Inspection

12-year Hydrostatic Test for Kitchen Suppression Systems

Kitchen suppression systems are designed, tested, and approved to provide fire protection for commercial kitchen cooking appliances, hoods, and ducts. The suppression systems consist of an agent storage tank, manual release station, an automatic releasing mechanism, and supply piping that directs the agent to nozzles strategically positioned at heat sources in the kitchen.

NFPA 17 requires that every 12 years the agent-holding tank, whether it is a pressurized or non-pressurized system tank, must be pulled out of service to be tested.

For all systems, the agent storage tank must be pressure tested to ensure the integrity of the cylinder. There are many types and manufactures of kitchen commercial wet chemical systems, each one has different test pressures for the cylinder, which are set by the manufacturer. Once filled with water, and sometimes oil, the cylinder is capped off, then pressurized to the manufacture test pressure and held at that pressure for no less than 1 minute. These systems are often tested to almost two times the service pressure.

On a non-pressurized system, there is a cartridge that pushes the agent out of the cylinder. This cartridge is replaced every 12 years.  In some instances, these systems can have a burst disc that would need to be replaced before the 12-year hydrostatic test is scheduled.

Pressurized systems have valve stems, O-rings, and pins that need to be replaced. This is called a rebuild kit.

Once all of the cylinders are tested, dried, and documented they get filled back up with the proper wet chemical agent and put back into service if there is not any issues with the test pressures. All systems, both pressurized and non-pressurized, get new agent during a 12-year hydrostatic test. For certain suppression systems, hoses will need to be replaced at the 12-year hydrostatic test.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Joseph Reynolds
Joseph Reynolds

Smoke Detector Sensitivity Testing

Your fire safety system depends on the accurate detection of smoke by your smoke detectors. In order to ensure your smoke detectors are working properly, and able to protect your people and assets, you must have sensitivity testing completed on a regular basis.

Smoke detectors are designed to function effectively within a specific range of sensitivity to smoke. This range is set by the manufacturer and the devices are required by NFPA to be tested regularly to ensure they remain within it. If a smoke detector is not as sensitive as it should be, then it may not react as quickly as it should to a fire. However, if the smoke detector is too sensitive, then you could have recurring nuisance alarms.

There are several options for performing sensitivity tests on smoke detectors. Sensitivity tests can be conducted by a recognized, calibrated test method with smoke or listed aerosol, or with equipment specifically designed for calibrating sensitivity in smoke detectors. There are listed control equipment arranged to perform sensitivity ranges and calibrated sensitivity test instruments designed by the smoke detector manufacturers. You can also use a combination smoke detector/control unit where the detector causes a signal at the control panel unit when its sensitivity is outside its listed sensitivity ranges.

During sensitivity testing, if a detector fails, it will need to be cleaned and retested. Cleaning smoke detectors should be left to your Life Safety Partner, as they will clean the smoke detector screen and chamber using a non-electrostatic vacuum specifically designed to prevent damage to the detector. After cleaning, the detector will be retested, if it fails again then it needs to be removed from service.

Sensitivity testing must be completed within one year of installation and every other year after that. After the second test, if the detector is within its listed sensitivity range for two consecutive tests, then the next sensitivity test is required in five years.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Nick Duke
Nick Duke

Using a Life Safety Inspection Report

Your Life Safety Inspection report should be more than just a listing on what was inspected. This report can be a valuable document for you for record keeping, budgeting and planning, and preparing for your own inspections from your AHJ, insurance company or accreditation inspector.

 

What can you learn from your Life Safety inspection report?

 

  1. If any devices failed and why

Your Life Safety inspection report should list all devices that have been tested and inspected. You should easily be able to see any devices that failed and an explanation of why. If you have failed devices, you will need to get corrections made in order to stay compliant with NFPA and life safety standards.

  1. Request repairs from your report, and see notations for items that have been corrected since the inspection

If you have failed devices, you should be able to request a quote for repairs directly from your online report. Once repairs are complete, you can come back to your Life Safety inspection report and see notations on repaired devices. Your reports will be maintained by your Life Safety Partner, providing you with records of your Life Safety device repairs.

  1. Fire extinguisher testing schedule

Your inspection report should list out each fire extinguisher in your facility and when the next 6- or 12-year test is due for each. This information allows you to plan your budget for fire extinguisher maintenance. Of course, if you have a fire extinguisher maintenance plan, then your 6 year maintenance and recharge and 12-year hydrostatic tests and recharge are included and will not cost you anything additional.

  1. Print the full report for your AHJ, insurance or accreditation inspector.

Your Life Safety inspection report will have technical information on your systems. When you have a visit from your AHJ, insurance company, or accreditation inspector, print your full Life Safety inspection report. The technical information in your report will be used by your inspector to ensure compliance with codes, insurance regulations, or regulations with your accrediting agency.

For a complete list of what inspections are required for each system, visit A1’s inspections page, or check out our comprehensive Inspections Ebook.

If your Life Safety inspection report does not provide you with this information, speak to your Life Safety Partner about what you need or call A1. A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Nick Duke
Nick Duke
A1 Inspections Supervisor

The Basics of Kitchen Hood Cleaning

Kitchen Hood systems are one of the most widely used fire protection systems given the fire source and fuel load. Kitchen Hood systems include the hood, exhaust, and ducting systems over your cooking appliances. This system vents airborne grease, combustion products, fumes, smoke, odors, heat, and steam.

These systems are customized for the kitchen layout as well as each appliance. Kitchen Hood systems require regular maintenance and inspections as grease build-up, damage to the hood, or moved appliances can cause the Hood system, along with any interconnected fire suppression system, not to function properly. You can read A1’s blog for more information on the kitchen hood suppression system.

The required schedule for cleaning a Hood system varies based on the type of cooking appliances, methods, and amount of use. According to NFPA 96, general guidelines for cleaning a Kitchen Hood system are as follows:

  • Kitchens with solid fuel such as wood or charcoal must have the kitchen hood system cleaned every month.
  • Kitchens with a high volume, 24 hour operations, charbroiling, or wok cooking must have the kitchen hood system cleaned every 3 months.
  • Kitchens with moderate volume operations must have the kitchen hood system cleaned every 6 months.
  • Kitchens with low volume operations, such as churches, day camps, seasonal business, or senior centers, must have their kitchen hood system cleaned once a year.

Because the Kitchen Hood system is cleaned in areas you will not be able to see on a daily basis, such as inside the ducts and vents, it is important that you are provided with before and after pictures of your system such as the ones shown here. You also want to be sure that all areas of your Kitchen Hood system are being cleaned – this includes fans, vertical duct, horizontal duct, plenum, inside and outside of the hood system and cleaning inside access panels.

Most of these areas are not ones that are not regularly visible. However, grease buildups occur throughout the system and it is critical that the full hood system is cleaned to bare metal in order to ensure proper function and continued safety.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Greg Lane

Drum Drip Maintenance

What are Drum Drips?

Drum drips are drains on dry sprinkler systems, which are used to empty the dry sprinkler pipe of any water that has collected due to condensation or water draining within the system. Since dry pipe systems are utilized in areas where water may freeze, it is important to regularly remove any condensed water to prevent freezing and damage to the pipes.

Drum drips can also be called auxiliary drains, drip legs, and condensate drains. No matter what they are called, a drum drip consists of two, 1-inch valves with a short section of two-inch pipe between them. These are normally located at the lower points of the system or where piping elevation changes may occur.

Locating and Labeling Drum Drips

Systems may have multiple drum drips and it is important that each be drained on a regular basis to prevent costly damage from freezing water. NFPA standards require that drum drips within buildings be identified so that they are easier to maintain. You must also have an informational sign at the system’s control riser that includes the location of all drum drips.

When to Perform Drum Drip Maintenance

All drum drips should be operated weekly during the fall and winter months, even if no water is found on a regular basis. When preparing for cold weather, you should operate the drum drips daily and may decrease the operation based on the amount of water discharged.

After a dry sprinkler system operation, you should perform drum drip maintenance on a daily basis until several days pass with no discharge of water from the drain valve. At that time, you can decrease the frequency to weekly or longer intervals depending on the volume of water discharged.

In many cases, frequency of drum drip maintenance can decrease if the system is shown to be dry.

How to Perform Drum Drip Maintenance

  1. Locate all drum drips throughout the property.
  2. If a quick opening device is installed, temporarily remove it from service.
  3. At the drum drip, ensure both valves on the drum drip are closed.
  4. To catch any water that may discharge from the drum drip, place a container underneath the bottom valve. For interior locations, remove the plug from the bottom valve. (Exterior locations may not have a plug.)
  5. Slowly open the top valve to full open position and maintain this position for 10 seconds.
  6. Close the top valve. **You should never open both the top and bottom valve at the same time as this may activate your system.**
  7. Slowly open the bottom valve to discharge any water. If you cannot see the discharge point, allow water to drain for 10 seconds.
  8. Close the bottom valve.
  9. If water discharged when you opened the bottom valve, repeat steps 5 through 8 until no water appears when you open the bottom valve. This will ensure you have removed all water from the system.
  10. When the system has been completely drained, meaning no water appears when the bottom valve is opened, close the bottom valve. Then slowly open the top valve and, if applicable, replace the plug. This will return the drum drip to service.
  11. If you removed a quick opening device from service before beginning drum drip maintenance, re-install it at this time.

If your drum drip discharges to a location you cannot see, you can use a second person to watch the drain and notify you when there is no more water draining from the system. Another option to identify when all water has been removed from the system is to place a bucket under the drain and empty the bucket after each discharge.

If you are discharging water without using a bucket to collect it, be sure the water will not cause a safety hazard in traffic areas, or damage any surrounding areas or equipment.

Need more help? Check out A1’s video on how to perform drum drip maintenance.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Mike Rossman

Replacing Batteries in your Exit Lights

Exit lights serve an important purpose – in the event of an emergency they light the way to safety. While exit lights are connected to a power source, they rely on battery operation during an emergency when the power may go out.

Batteries are one of the top reasons exit lights fail (check out the top 4 Exit Light Failures). Batteries in exit lights maintain their charge from the electrical power connection.  Even rechargeable batteries will eventually stop working though, and batteries in exit lights need to be replaced every 2 years to ensure continued operation.

You won’t be able to tell that your batteries have died in the exit light, as we discussed, during normal operations the light functions from the electrical connection, not batteries. If you do not change your batteries on a regular basis you may be allowing your dead batteries to sit in the light which can cause additional problem. Old batteries can leak acid which will damage the exit light.

The charging unit in an exit light has the job of recharging the batteries, ensuring they are fully charged in the event of a power outage. If your batteries are dead, your exit light’s charging unit will continue to send that charge, working overtime trying to charge dead or dying batteries. Eventually, this will cause the charging unit to burn out. The required annual inspection will find this problem, and you will need to replace the exit light.

Not being proactive in changing batteries though means you are gambling that an inspection will occur before an emergency when the lights are needed to be in working order. Also, a charging unit that is overworked trying to charge dead batteries can be a fire hazard, so it is important to be proactive in changing your exit light batteries to prevent this hazard.

A1 recommends that you change your exit light batteries every 2 years as a preventive measure for outages and additional problems. Learn how to do your own monthly, visual inspection of exit lights here. This is required by OSHA and the NFPA Life Safety Code, and can help you to identify dead batteries or other issues that need to be addressed with your exit lights. A complete inspection and test of your exit lights must be performed annually by Your Life Safety Partner.

Will Buchholz

Fire Hose Testing

Occupant Use Fire Hoses

The small hoses inside facilities are typically referred to as “Occupant Use Hoses.” This is a reflection of the fact that professional fire services will not use these hoses, but their own professional-grade hoses. Very seldom, if ever, will a fire department utilize the hose available within a facility and one of the reasons is that the hose is not maintained by the fire department so they cannot be sure of its maintenance history and current state.

So, what are occupant use fire hoses for?

Occupant use fire hoses were originally intended for building occupants to use like they would an extinguisher, to fight incipient stage fires. Concerns of liability have changed this standard though and most companies do not encourage employees to fight incipient stage fires. Employee safety should always be your primary concern. Before deciding whether your facility should allow the use of hoses for incipient stage firefighting, look closely at your hazards, resources, and safety issues.

One special use of fire hoses is during a time when your sprinkler system may be down for repairs or improvements. Having a fire hose charged and available can provide protection during this vulnerable time. It may also be a precaution you can take when hot work is being done in your facility. During any hot work activity, it is possible for sparks to smolder for a long period of time which may result in a fire. While an extinguisher can also be used, extinguishers only provide a few seconds of discharge which may not be sufficient during hot work situations.

Why do fire hoses need to be inspected?

Like any Life Safety inspection, the purpose of fire hose inspections is to ensure it is in operable condition for use during an emergency. There is a specific concern with fire hoses, since they operate under pressure from the water flow, if there is a break in a worn and unmaintained hose it can cause a portion of the hose to whip around uncontrollably, potentially causing injury.

When should you have your hoses inspected professionally?

Every year, or after any use, you should have your fire hose inspected by a professional for a visual hose, nozzle and coupling inspection. During this inspection, your Life Safety Partner will unrack, unreel/unroll and physically inspect your hose to determine that the hose, couplings, and any nozzle have not been vandalized, they are free of debris, and exhibit no evidence of mildew, rot or damage by chemicals, burns, cuts, abrasion or vermin. They will also check that nozzle controls and adjustments operate properly, inspect gaskets for presence, tight fit, and deterioration, and couplings for damage, corrosion, and rotation.

Within 5 years of manufacture, and every 3 years after that, your Life Safety Partner should perform a Hose Pressure Service Test. Using a hose testing machine, they will raise the hose pressure slowly to 45 psi and bleed off air, then raise the pressure slowly until the service test pressure is attached and maintained for 3 minutes.

Please note, these testing and inspections requirements are for occupant use fire hoses. If you have a fire brigade and a structural fire brigade hose cabinet, then both testing and inspection must be completed on an annual basis.

What self-inspections should you do to check for problems in between professional inspections?

In between your annual inspection, it’s a good idea to have someone assigned to perform a brief visual inspection of your fire hose. This can be done at the same time they perform your monthly extinguisher inspections. Look for cracks, weak areas, signs of fraying, vandalism of any type, and broken couplings. If you see signs of any damage, you should contact your Life Safety Partner for assistance.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Joseph Reynolds
Joseph Reynolds

Why have your sprinkler gauges checked?

The importance of pressure gauges on a fire sprinkler system can sometimes be overlooked. It is a common misconception that if a pressure gauge is registering pressure then it is operating properly. We must first take a look at what these gauges are and how they are used in order to completely understand their importance as a part of your sprinkler system.

Types of Pressure Gauges: Dry and Liquid Filled

Pressure gauges for a fire sprinkler system come in two basic types: dry and liquid filled. The dry gauge is most common; it consists of a numbered dial with an indicating needle that is attached to a spring loaded mechanism. This spring is compressed by pressure from the system, causing the needle to rise in relation to the amount of pressure. Liquid filled gauges operate under the same principle but are completely filled with liquid, usually glycerin. The liquid does a couple things, it lubricates and protects components in the gauge from wear and corrosion, while at the same time it dampens vibration and small spikes or jumps of the needle as pressures change. This creates a more sensitive precise gauge. For that reason, these gauges, which are higher in price, are usually used on testing or other more demanding applications.

Selecting the Correct Gaugegauge

Gauges can be manufactured for a specific application, such as fire pump readings and high pressure systems, or for a specific pressure type such as water pressure, air pressure, or a combination. Choosing the proper gauge for the application should be done by a trained Life Safety professional, as not just any gauge may be installed. NFPA 13 requires the gauge be approved for the application as well as have UL and FM approval. Your Life Safety Partner will also have the expertise needed to determine gauge location and correct installation procedures. Gauges are typically installed on ¼”, 3-way valves to allow easy replacement without taking the system out of service since fire sprinkler systems should always be functioning.

Gauge use in a Fire Sprinkler System

Fire sprinkler systems are always on, active, and supplied by an automatic water supply. Gauges help us ensure that the system is active, in service, and proper water supply and pressure is available. Located at various points in the system, they give us an indication of what the system status is and if anything has changed that may affect performance. Water pressure gauges at the control risers indicate the system is active and supplied by water pressure. This “resting active” pressure is known as static pressure. When the main drain on the system is opened completely, a water flowing pressure reading can be taken here which is known as a residual pressure. Your Life Safety Partner will track these readings during annual inspections, a change in this residual pressure can give warning to changes in the water supply or supply piping system. Gauges monitoring air pressure on dry systems are important for setting the correct air to water pressures on dry gaugesvalves and recording trip pressures. A system air pressure that is too high could result in delayed trip times, too little could cause false trips. Gauges are used too monitor pressures on standpipes, fire pump performance, and many other functions.


Inspection and Maintenance

As with any other critical component of a sprinkler system, gauges must be tested, inspected and maintained. Gauges are used in almost every stage of system testing. Quarterly, semi-annual and annual inspections all include testing that involves gauges. NFPA requires a monthly visual inspection of gauges noting any damage, leakage, or unusual readings. The date of the gauge should also be noted in inspections, as NFPA requires all gauges to be tested or replaced every 5 years. When gauges are tested, they must fall within a +/- 3% accuracy range or they have to be re-calibrated. Because the cost of new gauges is relatively low, it is common to have the gauges replaced rather than paying for the testing and re-calibrating.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Greg Lane

 

Updates to NFPA 10, Portable Fire Extinguishers

The National Fire Protection Association is a global nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. NFPA is widely known for its codes and standards which establish criteria for building, processing, design, service, and installation of fire protection systems. Several NFPA codes are being updated for 2017, here we will discuss some of the changes to NFPA 10, which covers Portable Fire Extinguishers.

All fire extinguishers must be given a brief visual inspection each month and a thorough annual inspection. Testing and servicing is required on a regular basis, the timing depends on the type of extinguishers you have. All fire extinguishers should be serviced or replaced after use.

 

Tamper Seals

A.7.3.2.2 was updated to say if a tamper seal is found to be missing from a non-rechargeable extinguisher, the extinguisher should be removed from service. This primarily affects extinguishers not purchased from a professional life safety company, as after the extinguisher has been used (and the tamper seal removed for use) the extinguisher will need to be disposed of and replaced. If you have rechargeable fire extinguishers and a Life Safety Partner performing regular inspections and maintenance of them, then you partner will be able to collect, service, and refill your extinguisher after use which will include replacing the tamper seal.

Wheeled Extinguisher Hoses

7.7.1 requires wheeled extinguisher hose to be uncoiled and examined on annual basis. A.7.7.1.1 updated to support rapid deployment without kinking. Your Life Safety Partner should add this to your regular annual inspections.

Extinguishers Covers and Strap-Type Brackets

Extinguisher protective covers are now specifically recommended for extinguishers susceptible to environmental damage (A.6.1.3.7). Consult your Life Safety Partner for covers or special mounting equipment, like strap type vehicle brackets.

Extinguisher Signs

Extinguishers must be installed in locations so extinguishers are visible (6.1.3.3.1). An exception (6.1.3.3.2) requires signs or other means be installed where visual obstructions can’t be avoided. Signs are to be installed in close proximity to these extinguishers, visible from path of travel. Check to make sure all of your extinguishers are properly marked.

Obsolete Extinguishers

All extinguishers manufactured before 1955 are now considered obsolete (4.4.11.4.4.1) requires all pre-1984 dry chemical stored pressure extinguishers to be replaced immediately.

 

This information is based on first and second draft revisions to the NFPA code for 2017. A1 strives to ensure the information we provide in our blogs is accurate, the information we provide is based on research and our understanding of State Fire Codes and NFPA regulations. You should always review the complete NFPA standards and local codes for where you are, as local and state requirements may differ.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Will Buchholz

Prevent Fire Alarm Trouble Signals

Limit the inconvenience of trouble signals from your Fire Alarm system by being pro-active in replacing batteries.

Fire alarms are a system of multiple devices working together to detect and warn people through visual and audio appliances when smoke, fire, carbon monoxide or other emergencies are present. The fire alarm panel is the electrical panel that monitors all components of the system. It also sends trouble signals for problems found within the fire alarm system, problems which may cause the system to not work properly and put your people and assets at risk.  Fire alarm systems are prone to errors given the sheer number of devices involved so regular inspections and maintenance are key in keeping your system operating properly. Regular maintenance can also limit the number of trouble signals you receive each year as your Life Safety Partner will inspect and service the devices to keep them running properly.

Fire alarms need to be able to work during an emergency, and since emergencies can cause power outages a battery back-up to your system is an important component. When your battery power runs low, your fire alarm system will send a trouble signal to the central monitoring station, who will then call the system owner. The fire alarm panel will also beep locally at the panel and annunciator if one is present.

Trouble signals from your Fire Alarm system won’t wait for a convenient time; whether you are in a meeting, out of town, or sleeping at 2 a.m. you will be receiving the alert and need to address it immediately. By pro-actively replacing your system batteries every two years, you can limit both the number of trouble signals you receive and the increased costs of emergency service from your Life Safety Partner.

Parts of the Fire Alarm System:

Fire alarm control panel (FACP) – also known as the fire alarm control unit, is the hub of the system. It monitors inputs and system integrity, controls outputs and relays information.

Smoke Detectors – smoke detectors have built in sensors, and when smoke is found in the atmosphere, they send information to the fire alarm panel. The two most common types of smoke detectors are ionization and photoelectric. The sensing chambers of these detectors operate differently to sense visible or invisible combustion particles from developing fires.

Primary power supply – commonly the non-switched 120 or 240 volt alternating current course supplied from a commercial power utility. In non-residential applications, a branch circuit is dedicated to the fire alarm system and its constituents. “Dedicated branch circuits” should not be confused with “Individual branch circuits” which supply energy to a single appliance.

Secondary (backup) power supplies – This component, commonly consisting of sealed lead-acid storage batteries or other emergency sources including generators, is used to supply energy in the event of a primary power failure.

Initiating devices: This component acts as an input to the fire alarm control unit and are either manually or automatically activated, such as pull stations, heat detectors, or smoke detectors. Heat and smoke detectors have different categories of both kinds. Some categories are beam, photoelectrical, aspiration, and duct.

Notification appliances: This component uses energy supplied from the fire alarm system or other stored energy source, to inform people of the need to take action, usually to evacuate. This is done by means of a flashing light, strobe light, electromechanical horn, “beeper horn”, chime, bell, speaker, or a combination of these devices.

Building safety interfaces: This interface allows the fire alarm system to control aspects of the building environment and to prepare the building for fire, and to control the spread of smoke fumes and fire by influencing air movement, lighting, process control, human transport and exit. Building safety interfaces include magnetic smoke door holders, duct mounted smoke detection, emergency elevator service, and public address rack.

Can you ensure each device in your fire alarm is being inspected and tested? You can if your Life Safety Partner uses a barcoded method of inspection, ensuring the inspector finds and tests each device efficiently. Your inspection report should list the results for each device, as well as the date/time stamp for when it was last inspected. These details will provide you with piece of mind and your AHJ inspector with full system information.

A1 is a leading expert on the latest technology in life safety. To find out more information or to ask a question, click here or call us at 1-800-859-6198.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke