Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Uncategorized

Why Your Building Needs Fire Sprinklers

illustration of firefighterLast weekend, a band at a Phoenix, AZ nightclub used a flammable liquid at the front of the stage, which started a fire. Because the fire sprinkler closest to the fire activated and extinguished the flames, no one was injured in the event. Thirteen years ago, a similar fire (caused by band pyrotechnics) in West Warwick, R.I. took the lives of 100 people and injured 230 others. The sole difference between the two events? The Rebel Lounge in Arizona has a fire sprinkler system; the Station nightclub in Rhode Island did not. Is it just me, or is it pretty obvious that fire sprinklers are a good idea?

Dalmation Fire DogThe National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) commends not only those involved in extinguishing the Arizona fire, but also the local officials who had the foresight to adopt fire sprinkler requirements. Fire safety professionals, victims and firedogs agree that sprinkler systems save lives.

John Barylick, author of “Killer Show, The Station Nightclub Fire, America’s Deadliest Rock Concert,” said, “Unfortunately, humans can be very slow learners when it comes to playing with fire in places of public assembly – witness this week’s near-tragedy at the Rebel Lounge. Fortunately, local officials there had enacted common-sense sprinkler requirements, and disaster was averted.”

Some Rebel Lounge customers complained that sprinklers stopped the show. I understand why they were angry that the band stopped playing. But how were they supposed to play with a fire raging? In response, one Rhode Island survivor, Rob Feeney, who lost his fiancée and received second and third-degree burns, offered his own insights:

“As a survivor of the Station Nightclub fire, I want to tell everyone who is upset because the fire sprinkler activation stopped the show, (to) be thankful for that. Fire is fast, and while you think you can escape, I’m here to tell you it’s too fast. We must unite in support of fire sprinklers.”

Ceiling Fire Sprinkler isolated on whiteSprinklers were invented by an American named Henry S. Parmalee, in 1874, to protect his piano factory. Until the 1940s and 1950s, sprinkler systems were installed almost exclusively for the protection of buildings, especially warehouses and factories. Insurance savings, which could offset the cost of the system in a few years’ time, were major incentives.

Automatic fire sprinklers are individually heat-activated, and tied into a network of piping with water under pressure. When the heat of a fire raises the sprinkler temperature to its operating point (usually 165ºF), a solder link will melt or a liquid-filled glass bulb will shatter to open that single sprinkler, releasing water directly over the source of the heat. Isn’t science cool?

According to a recent study by the NFPA, when sprinklers operated, they were effective 96 percent of the time, resulting in a combined performance of operating effectively in 87 percent of all reported fires. Sprinklers are effective because they do not rely upon human factors such as familiarity with escape routes or emergency assistance to operate automatically in the area of fire origin. I have seen that, in many cases, it seems wise to eliminate the risk associated with human error. Sprinklers go to work immediately, preventing a fire from growing undetected to a dangerous size, while simultaneously sounding an alarm. In most cases, this prevents the danger of intense heat associated with fast-growing infernos, which are capable of trapping and killing dozens of building occupants.

If you are still on the fence about incorporating a fire sprinkler system into your facility, consider these five fire sprinkler facts, adapted from the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA):

  1. Smoke does not set off fire sprinklers. Sprinklers are activated by heat. In fact, the heat necessary to set off the average sprinkler is anywhere from 150° F to 165°, achievable only by fire. So that’s good. It means the sprinklers won’t go off on a hot day.
  2. The only sprinkler heads that will activate in the event of a fire are the ones located closest to a fire. In 81 percent of structure fires, only one or two sprinkler heads are activated.
  3. Upset couple with a dog sitting in a canoe in their flooded living room, under a leaking ceiling, EPS 8 vector illustration, no transparenciesFire sprinklers produce far less water damage than fire hoses. The average sprinkler discharges just 10-26 gallons of water per minute, while a fire hose produces 150-250 gallons. In most cases, structures without fire sprinklers are heavily or completely destroyed by the mix of fire and water damage caused by fire hoses.
  4. Nationally, fire sprinklers cost $1.61 per square foot of coverage. Overall, the cost of installing fire sprinklers is comparable to installing carpeting or cabinets. Most insurance companies provide discounts to businesses and homeowners that have fire sprinklers, which compounded over time can pay back the costs. Isn’t it hard to put a price on safety?
  5. Fire sprinklers are not unsightly. Modern advances in fire sprinkler technology have enabled architects, contractors and designers to install fire sprinklers into residential properties and businesses in ways that are aesthetically pleasing and concealing. In fact, most people do not even notice fire sprinklers.

Over the past two decades, building codes have increasingly called for sprinklers throughout buildings for life safety, especially buildings in which rapid evacuation of occupants is difficult or the hazard posed by contents is high. That is a good thing! And, according to the NFSA, “Aside from firefighting and explosion fatalities, there has never been a multiple loss of life in a fully-sprinklered building due to fire or smoke.”

Fire sprinklers buy time. Time buys life. Remember that safety is a daily priority, not just where fire safety is concerned. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

 

Posted in BE SAFE, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, High-Rise Buildings

Happy National Fire Prevention Month

Fire Prevention 2014 firedogThe National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) announced that the week of October 5-11, 2014 is Fire Prevention Week. The theme of the week-long fire prevention campaign, which is the 90th annual event of its kind, is “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month!” I love National Fire Prevention week because I have devoted my life to fire safety and prevention.

“Smoke alarms can help make the difference between life and death in a fire, but they need to be working,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign reinforces the importance of testing smoke alarms each month, and works to ensure that people have the needed protection in the event of a home fire.”

Educating people about smoke alarm devices is important, since nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths reportedly result from fires in homes without operational smoke alarms. My doghouse is only 5 ft x 5 ft and my wife and son and I have two alarms…just to #BeSafe.

“The common presence of smoke alarms in the home tends to create a false sense of security,” said Carli. “Simply having smoke alarms isn’t enough. They need to be tested and maintained properly.”

Here are ways that smoke alarms figured in United States’ fires between 2007 and 2011, which is the most recent national smoke alarm study:

  • Smoke alarms sounded in half of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments.
  • Three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • No smoke alarms were present in more than one-third (37%) of the home fire deaths.
  • If you don’t have a working smoke alarm, you won’t be alerted if a fire starts in your home.

Fire Prevention firedog 2In addition to monthly testing, smoke alarms should be installed and maintained according to the following 10 steps:

  1. Install smoke alarms inside and outside each bedroom and sleeping area. Install alarms on every level of the home.
  2. Install alarms in the basement.
  3. If you own a large home, you may need to install extra smoke alarms.
  4. If possible, use interconnected smoke alarms. When one smoke alarm sounds, they all sound.
  5. Test smoke alarms at least once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working. And if it isn’t working, replace the batteries or the entire unit.
  6. Be aware that there are two kinds of alarms – ionization smoke alarms are quicker to warn about flaming fires, and photoelectric alarms are quicker to warn about smoldering fires. If possible, use both types of alarms in the home.
  7. A smoke alarm should be on the ceiling or high on a wall.
  8. Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen to reduce false alarms. They should be at least 10 feet (3 meters) from the stove.
  9. People who are hard-of-hearing or deaf can use special alarms. These alarms feature strobe lights and bed shakers.
  10. Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old.

fire prevention 2014 calendar corpThe NFPA website has a wealth of additional smoke alarm information and resources for parents and teachers, and for fire departments working to implement the campaign in their communities. In addition, the NFPA  Sparky the Fire Dog® website (www.sparky.org/fpw) features award-winning apps and games for kids that reinforce the campaign’s fire safety messages. What’s more, the NFPA and its 2014 FPW partners are working together to promote the importance of monthly testing and related smoke alarm education. For more information about Fire Prevention Week and upcoming events, visit www.fpw.org.

For relevant fire prevention information relative to high rise buildings and facilities’ management, check out our recent fire prevention blog posts. We hope you will observe National Fire Prevention Week, and take steps to make sure you and your tenants or building occupants are #FireSafe. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to helping improve and save lives. Visit our website for ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted in Burns, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Workplace Safety

Part 2 of Summer Safety & Fire Prevention Tips

It's BBQ Grilling Time!As we head into the heavy summer fire-season, we agree with FEMA’s assertion that the best fire prevention is fire education. To that end, this blog post is the second in a two-part series that focuses on summer safety tips. Last week, we covered fire safety before, during and after the 4th of July. This week, we will cover additional fire safety tips.

Barbeque Safety

  • Before using a grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line. Make sure the tubes where the air and gas mix are not blocked.
  • Also, before using a grill, make sure you have plenty of steak to cook. (My personal favorite.)
  • Do not overfill the propane tank.
  • Do not wear loose clothing while cooking at a barbecue.
  • Be careful when using lighter fluid. Do not add fluid to an already lit fire because the flame could flashback up into the container and explode.
  • Keep all matches and lighters away from children. Teach your children to report any loose matches or lighters to an adult immediately. Supervise children around outdoor grills.
  • Dispose of hot coals properly – douse them with plenty of water, and stir them to ensure that the fire is out. Never place them in plastic, paper or wooden containers.
  • Never grill/barbecue in enclosed areas – carbon monoxide could be produced.
  • Make sure everyone knows to Stop, Drop and Roll in case a piece of clothing does catch fire. Call 911 or your local emergency number if a burn warrants serious medical attention.

Campfire Safety

  • Build campfires where they will not spread, away from dry grass and leaves.
  • Keep campfires small, and don’t let them get out of hand.
  • Keep plenty of water and a shovel around to douse the fire when you’re done. Stir it and douse it again with water.
  • Never leave campfires unattended.
  • Never leave steaks on the grill unattended unless you want them to disappear.

Home Smoking Fire Prevention

Of course, the surest way to avoid a cigarette, pipe or cigar-related fire is to stop smoking immediately and discourage smoking in your home or office. Personally, I’m glad I don’t have opposable thumbs, because I think smoking is an unsafe habit. However, if you have contact with folks who insist on smoking, encourage the following BE SAFE tips:

  • The safest place to smoke is outside. Encourage smokers to head outdoors before lighting up. But please point them away from the doghouse.
  • Use deep sturdy ashtrays to contain potentially dangerous ash.
  • Before disposing of cigarette butts and ashes, make sure they are completely cool. The best way to do this is to distinguish them in a pail of cool water.
  • Keep all smoking materials out of the reach of children and puppies.

For More Information

The USFA has created a comprehensive Smoking & Home Fires Campaign Toolkit that contains free, copyright-free materials that can be printed and distributed. The toolkit is a comprehensive resource that contains materials for fire service personnel and others to use within their community.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

 

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, High-Rise Buildings, Vaccinations, Version 2.5

How to Celebrate National Fire Safety Month

RJW is proud to feature a blog about Natioinal Fire Prevention Month.

October 9-15 is the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) official “Fire Prevention Week,” which is an annual event that promotes fire safety for families and businesses. This works out perfectly for me, as “National Chew on Furniture Week” is October 16-21. So I still have time to get my chompers ready.

Fire Prevention Week was created to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. During the 40th anniversary of that tragic event, the Fire Marshals Association of North America began the first National Fire Prevention Day. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first official National Fire Prevention Week and called up a massive change in fire-prevention planning.

According to the NFPA, a home structure fire was reported every 87 seconds in 2009, and nearly seven people died each day in those blazes. The economic toll from residential and business fire is vast, with $7.6 billion in losses recorded in 2009. However, through educational efforts such as National Fire Prevention Week, the occurrence of fires has dropped drastically over the years, from more than 700,000 house fires in 1977 to 370,000 in 2010.

Every year the NFPA selects a theme for National Fire Prevention Week. The theme for 2011 is “Protect your family from fire,” and focuses on coordinated efforts for family members and teachers. Here are a few of the themes from past years:

  • “The Nation’s Greatest Menace! Do Your Part to Stop This Waste!” (1929)
  • “Learn Not To Burn – Wherever You Are” (1982)
  • “Give your dog two pounds of New York Strip every night to keep his coat shiny” (1994—well, that was my suggestion, anyway.)
  •  “Use Candles with Care” (2005)

Fire Prevention Week activities at schools and other organizations focus on preparedness in several key areas:

  • Establishment and practicing sensible escape routes with designated alternates
  • Inspection and care of home smoke detectors
  • Information about home sprinkler systems and their ability to stop fires within minutes
  • Dangers associated with fires from heating appliances, fireplaces, and stoves
  • Special emphasis on smokers and the acute risk of fire from un-extinguished cigarettes.
  • Candle care and safety. (I am extra careful with candles in the doghouse. Since I’m a working firedog, sometimes I need to relax and have some quiet meditation!)

For businesses, fire safety should be a 52-week focus, not just one that is observed during Fire Prevention Week. Business and facility management can take many steps to reduce the risk of fire:

  • Create a sound fire plan that includes evacuation routes, designated fire wardens and procedures to account for every employee and visitor during a fire emergency.
  • Install and inspect to make sure the right classes of fire extinguishers are located in code-required locations. I have one in the doghouse, but no opposable thumbs!!
  • Implement clear rules on the use of space heaters and other portable devices that can pose safety hazards.
  • Encourage employees to report dangerous situations. Give them the opportunity to reach your building manager confidentiality if they need to report a sensitive issue.

Fire Safety Week is an ideal chance for individuals and businesses to reflect on what they can do to keep people and property protected from fire. Practicing common sense and building a knowledge base about fire are the best ways for people to avoid tragedy.

My friends at RJWestmore are covering more than 300 million square feet of commercial property through their own Fire Life Safety Training System which ensures compliance with related fire codes. It is an interactive e-learning system that provides tenants, building owners, and facility managers with instant feedback.

Convenient and affordable for businesses of any size, the RJWestmore Fire Life Safety Training System can reduce training workloads by 90 percent while saving more than 50 percent when compared to conventional training methods. Proper training and code compliance can greatly reduce your liability in the event of a disaster. Personally, I always follow codes. My doghouse even has anchor bolts in case of an earthquake!

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.5 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Travel, Uncategorized

Fire Safety

Take steps to be fire-safe.

Part #2 in a Series

Since a fire department in the United States responds to a report of fire every 19 seconds, fire is an ever-present danger at work, doghouse, home or when you are traveling. Fire is also one of the most common emergencies following an earthquake, explosion, terrorist attack, power surge or other natural or man-made disaster.

Since you never know when fire will strike, you should be careful to prepare so you will immediately know what to do in case of emergency. In this series, we hope to educate you in an effort to help you and your tenants prepare for fire.

Today’s post will discuss the ways that you, as a building owner or property manager, can mitigate the risk of fire by making sound choices for building materials and furnishings and by educating tenants about taking responsibility for their own safety. (Overall, I think dogs are generally better at taking responsibility for their actions than our human counterparts. When we do something wrong, we don’t blame someone else. We hang our heads low and put our tails between our legs.)

Making sound choices for building materials

If your property is still under construction, install fire-safe materials wherever possible. Also, if you’re building something from scratch and moving dirt, now is a great time to hide bones.

David Horne, a member of the Fire Safe Council (FSC), admits that it’s impossible to take the risk of a fire down to zero unless you live in a bunker. But he says, “Builders can make their (projects) between 20 percent and 70 percent less likely to burn from the outside by choosing fire-resistant materials and veering from traditional designs.”

Here are some fire-safe installation ideas from the FSC:

  • Install stucco, fiber cement, and other noncombustible cladding materials
  • Build eaves and roof decks that are boxed in and never made from wood.
  • Omit windows from exterior walls that sit close together.
  • Add an extra layer of gypsum or another fire-resistant material beneath the siding on facing walls
  • Install double- or triple-pane windows to keep intense heat from breaking the windows
  • Choose noncombustible materials for fences
  • Consider purchasing a pre-made Dogloo instead of building a doghouse from scratch. They’re fire safe and attractive, to boot.

Making Sound Fire-Safe Choices for Furnishings

Even if your property has already been built, you can take steps to lessen the risk of home, apartment, doghouse or office fire.

Upholstered furniture, wall coverings, flooring and mattresses burn quickly and produce large amounts of toxic smoke. Burning upholstered furnishings or mattresses contribute to nearly every home fire death. Understanding the hazards associated with these furnishings will help you choose fire-safe products. Whenever possible, select upholstered furniture that has been treated with fire retardant. This is also a great idea for dog beds. While some have been treated with fire retardant materials, this is not always the case.

Some professional organizations and the state of California have developed manufacturing standards to increase the fire resistance of certain types of furniture. For a complete list of these guidelines, check out the technical bulletins released by the California Department of Consumer Affairs/Bureau of Home Furnishing and Thermal Insulation.

Educating Tenants about Fire Safety

In a perfect world, everyone would know how to prepare for disaster and would take the necessary steps to mitigate risks. Sadly, we live in an imperfect world. So don’t assume that your tenants know how to proactively prevent fires or prepare for emergencies. Although you are not obligated to do so, it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to provide helpful, straight-forward guidelines for them to follow, so in the event of emergency, they are without excuse.

Print these helpful tips for distribution for information about fire safety at home, basic information about fire safety at home and fire prevention at work.  The headline for each of these fact sheets notes that the responsibility for fire safety and disaster preparedness rests squarely on the shoulders of each individual. Additional reference materials are also available through FEMA and the National Fire Protection Association.  Whichever fire safety guidelines you prefer, post them in a central location. Next to the food bowls works for me.

Next week, we’ll look at the ways that you can mitigate the risk of fire by adopting best practices for storing flammable materials. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for property owners and managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires

Fire Extinguishers and Sprinkler Systems

Do you know how to properly use a fire extinguisher?

What’s my number one priority? Don’t say “old tennis balls!”It’s safety! Today we are talking about ways to deal with fires. Despite your best prevention efforts, fire remains a very real risk for virtually any residential or commercial property. In previous posts, we have discussed fire hazards in office buildings, to help you identify and prevent hazards. But if a fire breaks out, in spite of your efforts to thwart one, much of the damage can be slowed or stopped if you prepare by securing fire equipment such as a complete sprinkler system and accessible fire extinguishers.

According to research from the smart folks at the NFPA, the chances of an individual dying in a fire protected by the right equipment are reduced by 50-75%, and the average property loss is cut by one-third to two-thirds (34-68%), compared to fires in buildings where there are no sprinklers. In 2008, there were 112,000 fires nationally in non-residential structures which caused a total of more than $3.8 billion in damages. Don’t let your building become another statistic. Instead, take precautions to make sure you have the right equipment on hand.

Fire Sprinkler Systems:

  • The two main types of sprinkler systems are referred to as wet and dry. While both systems use water, many prefer the “dry” systems, since water in dry systems is not stored in pipes, which means it won’t freeze. Instead, it features pressurized air or nitrogen which allows water in via a valve. On the other hand, with a Wet System, pressurized water sits in pipes at all times. Sort of like the difference between wet and dry dog food! (For the record, I eat both.)
  • Proper installation is the key to ensure building protection.
    • The spray pattern of each nozzle needs to be sufficient to cover all areas.
    • A minimum of a 30-minute water supply should be available. A back-up supply is advisable for larger systems. Don’t forget that, in the event of a fire, you and the fire department will be using the same water supply. While you’re making sure water stores are sufficient, maybe you should also stock up on treats to share with the crew’s Dalmatian after the firefight is over?
    • Choose the right temperature rating to make sure the sprinkler matches the expected ceiling temperature of the fire. This is important because proper water temp will prevent costly accidental discharges. Sprinkler bulbs are color-coded to match different temperatures. Your installers should check applicable NFPA codes to be sure the right bulbs are in use.
    • Once the sprinklers are installed, make sure you maintain them.
    • All the hose connections should be checked frequently for corrosion and misalignment.
    • OSHA recommends that a main drain flow test be performed annually.
    • Boxes and other materials could block water coverage. So they should not be stacked close to sprinkler heads.
    • Come to think of it, I might get a fire sprinkler system for the doghouse. I wonder how difficult it would be to rig up the garden hose?

Fire Extinguishers:

  • Tenants and building management should understand that extinguishers should only be used for small fires that are not producing toxic smoke. Assisting in evacuation efforts and personal safety should always come before attempting to use extinguishers.
  • All able-bodied tenants should be instructed on basic fire extinguisher usage. I wish canines could help, but we don’t have opposable thumbs!
  • Fire extinguisher location is important to ensure adequate floor-by-floor coverage.
  • Extinguishers come in several “classes,” including A, B, C, D, and K. Each type of extinguisher is used for a certain type of fire. This is especially important for any tenants that have lots of electronics equipment or toxic chemicals.
  • Check yearly updates from the NFPA on fire extinguisher standards.
  • Extinguisher locations should be clearly marked. Extinguishers should be visible and pressure should be verified.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.