Tag Archive for: fire suppression system

pipe in a fire sprinkler system

Did you know more fires occur during winter than in any other season? Additionally, cold weather can cause damage to fire sprinkler systems through freezing pipes.

So, what does this spike in fires and damage to fire protection mean for business owners? They must be more vigilant than ever during the winter season to properly protect their property and occupants.

The good news: You don’t have to have powers like Jon Snow to protect your fire sprinkler system from damage!

While building owners can take preventative measures, the most effective method to protect fire sprinkler systems during the winter is to keep up with regular maintenance and inspections – no battling White Walkers necessary! Let’s dive in.

Why Are Fire Sprinkler Systems at Risk During the Winter?

In the winter months, temperatures drop, which can cause water or condensation in pipes to freeze. This can result in the following effects:

  • A frozen pipe can burst and lead to water damage, and/or
  • Pipes with frozen water will not be effective in preventing a fire from spreading

Let’s discuss how building owners can prevent these risks from occurring in their wet and dry pipe fire sprinkler systems.

How to Protect Wet Fire Sprinkler Systems in the Winter

As the name suggests, wet pipe sprinkler systems hold water in their pipes. These systems are most common in structures such as offices and commercial buildings.

These buildings are often temperature controlled during the winter, meaning that the pipes are not likely to freeze.

However, simple issues – such as a problem with the building’s heating system or part of the pipe being exposed to low temperatures – can lead to the pipes freezing and significantly damaging the system.

Maintain Warm Temperatures

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard 25, wet sprinkler systems must be maintained at a minimum of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This situation may occur when:

  • Insulation is disrupted
  • Pipes exit and reenter the building, or
  • If there’s a lack of building heat

These occurrences may be more common in warehouses, for example.

Wet sprinkler systems may be common in buildings with unheated maintenance closets or equipment rooms. Building owners can open vents or doors to make sure that warm air is moving into these spaces to keep pipes from freezing.

How to Protect Dry Fire Sprinkler Systems in the Winter

Dry sprinkler systems keep pressurized air inside their pipes rather than water. Because of this, these systems can withstand freezing temperatures. However, this does not guarantee these systems will not be damaged.

Dry fire sprinkler systems can freeze if they are exposed to sub-32-degree temperatures. Moreover, condensation can collect over time and damage the pipes, especially during winter.

Dry sprinkler systems may be at risk in areas such as: 

  • Fire sprinkler control rooms
  • Parking garages
  • Outdoor event spaces
  • Isolated rooms
  • Unoccupied rooms, and
  • Mechanical rooms

Inspect Drains and Low Points

Building owners can check drains and low points where condensation collects. Building owners can drain these points to keep the condensation from freezing and damaging their dry pipe sprinkler systems.

Inspect Pipe Angles

The angle of pipes is important to ensuring the condensation is reaching the low point drains. Building owners should enlist the help of an experienced technician to complete this step.

The Most Important Step… Inspection and Maintenance!

While building owners can complete the above steps to check in on their systems, the most effective method of preventing fire sprinkler systems from freezing during winter is to keep up with inspections and maintenance.

After all, your fire protection systems are only as effective as the inspections performed on them.

How Often Should These Systems Be Inspected?

How often you service or inspect your fire protection services depends on the device. Some systems require weekly, monthly, semi-annual, or annual inspections. However, all fire and life safety systems require at least an annual inspection.

Worried Your System is Being Damaged by Low Temperatures?

When systems or devices need maintenance, our team at VFS Fire & Security Services can typically send a repair technician to you within 24 hours—sooner in emergencies!

Not sure if you need servicing? Read on to learn more about how often fire protection systems should be serviced.

Does Your System Need an Inspection?

VFS Fire & Security Services wants to help with your winter maintenance. Fortify your building with reliable fire protection systems inspected and maintained by the experts at VFS!

Read on for more information about our testing and inspection services.

infographic about maintaining fire protection systems

Fire Suppression System Pipes without Blockages

Fire sprinkler obstructions can hinder the effectiveness of any fire protection system, resulting in costly damages. Luckily, building owners can take steps to prevent these obstructions to ensure their fire system is protecting their commercial property at the highest level of efficiency.

Let’s dive into how to avoid the most common fire sprinkler obstructions; but first, let’s review what fire sprinkler obstructions are and why they happen.

What is a Fire Sprinkler Obstruction?

A fire sprinkler obstruction is any material that causes partial or full blockage of a pipe and prevents water from flowing through.

As you can guess, these blockages stop fire sprinkler systems from doing their job in the event of a fire. Think: If the correct amount of water can’t flow through the pipe properly, the fire system is not able to release the amount of water necessary to reduce heat, flames, and smoke quickly.

Therefore, fire sprinkler obstructions can lead to increased damage to property and even put lives at risk.

Read on for more information about fire protection systems.

What Causes Fire Sprinkler Obstructions? 

Pipes in fire sprinkler systems can be as small as 1” in diameter. This considered, it doesn’t take much to cause a blockage! Obstructions can be caused by many objects and materials, but some occur more frequently than others. The most common fire sprinkler obstructions are:

  • Ice
  • Corrosion
  • Foreign materials

Let’s review each of these in detail and take a look at some strategies on how to prevent these blockages.

Ice Blockages

When temperatures dip below 32°F, water in pipes may freeze and create blockages in your fire sprinkler system. Water can freeze into solid ice plugs, which can damage your system and prevent water from flowing through the pipes.

Many building owners assume that ice plugs only occur during the winter months; however, ice can form in pipes at any time of year because ice plugs occur most often based on their surroundings in a building, not by the weather. For example, ice plugs most commonly occur in sprinkler systems surrounded by storage or freezer systems.

How to Avoid Ice Plugs in Fire Sprinkler Systems

Building owners can prevent ice plugs by dehumidifying air supplied into the sprinkler system. Most ice plugs are caused by the air supply being cooled as it travels from a heated area into an extremely cold environment, such as near a freezer system.

Moisture collects in the air and freezes once the condensation reaches the cold environment. 

By dehumidifying the air going into the system, owners can prevent condensation from freezing and turning into an ice plug. Additionally, building owners can take measures to ensure their system is air-tight. 

Read on to learn more about how to prevent your fire system from freezing.

Corrosion

The combination of metal, water, and oxygen in some systems makes it extremely difficult to avoid corrosion entirely. Although corrosion is common in fire sprinkler systems, it usually doesn’t pose a significant risk. 

However, when corrosion becomes extreme, obstruction can occur. A few types of corrosion that commonly obstruct fire sprinkler systems include:

  • Iron oxide corrosion (i.e. Rust)
  • Microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC), and
  • Galvanic corrosion

Read on to learn more about MIC prevention.

How to Avoid Corrosion in Fire Sprinkler Systems

Building owners can install a system that maintains an extremely high level of pure nitrogen to combat corrosion. While these systems can’t reverse existing corrosion, they can help to prevent corrosion from becoming extreme and causing obstructions.

Foreign Materials

Raw or poorly filtered water sources may lead to foreign materials entering and obstructing pipes in a fire sprinkler system. For example, water from rivers or ponds may carry sands or stones. Even if these materials are extremely fine, they can still build up and cause a blockage.

How to Avoid Foreign Materials in Fire Sprinkler Systems

Building owners can prevent foreign materials from blocking pipes in their sprinkler systems by correctly filtering their water source and understanding specific risks a source may pose.

How to Know if Your Fire Sprinkler System is Obstructed 

Fire sprinkler systems often don’t show signs of obstruction, which means building owners may not know there is an issue until it’s too late (AKA your system doesn’t work properly when there’s a fire…)

Because of this, the best way to know if your building’s fire sprinkler system is functioning properly is to have the system assessed and inspected. Fire protection system assessments can help property owners determine what repairs are needed to ensure their system will protect their building in the event of a fire.

Not sure if you need servicing? Read on to learn more about how often fire protection systems should be serviced.

Worried Your Fire Sprinkler System Might Have An Obstruction?

Let VFS Fire & Security Services help—fortify your building with reliable fire protection systems inspected and maintained by the experts at VFS!

When systems or devices need maintenance, we most often can send a repair technician to you within 24 hours (and sooner in emergencies!) Our goal at VFS is to be proactive, staying ahead of the curve.

Read on for more information about our testing and inspection services.

fire protection systems service and maintenance

… Yeah That’s Something You Have To Do

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

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

Fire Protection Maintenance and Inspection Schedules

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

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

Fire Sprinkler Systems

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

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

Fire Suppression Systems

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

  • Clean agent
  • CO2 Systems
  • Wet chemicals

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

Fire Alarm & Detection

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

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

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

Fire Extinguishers

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

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

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

A Final Word

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

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

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. 

sprinkler systems updates in commercial buildings

Scott Santos, our Director of Sprinkler Operations at VFS Fire and Security highlights the changes that have occurred in fire sprinkler systems over the past year. Watch the video below for more information. 

 

Fire Industry Changes

We’ve seen a lot of recent challenging changes in our sprinkler industry including:

  • Finding enough manpower 
  • Finding employees with talent  

Project Shifts 

Types of projects have also changed. We used to have a world where retail and brick and mortar were a big commodity of projects. Today with the uptake of e-commerce and increased online shopping, we’ve seen big changes in the types of projects. For example,  brick and mortar retail spaces are not as prevalent as warehousing. Warehousing now has been pushed up.

Clientele 

Many of our clients are big-box companies that are looking for storage. This means they are searching for warehousing. However, there’s not enough warehousing out here. What we’ve seen in the last two years is that simply rehabilitating buildings, upgrading buildings provides a higher level of storage. Currently, many distribution centers are coming up. The Amazons and the Targets of the world are looking for space and for distribution centers.

So as we look at warehouse spaces, things do change. The solutions to the sprinkler systems definitely change. We need to upgrade them. The systems that are in there now are only as good as the storage that they had previously. As the storage grows in height, and as we start to put more material handling equipment in there, we need to upgrade systems.

Three Sprinkler System Updates

There are three different ways that we usually look at it. The first and easiest way is looking at the systems that are in place already. If we change sprinkler heads and make current ones larger sprinkler heads to provide more water, that’s one way to update the system. 

A second way is to actually upgrade the system for a higher density. Once those higher densities are in there, we must consider if interactive sprinklers or any other sprinklers need to be included that are different from what the system demands.

The third way is we have to consider if they’re storing plastics and higher commodity systems or higher commodities. If so, we need to protect the commodities with ESFR systems. This means early suppression and fast response systems are popular now. Now we’re going into the buildings and tearing out old systems to put in new ones to accommodate what they’re putting in the buildings.

Material Shortage 

As we upgrade these systems, the most challenging part is trying to actually buy materials. There’s a shortage throughout the industry trying to find piping and materials for actual systems. Pricing throughout the industry has also gone through the roof, making purchasing material tough.  

It also costs building owners more money. Many owners want to lease out these buildings to the Amazons, the Targets, or the Sketchers. What’s tough for us is that we’re getting pushed on every project to upgrade this quickly. That’s probably one of the challenges that we’re meeting right now is materials, manpower, and getting things done on time for customers.

One of the things that we’re doing is trying to get contracts in place quickly. And then what we’re able to do is try to go out and procure our materials early. 

So we’re saying, “Hey, if we can buy the materials quickly, then we can have it on site. We’re not having to worry about time spans or how long it’s going to take to get equipment.”

Client Communication

One of the things we’re trying to ensure is going out and purchasing the materials as quickly as possible. On our side, it’s good because we’re getting quicker contracts.

The other solution is just making sure that we communicate well with our clients, to say, “Hey, what exactly are you doing?” 

We make sure that we provide them with the correct systems, the correct products, and that everything that meets their needs because there’s nothing worse than getting something in that doesn’t meet their needs. So we’re really aiming to satisfy our customers. Obviously, our customers are number one, so we’re making sure that we go after them.

How do we train new employees? 

We’ve been able to bring in individuals with less experience. We provide them with a training program or an apprenticeship program that allows them to eventually receive their certification as a pipe fitter. 

In the state of California, they’re required to have a fitter card. So we’re bringing them in, and we’re trying to grow them from down up, right from the bottom up. Let’s get these employees in quickly and train them. It’s a five-year program that develops them and our crew. 

When it comes to manpower, we are aiming at growing within through finding tradesmen. We’re even speaking to high schools, trade schools, or anywhere we can to get somebody interested in the fire protection industry. That’s probably been our biggest gap in this industry throughout the last 30 years. 

At VFS we’re trying to grow, whether through pipefitters, sprinkler designers, fire alarm designers, and beyond, we are looking to grow from within. We do this by providing them with training and continuing to be the best professional company we can be.

Do you know what to do in case of an oil or grease fire? Heads up, don’t throw a bucket of water on it. Learn more about what the right steps are.

Fire Prevention vs. Fire Protection

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

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

What is fire prevention?

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

Establish an evacuation strategy.

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

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

Maintain & Service Your Fire Safety Equipment.

Testing and Inspection

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

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

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

Service and Repair

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

System Upgrades

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


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

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

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

Employee Fire Prevention Training

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

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

Communicate with your Team

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

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

What is fire protection? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is passive fire protection?

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

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

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

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

What is active fire protection?

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

What active fire protection systems do I need?

SMOKE DETECTORS

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

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS

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

SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

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

VENTILATION SYSTEMS

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

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

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

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

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!)

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.

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

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

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

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

Code 72

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

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

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

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

So… What About My Building?

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

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

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

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

The Sprinkler is More Than an Outdated Dance pressure monitors for fire safety

It’s summertime! Time for dancing, talking, and sunshine. Maybe you’re feeling rusty with your social skills, and have a big party coming up without any amazing talking points.

Well, might as well give it a shot with different types of sprinklers! (But here’s a major hint: leave the sprinkler dance at home. You know, that cringy 80s dance move…) Here’s a rundown of different sprinkler systems for national fire prevention.

Wet Pipe System

These systems are the most popular sprinkler systems. They are extremely effective, low-cost, and low-maintenance. The system’s pipes remain filled with water. Once triggered by the heat source, water flows through the activated sprinkler to the source of the fire. These systems are extremely quick in reacting to potential fires; however, they are at risk of freezing in cold environments.

Dry Pipe System

In freezing climates, dry pipe sprinkler systems are a more suitable choice than wet pipe systems. These systems do not carry water in the piping until activation.

Instead, these pipes are filled with pressurized air and nitrogen. When the system is activated, the valve opens and water flows in when the sprinkler head is triggered.

As the water is not housed in the actual piping, you can guess that the disadvantage of dry pipe systems is that their response time is delayed. Another potential downfall to these systems is the required maintenance. Sprinkler corrosion is more prevalent in these systems, as the compressed air and oxygen create an enticing environment for corrosion.

Pre-Action System

Pre-action sprinkler systems are used to protect areas where water damage from damaged sprinklers or piping needs to be avoided. These are the middle ground between dry and wet fire protection systems.

Water is not contained in the sprinkler piping and is held back by a pre-action valve. The valve is opened when flame, heat, or smoke is detected. The detection system must detect a fire and the valve must open to initiate water to flow within the pipes. These systems are ideal for water-sensitive environments such as museums, data centers, libraries, vaults, and freezer warehouses as they carry a low risk of accidental discharge. They prevent excessive water damage and work ideally in cold conditions as the water is not held within the pipes to prevent freezing in the pipes.

Deluge System

Deluge suppression systems are typically used in special hazard installations when water must be applied to an entire area for fire protection. These systems are considered a ‘dry fire protection system’ as the piping for the system is empty and at atmospheric pressure with the sprinkler heads open. When heat or fire is detected by the system, the deluge valve releases the water, dry chemicals, inert gases, or foam.

These systems are typically used for facilities where an entire area needs to be protected immediately; rather than by a zone or specific location of the source of the heat or fire. Typical facilities that utilize deluge suppression systems are airport hangars, chemical plants, processing plants, and data storage centers. These systems are especially useful when you need to quickly flood an area to prevent a fire from growing.

The Sprinkler is More Than an Outdated DanceFoam Water Systems

Foam water systems are a type of wet sprinkler system that combines both water and a foaming agent for large-scale fire extinguishment. These specific irrigation systems are generally installed in facilities where extinguishing a fire can be more challenging than usual, due to the flammable and combustible contents housed within. 

Additional Fire Safety

Fire Pumps

Fire pumps are designed to supply water to the fire sprinkler system and its components at a higher pressure rate to effectively extinguish a potential fire. There are two main types of fire pumps: diesel and electric and they require different frequencies of maintenance and inspections due to their different components needs.

Fire Backflow

This equipment is designed to prevent water from flowing back into the main water supply. This prevents the water supply from being contaminated or polluted due to backflow. 

How to Install (VFS, Of Course!) 

At VFS Fire & Security Services we understand that your unique building needs unique fire protection systems. Our team is equipped to ensure you receive the fire protection you need to keep your building and your people safe from harm.

 

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

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

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

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

Free Consultation

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

Who We Serve 

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

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

The Specifics

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

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

Just to name a few. 

How We Help 

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

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

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

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

Surprise, fire season is just around the corner, which means it’s time to spring into action to prevent fires. 

 

As summer approaches, hot weather and dry winds create the perfect conditions for a fire that could destroy your property. 

 

Duh Duh Duhhhh!

 

Last year, in California alone, the state reported

 

  • 2.5 million acres burned 
  • 8,835 incidents 
  • 3,629 structures damaged or destroyed. 

 

Erring on the side of caution when it comes to protecting your commercial property can help prevent damage to your building. 

 

Your commercial property can suffer damage from a fire through:

 

  • Flames directly contacting your building 
  • Radiant heat that can cause combustible materials to ignite 
  • The wind blowing burning embers onto your property (the most common occurrence)

 

Fire season is unpredictable and frightening, but don’t worry, VFS is here to help prepare your commercial property for a potential emergency. Fire safety regulations for a commercial building may look different from one property to another. 

 

Video Surveillance

 

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

 

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

 

Outside the Building

Establishing fire protection elements outside your commercial property may save you from the unpredictable and devastating effects of a fire. When preparing the surrounding area for fire season, create three “buffer zones” that act as lines of defense. These areas outside of the building need to be free of flammable or combustible materials. 

 

Zone Three

Typically, this region is the first line of defense against a fire. It ranges about 100 or more feet from the building depending on where the building is located.  In the case of commercial properties built on a slope, buffer zones are recommended to extend further, about 150-200 feet total, due to faster and longer flaming fires. This buffer zone would help slow down the pace of the fire.

 

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

If you need to keep a storage shed, wood, a trailer or other similar objects on your property, try to keep them in this zone. 

Zone Two

This is the second line of defense against a fire. Its purpose is preventative damage control if the fire breaks through zone three. Zone two ranges about 30 to 100 feet from the building. 

 

Buildings with grass surrounding the property should avoid tall grasses, also known as ladder fuels, because they make it easier for fires to climb trees. Any grass should be kept no taller than four inches high. 

 

Any dead plants, bushes, or trees should be removed from this area. When maintaining the trees in this zone, prune the branches so they are at least ten feet from the ground, and remove any low-hanging branches. 

 

Zone One

Zone one, also known as the last line of defense, includes the area up to 30 feet away from your property. 

 

If your building has a deck or a porch, avoid storing any combustible materials like wood underneath it. 

 

All dry or dead plants or dry vegetation in this zone must be cleared away. This includes:

 

  • Brush 
  • Bushes 
  • Pine needles 
  • Dry leaves 

 

When landscaping this area, it’s important to keep zone one in mind. It’s best to use noncombustible materials such as rocks or gravel to help keep flames at bay.

 

Cut down any tree branches hanging over the roof of the building. 

Other Outside Hazards

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

 

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

 

Inside the Building

 

There are other steps beyond video surveillance that you can take to ensure your commercial building is prepped for fire season. 

 

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

 

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

 

Get prepared for fire season before it starts this year. We promise you’ll thank us later. For more information about fire prevention vs fire protection, read our article here. 

 

prep for fire season
Get it together and inspect your building more than once a year!

You’ll thank us later. 

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

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

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

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

Hot Inspection Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evacuation Plan

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

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

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

Draw a Floor Plan

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

More Tips

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

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

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

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

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

MIC PREVENTION (NOT THE KIND YOU DROP AFTER KARAOKE)

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

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

M.I.C.

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

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

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

Again, within minutes. 

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

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

Sounds fun, right? 

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

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

GENERAL CORROSION

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

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

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

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

WHY IS IT A THREAT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHEMICAL INJECTIONS

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

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

PIPE COATINGS

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

ROUTINE MAINTENANCE

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

AIR RELIEF VALVES

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

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

  • Safe
  • Cost-Effective
  • Reliable
  • Venting 

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

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

WE’RE HERE TO HELP!

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

But remember, that we’re here to help!

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

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

YOUR MARINE FIRE SAFETY CHECKLIST

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

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

YOUR MARINE FIRE SAFETY CHECKLIST

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

CERTIFICATES AND DOCUMENTS

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

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

FIRE SAFETY EQUIPMENT

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

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

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

ENGINE ROOM MAINTENANCE

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

DECK MAINTENANCE AND CREW READINESS

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

EMERGENCY EQUIPMENT

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

HERE TO HELP!

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

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

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

DELUGE VS. PRE ACTION SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

Don’t let the holiday season make you forget the importance of fire safety (and the different types of sprinkler systems). 

We understand it’s easy to forget the importance of fire sprinkler systems when there are presents to give, and delicious meals to eat with loved ones. But this year, don’t let the holiday ham set fire, and then not have the proper sprinkler system in place to protect your building from the fire. 

If you happen to need your indoor showers (sprinkler systems and fire suppression systems) it’s best to understand what systems serve your specific building’s needs. Deluge vs. Pre Action Sprinkler Systems—what’s the difference? —–When it comes to fire protection for your building there are many options to consider, and it’s important to understand what these options may entail.

DELUGE SYSTEMS 

WHAT IS A DELUGE SYSTEM?

Deluge suppression systems are typically used in special hazard installations when water must be applied to an entire area for fire protection. These systems are considered a ‘dry fire protection system’ as the piping for the system is empty and at an atmospheric pressure with the sprinkler heads all open. When heat or fire is detected by the system, the deluge valve releases the water, dry chemicals, inert gases, or foam. 

The type of agent used in the systems is dependent on the hazard type and location of the fire protection system. Once filled, it releases from all sprinkler heads simultaneously, which helps to blanket the entire area, which, in turn, controls the fire. 

These systems are typically used for facilities where an entire area needs to be protected immediately, rather than by a zone or specific location of the source of the heat or fire. Typical facilities that utilize deluge suppression systems are airport hangars, chemical plants, processing plants, and data storage centers. These systems are especially useful when you need to quickly flood an area to prevent a fire from expanding. 

WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF DELUGE SYSTEMS?

There are a few different types of deluge systems. These systems can be electronically operated, others are pneumatic. The electronically operated systems work when an alarm is set off via a detector, pull station, or another alarm system. Once the alarm is activated, it will energize the solenoid valve, which releases the prime water, or other agents, off the top of the valve, which allows the deluge valve to trip and deliver the agent to the hazard. 

PRE-ACTION SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

WHAT IS A PRE-ACTION SPRINKLER SYSTEM?

Pre-action sprinkler systems, on the other hand, are used to protect areas where water damage from damaged sprinklers or piping needs to be avoided. These are a middle ground between dry and wet fire protection systems. 

The major difference between a deluge suppression system and a pre-action system is that pre-action systems are filled with compressed air. The sprinkler heads remain closed until needed, and a pre-action valve holds back the water. It is a hybrid dry/wet system as it is a dry system until it is activated at which point it becomes a wet system. 

Pre-action fire sprinkler systems require two steps to discharge the agent. When the system first detects heat or fire the pre-action valve opens. Next, the pipes are flooded with water, dry chemicals, inert gases, or foam. After it’s filled, the specific sprinkler head must detect heat or fire to open. Then, the system will work to extinguish the fire in the immediate area.

Unlike deluge systems, these systems only cover an area that detects heat or fire. Coverage expands as more sprinkler heads detect heat/fire.

WHY WOULD YOU CHOOSE A PRE-ACTION SPRINKLER SYSTEM?

One of the best reasons to incorporate pre-action sprinkler systems into your building is because sprinkler heads may be falsely triggered. When these sprinkler heads accidentally activate, there may sometimes be costly, irreversible property and water damage to your building. Because pre-action fire sprinkler systems require two-part discharge, they provide an elevated level of protection from accidental discharges. 

Another reason to utilize pre-action fire sprinkler systems is the ability of the pressurized air or nitrogen to detect leaks in the system. This allows you to ensure your system is functioning properly when you need it most. 

WHAT OTHER SPRINKLER SYSTEMS SHOULD I CONSIDER?

There are a few other fire sprinkler systems to consider as you work to ensure your building remains protected. 

WET PIPE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

These systems are the most popular sprinkler systems. They are extremely effective, low-cost, and low-maintenance. This system’s pipes remain filled with water. Once triggered by the heat-source, water flows through the activated sprinkler to the source of the fire. These systems are extremely quick to react to potential fires, however they are at risk of freezing in cold environments. 

DRY PIPE SPRINKLER SYSTEMS

In freezing climates, dry pipe sprinkler systems are a better choice than wet pipe systems. These systems do not carry water in the piping until they are activated. 

Instead, these pipes are filled with pressurized air and nitrogen. When the system is activated, the dry pipe valve opens and water flows in when the sprinkler head is triggered. 

The disadvantage of these systems is that their response time is delayed. Another potential downfall to these systems is the required maintenance. Sprinkler corrosion is more prevalent in these systems, as the compressed air and oxygen create an enticing environment for corrosion. 

SINGLE INTERLOCK

These systems require a single, preceding fire detection event. This event is typically an activation of heat or smoke detectors. When the event occurs, the pre-action valve allows water to enter the piping system. With these systems, if a sprinkler head activates before this, it will sound a trouble alarm. However, no water will be discharged. 

DOUBLE INTERLOCK

Double interlock pre-action systems provide an added layer of protection. These systems require a preceding fire detection to occur in conjunction with an automatic sprinkler activation, prior to water releasing into the pipes. One alarm activation will not be enough to discharge these sprinkler systems. 

At VFS Fire & Security Services we understand that your unique building needs unique fire protection systems. Our team is equipped to ensure you receive the fire protection you need to keep your building and your people safe from harm.

fire extinguishers in a fire suppression system

Did you know that a fire suppression system can help minimize damage caused by a fire in your business? Fire suppression systems are designed to quickly put out fires, which can help to save lives and property.

 

Although your fire protection needs vary based on the type of commercial building you own, you’ve likely heard of many distinctive fire protection systems. But do you know the key differences between a fire sprinkler system and a fire suppression system? It’s important to understand these differences as a business or building owner.

 

In this blog post, we will discuss the different types of fire suppression systems and how to maintain them. Let’s get started!

 

What Are the Basics of Fire Suppression Systems?

There are two main types of fire suppression systems: Wet and dry. Wet systems use water to extinguish a fire, while dry systems use chemicals. Each type of system has its own advantages and disadvantages.

 

Wet systems are typically more effective at putting out a fire than dry systems. However, wet systems can also cause more damage to property. This is because water can damage electronics and other sensitive equipment.

 

Dry systems, on the other hand, are less likely to cause damage to property but are not as effective at putting out a fire. Dry systems are ideal in locations that experience freezing temperatures and for buildings that house important items (for example, museums and libraries).

 

When choosing a fire suppression system, it is important to consider the type of business you have. For example, if you have a computer server room, you will want to choose a system that is designed for this type of environment (AKA a dry system!)

 

Additionally, you should consider:

 

  • The size of the space that needs to be protected, and
  • The level of protection your commercial building needs

Types of Fire Suppression Systems

It’s important for a business or building owner to be aware of the different types of fire suppression systems available. Specific fire suppression systems include the following:

 

Clean Agent Fire Suppression Systems

Clean agent fire suppression systems use environmentally-friendly chemical reagents to put out fires. These are typically found in sensitive areas, such as data centers. The chemicals used are water-free and safe for the environment. Once a clean agent system is activated, clean-up is minimal!

 

Carbon Dioxide Fire Suppression

Carbon dioxide systems use CO2—colorless, odorless gas—to extinguish a fire. These systems are an incredibly efficient and cost-effective approach to fire protection. Clean-up following the activation of a carbon dioxide system is minimal.

 

Carbon dioxide fire suppression systems are currently being used in commercial shipping applications by the U.S Navy. The engine rooms of marine vessels utilize CO₂ instead of water as a suppression agent because water would damage the electrical and mechanical components of the engine. Additionally you wouldn’t want to put water into a vessel that is already at sea. It is common to find these systems in industries that handle steel and aluminum as well.

 

Industrial Fire Suppression Systems

Industrial plants need extra attention when it comes to fire protection, as most of the areas are in high-hazard environments. The fires that occur in these areas typically involve some type of chemical, liquid fuel, or other hazardous materials. 

 

Therefore, proper fire protection systems are essential. Industrial fire suppression systems typically use dry chemicals to extinguish the fire.

 

Restaurant Fire Suppression Systems

Kitchens require specific fire suppression systems. Kitchen fire suppression systems are designed to put out grease fires that would be worsened if you attempt to put them out with water. They typically utilize wet chemicals in a mist form to extinguish the fire quickly and effectively.

 

The Importance of Inspection and Maintenance

Once you have chosen a fire suppression system, it is important to maintain it properly. This includes regularly testing the system and making sure it is working properly. Additionally, you should have a plan in place for what to do if the system fails.

 

These systems need to be kept up as they can freeze or experience corrosion, among other issues within the system. In order to prevent these systems from deteriorating, they need to be regularly maintained. This helps to keep your system in good working condition and can identify any potential problems before they become serious.

 

In addition to regular servicing, it’s important to keep an eye on your fire suppression system for any changes that might occur which could affect its performance. If you notice anything unusual, don’t hesitate to contact your service provider so they can investigate and carry out any necessary repairs!

 

When it comes to fire protection, it really can be a matter of life or death.

 

How Often Should I Check My Fire Suppression System?

Most people understand that they need to have their fire suppression systems inspected on a regular basis, however, they may not know how often these inspections need to be conducted.

 

The answer to this question is not always cut and dry, as there are a number of factors that can contribute to how often your system should be checked.

 

It’s important to have your system serviced at least once a year, in line with a regular Fire Risk Assessment, and even up to four times a year depending on the type of system.

 

If your business has a complex system or operates in a hostile environment, more frequent servicing may be required. 

 

One of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to your fire suppression system is that you need to be sure you are staying code-compliant. 

 

Staying code-compliant means that you will need to adhere to the schedule set forth by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) as well as any other local codes that may be in place.

 

Additionally, your insurance company may have its own guidelines when it comes to how often your system should be inspected.

 

Another important consideration is the type of system you have in place. Different types of fire suppression systems will require different inspection schedules. Check out a detailed list from Associated Fire Protection to learn more about specific timelines.

 

By ensuring that your fire suppression system is regularly serviced and maintained, you can help ensure its reliability in the event of a fire.

 

Ensure Your Business is Protected from Fire!

Fire protection systems needed for high-hazard areas are among the most technical and specialized fire equipment systems. At VFS, we pride ourselves on being a renowned leader in the special hazards sector.

 

In fact, our founder and CEO, Randy Nelson, sits on the technical committee for NFPA 16 (Code Standard for the Installation of Foam-Water Sprinkler) and understands just how critical proper installation and maintenance are on these specialized systems.

 

We bring our robust knowledge, expertise, and experience to find the safest and most reliable solution for every unique need and environment your building has! If you have any questions about fire suppression systems or need help choosing the right one for your business, please contact our team at VFS Fire & Security Services today.

 

We’d be happy to help you find the perfect solution for your needs!

To learn more, check out our blog to see who can inspect your fire protection systems.

STEEL PRICE INCREASES IN 2016

According to gensteel.com, the website for General Steel Buildings, steel has seen its value decrease over the past few years. This has been because supply has been higher than demand. This has been a good thing for consumers as the cost of steel buildings as been lower than in the past. The steel industry has been in decline, but many experts are predicting that 2015 was the low point of pricing and that 2016 will see a rebound in pricing. Both worldsteel.org and knoema.com predict steel demand rising 1.4% in 2016 with forecasts showing strong upward pricing pressures through 2019 in global steel commodity prices.

Steel prices are rising in 2016. US Mill capacity is tightening, while iron ore, scrap, and other raw material costs are also increasing. Suppliers are talking about increases continuing through the second quarter and perhaps even into the third quarter of 2016. This will cause manufacturers, including sprinkler pipe manufacturers to increase pricing.

So what does this mean to you? If you are a property manager, building owner or end-use that has outgrown your storage capacity and now in the process of budgeting to expand your existing building, VFS can help you maximize your current square footage by storing higher rather than going wider. VFS design experts will upgrade your existing fire sprinkler system to increase your storage height and store higher commodities, without costly construction buildouts.

The main thing to know is that partnering with VFS for your fire and life safety needs will help mitigate the effects of these price increases on your business. At VFS, our expert design team will design the right system to minimize pipe size while maximizing your fire sprinkler system for your unique needs. With a highly efficient fire protection system with minimized pipe size, your costs will stay low – even with steel prices increasing.

The bottom line is that VFS has the expertise to help you keep your costs low – even when steel pricing is on the rise. Contact VFS today to find out more about how we can help!

CITY OF LOS ANGELES REGULATION NO 4 TESTING
City of Los Angeles Regulation No 4 Testing

VFS is pleased to announce the expansion of our services for Regulation No. 4 testing and repairs requirement in the City of Los Angeles. The full breath of services VFS now offers to clients in order for them to meet the requirements of LA City Reg. 4 testing and repairs include:

Read more