fire protection system
If you have a Clean Agent System, it is necessary to perform a Room Integrity Fan Test at installation and during your annual inspection.
What if you lost a single day’s worth of data? Even in a small business of 15 office employees, saving work on a network server can be expensive. What if you lost a week, or even a month of data?
In 2006 to 2010, there were an estimated 209 reported U.S. structure fires per year that started in electronic equipment rooms. Clean Agent Systems are the best choice for fire protection in an IT room.
Inspections: Room Integrity Fan Test
A Room Integrity Fan Test, or Door Test, measures how well-sealed a room is by sealing the room and using a fan to draw a vacuum and pressurize the space. The fan speed is adjusted to obtain a flow pressure equal to that exerted during a fire suppression system discharge. The fan is also reversed to depressurize the room, and readings are taken at both the pressurized and depressurized state. Readings obtained are entered into a computer program designed to calculate the equivalent leakage area (ELA) for the room. Because it is measuring oxygen, which is lighter than clean agent chemicals, the ELA calculated is always a worst case leakage calculation for the room. The retention time for the air in the room is what decides if the room is properly sealed for a gaseous suppression system, as the gas must be able to be held in the room for long enough to extinguish the fire and ensure that it does not reignite. A minimum retention time of ten minutes applies in most cases.
If a Room Integrity Fan Test is unable to be conducted, NFPA 2001 Annex C.1.2.2 (5) allows for the option to seek approval from the Authority Having Jurisdiction to waive the quantitative results of a standard door fan test and instead conduct a detailed leak inspection. In this inspection, the door fan is used to blow air into the room while an inspector uses a smoke pencil to closely examine all floor and walls to look for leaks.
A Room Integrity Fan Test should be performed annually. Throughout the year, the property owner/manager should be maintaining a log of any penetration created in the room walls, etc. whether from internal staff or contractors. This information will be reviewed by the Fire Safety Professional performing the Room Integrity Fan Test. A clean agent fire suppression system is dependent on maintaining a certain level of the gas in the server room for a particular length of time, if the leaks are not sealed properly and too much gas leaks out then the fire may reignite.
Learn more about constructing a server room so that it is properly sealed for a clean agent system.
What other Inspections are needed for a Clean Agent Suppression System?
Twice a year clean agent suppression systems need to be inspected to check the agent quantity and pressure of the refillable containers. Your Inspector will also check the agent tanks for any physical damage that would require the tanks to be replaced. Annually, a detailed inspection of the clean agent system is required. During this inspection, all systems must be thoroughly inspected and tested to ensure proper operation (it is not required for the agent to be discharged). This is when your Room Integrity Fan Test will be performed. In addition, the hoses will be checked for signs of damage, and the smoke detectors will be tested along with your alarm panels. Your clean agent system has its own alarm panel separate from your building’s alarm panel. If you clean agent system is activated, it should notify and set off the alarm system for your building as a whole. Because of this, both the clean agent alarm panel and the building alarm panel are tested.
What should school alarms have: horns and strobes or audio messages?
Most state fire, building, and life safety codes require all new K-12 schools to have a fire alarm system which includes horns and strobes. For schools with more than 100 occupants, it is required by NFPA that the systems initiate an audio alarm to notify occupants. This alarm must meet requirements of, and is installed in accordance with, NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.
A fire alarm system has at least horns and strobes that signal when the system is activated. The horns and strobes are the traditional alert and are required for all fire alarm systems. Adding audio messages to your fire alarm takes your system to the next level. Audio messages can be individualized for specific circumstances, instead of a generic horn and strobe, and provide more information for how to respond to the situation.
NFPA 72 permits the emergency voice/alarm communications system to provide other uses, such as for public address (PA) or mass notification purposes. Some features of the PA system may seem to interfere with an emergency communication system such as the ability to lower the volume on speakers, emergency notification systems can override the local volume controls to reset them to the emergency sound level. In addition, emergency notification systems need to be set to override any PA non-emergency messages. Specific design requirements for a school’s emergency communication system also include the ability to broadcast live voice messages by paging zones, and requires an emergency power supply which can support the system for 24 hours.
NFPA 72, Chapter 24, provides guidance for messages recorded in the emergency communication system. It requires that messages be developed to address each scenario outlined in the school’s emergency response plan (which means schools are required to have an emergency response plan). Emergency messages must have content that provides information and instructions to the building occupants. An evacuation message must use the standard alarm evacuation signal consisting of a Temporal-3 alarm signal (which is the recommended standard evacuation pattern for smoke and fire alarms) for at least two cycles before and after the recorded voice message.
While this overview was a general review of requirements for school emergency notification systems, it is important to review your state and local code requirements as they may dictate other design requirements. You should also review your emergency response plan with your local police and fire department to get their input and coordinate responses.
Life safety systems such as sprinklers, fire extinguishers, fire pumps, and fire alarms all have required tests and inspections to ensure they are running properly. Fire safety systems protect lives and property, and where they are required to be installed there is an authority (such as the AHJ or Fire Department) to inspect them and ensure compliance with state and federal laws.
While many people look at these inspections as a hassle, they actually benefit the building or business owners, and those that utilize the building.
Fire safety inspections offer:
- A safer shopping, work or living environment;
- Business and job security, as up to 80% of all small businesses that experience a large fire never reopen, and those that do reopen stand to lose much of their customer base due to prolonged closures;
- A building with an improved resale value, as many buyers will have a building inspected for fire or safety hazards, or areas not up to code.
- A potential for lower insurance premiums, some items on the inspection checklist may be required by both the fire department and your insurance company (such as an annual fire sprinkler and fire alarm inspection), many insurance companies provide premium reductions to businesses for a properly installed and maintained fire protection system.
For a complete list of fire safety devices and their required inspection schedules, check out our Inspections Guidebook. But below are a few of the most commonly missed safety device inspections.
Sprinkler Head Testing
If you have a Sprinkler System you should have the system regularly inspected and tested. But did you know that you also need to have the Sprinkler Heads tested?
A fire sprinkler head is the component of a fire sprinkler system that discharges water when the effects of a fire have been detected, such as when a predetermined temperature has been exceeded. It is critical for the sprinkler head to be clear of obstructions, as well as corrosion, paint or other foreign material, which may prohibit it from working properly.
Required Inspections: Every 10 Years for dry type sprinkler heads; Every 20 Years for Sprinkler Heads with a Fast Response Element; at 50 Years all Sprinkler Heads must be tested and from this point must be tested every 10 years; at 75 Years all Sprinkler Heads must be tested and testing must be done every 5 years.
Find out what type of Sprinklers Heads you have and how old they are to determine what testing you need to schedule! Call A1 or your Fire Protection company for help.
Standpipe systems are a series of pipe which connect a water supply to hose connections, basically an extension of the fire hydrant system. They are designed to provide a pre-piped water system for building occupants or the fire department. Standpipe systems are designed to provide fire protection water for hose lines in strategically placed locations inside a building or structure. They are most common in large floor area buildings, where most of the facility may be some distance from an outside entrance, or in multistory buildings to prevent long lengths of hose in stairwells and on the ground.
Required Testing and Inspections: If you have a Standpipe system in your building, it is required to be inspected annually. Various testing of equipment is also required, for example a flow test must be performed every 5 years. According to NFPA 25 2011 (6.3.1), a flow test shall be conducted every 5 years at the hydraulically most remote hose connections of each zone of an automatic standpipe system to verify the water supply still provides the design pressure at the required flow. Check out A1’s Standpipe Systems Ebook for more detailed information about Standpipes.
If you have a Sprinkler System, you are required to have a Sprinkler Cabinet with spare sprinkler heads, a sprinkler head wrench, and a list of all sprinkler head locations on site. NFPA requires a certain number of each type of sprinkler heads used in your sprinkler system to be stored on-site to allow for immediate removal and replacement of sprinklers that may have been operated or become damaged.
Required Inspection: According to NFPA 25 (18.104.22.168), a supply of at least six spare sprinklers shall be maintained on the premises so that any sprinklers that have been operated or been damaged in any way can be promptly replaced. A22.214.171.124 states that a minimum of two sprinklers of each type and temperature rating installed should be provided.
Tips for your fire inspection
Meet with your inspector before they begin to ask what devices they will be looking at. Provide the inspector with copies of all your system and equipment inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) reports. Have someone accompany the inspector to take notes on areas you need to address.
NFPA 25, Standard for the inspection, testing, and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems, requires that a standpipe system be visually inspected on a regular basis.
If your building or facility has multiple levels or a large area such as an enclosed shopping mall then you may have a standpipe system. This water based fire system is an integral part of your building’s fire and safety design as it can supply the building’s sprinkler system and allows firefighters to hook up fire hoses directly on the level where a fire is occurring.
There are different types of standpipes, some may have water in them while others are dry and need to be hooked to a water supply for use; some standpipes have enough pressure from the water supply to work on their own, while others need the help of a fire department pumper truck.
Pictured above is one example of a stand pipe with a 2 ½” hose vale. These vales should be checked weekly for damage, leaks, or missing caps.
What you need to do:
No matter what type you have, it is important to inspect your standpipe weekly for:
- Signs of physical damage or leakage.
- Make sure all control valves are in place.
- Check for dry rot on the hose and cap gaskets.
- Check for proper labels on equipment.
- Make sure equipment is accessible – not blocked by boxes or other items.
- Gauges on dry, pre-action, and deluge valves for standpipes should be inspected for normal air and water pressure; automatic standpipes can be inspected monthly.
The most common problems found with standpipes are related to housekeeping – keep your standpipes in good working order by keeping the area around the standpipe and valves cleaned and painted in order to prevent corrosion. Standpipes are commonly in need of maintenance for leaking valves, missing caps or handles, and damaged devices – all of which you will be able to see on your weekly checks so it can be fixed right away, before the problem escalates!
Your weekly checks should find any emergency maintenance problems, your required semi-annual and annual inspections will test the system thoroughly for issues you would not be able to see in your weekly checks. At the semi-annual inspection, your alarm devices, valve supervisory devices, and supervisory signal devices will be tested. In addition to these, the annual inspection will test the hose nozzles, hose storage devices and main drain.
Every 3 to 5 years, inspections will include a pressure test on hoses; testing of control valves, pressure-reducing valves and system flow; dry standpipe system piping, hydrostatic test; and a full flow test. Your inspector will lubricate and operate all valves and hose connections to ensure everything is working properly and they will remove the hoses from racks to reload them in order to keep them in good working order.
Read more about Standpipes, the different types, required inspections, and more in our Standpipe Systems Ebook. 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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
-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.
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.
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.