As many as 50% of high-rise fires can be attributed to four classes of property: hotels, offices, healthcare facilities and apartments. For property managers of these types of buildings, having a proper fire prevention, detection, and response system in place is essential to limiting damage and preventing loss of life. Here are the 5 essentials of a commercial fire protection system:
- Qualified Fire Alarm Contractors
Fire alarms are often the first line of defense when it comes to fire detection. It’s important to the safety of your building and its occupants that you adhere to the fire alarm code and have adequate fire alarm systems in place. A qualified and experienced fire alarm contractor will employ technicians for commercial fire sprinkler system and fire alarm installation.
Fire alarm contractors should be certified by the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) and be able to furnish his or her certifications upon request. An NICET certification allows you to verify a fire alarm contractor has adequate experience and knowledge of the fire alarm codes to safely service your building. Additional questions to ask potential fire alarm contractors include how many technicians they have servicing your area and how long they’ve been in business. Request references of other buildings they service so you can visit their other customers and ask how the property managers there feel about their fire alarm system and the service they’ve received.
- Know the Code:
It’s a good idea to be aware of the fire code requirements for your building before meeting with fire alarm contractors. For instance, if your building houses telecommunication systems, you may be required to adhere to stricter detection guidelines. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code 75 outlines the minimum requirements for IT equipment fire protection, while NFPA 76 sets the requirements for protection of facilities that provide telephone, internet transmission, wireless, video, and data services. The new codes state that buildings with telecommunication equipment in over 2,500 square feet of space require Very Early Warning Fire Detection (VEWFD) systems. For data centers under 2,500 square feet, Early Warning Fire Detection (EWFD) systems are required. When meeting with fire alarm contractors, ensure you are both clear on the requirements for your business.
- Rapid Detection and Response Equipment:
The first stage of a fire is called the incipient stage, when chemical or environmental conditions combine to result in fire. The incipient stage is followed by the growth stage, when oxygen and other resources provide fuel for the fire. Detection 10 to 15 minutes before the incipient stage ends will allow fire department personnel to limit the damage, regardless of the fire’s location or if the suppression system activated appropriately at outset. Fire respondents have the best chance of success if response occurs within three minutes of fire outbreak.
Automatic sprinklers combined with early warning systems can reduce injuries, loss of life, and property damage by over 50%. Quick response sprinklers release up to 24 gallons of water per minute. Supplemented by a fire hose, which releases 80 to 125 gallons of water per minute, the two can reduce the likelihood of extensive damage.
- An Evacuation Plan:
To prevent loss of life or injury to your building’s occupants, it’s also critical that your business have an evacuation plan in place. Only 35% of 119 surveyed businesses had an evacuation plan in place. Having your evacuation plan clearly displayed is particularly important for buildings such as hospitals and hotels where occupants change frequently and are less likely to be knowledgeable of the building’s layout.
- Routine Maintenance:
Hand-in-hand with prevention is maintenance. As many as 44% of chemical system failures are attributed to lack of maintenance. According to the NFPA, a fire in a building with a complete and properly operational sprinkler system in place has never resulted in more than two deaths. Fire alarm contractors can be expected to perform routine inspections of fire alarm inspections, but you and your building’s occupants are the eyes and ears on the ground. If you notice something amiss, contact your fire alarm contractor immediately.
With qualified fire alarm contractors, knowledge of the fire code, rapid detection systems, evacuation plans, and routine maintenance, property managers can ensure their buildings and the occupants within are adequately protected against the dangers of fire.