Month: June 2015

Are You Sprinkler Savvy or Sprinklerstitous?

Sprinkler Savvy or Sprinklerstitious? Take This Test to Find Out.

There’s a lot of misinformation about fire sprinkler systems out there. Do you have the right information, or are you sprinklerstitious too?

Answer true or false to these statements. Scroll down for the answers and explanations to see how much you know!

1. Water damage from a sprinkler system costs more than the fire damage it prevents

2. Only one or two sprinkler heads go off when there’s a fire.

3. All you need is a smoke detector to save lives.

4. Sprinklers were designed to protect property, not so much lives.

5. Sprinklers don’t add too much additional cost to construction projects.

6. New buildings are much safer than older buildings.

7. Sprinkler systems can work fine in freezing temperatures.

8. Smoke detectors don’t set sprinklers off.

9. Smoke detectors will not put out a fire.

10. Most insurance companies value the use of fire sprinkler systems.

True or False Sprinkler Test Answers.

1. False. Water damage from a sprinkler will be much less severe than fire damage. Think of it this way, would you rather have your building get a little wet or let it burn to the ground.

2. True. Contrary to Hollywood portrayals, each sprinkler is individually activated. Only those affected by heat at 165 degrees will activate.

3. False. Smoke detectors save lives in offering a warning to get out. For people that have trouble moving, like the elderly, a sprinkler system will put out a fire early and keep everyone safe.

4. False. Sprinklers will protect both lives and property. In fact, statistics show that there has never been any multiple loss of life in a fully sprinklered building.

5. True. Sprinklers costs about 1-2% of the total construction costs. They are comparable to carpet costs, paved driveways, or adding a whirlpool bath.

6. False. Newer construction techniques make a facility much more susceptible to fire. You can learn more information from NFPA here.

7. True. With the right equipment, sprinkler systems will work fine in cold temperatures. You may need a dry pipe or preaction system as an alternative to water filled pipes.

8. True. Detectors are there to sense a fire and talk back to the panel. The panel will sound an alarm and notify the necessary parties to handle the emergency. Detectors will not set off the sprinklers.

9. False. Again, detectors offer warning, but will not put out any fires. You need some sort of suppression equipment for that.

10. True. Insurance companies will sometimes lower the value of your premiums and some are leading advocates for sprinkler systems.

So, are you sprinkler savvy, or sprinklerstitous? Do you have more questions? Click here to contact us.


Joseph Reynolds
Joseph Reynolds

Security Essentials: Your Security Camera Placement Guide

Before Installing Your Security Cameras, Evaluate the Following:

  1. Distance from camera to the subject being recorded
  2. Environmental conditions your camera will need to withstand
  3. Lighting conditions

Are you Signing Your Security Camera Up for a Long Distance Relationship?
That’s okay in some cases, with the right equipment you can make distance work.

  1. The greater the distance between the camera and the subject, the higher the quality camera and cable you’ll need.
  2. The greater the distance between the camera and its power source, the lower the video quality and IR brightness
  3. The more out of reach a camera is, the better! Please note the technician servicing the camera will need to be able to reach it.
  4. Keep cameras at least 15 ft from each other or other wireless devices using the same frequency–I.e. microwaves, cordless phones, etc.

Is Your Security Camera the Outdoorsy Type?
Your camera spends all of its time outdoors but how will you protect it and help it do its job?

  1. Make sure the power connections are not directly exposed to water, and shield them from other outdoor elements.
  2. Only use cables and equipment made for outdoor use.
  3. Clean the protective camera lens periodically using a lint free cloth.
  4. Don’t submerge a weatherproof camera under water. It can handle rain and snow, but probably not a dip in the pool.
  5. Try to install your camera somewhere under a brim. Rain and Snow aren’t supposed to directly hit your camera.
  6. Cameras can work in colder temperatures than the specs suggest because heat is produced while they’re plugged in.

Security Camera Blindness is 100% Preventable
First of all, “security camera blindness” is not a technical term– it just fits with all the personification happening in this post. Really though, the lighting your camera is exposed to can inhibit its ability to function enough that you won’t see anything.

  1. Don’t point the camera directly at a light source.
  2. Don’t aim your camera out a window, it has a tendency to only record window glare and nothing else.
  3. The level of light to the camera sensor needs to be the same as the level of light at the focal target. So don’t put your camera in a dark place to record a lighter area. It just doesn’t work with standard cameras.
  4. Night vision cameras need IR LED lighting placed above the unit to illuminate the focal point.


Tips to a Long-Lasting, Happy Relationship With Your Security Camera

  1. Plug your cameras into a surge protector. Voltage spikes will cause them to fail prematurely.
  2. If you have questionable area, ask your installer to set up a demo for you.
  3. Choose strategic places for your cameras that will provide details of each visitor. Entrances, exits, and high traffic areas are a great start.


So now you know. With a little care, consideration, and the right equipment your security camera will stay healthy and helpful for your entire relationship.

Are you ready to find your perfect security camera match now? Let us help! Click here to contact us, or call 1-800-859-6198.


Joseph Reynolds
Joseph Reynolds

Manage and Minimize Unwanted Alarms

That Darn Alarm is Going Off Again!

The fire alarm goes off. You stop operation, evacuate the building, and wait for the Fire Department to tell you it was a false alarm. What set it off? More importantly, how can you avoid all the drama in the future?

Smoke detectors are sophisticated electronic devices that need periodic testing and maintenance. To maintain the integrity of any fire alarm system, it is important to have a qualified person periodically test the system. Detectors should be tested periodically and maintained at regular intervals following the manufacturer’s practices. Detectors should be given a visual inspection at installation and at least twice a year thereafter.

It should be noted that national, state, and local laws require the testing of your systems.

Probable Causes of Unwanted Alarms:

  • Detectors installed in improper environments that have temperature extremes, excessive dust, dirt, or humidity, excessive air flow rates, or the normal presence of combustion particles
  • Detectors and the wiring are installed improperly causing interference from induced currents and noise in adjacent wiring systems, radio-frequency transmissions, and other types of electromagnetic effects
  • Inadequate maintenance causes gradual dust and dirt accumulation on the detector’s sensing chambers
  • Seasonal effects from the reactivation of a building’s heating system after an extended summer shutdown can cause alarms
  • Building maintenance issues, like accidental triggering of a detector’s magnetic test switch, or the introduction of plaster dust from drywall repairs
  • Induced current effects from lightning storms
  • Infestation from small insects
  • Vandalism or mischievous acts

Besides a troublesome environment, electronics can interfere with your alarm system.
Systems that can affect the alarm system include:

  • other security systems
  • walkie-talkies
  • mobile telephones
  • HVAC controls
  • elevator call systems
  • remote control equipment (door closers, etc.)
  • installation of microwave antenna

Maintain an Alarm Log
Keep an Alarm Log to indicate which individuals responded to the alarm and whether or not they took appropriate action. Periodic review of the cumulative Alarm Log can help those responsible for the detection system discern patterns in the reported alarms. An Alarm Log can show the start date of apparently causeless alarms and can eventually help identify the cause.

Who’s Responsible?

The owners of smoke detector-equipped fire alarm systems are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the detection system in the following ways:

  • Maintaining an Alarm Log and training appropriate personnel
  • Maintaining a Detector Maintenance Log that records inspection, testing and cleaning data for each detector in the system.
  • Maintaining a complete file of information on the alarm system in a readily accessible location.
  • Givimg maintenance personnel or contractors working on the building’s electrical systems copies of the alarm system wiring layout and locations.
  • Recording installations and modifications to all other building electromechanical systems.
  • Recording all actions taken during the investigation of a series of alarms, indicating a problem exists.

The installers of smoke detector equipped alarm systems are responsible for:

  • Providing specifications and installation instructions for the detectors, control panel, and auxiliary devices.
  • Verifying that the alarm system installation meets all applicable code requirements.
  • Testing a newly installed, expanded, or modified alarm system.
  • Providing troubleshooting assistance to the owners for a specified break-in period after installation.
  • Helping the owner set up appropriate Detector Maintenance and Alarm Logs for the system.
  • Providing initial instruction and training to the owner’s personnel or outside organization.
  • Providing troubleshooting assistance if nuisance alarm problems cannot be solved in-house.

The owner should conduct the initial investigation to find a solution, but if the personnel are unable to determine the cause for the alarms, the installer or representative of the manufacturer should be contacted to help isolate the problem.

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 at1-800-859-6198.v

Jack Menke

Overcoming Your Detector’s Limitations

You have your smoke detectors, now where to put them?

There is no one-size-fits-all for smoke detectors. When installing, updating, or inspecting your system, it’s crucial to account for the conditions of the facility to make the right choice.

To choose the right option for your needs, consider the following:

  • Smoke detectors should be located on every level of a building.
  • In areas where doors are usually closed, detectors should be located on both sides of the door.
  • Fires are often unpredictable in their growth, so choose your detector based on its sensing limitations and the conditions of the area it will cover.

Where You’ll Need a Smoke Detector
Smoke detectors should be installed in all areas of the premises. Total coverage include all rooms, halls, storage areas, basements, attics, lofts, spaces above suspended ceilings, closets, elevator shafts, enclosed stairways, dumbwaiter shafts, chutes, and other subdivisions and accessible spaces.

Where a Detector is a Bad Idea
Special conditions in a location can interfere with your smoke detectors and trip unwanted alarms. In some instances, a heat detector may be a better choice than a smoke detector:

  • Excessively Dusty or Dirty Areas – Installing smoke detectors in excessively dusty or dirty environments may require more maintenance than NFPA recommends.
  • Outdoors – Avoid using detectors outdoors, in open storage sheds, or other open structures affected by dust, air currents, or excessive ranges of humidity and temperature.
  • Wet or Excessively Humid Areas – Avoid damp, wet, or excessively humid areas, including areas next to bathrooms with showers.
  • Extreme Temperatures – Avoid very cold or very hot environments, or unheated buildings or rooms where temperatures can fall below or exceed the operating temperature range of the detector.
  • Areas with Combustion Particles – Avoid areas where particles of combustion are normally present, such as in kitchens or other areas with ovens and burners; or in garages.
  • Manufacturing Areas – Avoid manufacturing areas, battery rooms, or other areas where substantial quantities of vapors, gases, or fumes may be present.
  • Fluorescent Light Fixtures – Avoid placement near fluorescent light fixtures. Electrical noise generated by fluorescent light fixtures may cause unwanted alarms.

Placing detectors in areas that may trip an unwanted alarm happens all too often. Click here for tips to manage unwanted alarms.

At bare minimum, your detector must be at least 4 inches from all corners.


Questions? Click here to ask us.


Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Detector or Alarm?

Smoke Detector ≠ Smoke Alarm

Would you call a phillips screwdriver a flathead screwdriver? I think not! So why would you call a smoke detector a smoke alarm?

A smoke alarm is a stand-alone device with a built-in sounder, a power supply, and a sensor. A smoke alarm is not connected to a fire alarm control panel, but may interconnect with other smoke alarms within the building.

A smoke detector is part of a system, has only a built-in sensor and sends information to the fire alarm panel.

What Types of Detectors are out there?
The two most common smoke detectors are ionization and photoelectric. The sensing chambers of these detectors operate differently to sense visible or invisible combustion particles from developing fires.

Ionization detectors use positively or negatively charged ions to determine if an area is safe. Once combustion particles enter the air, they alter the internal plates’ measurements to detect smoke. In an ionization detector, dust and dirt can accumulate, increasing the chance of an unwanted alarm. The characteristics of an ionization detector make it more suitable for detection of fast flaming fires.

A photoelectric detector uses a light beam passing through air. The smoke blocks or obscures the beam, or causes the light to scatter. The detector senses smoke by monitoring the light. A photoelectric detector is subject to unwanted alarms from light reflected by insects, dirt, drywall dust, and other forms of contamination. Photoelectric smoke detectors are better suited to detect slow smoldering fires.

Each type of detector can detect both types of fires, but their respective response times will vary depending on the type of fire.

But Wait, There’s More!
Sometimes a facility requires a more exotic detector for special conditions.
Laser technology smoke detectors are designed for areas that require extremely early warning of fire. They are ideal for clean rooms, computer rooms or telecommunication centers, or any area with mission critical operations.

Aspiration smoke detectors use a pipe and fan system to sense the presence of smoke particulates.
These detectors are a good choice in clean rooms, areas which contain highly flammable liquid and gases, or rooms with goods easily damaged by fire, such as electronic rooms.

Multi-criteria detection contains multiple sensors that separately respond to physical stimulus such as heat, smoke, or fire gases. An alarm signal is determined through advanced algorithms based on input from these sensors. Several types of multi-criteria detection are available. The combination of sensors offers faster response times to real fires as well as better immunity to nuisance alarms in challenging environments.

Combination carbon monoxide and smoke detectors improve installation time and cost as well as offering a more aesthetically pleasing final product. This device type provides separate signals for each event.

So What Now?
Confused? You can request more specific information by clicking here.

Jack Menke

Ending Your Exit Lighting Woes

 Anyone with experience running a facility knows the pain of exit lighting. They are a continuous cost that can’t be avoided. They add to your electric bill, require regular maintenance and inspection, and need replacement parts throughout its life. They are a consistent pebble in your shoe, but you need them in order to stay safe and compliant. Is there an alternative option in exit lighting?

It’s estimated that exit lights produce the same amount of pollution as 4 million cars. That’s 30-35 billion kw/hrs per year in North America. Unless a power outage occurs, exit lights are always running with electricity. The environmental ramifications of Exit Lights is the tip of the iceberg. Most facilities don’t have the immediate budget to go green – or so they think.

Between the inspections, parts replacement, electric costs, and other maintenance, exit lights cost more than just the initial unit purchase. Electricity and upkeep costs may not seem like a big deal from year to year, but add all those expenses up  for one light for its 25 years of service, and you start to see some big numbers. All of that money could be put towards a more pressing need.

Neglected Exit Light
Neglected Exit Light

Whether the neglect is due to a low budget, forgetfulness or lack of knowledge, all too often we see neglected exit lights. The fact is, exit lights have an important purpose and need the required maintenance to uphold building safety. Unfortunately, most facilities don’t emphasize safety until an emergency occurs. Neglected exit lights are a fire hazard because old mother boards can ignite into flames. Hazardous acid from old batteries can leak from the light and cause damage.

Don’t worry, there’s hope for us all. Someone out there had the brilliant idea of using glow-in-the-dark material to power exit lighting. Labs have made a code-approved, UL Listed alternative that eliminates the majority of the maintenance for your exit lights.

The normal day to day lighting charges the photoluminescent exit lights. If the power goes out the photoluminescent lights will glow for three hours without battery or generator power. Inspecting these lights consists of flipping the light switch off, and maintenance is a quick swipe with a duster. Photoluminescent exit lights require no electrical wiring during installation and are non-toxic. These lights are environmentally friendly and a safe alternative to LEDs and incandescents. Green has the best visibility in smoke and because they don’t use batteries you’ll know they’ll glow when you need them.

Putting this information simply, for 25 years your only expense will be the unit itself without long term maintenance expenses.
-Quick/easy installation
-No electrical expenses
-No maintenance (minus an occasional dusting)
-Quick, easy inspection
-No battery/bulb replacement

Photoluminescent exit signs are code approved, but not in every situation. Remember, they are glow-in-the-dark, meaning they need light to charge them. The more light an area usually has, the better photoluminescent exit lights will work. To ask specifics about your facility, click here.

Jack Menke
Jack Menke

Does Your Extinguisher Comply?

Check the Extinguisher Expiration Date

Many extinguishers have an expiration date. Between changing safety standards and obsolete technology, extinguisher expiration is not cut and dry. An expired extinguisher does not comply with NFPA code. The first test is the 1955 rule: all extinguishers manufactured before 1955 are obsolete. The safety powers-that-be have determined which types and corresponding years require an extinguisher to be removed from service. If your extinguisher is from 1984 or before, you’ll need to check its type to make an informed decision about the expiration. Double check with your certified professional about any extinguishers manufactured from 1955 to 1984. Here’s a guide to some of the years and types to look out for.


Extinguishers to Replace
To replace an extinguisher or not? Old, banned technology and defective units must also be removed from service. Some extinguishing chemicals that were once widely used have been banned. In addition, any damaged extinguishers must be removed from service. Here’s a list of what you don’t want in your extinguishers.



So, What Now?
If your extinguishers are no longer compliant, a certified professional must  replace the equipment. If you need an extinguisher professional, you can connect to one here.

Once your equipment is up to par, you’ll probably need to be trained to use the equipment. Click here to learn about extinguisher training. Until then, click here to review of what to do.


Please note, while this post may be very informative, every case is individual. We recommend discussing your needs with a certified professional. You have everything to gain and little to lose with a quick, free call or email. Click here to contact a certified extinguisher professional now.

Will Buchholz

Using the PASS Method with Your Extinguisher

What Does P.A.S.S. Stand For?

If you have a fire extinguisher and are unfamiliar with PASS, you’ll probably need training before you use the equipment.

Click here to learn about extinguisher training. Until then, here’s a quick review of what to do:

Will Buchholz

MIC and your Sprinkler System: Identification and Prevention

General corrosion affects pipe gradually and consistently but does not pose an immediate threat to the metallic system. Corrosion does threaten a system, however, when it’s accelerated and localized by colonies of bacteria.

Microorganisms accelerate corrosion by rapidly diminishing pipe material at distinct, concentrated points. This process is referred to as microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC). The MIC process, generates debris and leaks, eventually causing premature failure of a system.

A standard sprinkler system with proper maintenance will typically last over 50 years before needing major repairs. Unfortunately, the untreated presence of MIC can ruin a system much earlier. In severe cases, MIC can ruin a system in just 5 years.

What Constitutes Premature Failure?
A system fails prematurely for two reasons:
-The system has pinhole leaks that require component replacement.
-The system cannot operate as designed to achieve fire control.

MIC creates an uneven internal surface, produces clogging debris and bores holes within pipe. These three effects of MIC will alter the intended pressure within a system and cause its premature failure.

Pipe surface texture is critical in sprinkler system effectiveness. Any increase in roughness increases the pressure loss in each foot of sprinkler pipe. Even a small amount of internal corrosion, especially in main feed areas, could potentially make a system ineffective in fire control.

Where in the System is MIC Predominant?
Corrosion occurs in a system where air and water meet. In wet pipe systems, corrosion occurs most frequently where air is trapped. In dry pipe systems corrosion always occurs under pools of trapped water.

When the Corrosion Rate Increases
Introducing air into a wet system refreshes the oxygen corrosion reaction process. Every time a wet pipe system is drained and refilled the corrosion rate accelerates. The corrosion rate doubles for every 18 degree Fahrenheit increase. The higher the temperature of the system the faster the corrosion rate.

When the compressor in a dry system runs, it reintroduces warm, moist oxygen into the system piping. This humid air is a feast for the microorganisms that cause MIC.

Detection and Treatment
Treatment options include:
1. System Cleaning- Having your system cleaned is a good choice if the corrosion has not greatly altered the pipe surface.
2. System Replacement-If the damage is bad enough, your system will need to be replaced.

MIC test
MIC test

1. Drain and refill your system as infrequently as possible. Only test according to the required minimum. Tests introduce fresh nutrients and oxygen that help bacteria flourish.
2. Have leaks or weeping at joints and/or abnormal pressure inspected. They are a good indication of the presence of MIC.
3. Design for MIC prone areas to have thicker pipes. This method won’t prevent MIC but it will buy time until a standardized prevention method is determined.
4. Keep an eye on MIC prone areas of your system.
5. Get a lab test of the water supply to identify the microorganisms present.
6. Replace excessively corroded pipe.
7. Clean your system of MIC causing microorganisms using chemical injection methods.

Find More Information
For more details and to ask any questions about MIC you can reach an expert by clicking here .

Joseph Reynolds
Joseph Reynolds

Choosing the Right Fire Extinguisher

Determining if your extinguishers are compliant can be confusing. Fear not, here’s the breakdown to clarify the basics.

Choosing your Extinguisher: Step One 
Not all extinguishers are created equal. Extinguishers serve different purposes. You may have noticed letters and color codes on your equipment. What does it all mean? More importantly, are your extinguishers the best choice for the area they are serving?

The first step is to survey the location in question. Peek into your crystal ball and inventory all potential hazards. Note substances or equipment that will burn. This information will determine the classification of extinguisher you will need.

The Extinguisher Alphabet?
Extinguishers are classified based on the hazard type. Classifications are A, B, C, D, K.

ABC is the most commonly used extinguisher and will serve most areas well. In certain instances however, an ABC extinguisher is insufficient. These cases may require a less common classification such as a D or K. In ever rarer cases, a more specific extinguisher may be required, i.e. a magnetic area requires a non-conductive extinguisher.

Choosing your Extinguisher: Step Two
The second step is to inventory your equipment and surroundings. Extinguishers hold different suppression agents—some of which leave moisture or a mess. You wouldn’t put a foam extinguisher in a data room. The foam would destroy the servers in the process of smothering the fire. On the other hand, a carbon dioxide extinguisher would be ineffective in an outdoor area. One gust of wind and the fire would have enough oxygen to keep burning.

The most common types of extinguishers are as follows:

Water-Only use these on class A fires. Honestly, in most cases a water extinguisher is probably not a smart investment.

Dry Chemical-These work great for A, B, and C class fires. They leave a non-flammable substance behind to keep the fire from reigniting. They will make a mess so avoid using these in data rooms or computer labs.

Carbon Dioxide-Use these on B or C fires. They are great for extinguishing electronics without harming them, and leave no mess. They are not as effective for the outdoors.

The extinguishers listed above are not the only ones available, and you may be in a position to have a more robust extinguisher on site.

If you need an extinguisher professional now, you can connect to one here.

If your equipment is up to code, you’ll probably need to be trained to use the equipment. Click here to learn about extinguisher training.

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