Month: July 2016

Grill Safety & Laws for Rental Properties

Current legal restrictions on grill usage at rental properties are in place to decrease fire hazards and protect tenants and property.

Three out of five households own a gas grill, which translates to a lot of tasty meals. But it also means there’s an increased risk of home fires. Each year, grilling causes an average of 8,900 home fires, and close to half of all injuries involving grills are due to thermal burns.

Gas grills can cause a lot of problems for landlords and their properties when tenants use and store them improperly. Many people believe that the danger from gas grills is low to non-existent because they are outside. However, gas grills pose several fire dangers through ignition explosion, vent explosion, carbon monoxide leaks, or explosions or gas leakages due to ruptured tanks, valves and hoses.*

Check out NFPA’s handout on grilling safety!

The Law on grills in multi-family dwellings

Gas and charcoal grills may not be operated on balconies or within 10 feet of the building/home. There are limited exceptions to this rule in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky (click the links for the full text of that State’s Code as it relates to grills).

There are some exceptions to when grills are legally acceptable to use on balconies or within 10 feet of construction, these are outlined below by State.

In Ohio, grills are acceptable if:

  1. It is a One- or Two-family dwelling.
  2. The building, balconies or decks are protected by an automatic sprinkler system.
  3. It is a charcoal burner, AND fire extinguishers of the proper rating, quantity and size are present, AND all other combustible material has been removed from the balcony or cooking site.
  4. Natural gas fired open flame cooking devices and/or appliances if the LP-gas container has a water capacity not greater than 2 1/2 pound [nominal 1 pound (0.454 kg) LP-gas capacity].
    1. If it is a natural gas supplied cooking device, the natural gas fuel supply piping system is connected to the building where the cooking is to occur. There cannot be any storage tanks or cylinders located in or near the dwelling unit structure where the cooking is to occur.
    2. The fire code official may require that any person responsible for the use of a natural gas fire open flame cooking device carry comprehensive general liability insurance at an amount to cover any possible damage to people or property by the open flame device.
    3. Gas pressure supplied to the natural gas fueled cooking appliance must follow the pressure recommendations by the cooking device/appliance manufacturer. In no case can the maximum pressure supplied to the device or appliance exceed 2 pounds per square inch (psi).
    4. While the grill is in use, all combustibles that are not part of the dwelling unit structure shall be kept 5 feet away from the cooking device.
    5. Any and all building code requirements for the installation and use of natural gas fired grills, open flame cooking devices or appliances must be complied with, including compliance with any permit and inspection requirements.

In Indiana, the exceptions are much fewer. Indiana State Fire Code restricts grills to:

  1. One- and two-family dwellings, and buildings or decks that are protected by an automatic sprinkler system.
  2. LP-gas fueled cooking devices having a LP-gas container with a water capacity greater than 2.5 pounds (nominal 1-pound LP-gas capacity) are only allowed on combustible balconies or within 10 feet of combustible construction at one- or two-family dwellings.

In Kentucky, the restrictions are equally restrictive to one- and two-family dwellings. Kentucky adopted NFPA 1, Section 10.11.6 Cooking Equipment, which states:

  1. No hibachi, grill, or other similar devices used for cooking, heating, or any other purpose shall be used or kindled on any balcony, under any overhanging portion, or within 10 ft. (3m) of any structure, except for at one- and two-family dwellings.
  2. In addition, no hibachi, grill or similar devices used for cooking shall be stored on a balcony of dwellings greater than 2-family.

 

Landlords/Property Managers

As a Landlord, you have the right to ban or allow gas grills on your properties, as long as it falls within the bounds of law.

Single-Family Home Rentals

The toughest call on grills is for gas grills and single family home renters. Most of the legal conditions for limiting or restricting gas grill usage, such as combustible material and limited outdoor space, don’t apply. When deciding if you will allow grills on your single-family rental homes, consider the outdoor space available for grilling. Is the patio big enough? Can the tenant grill a safe distance from the structure and neighbors? The bottom line is that it’s completely up to the landlord about whether or not to allow gas grills in a single family rental property. It’s easy to ban grill usage, citing fire hazards; however, granting permission for a gas grill can give renters a greater sense of home and incentive to renew their lease agreement.

What if I decide to ban Gas Grills?

If you select to ban gas grills on your rental property, make sure to include in the lease agreement that the use of gas grills is strictly prohibited. The lease should also state that there should never be any flammable gas tanks store in the rental property. This will include propane gas tanks used for gas grills, and include any other gas tanks that pose potential fire hazards. If you want to ban all kinds of grills, make sure to use specific language to identify charcoal and gas, or any kind of open flame cooking system.

Should I do anything special if I allow Gas Grills?

If you choose to allow gas grills on your rental property, whether multi-unit or single family, make sure you are very clear in your lease agreement and with the tenant about any restrictions or rules regarding grilling. Give your tenants a copy of the local or state fire code regulations concerning grilling (feel free to use the documents we gave you at the above links). Make sure they understand this is about being compliant with the law and keeping the renters and property (theirs and yours) safe.

Write up a clear addendum to your lease for gas grills which specifically states:

  1. The locations on the property where a gas grill is allowed.
  2. Make sure to include distance requirements from any structures (including the dwelling, storage facilities, fences, etc) and exactly what that distance is.
  3. Also include language about storing the propane tanks, that they should never be stored inside the rental unit or close to it. If there is a shed on the property, that may be an acceptable location to store propane tanks if it is far enough from the house.
  4. Finally, include language in the addendum about consequences of not following the restrictions for gas grill use or causing damage to the structure with their grills.

What should I do if I discover a lease violation concerning a gas grill?

If at all possible, you should immediately document the lease violation by taking photos of the problem. If photos are not possible, interview neighbors or other tenants for statements of gas grill use and abuse by the tenant in question.

Now, follow your normal steps with any lease violation. Deliver an official comply or quit notice requiring the tenant to resolve the issue with the gas grill within the allotted time frame or face eviction. If the tenant fails to resolve the problem with the grill by the time allowed in the notice, then you may begin eviction proceedings.

You should never take matters into your own hands by removing the gas grill from the property, even if just to store it in a safer location. Even if the presence of the grill is a lease violation, it is still property of the tenant and taking it could be considered a theft and could be cause for police action against you.

The key for gas grills on your rental properties, whether you allow them or not, is to be upfront and consistent in your lease agreements policies and enforcement of those policies.

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.

*Statistics provided by NFPA.

Greg Lane

 

Carbon Monoxide Detection

Today’s carbon monoxide detection devices are effective, trustworthy, and the only means to detect the odorless, tasteless, and deadly carbon monoxide gas.

68,316  Number of unintentional, non-fire related CO incidents reported to poison
centers during 2000-2009

15,000 Approximate number of people treated for accidental CO exposure at emergency rooms each year (Does not include incidents that were managed at the site of exposure)

439 Average number of CO deaths per year*

Potential sources of carbon monoxide can be found in most homes, including furnaces, gas ranges or cook tops, camp stoves, generators, clothes dryers and vehicles. Carbon Monoxide alarms/detectors are designed to activate before potentially life-threatening levels of CO are reached and are based on two factors: time and amount. If low levels of carbon monoxide are detected, the alarm will not signal until the levels are consistently detected for a period of time – indicating the CO levels are appearing at a level and duration that is harmful. This prevents the number of nuisance alarms which can occur based on naturally occurring CO level fluctuations.

Who is Required to have CO Detectors?

Ohio: Single family and buildings up to 3 stories in multiple family properties, publicly funded child care centers.

Kentucky: Newly constructed one- and two-family dwellings, townhomes not more than 3
stories, apartment buildings, dormitories, adult/child care facilities and assisted living facilities which contain a fuel-burning-appliance or an attached garage.

Indiana: No requirements at this time.

Types of CO Detectors

There are three types of CO detection technologies: biomimetic, MOS, and electrochemical. The difference in these is in how they detect CO levels, but each is reliable. The advantages and disadvantages for each is outlined below.


Biomimetic MOS Electrochemical
Advantages Low cost sensor Capable of a long life span (10 years) Reliable; few field defects
Disadvantages Long recovery after alarm • High current draw
• Expensive
High sensitivity to ammonia-based cleaners

Regardless of the sensing technology, all CO detectors have a limited-life CO sensor and will need to be replaced at the end of their life span. This is generally 10 years, but check your manufacturers’ instructions for your detectors, as this may vary and some detectors will need to be replaced if the alarm is activated.

Placement requirements

Contrary to popular belief, CO does not layer on the floor. In a 2012 study by the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA, it was shown that Carbon Monoxide diffused until it was of equal concentration through the local environment. This would occur quickly in a home where drafts due to motion and temperature exist to move the carbon monoxide. This means that it is reasonable to place a residential CO alarm at any height within a room, but always check your manufacturer’s instructions.

NFPA 720 (9.4.1.1/5.5.5.3.1) requires that Carbon Monoxide alarms be placed in the immediate vicinity of each bedroom, and centrally located on each habitable level including basements, but not including attics and crawl spaces. It also requires that CO detectors be placed on the ceiling in the same room as permanently installed fuel-burning appliances, and in every HVAC zone of a building.

When wall mounting a system-connected CO detector, it should be at least as high as a light switch, and at least six inches from the ceiling. The detector should not be mounted near the floor, as studies show that CO gas rises from the point of production and then mixes evenly throughout the air as it cools. Higher placement also protects CO detectors from potential damage caused by pets and tampering. When ceiling mounting a system-connected CO detector, the detector should be located at least 12 inches from any wall.

Where do I mount CO Detectors? Wall mounted, at least 6 inches from the ceiling but at least as high as a light switch

or Ceiling mounted, at least 12 inches from any wall

How many do I need? 1 outside each bedroom

1 centrally located on each level of the building, including the basement but not the attic or crawl space

1 on the ceiling of any room with a fuel-burning appliance (gas furnace, fire place, etc)

1 in each HVAC zone of the building

* Always check the manufacturer’s instructions on your carbon monoxide detectors.

Benefits of combining your CO detectors with your fire alarm

Integrating your Carbon Monoxide detectors with your fire alarm system allows you to have all the functionality of independent CO devices including the alarm signals and maintenance signals, while additionally having your CO detectors monitored by a central monitoring station. Monitoring your CO detectors will provide an additional assurance that your detectors are working properly and will allow the proper first responders to be notified if an alarm is triggered.

Testing, Inspection and Maintenance

Immediately after installation and annually thereafter, CO detectors should be inspected visually and for functionality by the introduction of carbon monoxide into the sensing chamber. This inspection and testing ensures that each detector remains in good condition and performs correctly. Carbon monoxide detectors are designed to be as maintenance free as possible; however, dust, dirt, and other foreign matter can accumulate inside a detector’s sensing elements and change its sensitivity. They can become either more sensitive, which may cause unwanted alarms, or less sensitive, which could reduce the amount of warning time given if CO reaches a dangerous level. CO detectors also need to be tested due to the limited life span of the sensing cell, to ensure the sensing cell is still working and has not reached its end of life earlier than the manufactured intent. Always follow the manufacturer’s specific instructions for testing and maintenance of CO detectors.

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

 

*Center for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: Carbon Monoxide Exposures — United States, 2000-2009

 

Access Control – More than Electronic Keys

Business owners and managers are constantly working to identify areas of risk, and systems or processes that will mitigate that risk. An organization’s resources include personnel, and physical and electronic assets – all of which need to be safeguarded. Access control systems can be configured to protect your employees, property, equipment and valuable data from unauthorized individuals.

This article will focus on device or endpoint access control, which is used to protect personnel and physical assets for a company. Access control allows a company to make resources available only to those that require it, and is an effective security method for companies of all sizes. The systems are used to ensure critical areas are available only to those who are essential to the restricted resources. Access controlled areas can also provide valuable reporting, giving you a trail of who went where and at what time. This can be used for access to your facility from outside, or restricted access within your facility. You can also set restrictions to apply on particular days and times for employees, allowing entry during work days and hours but not outside of those times.

Businesses need to understand not only the best way to use access control in everyday security, but also the implications it has for management and a company’s culture. Used properly, access control will provide your employees with a greater sense of security in the workplace. Carefully consider which assets need access control, you want to protect employees and assets without being overly restrictive which can create a culture of distrust.

Access control systems range from simple, stand-along entry control to complex, fully integrated systems. Determine the purpose of your access control system. The most basic access control system will keep out anyone who is not supposed to enter an area – whether that is your front door, parking garage, server room, personnel records room, or any other area with sensitive or valuable resources. Consider how secure you need an area to be – will a key card be sufficient or do you need a system with redundant methods of security for additional protection – a card and thumbprint for example?

More complex systems can integrate access control with your other security devices, such as CCTV and monitored entry detection, to enhance the value of your security system. Access control can go beyond electronic keys though. For example, equipment can be equipped with an access control system allowing only trained employees to operate the equipment. The system can also be linked to your billing system, as it already tracks date and time for when keys are used, an employee can access the equipment with a card assigned to a particular account and use the card again at the end of the operation. With the start and end times logged, the billing system can automatically account the time in the billing system for the appropriate client. You can also attach a clock to your access control system and utilize it for employees to clock in and out of work.

A1 can help you review your facility and work functions to outline ways access control can be utilized in your processes. Determining the size of your access control system is your next step. How many doors do you need to secure? Are you wanting to secure your entire facility, or just the server room?

Here are some additional questions to think about when setting up an access control system:

*  Do you have doors for employees only?

*  What are the doors made of: wood, steel, or aluminum and glass?

*  Do you need to secure any designated fire doors?

*  Do you have any garage doors or parking lot gates to control?

*  If you have more than one site to secure, consider an access control system that can be operated over a network which allows you to manage the security at all your locations from a central point.

*  Consider whether you need a free exit and controlled exit system. In a free exit system, there is no requirement for leaving a secure area. The system either detects someone approaching an exit (usually through motion sensors) and unlocks the door, or has a release button or bar that allows people to Exit. In a controlled exit system, the system requires the use of the same security for entry and exit. By law, access control systems have to be set up to allow people to exit if the system fails or power goes out. Controlled exit systems increase both security and your overall costs.

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

Cell Monitoring: Why you should upgrade your fire alarm panels now

Plain old telephone service (POTS) lines have served us well but are quickly coming to an end. As this technology becomes obsolete, communication systems that once relied on it – including alarm monitoring – are looking to cellular service as a replacement.

 

The end of analog lines is near. In December of 2009, AT&T reported to the FCC that is was seeing ways of phasing out ‘Relics of a By-Gone Era.’ Now, seven years later, analog lines have been replaced with digital or cellular devices for most industries. Alarm panels are one of the few remaining devices that regularly rely on analog lines for monitoring. Why though, are we allowing a vital part of our security and life safety systems to rely on outmoded technology?

It’s not just that analog lines are outmoded, the replacement – cellular service – is significantly better. Single path cell systems report into the central station every 5 minutes, versus every 24 hours for a system connected via POTS lines. This dramatically increases the ability of your central monitoring station to discover a problem with your system. Consider this, if your system is on POTS lines it might check in at 2:00 a.m. If your system then experiences a problem and shuts down at 2:04 a.m., your system monitoring station will not know there is a problem until 2:00 a.m. the next morning. That’s almost a full 24 hours that you are unprotected!  However, if your system is on a cellular monitoring service the problem will be discovered at 2:05 a.m., allowing your provider to notify you almost immediately of a problem and decrease system downtime.

In addition to better system monitoring, cellular monitoring also costs less than POTS lines monitoring. As you can see from the analysis below, cell monitoring provides better technology at a lower cost.

Traditional Monitoring Costs + Business Lines                                   Typical Savings with Cellular Monitoring 

2 Year Agreement Costs = $3,024.00                                                                    2 Year Agreement Savings = $1,101.00

3 Year Agreement Costs = $4,536.00                                                                     3 Year Agreement Savings = $1,953.00

4 Year Agreement Costs = $6,048.00                                                                    4 Year Agreement Savings = $2,817.00

5 Year Agreement Costs = $7,560.00                                                                     5 Year Agreement Savings = $3,705.00

6 Year Agreement Costs = $9,072.00                                                                     6 Year Agreement Savings = $4,653.00

Save money and improve your asset protection with cell monitoring.

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