Top 4 things you should ask when selecting a service company
(or, to determine if you have the best service company for you)
How many years of experience does your service team have?
You can learn two things from finding out the years of experience a service team has: 1. How much collective knowledge do they have? Which is very important in ensuring they can address a wide range of issues with Life Safety systems. 2. How many service technicians do they have available? With more technicians available to answer calls, you are more likely to get a quick response to a service call from a knowledgeable technician. The knowledge and number of technicians available are a valuable asset for you. A small number of technicians might be a flag as a cause for concern in the level of service available.
What is the average response time between a service call/request and the technician arriving?
Customer service. Any successful business knows how important this is. You should expect a high level of customer service from your Life Safety Partner. When an alarm sounds, a system is activated, or a problem arises you need a quick response to get the issue addressed in order to keep your business running smoothly.
Ask what the average response time is for a service call to be addressed. Ideally, your Partner is able to dispatch service technicians immediately for all calls. If there are multiple calls at once, then priority should be assigned based on the severity of the situation and location. If there is a queue, your Life Safety Partner should be contacting you when a service technician is on the way to your facility.
Do you have an Answering Service for emergencies?
There is no way to schedule emergencies to occur between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. It is very important that you are able to speak with a real person from your Life Safety Partner organization at any time, day or night. While an answering service will give you a number to call when something goes wrong outside of business hours, it is much better to speak with someone from your Life Safety Partner company. The best solution is to have a Life Safety Partner that has an emergency line which is always answered by a Life Safety Professional. This will ensure that you are able to get help when you need it most, regardless of whether or not it is within regular business hours.
Ask yourself, when you speak with someone at your service company (or potential service company), do they sound interested in helping you?
Fire and Life Safety are serious concerns, and you want to select a Partner who is passionate about working with you and ensuring your people and assets stay protected.
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.
Limit the inconvenience of trouble signals from your Fire Alarm system by being pro-active in replacing batteries.
Fire alarms are a system of multiple devices working together to detect and warn people through visual and audio appliances when smoke, fire, carbon monoxide or other emergencies are present. The fire alarm panel is the electrical panel that monitors all components of the system. It also sends trouble signals for problems found within the fire alarm system, problems which may cause the system to not work properly and put your people and assets at risk. Fire alarm systems are prone to errors given the sheer number of devices involved so regular inspections and maintenance are key in keeping your system operating properly. Regular maintenance can also limit the number of trouble signals you receive each year as your Life Safety Partner will inspect and service the devices to keep them running properly.
Fire alarms need to be able to work during an emergency, and since emergencies can cause power outages a battery back-up to your system is an important component. When your battery power runs low, your fire alarm system will send a trouble signal to the central monitoring station, who will then call the system owner. The fire alarm panel will also beep locally at the panel and annunciator if one is present.
Trouble signals from your Fire Alarm system won’t wait for a convenient time; whether you are in a meeting, out of town, or sleeping at 2 a.m. you will be receiving the alert and need to address it immediately. By pro-actively replacing your system batteries every two years, you can limit both the number of trouble signals you receive and the increased costs of emergency service from your Life Safety Partner.
Parts of the Fire Alarm System:
Fire alarm control panel (FACP) – also known as the fire alarm control unit, is the hub of the system. It monitors inputs and system integrity, controls outputs and relays information.
Smoke Detectors – smoke detectors have built in sensors, and when smoke is found in the atmosphere, they send information to the fire alarm panel. The two most common types of smoke detectors are ionization and photoelectric. The sensing chambers of these detectors operate differently to sense visible or invisible combustion particles from developing fires.
Primary power supply – commonly the non-switched 120 or 240 volt alternating current course supplied from a commercial power utility. In non-residential applications, a branch circuit is dedicated to the fire alarm system and its constituents. “Dedicated branch circuits” should not be confused with “Individual branch circuits” which supply energy to a single appliance.
Secondary (backup) power supplies – This component, commonly consisting of sealed lead-acid storage batteries or other emergency sources including generators, is used to supply energy in the event of a primary power failure.
Initiating devices: This component acts as an input to the fire alarm control unit and are either manually or automatically activated, such as pull stations, heat detectors, or smoke detectors. Heat and smoke detectors have different categories of both kinds. Some categories are beam, photoelectrical, aspiration, and duct.
Notification appliances: This component uses energy supplied from the fire alarm system or other stored energy source, to inform people of the need to take action, usually to evacuate. This is done by means of a flashing light, strobe light, electromechanical horn, “beeper horn”, chime, bell, speaker, or a combination of these devices.
Building safety interfaces: This interface allows the fire alarm system to control aspects of the building environment and to prepare the building for fire, and to control the spread of smoke fumes and fire by influencing air movement, lighting, process control, human transport and exit. Building safety interfaces include magnetic smoke door holders, duct mounted smoke detection, emergency elevator service, and public address rack.
Can you ensure each device in your fire alarm is being inspected and tested? You can if your Life Safety Partner uses a barcoded method of inspection, ensuring the inspector finds and tests each device efficiently. Your inspection report should list the results for each device, as well as the date/time stamp for when it was last inspected. These details will provide you with piece of mind and your AHJ inspector with full system information.
Cooking is the leading cause of death and destruction from fires in the U.S. Cooking fires account for $16.4 million in property damage annually. Additionally, cooking was the leading cause of fire in all healthcare facilities (nursing home, hospital, mental health facility, clinic or doctors office) according to NFPA US Structure Fires in Health Care Properties Fact Sheet (download it here). Keeping up with your required kitchen hood system inspections is an important part of protecting lives and your facility.
Kitchen hood suppression systems are designed, tested, and approved to provide fire protection for commercial kitchen cooking appliances, hoods, and ducts.
Kitchen hood systems have an efficient, automatic detector response that acts fast to suppress flames. Kitchen hood systems eliminate the need for a constant supply of the suppressing agent and manual shut off of the appliance’s gas and electric, while blocking any danger of a violent reaction that may spread flame or spill cooking oil.
Facilities that should have kitchen hood systems:
- Gourmet Restaurants
- Sports Complexes
- Fast-Food Chains
- Retail Food Courts
- Convenience Stores
- Hotel Kitchens
- School Cafeterias
- Food Service Kitchens
Kitchen hood systems will extinguish fires caused by the following:
- Deep Fryers
- Upright Boilers
- Plenum Chambers
How Do Kitchen Hood Systems Work?
When a fire starts in a protected area, heat sensitive links activate the kitchen hood system. The system stops the cooking appliance’s gas and electric supply. An extinguishing agent releases through nozzles and onto the appliances, plenum and duct.
At the first sign of fire, remember to evacuate the building and call 911. Stand by with a K class extinguisher just in case the system fails to act or a re-flash occurs.
Types of Restaurant Fire Suppression Systems
Wet Chemical Systems
Wet chemical systems are the most commonly used kitchen hood system. The wet chemical agent suppresses fire by cooling and reacting chemically to produce a foam layer on the grease. The foam seals combustible vapors, stopping the flames from re-igniting.
Dry Chemical Systems
Dry chemical systems were used to extinguish flammable liquid fires involving live electrical equipment. Dry chemical interrupts the chemical reaction of fire by removing the oxygen from the source. When the multipurpose dry chemical is discharged, the agent leaves a residue on the burning material. The residue seals the material from the oxygen to suffocate the fire. Unfortunately, because deep fryers are much more insulated than in the past, dry chemical systems are not capable of extinguishing kitchen fires. UL 300 Systems are recommended as a good replacement for dry chemical kitchen hood systems.
UL 300 Wet System
UL 300 systems use wet chemicals to smother the fire (like dry chems) and to prevent re-ignition by cooling the flammable liquids (unlike dry chems). The UL 300 standard represents the heightened suppression innovation to accommodate new, hotter cooking methods and is currently the most effective way to suppress a kitchen hood fire. If you are due to change your kitchen hood system soon, most states will require you to update to a UL 300 system.
Living and Caring for Your Restaurant Fire Suppression System
Have a certified kitchen hood system professional inspect your kitchen hood system every 6-months and immediately after any major hood/duct cleaning. The system should be inspected overall and tested to verify that it is fully operational. Keep in mind that menu, preparation, and layout may require an update to your system. Any updates, again, require a professional.
While a professional should service, test, inspect, recharge or repair a system, NFPA asks system owners to perform a monthly inspection. This inspection is for visible problems with the kitchen hood system.
Check the following during your monthly visual inspection:
- The extinguishing system is in its proper location.
- The manual actuators are unobstructed.
- The tamper indicators and seals are intact.
- The maintenance tag or certificate is in place.
- No obvious physical damage or condition exists that might prevent operation.
- The pressure gauge(s), if provided, is in operable range.
- The nozzle blow-off caps are intact and undamaged.
- The hood, duct, and protected cooking appliances have not been replaced, modified, or relocated.
Supplement Your Kitchen Hood System
K-Class fire extinguishers are used to protect against kitchen hazards without leaving residue. These extinguishers are a great supplement to kitchen hood systems and should be present in any commercial cooking environment.
Budgeting for your safety systems is supposed to be easy. What about those off years where everything seems to go wrong? Here are 6 tips to keep you in budget, even during the worst year.
1. Plan Everything in Advance
Do you have inspections coming up? Is your sprinkler system starting to get old? Mark those dates down and get them scheduled. Keeping up with routine maintenance will help prevent surprise breakdowns.
2. Know Your Systems
What systems do you have? When were they installed? Who installed them? What model number is it? How they work together? Where are their controls located? Offering accurate information at the time of your call will cut labor costs and fix your system faster.
3. Keep Detailed Records
The more information you have off the bat, the more money you’ll save off of your service visit. Neither you, nor the service tech will waste time trying to figure out the necessary details. Use a calendar to keep track of your required service due dates. Spreadsheets are a great choice to record when service is completed.
4. Have Potential Replacement Parts Nearby
Your parts might not give out soon, but nothing will last forever. Paying the price years ahead means paying nothing when the time comes to use your purchase. Have spare replacement parts handy, on location. You’ll avoid expedited shipping fees, waiting for your part to arrive, extra trip charges, more labor costs, long fire watches and more.
5. Have a Good Support System
Phone support is a must for safety systems. You’ll cut your labor costs big time if you can troubleshoot the basics. Any reputable company will make phone support available to you. Find a good, dependable, qualified company that can handle all of your life safety systems.
6. Systems Parts Warranties Work
Safety Systems warranties are very beneficial. You have a good probability you will need the agreement later. The electronics in these life safety systems are complex and expensive. It’s a lot less painful to replace a $2000 part if it’s covered by warranty.
There you have it! Always do your required maintenance and inspections. If your system fails after that, simply being familiar with your system and knowing who to call will save you.