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Healthcare Facility Fire Protection Requirements

By Jackie Berens

Healthcare Facility Fire Protection Requirements

This isn’t Grey’s Anatomy- Avoid the unnecessary drama and ensure you have proper fire protection in place

Paging Dr. Grey. Code Red. A fire has broken out in Grey-Sloan Hospital and all the patients and doctors are at risk. We know… you’re glued to your television. This is some intense drama. While yes, a fire in a hospital makes for a drama-filled, intense episode of Grey’s Anatomy, we don’t want that to become a reality for your healthcare facility. 

Healthcare facilities have greater requirements than most other facilities because they are governed by the Joint Commission. Because of these stringent requirements, hospitals need to be better equipped to withstand a sudden fire. You all hold lives in your hands every day and documentation is critical in your facilities to validate that you are upholding critical safety measures required by governing agencies such as NFPA and Joint Commission. 

Here are a few of the requirements needed for your healthcare facility.

Compartmentation in medical facilities

Compartmentation typically utilizes a passive fire protection system that prevents or slows the spread of fire by blocking it off. Fire-resistant walls, doors, and corridors should be in place to protect patient rooms, operating areas, special hazard space, and egress paths. 

Fire Sprinklers

Sprinkler systems must be installed throughout healthcare occupancies. These systems must be inspected, tested, and maintained regularly. Major components should be inspected quarterly, semi-annually, and annually. Each of these inspections requires specific components to be maintained. 

Fire extinguishers and special hazard fire suppression systems

Any facility with a commercial kitchen or cooking facility requires hood and fire suppression systems to ensure fires don’t spread throughout the rest of the building. Fire extinguishers must be selected, placed, inspected, tested, and maintained following NFPA 10.

Kitchen hood and fire suppression systems

Any commercial kitchen and cooking facilities in a medical facility must be protected with a hood and fire suppression system, which requires semi-annual inspections, testing, and maintenance. Additionally, the filters and exhaust ductwork that make up the hood system require regular cleaning—the frequency of which is based on the amount of grease that is used in the cooking process. These specific requirements are outlined in NFPA 96: Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations.

Fire Alarm Systems

NFPA requires a fire alarm system throughout the facility. NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, outlines the installation and ITM requirements for these systems. A facility manager should understand the basic operation of fire alarms and what the various signals may mean. Quarterly, semi-annual, and annual system inspection, testing, and maintenance are required, and diligent records must be maintained of all ITM work and results.

Generator and alternate power sources

A facility, like a hospital, with alternate sources of power, connected to distribution systems and ancillary equipment require specific fire safety protocols. Depending on your risk category your EES (Essential Electrical System) may change. Category 1 Requires Type 1 EES, Category 2 can use either Type 1 or Type 2 EES, Category 3 and 4 do not require and EES.

Emergency evacuation plans

In a healthcare facility, your emergency planning must be communicated often and well-thought-out. Quarterly evacuation drills are required for each shift, and records must be diligently kept. General housekeeping of keeping egress paths clear, “no smoking” policies, decorated hallways and patient rooms should be fire-resistant, and soiled lines and trash should be regularly emptied is essential to communicate to your team. 

With all these requirements, it’s important to understand exactly what you need to do in order to keep your building safe from harm. Here are a few items on your checklist you need to go over.

Fire protection operations:

  • First and foremost, make sure your hazard emergency plans are in place and are well-thought-out for your specific building. Healthcare facilities must maintain emergency and evacuation plans, and employees must be regularly trained on these plans and their roles within them. Emergency plans should include instructions for fire emergencies and general building evacuations.
  • Once you have found your plan, make sure all employees are trained regularly, and that training is documented. Quarterly evacuation drills are required for each shift, and records of these drills must be maintained. Additionally, hospital staff should be aware of and sustain general housekeeping standards. These activities include maintaining clear access to exits, enforcing “no smoking” policies, making sure decorations in halls and patient rooms are fire resistant and do not exceed allowed limits, and ensuring soiled linens and trash are regularly emptied and not permitted to accumulate beyond allowed maximums (0.5 gallons per room, 32 gallons total in a protected area).
  • Make sure you conduct fire drills quarterly, and these drills are documented.
  • Are your “non-smoking” areas in place and enforced?

Fire Sprinkler Systems:

  • Fire sprinklers must be installed throughout healthcare occupancies. These systems are installed following NFPA 13: Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, and they are maintained according to NFPA 25: Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems.
  • NFPA 25 outlines the required inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) frequency and procedures. Major system components are required to be inspected quarterly, semi-annually, and annually. At each of these intervals, specific items must be maintained and tested. There are also weekly and monthly inspection requirements for items that must only be visually inspected—these components include gauges, valves, private hydrants, and fire pumps.
  • Monthly inspections of your fire sprinkler systems must be conducted and documented.
  • Quarterly, semi-annual, and annual inspection, testing, and maintenance should be conducted and documented. 
  • Five-year inspection, testing, and maintenance should be conducted and documented (if applicable)
  • Your fire hose should be tested and the testing should be documented.

Fire Pumps:

  • Pump runs should be conducted and documented on a weekly or monthly basis depending on type.
  • Annual pump testing should be conducted and documented.

Fire Alarm Systems

  • Quarterly, semi-annual, and annual inspection, testing, and maintenance should be conducted and documented.

Fire Suppression Systems:

  • The kitchen hood and ductwork should be cleaned regularly depending on your building (quarterly, semi-annually, or annually) and documented.
  • Your kitchen suppression system should be inspected, tested, and maintained semi-annually and the services should be documented. 

Fire Extinguishers 

  • Monthly inspections of your fire extinguishers must be conducted and documented. 
  • Annual inspections by a licensed fire protection professional must be conducted and documented. Any deficiencies found from that inspection must be corrected and fire extinguishers must be certified. Inspection reports and repairs must be documented.
Fire Safety Tips for Commercial Property Owners

By Jackie Berens

Fire Safety Tips for Commercial Property Owners

Eyewash stations are not just for getting Del Fuego out of your eyes (We get it… we love Taco Bell too)

Commercial Property Owners: Ensuring your building remains safe from harm is essential to your ongoing success. The foundation of your building safety protocol is fire safety. According to Chad Connor at AZ Big Media, about 120,000 commercial property fires occurred in 2019, resulting in $4.3 billion in property damage, 1,200 injuries, and 110 deaths. In order to ensure your commercial property isn’t included in that number, you need to put the proper fire safety precautions in place. 

Start with regular inspections

Safety alert lights, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and sprinkler systems must be inspected on a regular basis. Each fire protection system requires a different maintenance schedule. It’s important to stay on top of your inspection schedule in order to ensure your property remains up to code and safe for its occupants. 

  • NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems
  • NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code
  • NFPA 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers
  • NFPA 17A Standard for Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems (Kitchen Systems)
  • NFPA 17 Standard for Dry Chemical Extinguishing Systems (Paint Spray Booths)
  • NFPA 2001 Standard on Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems

At VFS, we assist our clients in maintaining their inspection schedules to ensure ongoing fire and life safety success. As a business owner, it’s important that you or your facilities manager are present for all inspections. Knowing the overall health of your facility allows you to plan for future expenses and report accurate safety updates to your insurers. 

Ensure you have the proper fire protection systems in place for your unique business

Your commercial property is unique to the needs of your business. Similarly, the necessary fire protection is unique to your commercial property. Understanding what fire protection systems you need in place to ensure your building remains safe is essential. Here are a few fire protection systems you may need to consider:

  • Smoke management systems
  • Automatic closing doors
  • Private fire hydrants
  • Fire alarm systems
  • Communication systems
  • Emergency generator and standby power systems
  • Sprinkler Systems
  • Standpipe systems
  • Pressurized stair shaft
  • Elevators automatic Phase 1 & 2
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Fire pumps

Maintain proper signage throughout the building

Indoor and outdoor signage is essential to the safety of your building. Firefighters cannot do their job if they do not have access to equipment and pathways to access the emergency. Floors and rooms should be clearly mapped, access to specific areas like the roof should be clearly labeled, and fire safety equipment and hazardous materials need to be identified. 

Occupants cannot get to safety without understanding where the nearest exit is. Exit lighting can be an overlooked area of your fire safety. When a fire begins, the conditions will likely induce chaos and confusion. Smoke can cause occupants’ vision to be obscured and make it difficult to navigate around the office space. Ensure all exit signs are illuminated and easy to read. Consider auditory alerts as well as visual alerts for those who are visually impaired or in the case of heavy smoke. 

Communicate your emergency action plan with employees

Written emergency action plans are a vital part of ensuring your employees know what to do if an emergency occurs. These plans should cover actions both employers and employees should take to remain safe during fire emergencies. It should include the equipment that needs to be shut down, escape routes, and when and where manual fire suppression efforts should take place. 

Ensure the management team occupying your building reviews the emergency action plan with all employees at various times throughout their time in the building. It should be reviewed when it’s developed, when employee’s responsibilities change, and when the plan changes. 

Ensure you have special hazard protection in place if necessary.

Special hazard protection is not a commonly discussed fire safety topic. Ensuring buildings are up to special hazard standards takes a very specialized skill set to perform. 

Custom fire and life safety doesn’t stop with fire suppression and sprinkler systems.   Emergency eyewash stations or emergency showers are a vital part of certain special hazardous situations.  In cases where chemicals are in play, eyewash stations are a critical safety element. 

At VFS, we pride ourselves on our expertise when it comes to special hazard protection. We understand that special hazard safety begins with the integration of custom fire sprinkler systems, special hazard solutions, and fire alarms. 

Active vs. Passive Fire Protection

By Jackie Berens

Active vs. Passive Fire Protection

When your wife says “I’m fine…” How to put out fires (because your relationship is about to go up in flames)

As a husband, the last thing you want to hear is your wife passive-aggressively saying “I’m fine…” You know exactly what that means- it’s time to put out a figurative fire because your relationship is about to go up in flames. As a building owner, the flames you need to avoid aren’t quite as figurative. 

In order to fight very real fires that can occur in your building, you need to implement proper fire protection systems. Both active and passive fire protection systems are necessary to keep your building, and more importantly, your people safe from harm. 

What is passive fire protection?

The word ‘passive’ has a connotation that the object in question is something that is not expected to produce results. Your wife’s passive-aggressive comments beg to differ, and so do your passive fire protection systems.  In fact, passive fire protection (pfp) can be equally, if not more, effective than active 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. 

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 help 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. 

The objective of a passive fire protection system is to hold the smoke and flames in one contained area. 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. 

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. 

Most buildings are equipped with a few active systems that can be deployed onsite during a fire.

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 the 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. There are various types of fire sprinkler systems that can be beneficial for your business. 

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. 

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. 

How do passive and active fire protection measures work together?

A combined effort of passive and active systems is essential to the safety of your building and its occupants. Active systems effectively help occupants evacuate or fight the flames, these systems typically have a greater likelihood of error. 

Passive systems should be installed throughout the building as a way to support active systems. A great example of passive and active systems working together is smoke curtains. These passive fire protection systems help direct smoke toward vents, where smoke can leave the building. Passive systems can also help force flames and smoke to remain in one area.

New buildings should implement these passive fire protection systems into the design and build phase of construction. Our Design/Build team at VFS can help ensure your building is protected from harm when it is finished. Older buildings, which do not have these passive systems built-in, can be retrofitted with smoke curtains and panels as an added layer of protection. 

Active and passive fire protection systems together can prevent expensive damages, catastrophic injuries, and potential loss of life. Implementing both systems into your building is essential to the safety of your building. 

At VFS, we believe in helping your company meet the needs of your unique building. Every building is different, every building needs different protection systems in place. Our teams think creatively to come up with solutions that ensure your building remains safe from harm. Reach out to us today to see how we can help your business today! 

Your V-Day Building Fire Protection Checklist

By Jackie Berens

Your V-Day Building Fire Protection Checklist

It May Not Be Romantic, But It Can Be Life-Saving

Valentine’s Day is here and love is in the air. While it’s easy to get swept up in the romance, it’s important to ensure that the air remains clear of smoke. Before lighting the candles and sitting down for dinner, make sure your building is protected. 

The four main goals of fire protection are:

  1. Prevent a Fire From Starting
  2. Prevent Loss of Life When a Fire Does Start
  3. Confine the Fire to Its Origin
  4. Extinguish the Fire

VFS provides systems that can quickly alert everyone that a fire is in the building and to help stop the fire in its tracks. There are many types of fire protection systems in buildings and we can make sure yours are cutting edge. When you need fire protection, you need it to be the best. 

Keep the Flame Alive, Not Ablaze

The first of the four goals of fire protection is to prevent fires from starting in the first place. This is accomplished through cautious actions and awareness of people in the building. Informing building occupants of common fire risks can help them avoid risky mistakes. 

Common Valentine’s Day Firestarters

  • Candles and fireplaces provide light, warmth, and they set the mood for a romantic night — but they can also be a hazard. Many fires begin in the bedroom, usually because candles are too close to bedding, mattresses, or upholstered furniture that easily lights on fire. 
  • Cooking fires are incredibly common and are often the result of an unattended stove. When pouring your heart into a Valentine’s Day dinner for your significant other, make sure to stay in the kitchen and practice caution.
  • Helium balloons are a delightful surprise, but try to keep them inside. If they float away, they may hit a power line on the way. This can cause a small explosion that melts the electric wire and leads it to fall. The fallen electrical wire can spark a fire. 

Posting warnings around flammable objects can bring awareness and help prevent the romantic gesture from blowing up in your face.  

Smoke Alarms May Kill the Mood, But They’re Vital

It’s not romantic music, but a smoke alarm will respond to fire and smoke to alert everyone in the building that it’s time to leave. While preventing fires altogether is preferable, planning for the event of a fire is an essential step to save lives. 

Both automatic and manual smoke alarms play an important role in a timely evacuation. To prevent the loss of life during a fire, having a highly responsive alarm system can make all the difference. If your alarm systems haven’t been updated for a while, they may not work properly. We’ll make sure your fire alarm system is fully functional and ready to alert you. 

What’s Your Sign? Safe Fire Exits

Once the alarm is going, people need to know where to exit. Having properly marked fire exits expedites the escape plan. Even if you go over a fire safety plan together, the plan can fly out the window in the panic of the moment. 

Clearly marking exits and exit routes can guide people to safety, even when it’s hard to process the situation. LED fire exit signs can easily be seen through smoke and show people where to go. Multiple signs leading the way to the fire exit are helpful in larger buildings where the exit sign may not be visible from down a hallway.  

What’s More Romantic Than Showering Together?

Sprinkler systems are a vital part of stopping fires. Automatic fire sprinkler systems reduce fatalities by 87% when compared to properties without any fire sprinklers. Sprinklers help prevent the spread of fire and confine the blaze to its area of origin. 

Fire sprinkler systems are highly effective at controlling fires and keeping them from growing. They’re triggered individually when the heat of a room reaches a certain temperature, activating the sprinkler. Not all sprinklers will be activated at once, so water damage is minimized. 

If your fire sprinkler systems aren’t checked often, they may not work when they’re needed most. VFS can help you ensure your sprinkler system is functioning properly so your building will be protected in the worst-case scenario. Our inspection and maintenance teams are prepared to help keep your building up to NFPA and local codes. Inspection and maintenance is essential to ensuring your sprinkler and fire alarm systems are functioning properly when you need them most. 

Light a Spark in Your Love Life, Not in Your Building

Building fire systems are essential for keeping your romantic night from going up in flames. While they may not be used very often, the importance of protection can’t be overstated. Top-tier fire protection is better to have and not need than need and not have. 

So before the mood heats up this Valentine’s Day, make sure your building won’t. These tips can keep the romance — as well as everyone in the building — alive and well.

How to Keep your Commercial Kitchen Safe Even During COVID

By Jackie Berens

How to Keep your Commercial Kitchen Safe Even During COVID

UberEats is still a thing… how to keep your commercial kitchen safe even during COVID 

Though COVID may have your indoor dining capabilities on hold, the risk of kitchen fires remains. With DoorDash, Postmates, UberEats, and other take-out and delivery services, your kitchen can still be up and running! With cooking equipment being the leading cause of fires, with 61% of incidents, it’s important your kitchen remains safe with the proper equipment in place.

While fire may be essential to your kitchen’s functionality, it’s important that you don’t let that fire let loose on your personnel. Here are a few ways you can protect your kitchen today:

Ensure your cooking equipment is maintained. 

The majority of restaurant fires are due to cooking equipment. Ensure your equipment is in proper working condition and is fitted with suppression systems. Suppression systems can be extremely beneficial, as they shut down gas and electrical when a fire occurs. 

The suppression system’s ability to shut down gas and electricity can be the difference between a flare-up and a devastating fire. It’s important as a business owner to have their fire suppression systems inspected by professionals. 

Provide training for your employees.

Be sure your kitchen staff is informed on the proper fire safety and protocols in place to protect their wellbeing. In a kitchen, there are various types of fires that can occur, be sure your employees know how to handle each fire with care. 

In kitchens, grease fires are common, meaning your employees need to know what to do and what not to do during a grease fire. The nature of grease fires causes a reaction with fire, therefore the flames spread higher and can cause more injury. The best way to handle a grease fire is to smother it, if it can be done safely. 

Another aspect of training that is essential is how to prevent fires before they occur. In order for the kitchen staff to perform their duties in a safe way, they must maintain good practices within the kitchen. 

Ensure you have a proper escape plan in place

Illustrating an escape plan that puts your people out of harm’s way should be a top priority. When a fire grows uncontrollably, your employees need to get out. It should be designed to avoid a crowd of people, and ensure no injury is caused to all those leaving the restaurant. 

Clean up grease

Cleaning your kitchen is an essential part of fire safety for your business. Grease is extremely flammable and extremely dangerous as we mentioned above. When fires get out of control, it looks for a source of combustible energy… aka grease. It literally acts as fuel to the fire. Make sure your team has a thorough and regular cleaning schedule that includes cleaning off all built-up grease from surfaces.

One important place your team needs to clean grease is the ventilation system. This system is one of the most volatile and can multiply the effect of the fire. The ventilation serves as a trap for grease, smoke, and particles that are extremely combustible. Per the NFPA fire code, the hood, fan, and ductwork should be inspected and cleaned regularly. 

Be sure your sprinkler system works effectively.

Your kitchen’s sprinkler system will kick in when a fire gets large enough to activate sprinkler systems. These systems are triggered by smoke from the fire, so it is essential they are working properly. 

While fire sprinkler systems are the last defense against an out of control kitchen fire, they can be extremely effective in saving your building. All employees should be out of the kitchen at the point the sprinklers can be the difference between a burned kitchen and a burned down restaurant. 

Have extinguishers… and then have backup extinguishers

Fast-acting crew members are sometimes needed to help douse the flames and extinguish the fire. Ensure your fire extinguishers are clearly marked and in an accessible area for your team members. These extinguishers need to be inspected regularly by both your building manager as well as an expert inspector. 

Be sure all flammable material is away from flames

As we stated above, fire needs fuel. Once it begins to grow, it will continue if given the proper fuel. Within a kitchen, a fire can get out of control by being close to flammable materials that shouldn’t be close to the flames.

Flammable materials that may cause harm are items like food, clothing, paper, or towels. If your kitchen remains organized, you should be in good shape to prevent potential fires. 

Lastly, watch electrical cords within the kitchen area

Electrical equipment causes a large amount of fires, both within the kitchen and outside the kitchen. Within the kitchen, there are a lot of electrical appliances. When simultaneously running appliances, your restaurant’s electrical system can be burdened, leading to a fire.

Over time, electrical cables can fray and melt. Poorly designed outlets can become damaged. These damages can cause the equipment to malfunction. Inform your employees to look out for obvious damage and report it to management right away. 

At VFS, we understand how important your fire safety systems are to the wellbeing of your employees and the survival of your building. Because of this, we implement the specific fire and security systems needed for your unique building. 

We also provide inspections, testing, and maintenance of fire sprinkler and fire alarm systems, All inspections are conducted by VFS trained personnel as outlined by the requirements of the NFPA and local codes. 

Following every inspection, our staff will submit a report listing any changes or corrections that need to be made in order to ensure continued compliance. Your success is our success. We want to make sure your people and buildings remain safe. Contact us today to learn more! 

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Healthcare Facility Fire Protection Requirements
Healthcare Facility Fire Protection Requirements
Fire Safety Tips for Commercial Property Owners
Fire Safety Tips for Commercial Property Owners
Active vs. Passive Fire Protection
Active vs. Passive Fire Protection
Your V-Day Building Fire Protection Checklist
Your V-Day Building Fire Protection Checklist
How to Keep your Commercial Kitchen Safe Even During COVID
How to Keep your Commercial Kitchen Safe Even During COVID