything from a building, material, or piece of equipment that can cause a fire in an abnormal way.  

As mentioned above, a special hazard isn’t simply an area, it can be a building, area, room, or a piece of equipment. From a fire protection perspective, certain industries bring about additional challenges in the fire safety realm. 

Special hazards are generally found in places like data centers, telecommunications, power generation, manufacturing and testing facilities, machinery spaces, and healthcare facilities. A typical fire alarm and sprinkler system simply won’t cut it for these types of buildings. 

Oil Fire

An oil fire is an example of a special hazard that requires a special solution. 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.” 

Oil fires often start in commercial kitchens, areas where spontaneous combustion can occur, or areas where high-temperature work is done. Learn more about the hazards of kitchens in our blog, “Kitchens: More than a place to steal your coworker’s lunch.” 

Because kitchens are such a hot spot for hazards, the NFPA requires many inspections and equipment guidelines to help prevent oil fires from occurring. NFPA Code 31 is listed as the Standard for the Installation of Oil-Burning Equipment, which provides the starting point for special solutions.  

In the event of an oil fire, DO NOT use water. We repeat, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE WATER. Adding water to an oil fire will make the fire grow and become a greater danger. This is where the difference between fire suppression vs. fire sprinklers is important to understand. 

Fire Suppression Systems

Fire suppression systems are part of the magical formula for dealing with special hazards. Here are the various fire suppression systems VFS specializes in. 

Clean Agent 

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

  • Smoke Detector
  • Control Panel
  • Notification Devices

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

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

They are most often found in server rooms, record and 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 and 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 fire that may occur in a commercial kitchen. When triggered, the system immediately discharges 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 that cools the affected area and prevents the spread and the potential of reignition. 

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. 

If your business functions in one of the environments discussed above, ensuring that you have special solutions to protect against special hazards is imperative. 

 

So, how are your New Year’s resolutions coming along? It’s okay if you’ve already ditched the gym at this point— as long as fire safety is still a part of your New Year’s resolutions. Read more on our blog. 

What is ERRCS/DAS and how does it work?

ERRCS don’t have to irk you! VFS Fire & Security Service’s Director of Fire Alarm Operations, Kevin Gregory, joins us to explain the importance of updating your alarm and communication systems.

 

What Are ERRCS and DAS? 

ERRCS stands for Emergency Responder Radio Communication Systems, also known as Bi-Directional Antenna Systems, or DAS. 

The ERRCS and DAS are very similar; both systems are used within commercial and residential buildings to allow emergency responders to communicate with each other via two-way radio in areas that they may not have been able to in the past.

As an amplification system, ERRCS amplifies the radio signals between first responders’ radios during an emergency. 

Why Did ERRCS Systems Become So Important?

During the September 11th attacks in New York City, emergency responders experienced difficulty communicating with each other in rescue and recovery efforts. These difficulties included full radio communication failures, which made the first responders inside buildings lose contact with dispatch and fire crews outside, risking the lives of the first responders and hindering their rescue efforts.

The communication failures on 9/11 spiked awareness for high-functioning ERRCS/DAS, highlighting the need for tools that would allow responders to communicate without interruption or signal loss in the event of an emergency. Since 9/11, ERRCS and DAS have become a critical priority for commercial building owners. 

What Are the Requirements of an ERRCS System?

While the requirements for ERRCS used to apply only to buildings within the specific guidelines–any building over three stories or with underground parking–requirements can now apply to most new buildings or projects.

The building department and/or fire department can enter a new building project, regardless of its size, and review the ERRCS. In this review, the building department may test for signal strength and require that an additional amplifier be installed. 

How Many Systems Are Required in Commercial Buildings?

Typically, buildings require one system. However, several factors can affect the number of systems required in a space, such as the building’s size and layout. These factors may suggest additional amplifiers or other components need to be installed. For more information, learn the five things CRE owners should know about installing ERRCS, here.

To determine the number of antennas required in your building, an inspection team may utilize heat maps and sweep tests. 

What is a Heat Map?

A heat map is generated through a sweep test or a 20 grid test. In a sweep test, an inspection team will divide the building into 20 sections and test each section with a spectrum analyzer and either a fireman’s radio handset or a signal generator. 

The team will then run the results through software to create a report and a heatmap. This report will display the areas of the building which need better coverage as well as the locations in which the signal is strong. 

Do ERRCS Need Testing and Inspection?

ERRC systems need to be tested regularly. The fire department requires that these systems are inspected and tested on an annual basis. 

How is an ERRCS Inspection Conducted?

An inspection team will conduct an inspection process similar to the 20 grid test in which they will divide and sweep the building to locate areas of poor coverage. Their reports will be forwarded to the building department and fire department for approval. 

Inspections are Essential in Maintaining ERRCS/DAS

Inspections and maintenance are critical to the safety of your building. At VFS Fire and Security Services, we specialize in installing and inspecting ERRCS. There’s an ongoing need and requirement for testing and inspection on an annual basis to ensure that the integrity of the system is still operational with NFPA updates and requirements

What are LEED Buildings and How Do They Affect ERRCS?

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a third-party green building certification program that focuses on efficiency in designs. For instance, LEED buildings can have innovative windows made from low-E glass which stops outside weather conditions from affecting the interior temperature of the building and more efficient insulation.

However, low-E glass can cause low signal attenuation that impacts ERRCS. Most commonly, E-glass alters the requirements for your ERRCS in regard to needing additional amplification systems throughout the building. 

Can Other External Factors Affect ERRCS?

ERRC systems can be affected by an array of outside forces. For instance, the signal can be impacted by the construction of neighboring buildings as well as construction supplies and choices. These external factors should be considered in the installation, inspection, and maintenance of a building’s ERRCS. 

Read more about your inspection and maintenance schedule in our blog It’s time to get it together and inspect your building more than once a year!

Make Fire Safety Part of your New Year’s Resolution

2021 was a dumpster fire that we can roast marshmallows in for 2022.

Looking at the new year is an exciting time. 2022 has created a fresh start after a challenging year (or two or three!).

If you’re like most people, one of your practices is making New Year’s resolutions. We applaud everyone who will try that new diet, meditate in the morning, and go to the gym consistently (then bail after a month— but hey, it’s the thought that counts!)

At VFS, we’ve realized there’s one resolution that always seems to be left out, which is fire safety!

Please, we’re begging you, don’t let fire safety fall by the wayside like the gym. Here are some tips to help guide you into making fire safety part of your New Year resolutions (one that will actually stick!)

Stay Up-To-Date with NFPA Codes

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is constantly updating codes for fire safety for commercial buildings, above-ground storage tanks, and everything in between.

The NFPA Journal highlights changes that are crucial to be aware of as a business or property owner in 2022. The two codes to keep top of mind in the new year include NFPA Code 72 and 13.

NFPA Code 72

NFPA 72 is a National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. This means that the Code includes requirements for “mass notification systems used for weather emergencies, terrorist events, biological, chemical, and nuclear emergencies.”

The newest change in 2022 to be aware of is the introduction of cybersecurity guidance for fire alarms. There has been a rise in break-ins through older fire security systems because hackers have incentives to steal data and sell it.

Some of the 2022 additions listed by the NFPA include:

  • Remote Access
  • Color Tagging
  • Survivability
  • Multi-Criteria Detectors

So, make sure to keep an eye out for more updates with cybersecurity and fire alarms.

NFPA Code 13

NFPA Code 13 is the Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems. If you’re new to our blog, we’re the experts in sprinkler systems. Learn more about the updates in sprinkler systems on our blog.

Anyway, Code 13 is considered, “The industry benchmark for design, installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems.”

The NFPA Journal claims that the main changes to Code 13 will include sprinkler density, rack storage, and elevator shaft protection. The most impactful change will be the shift towards “beyond single-point density.” 

Update Team Training

With the constant change in NFPA Codes, it’s valuable to also keep your team updated with the differing fire safety measures.

The updates to highlight and refresh your team with could include the following:

  • Updated Equipment
  • Fire Protection Systems
  • Safe Operation of Equipment and Tools
  • Emergency Action Plan
  • And More

There are various online training available through the NFPA. For example, the online series on “NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (2022) Online Training Series” is a great starting point. 

Create a Calendar of Safety Inspections

At VFS Fire and Security Services, we believe that your fire protection systems are only as effective as the inspections performed on them. The inspections we specialize in include:

  • Fire Sprinkler Systems
  • Fire Suppression Systems
  • Alarm and Detection Systems
  • Portable Fire Extinguishers
  • Sound and Communication 
  • Integrated Security
  • Life Safety
  • Above Ground Storage Tanks

That’s kind of a long list, right? That’s exactly why the professionals are here to help keep your commercial property up-to-date with the proper equipment and fire safety measures.

On the topic of fire safety, have you heard of the cargo crisis that’s going on? The lag in shipping has created bottlenecks in many industries. Read more about how the cargo crisis has impacted our VFS Houston branch on our blog.

Why do fire inspection reports take so long?

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

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

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

What’s Included in a Fire Inspection Report? 

Clear Sightlines

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

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

Certified Fire Extinguishers

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

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

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

Emergency Lighting

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

We can help! 

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

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

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

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

Boater Safety: Tips that Will Float Your Boat

Yes, typically water does put out fires… However there are times when fire can occur on water.  There is an extremely high fire risk on boats and marine machinery. It’s important to understand what preventative measures should be taken in order to avoid fire hazards on marine machinery. So, how do you prevent fires on your boat?

 

Let’s dive into tips that will help keep your boat afloat.

 

Ship Safety Requirements

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Code 301 is the “Code for Safety to Life from Fire on Merchant Vessels.” This code focuses on the construction, arrangement, protection, and space utilization of merchant vessels that aim to limit the danger.

 

Taking precautions is critical to the safety of your boat and your passengers in case of a fire emergency, not only from the fire itself, but also from fumes, smoke, and human response.

 

Having the proper amount of fire extinguishers on your vessel is a great start, however, it is not the whole picture. There are additional elements of preparedness that you should have in place to keep your ship safe. 

 

How to Protect Your Ship From a Fire

The steps mentioned above are considered large-scale. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty details of boat safety. 

 

Ships Business provides some insight into what should be checked in your engine room to ensure proper safety.

 

Some of these items include:

 

  • Having proper escape routes that are properly lit by emergency illumination 
  • All railings on the boat are properly secured
  • There are more than enough life jackets per person that are easily accessible 
  • All safety signs are updated and easy to read
  • Escape routes are not blocked
  • All portable fire extinguishers are correctly stored and up-to-date on inspections
  • Anyone onboard the ship is wearing the proper protective gear depending on the type of boat
  • Prevention of steam, water, or oil leaks in the machinery space
  • Pipe insulations are oil-free
  • Walkways, stairways, and ladders are clean and dry
  • Any supplies and materials are properly stored
  • Approved first aid supplies are readily available, accessible, and clearly marked

 

These, among many other checks, are essential to the safety of your vessel.

 

The Engine Room

The engine room of your vessel is one spot that should be triple-checked for equipment that is functioning properly, in order to best prevent fire or an explosion. It’s a place that heats up quickly and may contain flammable items. One of the major fire safety requirements in the engine room is to install automatic fire suppression systems. About 90% of marine fires start in the engine room. 

 

Another simple way to prevent fires on your boat is to keep everything clear and organized. When you check that your equipment is working, it’s important to familiarize yourself with where everything is located in case an emergency arises and you need to quickly navigate the space. 

 

Freeze Protection

Yes, boats can freeze. In the winter, ships that are in the water, docked, or stored in cold environments need to be winterized. This means going through a process of removing water from any place on the boat that could freeze, expand and cause damage to the ship. 

 

When temperatures drop below freezing, water inside the engine or gears can cause cracks or blockages. The damage they cause will result in expensive repairs. 

 

Remember that a heat lamp is not a good substitute for winterizing your boat. They may cause an unexpected and unwanted fire. According to Xtreme Heaters, “the leading causes of winter vessel fires are unattended portable heaters and overtaxed electrical systems.” A portable heater as a substitute for winterizing your boat is unpredictable because it can be tipped over by waves or other elements– causing a dreaded fire. 

 

Marine Fire Safety

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.

 

As we approach the highly anticipated boating season, what summer shouldn’t bring is more fire hazards! Learn more about fire safety on a ship in our article here. 

 

boater safety tips for marine safety

 

‘Tanks A Lot!’ — Your Guide to Above Ground Storage Tanks

Most likely, your commercial property has an above-ground storage tank (AST). When’s the last time you had your tank(s) inspected? Odds are, your above-ground storage tank has taken the back burner in regards to safety regulations and guidelines.

Don’t worry, that’s why we’re here at VFS Fire & Safety Services—to help you navigate any changes that need to be made to your safety protocols! 

Above Ground Tank Requirements

The National Institute for Storage Management (NISTM) located in Houston, Texas, outlines regulations and guidelines that should be followed for your commercial property’s safety.

In fact, NISTM has a course called “Tanks 101” that provides all the information that you need to know about your above-ground storage tank. The course overview talks about both aboveground and underground tanks in horizontal and vertical configurations.

Here’s a quick rundown of what NISTM has to say. “Having designed and built a good tank, the next problem is to ensure it remains safe and leak-free. The focus is on the well-known tank inspection standard API 653.”

The NISTM also claims that the following basic principles are key to understanding the safety of your above-ground storage tank:

  • “Shell design
  • Floating roofs
  • Foundations
  • Fixed roofs
  • Venting
  • Hydrostatics tests
  • Materials of construction”

As a commercial property owner, it’s important to be aware of these factors when building a new tank so that future inspections run smoothly.

Are you still itching to hear more from NISTM? You’re in luck! NISTM is soon hosting the 14th Annual National Aboveground Storage Tank Conference and Tradeshow this December. Visit the link above to learn more.

Common Challenges with Tank Inspections and Testing

Now for some common challenges regarding tank inspections and testing.

The federal requirements for above-ground storage tanks say there should be frequent inspections and evaluations for any bulk storage container. 

Similarly, The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) provides a downloadable “Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Plan (SPCC) Program” that contains a Bulk Storage Container Fact Sheet. 

The fact sheet states you must “determine, in accordance with industry standards, the appropriate qualifications for personnel performing tests and inspections, the frequency and type of testing and inspections, which take into account container size, configuration, and design.”

The EPA also provides the difference between containers, which include:

  • Shop-built
  • Field-erected
  • Skid-mounted
  • Elevated
  • Equipped with liner
  • Double-walled
  • Partially buried

Required Testing 

The inspections that are required for bulk storage containers include: 

  • “Test or inspect each container for integrity on a regular schedule and whenever you make material repairs
  • Frequently inspect the outside of the container for signs of deterioration, discharges, or accumulation of oil inside diked areas. This visual inspection is intended to be a routine walk-around and inside the container’s supports and foundations,
  • You must retain testing and inspection records for 3 years. EPA recommends that formal test records or reports be retained for the life of the container.” 

It’s important to keep reports and inspections organized so you have evidence and reference of inspections that have been performed as well as when the next routine inspection should take place.

Integrity Testing

Some integrity tests that aren’t federally mandated, but HIGHLY encouraged include: 

  • Visual inspections
  • Hydrostatic testing
  • Radiographic testing
  • Ultrasonic testing
  • Acoustic emissions testing
  • Signs of deterioration
  • Accumulation of oil
  • Other systems of non-destructive testing

With the amount of testing that is required for any property or business owner, sometimes reports and small inspections fall through the cracks. 

Additionally, there are frequent changes in industry standards. Take the extra step of checking in with your Fire and Safety Inspection team to ensure all above-ground tank requirements are being met. 

Cargo Crisis got you down? Us too. Learn more about how the cargo crisis might be affecting your industry in the future and why marine safety should be a top priority with a large number of cargo ships currently being stalled.

How long do you keep your safety inspection records and paperwork? It can be tempting to chuck the paperwork into the trash and forget about the details of your inspection.

But, did you know that after a safety inspection of your above-ground tank, you’re supposed to keep those records for a minimum of 3 years?

Check out our recent blog for more inspection guidelines for your commercial property.

Fire Prevention vs. Fire Protection

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

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

What is fire prevention?

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

Establish an evacuation strategy.

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

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

Maintain & Service Your Fire Safety Equipment.

Testing and Inspection

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

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

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

Service and Repair

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

System Upgrades

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


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

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

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

Employee Fire Prevention Training

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

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

Communicate with your Team

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

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

What is fire protection? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is passive fire protection?

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

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

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

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

What is active fire protection?

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

What active fire protection systems do I need?

SMOKE DETECTORS

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

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS

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

SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

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

VENTILATION SYSTEMS

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

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

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

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

cargo ship crisis

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

What Is the Cargo Crisis?

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

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

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

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

Ship Fire Safety

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

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

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

Marine Safety Checklist

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

CERTIFICATES AND DOCUMENTS

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

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

FIRE SAFETY EQUIPMENT

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

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

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

ENGINE ROOM MAINTENANCE

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

DECK MAINTENANCE AND CREW READINESS

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

EMERGENCY EQUIPMENT

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

HERE TO HELP!

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

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

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

How much does a fire alarm system cost?

Well, the short answer is ‘it depends.’

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

What to Consider

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

Size of Building

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

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

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

Types of Facilities

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

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

What Are You Storing? 

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

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

Fire Season 

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

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

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

Depending on these factors, additional monthly fees could apply. 

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

What to do in case of an Oil Fire

It’s fire season. 

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

What is an oil fire?

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

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

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

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

What to Do

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

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

If the fire is not smothered successfully, RUN! 

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

Preventatives

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

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

Learn how to Suppress Fires, not Feelings here! —

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 this: “Water puts out fires, so sprinklers must be a type of fire suppression, right?”

Wrong. 

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

Fire Suppression

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

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

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

Clean Agent 

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

  • Smoke Detector
  • Control Panel
  • Notification Devices

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

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

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

The Details

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

CO2 Systems

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

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

Wet Chemical 

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

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

Dry Chemical

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

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

Fire Sprinkler Systems

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

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

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

The different types of fire sprinkler systems include: 

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

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

Suppress Fires, Not Feelings

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

Fire Suppression Systems

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

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

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

Clean Agent Fire Suppression

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

  • Smoke Detector
  • Control Panel
  • Notification Devices

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

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

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

The Details

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

Fun stuff, right? 

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

Are you smarter than a fire inspector?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Code 72

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

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

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

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

So… What About My Building?

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

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

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

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

Emergency Lights and Exit Signs Deserve Love and Attention, too!

Although they are sometimes overlooked, emergency lights and exit signs actually should fall into regular fire safety maintenance rhythms. It’s actually a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) fire safety requirement to keep up-to-date emergency lights and exit signs. So, stay up-to-date and understand NFPA 101.

The code states that “emergency illumination shall be provided for a minimum of 90 minutes in the event of failure of normal lighting. The illumination must not be less than an average of one foot along the path of egress at floor level.”

Here’s what giving some love and attention to your overlooked exit signs and emergency lights might look like.

Emergency Lights and Exit Signs Deserve Love and Attention, too!

Testing

Since there are clear NFPA codes in place, there are guidelines to follow for annual inspections and emergency protection. Professionals are trained to know what to look for when it comes to emergency illumination.

There are a few steps you can take in your commercial building to ensure that your inspection goes as smoothly as possible. For one, make sure all emergency exit signs are easily accessible for the fire safety professional. 

This means making sure that the area surrounding the emergency illumination is free of obstructions for full access. For monthly inspections, some emergency exit signs have test buttons that can easily be pressed with the help of a ladder. Again, each commercial and educational building will have a different setup and might require specific inspections and maintenance. 

Red flags to look for while testing includes dull lighting, light bulbs that have blown out, and flickering. Overall, there is an emergency light combo that will work for your commercial building.

What Could Go Wrong?

If you fail to have your emergency lights and exit signs checked monthly (or at least annually), lives could be at risk. These systems are essential to guiding occupants out of a building in an emergency situation.  If the equipment in your commercial building malfunctions during an actual emergency, there is a huge liability risk. Fire prevention is our specialty, so connect with us to learn more about annual inspections.

We tell you what’s due when it’s due, and why it’s due. At VFS, we constantly communicate with your team to keep you up-to-date on the latest information within your facilities.

Learn more on our updated website today!