Simplify Emergency Communications from School Districts to Classrooms
Security and effective communications for K-12 schools is critical for all school systems. Schools need technology that can simplify this complex issue, create immediate emergency communication channels for administrators, staff, students, and visitors. School’s communication systems should be efficient for all school buildings, even those that are not staffed 24/7, cover large geographic areas, and during times when cellular networks are at their limits.
The Alertus System is one such tool for K-12 schools. There is no need to update your equipment or purchase equipment specific to Alertus, as this system utilizes your existing communication equipment to provide comprehensive emergency notification.
There are multiple options to choose from when setting up your emergency notification system. Will you need a district-wide or school-based notification system? Which communication devices will you want to integrate, such as computers, public address systems, and sounders and strobes? Can your local emergency services interact with the system – receiving and posting emergency notices?
Emergency Alert Grants/Donations for Schools
Some emergency communication systems offer special pricing for school systems. Alertus has a grant application for K-12 schools, colleges, universities and certain nonprofits to apply for their Desktop Donation Initiative. This initiative assists schools with severe budget challenges to address emergency communications. Recipients of the grant receive a perpetual license of Alertus Desktop Notification including the software, activation console, and unlimited utilization of notification on desktops and laptops throughout the school’s facilities. For more information, or to apply, check out Alertus.com/donation.
District-Wide or School-Based Notification
District-wide notification allows individual schools to communicate with the district office, local police and fire stations. K-12 schools can mount notification devices in the front offices, enabling administrators to respond to threats during a crisis. You can also tie in school’s existing voice public address system, enabling school administrators to share critical alert information to select schools or district wide.
School-based notification provides panic buttons within classrooms that communicate emergencies to other staff, the front office, or police/first responders. These panic buttons can also trigger a preset message over the school’s public address system, alerting everyone of an immediate lockdown during a safety incident.
Integrating Existing Systems to your Emergency Alert System
Each school will have existing systems in place, adding an emergency alert system should not mean costly upgrades or new equipment purchases. The Alertus System can be connected to desktops throughout your school’s facilities to provide on-screen notifications during an emergency. In addition, you can tie in the Alertus system with your public address system or outdoor notification system, fire alarm panel, digital signage, cable TV, and access control system as long as they utilize the CAP, Common Alert Protocol.
Connect your Local Emergency Services with your Emergency Alert System
Consider having your emergency notification system connected to your local dispatch for emergency responders. Some systems can automatically notify dispatch of emergency situations so that help can be sent right away. If you prefer not to have dispatch connected to your system, see if your system can store public safety numbers for easy access during an emergency.
The main goal of safety and health programs is to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Safety in the workplace will also the suffering and financial hardships that these events can cause for workers, their families, and employers. To assist companies with developing a safety and health program, OSHA has outlined recommended practices which are built around six core elements of a successful program.
In this article, we will discuss the first 3 elements of a successful safety and health program: Management Leadership, Worker Participation, and Hazard Identification and Assessment.
Having your leadership team actively involved in instituting a safety and health management program is vital to the success of the program. The support of your leadership team is needed to make worker safety and health a core value for your organization. They should also be fully committed to eliminating hazards, protecting workers, and continuously improving workplace safety and health. Your leadership team sets the example for everyone in your organization, both through demonstrating safety practices, and providing resources and support for all employees to do so.
An effective safety and health management program requires the active participation of your workers. Your workers are the ones most directly affected by a safety and health program, both in the benefit of one and in the work that must go into establishing and maintaining one. Getting buy-in, understanding, and support of your safety and health program from your workers is critical to success.
A few ways you can encourage this participation is to encourage input and reporting on safety and health issues. Ensure that when issues are raised, there is not sense of retaliation towards the worker bringing the issue to light. Provide easy access to information that workers will need to effectively participate in the program, and have opportunities to participate in all states of the program design and implementation.
Hazard Identification and Assessment
Anticipating and correcting potential hazards is the key to a proactive safety and health program. This is an ongoing process, to continually identify and remove potential hazards. Fixing hazards as they are identified emphasizes the importance of safety and health. Giving your employees the authority to identify and fix hazards will help to increase involvement.
To identify and assess hazards, employers and workers must collect and review information about the hazards present or likely to be present in the workplace. Initial and periodic inspections should be performed to identify new or recurring hazards. Your inspections should include potential hazards associated with emergency and non-routine situations, as well as ones associated with routine work. All injuries, illnesses, incidents, and close calls/near misses should be investigated to determine the underlying hazards and shortcomings of your safety and health program so that these can be corrected. Grouping similar incidents and identifying trends in injuries, illnesses, and hazards can help to identify the underlying cause. As hazards are identified, you should determine the severity and likelihood of incidents that could result from each in order to prioritize corrective actions. Any hazards such as housekeeping and tripping hazards can and should be fixed as they are found.
Continue reading on this topic in, Core Elements for a Safety & Health Management Program, Part 2.
For more detailed information, or to download the full guidelines, visit www.osha.gov. 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.
4,836 workers were killed on the job in 2015 — on average, that’s more than 93 a week or more than 13 deaths every day.
Out of 4,379 worker fatalities in the private industry in 2015, 937 or 21.4% were in construction — that is, one in five worker deaths last year were in construction. The leading causes of private sector worker deaths (excluding highway collisions) in the construction industry were falls, followed by struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in/between. These “Fatal Four” were responsible for 64.2% of the construction worker deaths in 2015. Eliminating the Fatal Four would save 602 workers’ lives in America every year.
The main goal of safety and health programs is to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths, as well as the suffering and financial hardship these events can cause for workers, their families, and employers. Recommended practices use a proactive approach to managing workplace safety and health. Traditional approaches are often reactive –that is, problems are addressed only after a worker is injured or becomes sick, a new standard or regulation is published, or an outside inspection finds a problem that must be fixed. Proactive practices recognize that finding and fixing hazards before they cause injury or illness is a far more effective approach.
To build a safety and health management program, it is recommended to begin with a basic program and simple goals and grow from there. If you focus on achieving goals, monitoring performance, and evaluating outcomes, your workplace can progress along the path to higher levels of safety and health achievement.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than half of the 8,160 structure fires involving commercial cooking equipment or ventilation components that occur annually begin in kitchens or cooking areas. Between 2004 and 2008, these cooking fires caused three deaths, 100 injuries, and $229 million in director property damage each year.
A kitchen hood is important fire protection at it eliminates air contaminants and toxic chemicals from the air, which are released when cooking. The filters in the kitchen hood capture grease and debris in these fumes and prevents them from entering your exhaust system.
Kitchen hood grease filters are an important fire prevention device. With grease or debris in your exhaust ducts, a fire could occur within the hood system. Duct fires can be intense, difficult to extinguish, and are susceptible to re-ignition.
No cook likes to clean the grease filters, however, regular cleaning of your grease filters is critical to maintaining proper function. Let your kitchen staff focus on their real job functions and remove this risk of worker compensation claims by collaborating with a knowledgeable partner to clean your filters. Having your Life Safety Partner perform this service will save you money while also keeping your employees safe, and your kitchen in compliance.
A filter exchange program can be a real benefit to any food service company or restaurant. At the intervals required for your kitchen, based on cooking methods, appliances, and volume of operation, your filters will be scheduled for automatic replacement.
Not only are the dirty filters removed and replaced with clean filters, but also the dirty filters are taken off-site to be cleaned. By not cleaning the grease filters at your restaurant you can reduce the amount of grease going down your drain by up to 70%, and the grease will be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. This offsite cleaning will save you money by reducing chemical costs, water usage, and the amount of grease in your traps.
Fire sprinkler systems experience corrosion due to the interaction of oxygen, an unprotected metal, and moisture. In 25 years, 35% of wet fire sprinkler systems have significant corrosion issues. In only 12.5 years, 73% of dry and pre-action systems have significant corrosion issues.
Corrosion will cause leaks in your sprinkler pipes, resulting in costly repairs which may include replacing piping, fittings, or even the entire system, facility or equipment damage from water leaks, and sprinkler head blockages.
To combat corrosion, fire sprinkler systems utilize either galvanized steel or black steel for pipes, as each type of steel has corrosion resistant properties.
Galvanized and Black Steel
Galvanized steel pipe is hot-dipped in zinc to have a protective coating on the walls of the pipe. The zinc coating, or galvanizing, acts as a sacrificial anode to reduce the corrosion of steel pipe. However, galvanized steel pipe does corrode in any pitted area or space where the galvanized coating is damaged or missing.
Black steel pipe has little to no protective coating. This is the most commonly used steel pipe for sprinkler systems. The oxygen within the water is quickly dissipated, thus reducing the corrosion potential. However, black steel pipe does corrode in a uniform thinning of the walls.
Since neither type of steel is able to stop corrosion, one of the other agents in corrosion, either oxygen or moisture, must be addressed in order to stop the problem. While water is inevitable in sprinkler pipes (even dry system pipes will have condensation), Oxygen can be replaced with Nitrogen – effectively breaking the corrosion triangle.
Dry and Pre-Action systems can be pressurized with Nitrogen, instead of air. Wet systems can have the pipes charged with Nitrogen before being flushed with water, so that any “air” pockets are actually pockets of Nitrogen. Read more about corrosion solutions specifically for Dry/Pre-Action Systems and Wet Systems.
Testing Corrosion Rates in Steel Pipes
An independent lab has been conducting ongoing, long-term exposure tests to compare the performance of Nitrogen vs Oxygen, in both black steel (schedule 10) and galvanized pipe, and the effects on corrosion. Each pipe segment is subjected to compressed air or supervisory nitrogen, as they would be in a practical application of a dry pipe fire sprinkler. At regular intervals, the pipes are opened and the amount of corrosion is measured so that the rate of corrosion can be calculated.
The images below show pipe segments that have been exposed to either compressed air or 98% Nitrogen for 6.5 years, and in both the state the pipe was received and then that pipe segment cleaned. At the rate of corrosion found, the Black Steel Pipes would last 19.8 years with compressed air and 60.9 years with 98% Nitrogen. The Galvanized Steel Pipes would last 9.2 years with compressed air and 162.3 years with 98% Nitrogen. The results clearly show that a significant cost savings can be realized by using black steel pipe in combination with Nitrogen supervision.
Corrosion is a problem that must be addressed in both dry pipe and wet pipe sprinkler systems. In this article, we will discuss pipe corrosion in wet sprinkler systems and methods of preventing the corrosion.
The water that fills wet sprinkler pipes contains approximately 10 parts per million (ppm) of dissolved oxygen. All wet systems experience initial corrosion because of this dissolved oxygen. However, this corrosion is self-limiting as some of that dissolved oxygen will be consumed until the system is refilled with fresh, oxygenated water.
The primary catalyst of pipe corrosion in a wet system is air that has been trapped in air pockets of the pipes. These air pockets exist frequently within wet system pipes at high points of the piping. These trapped air pockets contain 20.9% oxygen, which can fully sustain electrochemical corrosion. As a result, pinhole leaks eventually develop at the location of the air pockets. These leaks have costly results including property and equipment damage, ongoing repairs to pipes or full system replacement, sprinkler head blockages, and an inoperable fire protection system that puts your people and assets at risk.
In order to prevent pinhole leaks, there must be less than 2% oxygen in the trapped space (reduced from the 20.9% that would typically be present). There are several preventative actions that can be taken: wet air vents, auto inert with nitrogen, and remove oxygen from the water. While each action can be taken individually, the best results occur when they are combined.
Wet Air Vents
Installing wet air vents is the most basic step you can take to reduce oxygen corrosion in your wet sprinkler pipes. Your Life Safety Partner will install the wet air vents at high points and other potential areas where air can be trapped, in order to provide a vent to remove the air. There are two types of wet air vents, single and dual. Both types remove the oxygen from the pipe, venting it outside the sprinkler pipe. A single vent removes the air and closes the valve when water reaches it, this water then drains back into the sprinkler pipe. The single vent will discharge any overflow so it should not be used in areas that are water sensitive. A dual vent will not discharge water so it is safe to install in water sensitive areas. As the pressure from the sprinkler pipe drops, any collected water in the air vents will automatically drain back to the sprinkler pipe through the secondary valve. The dual valve also creates redundancy, eliminating any failure concerns.
Auto Inert with Nitrogen
Filling the sprinkler pipes with high purity nitrogen gas prior to charging the system with water can ensure that corrosion in all trapped air locations is slowed. To do this to a wet sprinkler pipe system, you must first drain the fire protection system of all water and install an auto inert system. The fire sprinkler system is then filled with 98% pure nitrogen through the inert system. By displacing the trapped air with high-purity nitrogen, you minimize the source of oxygen to sustain electrochemical corrosion and corrosion cells have less chance of propagating.
You can use this technique in place of wet air vents, as installation of wet air vents may not always be possible due to lack of headroom or varying elevations, which make identification of trapped air pockets challenging or impossible. However, the best results for slowing corrosion occur when you combine the two solutions.
Removing Oxygen from a Wet Pipe Sprinkler System
Removing oxygen from a wet pipe sprinkler system is the best option to slow, or eliminate, internal wet system corrosion. In addition to the wet air vents, this method removes the oxygen from the trapped air pockets and reduces the dissolved oxygen in water to 1.0 ppm or less.
First, the wet pipe system is pre-purged with nitrogen. This changes the pockets of trapped air to pockets of trapped nitrogen gas, which does not act as a catalyst for corrosion like oxygen does. The sprinkler pipe is filled with deoxygenated water, 1.0 ppm or less of dissolved oxygen. This deoxygenated water, which is below the threshold of oxygen known to cause corrosion, stays in constant contact with the sprinkler piping. There is now not enough oxygen in the water to dissipate into the trapped nitrogen gas pockets, which protects the areas of pipe that would have corroded under normal circumstances.
Increased OSHA fines are now active for all safety violations
OSHA has new enforcement and penalty policies that became effective August 1st, 2016. Due to these new policies, companies with more than 250 employees can expect increased scrutiny and fines. Companies with fewer than 250 employees can receive a fine reduction of 20% from the OSHA area director.
The new fine structure for incidents increased by 80%, this sets a new maximum fine of $124,709 for each citation. This max fine can be applied to every employee involved in a citation if OSHA deems the violation egregious, including willful and repeat violations. Violations can be classified as willful or repeat violations for up to 5 years, increased from the previous 3 years. The new fine amount for serious violations, which are not classified as willful or repeat violations, is $12,470.
OSHA has also instituted a new rating system for inspectors to use when classifying violations. The inspectors use a points system to rank violations, due to this system it is expected that the number of violations ranked as egregious will increase.
Preparing for an OSHA audit is extremely important for your organization. In advance of an audit, you should determine who the point of contact will be for the OSHO inspector, if there is any classified or sensitive information or processes at your facility, and policies for handling records release and employee interviews with the inspector. Read more on OSHA Audits: Why and How to Prepare.
The most basic steps that companies can take to mitigate risk and prevent an OSHA inspection are regular inspections and maintaining detailed inspection reports. In order to create effective safety plans, you first need to be able to use reliable data to identify safety hazards. If an accident does occur, these records can demonstrate due diligence and proof of compliance to OSHA inspectors. Your records should include inspections, code references, and logs of actions taken to address deficiencies or hazards.
If you need help instituting an active safety management plan, read more here and speak to your Life Safety Partner.
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
- Locate all drum drips throughout the property.
- If a quick opening device is installed, temporarily remove it from service.
- At the drum drip, ensure both valves on the drum drip are closed.
- 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.)
- Slowly open the top valve to full open position and maintain this position for 10 seconds.
- Close the top valve. **You should never open both the top and bottom valve at the same time as this may activate your system.**
- Slowly open the bottom valve to discharge any water. If you cannot see the discharge point, allow water to drain for 10 seconds.
- Close the bottom valve.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Complete Monitoring of your Life Safety Systems
Remote monitoring provides complete protection of your people and asset. Whether you have a fire, break-in, or a medical emergency your alarm monitoring staff will know immediately and can dispatch the appropriate agencies – police, fire, ambulance or any necessary support services.
In addition to alerting the authorities, your designated contact is notified of the situation ensuring that management stays abreast of all events. All within minutes of any alarm. This quick response and communication is a critical part of your safety management program.
Most companies have remote monitoring for a security system and fire protection system. While this is now commonplace, it should also be standard to have your Life Safety Partner monitoring all systems for alerts about emerging or immediate system problems. Your system can be monitored for issues such as failing batteries, electrical issues, or other problems that may interfere with the proper function of your life safety systems.
You can also have alerts monitored for health and safety items such as your AED cabinet and carbon monoxide detector. This all-inclusive monitoring ensures that the proper authorities are notified during an emergency, and that system issues are addressed quickly in order to provide continued protection.
When selecting or reviewing your Monitoring partner, understand that your security relies on the staff of the monitoring station. This means it is important that your Monitoring station have highly trained staff, capable of responding to all situations appropriately and effectively. Your Monitoring station should be staffed 24/7/365 to ensure continuous monitoring of your systems.
Customized responses from your Monitoring partner are also important. With a variety of systems being monitored for maintenance alerts and emergency alarms, there is no one response that will work for all of them. Being able to customize the responses for your different systems will allow the correct person to be notified every time.
Workplace safety training is more than just fulfilling a legal obligation. Providing your employees with safety training gives them the knowledge and skills necessary to protect each other, their equipment and facilities. Most importantly, safety training prevents workplace injuries.
As an additional incentive to employers, providing workplace training can mitigate the expenses associated with an injury – such as fines and insurance rates, lost man-hours and loss of production. OSHA has increased the fines that will be levied against companies for safety violations. The maximum penalty for Serious and Other than Serious Violations is now $12,600, up from $7,000 before 2016. Willful and Repeat Violations have increased from $70,000 before 2016 to now $126,000.
Safety Planning & Training from Day 1
Employers have a responsibility under the law to provide an environment that is as safe as possible for employees and visitors. A detailed risk assessment of all work areas and processes is necessary, and all findings should be recorded. As an employer, you must address any significant risks identified during the assessment with plans designed to reduce these risks. You must record these measures and communicate them to employees, so they are aware of both the risks and the procedures for safer work.
It is important to include a safety orientation for new hires. In this way, you are bringing to their attention from their first day that safety is an important part of your company’s culture. A simple checklist should be used as the new employee is shown through the workplace to discuss site evacuation procedures, risks associated with the employee’s working environment and duties, fire precautions, accident and near-miss reporting procedures, personal protective equipment that may be required for their job, and any safety programs carried out by the employer.
Each industry and company will have their own, personalized list of safety items that new employees should be made aware of on their first day. A health and safety checklist should be compiled with particular job responsibilities in mind. It is important that new employees review this information and sign the document to acknowledge they understand the safety guidelines provided. Employers are responsible for training their workers on specific hazards of their job, as noted in many OSHA standards.
Continue Safety Training
After introductory training, hazard recognition training should be provided for all employees. This training consists of 10 and 30-hour courses which cover important OSHA regulations and hazard identification techniques for the construction or general industry.
The 10-hour training program is for entry-level workers. All outreach training covers an overview of the hazards a worker may encounter on a job site. Training emphasizes hazard identification, avoidance, control and prevention, not OSHA standards. Classes also provide an overview of workers’ rights and employer responsibilities. There is a 30-hour training program for supervisors intended to provide a greater depth and variety of information. OSHA training classes are hands-on and can be tailored to the specific needs of an industry or company.
While these courses are voluntary, OSHA recommends outreach courses as an orientation to occupational safety and health for workers. Some States, employers, unions, organizations or other jurisdictions require this training as they have seen the value of continued safety training in reducing injury and deaths in the workplace.
Training in the safe way for workers to do their jobs well is an investment that will pay back repeatedly in fewer injuries and illnesses, better morale, lower insurance premiums and more. It is a good idea to keep a record of all safety and health training. Documentation can also supply an answer to one of the first questions an incident investigator will ask: “Did the employee receive adequate training to do the job?”