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Fire Extinguishers and Sprinkler Systems

Monday, March 1st, 2010
The best way to fight fire is with prevention.

The best way to fight fire is with prevention.

Despite your best efforts in prevention, fire remains a very real risk for virtually any residential or commercial property. In previous blog posts, we have discussed fire hazards in office buildings, to help you identify and prevent potential fire hazards from leading to costly fires. But if a fire breaks out, in spite of your efforts to thwart one, much of the damage can be slowed or stopped if you prepare by obtaining fire equipment such as a complete sprinkler system and accessible fire extinguishers.

According to NFPA research, the chances of an individual dying in a fire protected by the right equipment are reduced by 50-75%, and the average property loss per fire is cut by one-third to two-thirds (34-68%), compared to fires in buildings where sprinklers are not present. In 2008, there were 112,000 fires nationally in non-residential structures which caused a total of more than $3.8 billion in damages. Don’t let your building become another statistic. Instead, ensure that you have the right equipment on hand.

Fire Sprinkler Systems:

  • The two main types are wet and dry sprinkler systems. Both use water. However, many people prefer the “dry” system, since water isn’t stored in pipes, so it won’t freeze. It features pressurized air or nitrogen which allows water in via a valve. With a Wet System, pressurized water sits in pipes at all times.
  • Proper installation is the key to ensure building protection.
    • The spray pattern of each nozzle needs to be sufficient to cover all areas.
    • A minimum of a 30-minute water supply should be available. A back-up supply is advisable for larger systems. Don’t forget that, in the event of a fire, you and the fire department will be using the same water supply.
    • Choose the right temperature rating of sprinkler to match the expected ceiling temperature of the fire. This is important because proper water temp will prevent costly accidental discharges. Sprinkler bulbs are color coded to match different temperatures. Your installers should check with applicable NFPA codes to be sure the right bulbs are in use.
    • Once the sprinklers are installed, make sure they are properly maintained.
      • All the hose connections should be checked frequently for corrosion and misalignment.
      • OSHA recommends that a main drain flow test be performed annually.
      • Boxes and other materials should not be stacked close to sprinkler heads so they won’t block water coverage.

Fire Extinguishers:

  • Tenants and building management should understand that extinguishers should only be used for small fires that are not producing toxic smoke. Assisting in evacuation efforts and personal safety should always come before attempting to use extinguishers.
  • All able-bodied tenants should be instructed on basic fire extinguisher usage.
  • Fire extinguisher location is important to ensure adequate floor-by-floor coverage.
  • Extinguishers come in several “classes,” including A, B, C, D, and K. Each type of extinguisher is used for a certain type of fire. This is especially important for any tenants that have lots of electronics equipment or use certain chemicals.
  • Check yearly updates from the NFPA on fire extinguisher standards.
  • Extinguisher locations should be clearly marked. Extinguishers should be visible and for pressure should be verified.

    The Best Way to Fight Fire is Prevention

    The Best Way to Fight Fire is Prevention

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

New Codes Announced To Improve High Rise Occupant Safety

Monday, November 23rd, 2009
New Codes for High-Rise Buildings

New Codes for High-Rise Buildings

New Codes Announced To Improve High-Rise Occupant Safety

Although we are all concerned about safety, in the property management and ownership business, it’s our top priority. No doubt you already know about building codes and the vital role they have in establishing construction and equipment standards. While these codes are often written in a dry and complex manner, they really are life savers.

Ensure the continued safety of your occupants by reviewing these announced guidelines from the International Code Council that affect the International Building Code (IBC). All of the guidelines are safety related, and are intended for buildings that fit the classification as “high rises.” According to the code, these buildings are defined as “… buildings “with an occupied floor located more than 75 feet above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access.”

Remember, codes protect not only your occupants but also investment and insurance premiums. Following them will help you avoid property damage and loss, and, more importantly, save lives.

Structural Integrity of Exit Enclosures and Elevator Hoistway Enclosures:

  • The IBC recommends impact-resistant walls be used to protect from possible blasts or projectiles that might result from a fire. The new code ensures the integrity of these exits, and provides extra protection for occupants during an emergency.

Sprinkler Systems: New requirements concentrate on extra redundancies to the sprinkler risers – now each zone is required to be supplied by at least two risers.

  • A minimum of two water mains must be connected to the fire pump water supply

Emergency Systems:

  • Smoke removal requirements for buildings that have experienced a fire and are now in the cleanup phase
  • Electrically-powered fire pumps must be under an emergency power load

Means of Egress and Evacuation:

  • Requirements are designed to aid the movement of occupants out of the building – decreasing the risk of injuries
  • New rules have been established regarding the distance required between exit stairway enclosures
  • During an emergency, official personnel need to use stairways, so there are new guidelines for additional exit stairways to accommodate this extra capacity
  • Luminous egress path markings requirements will ensure that your occupants know exactly where to go, which can decrease confusion in cases of emergency

Elevators:

  • New requirement for a fire service access elevator which gives firefighting personnel a safe and fast way to reach staging areas. Implementation will allow fires to be controlled more quickly.
  • Occupant elevators can be used for evacuation provided the new specific requirements are met.
  • Completion of the requirements may provide exemption from the additional stairway requirement mentioned earlier

Be sure to review the specific requirements before implementing changes. Visit the International Code Council website for more information.

Allied Universal Inc. is a credible source for property managers and owners to learn about many building-related issues. Refer your colleagues to our blog so they can also stay informed about the latest industry trends. And BE SAFE.