Tag Archive for: fire suppression

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.

Special Hazards Require Special Solutions

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

What is a special hazard? 

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

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

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

Oil Fire

An oil fire is an example of a special hazard that requires a special solution. UCLA Health lists an oil fire as “Class B.” This includes, “flammable liquids such as alcohol, ether, oil, gasoline, and grease, which are best extinguished by smothering.” 

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

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

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

Fire Suppression Systems

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

Clean Agent 

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

  • Smoke Detector
  • Control Panel
  • Notification Devices

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

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

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

The Details:

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

CO2 Systems

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

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

Wet Chemical 

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

When this liquid comes into contact with oils and fats, it creates a foam that cools the affected area and prevents the spread and the potential of reignition. 

Dry Chemical

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

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

 

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