Electronic Monitoring of Fire Extinguishers Passes NFPA 10 Vote
ROCKLAND, Mass. – Recognizing the improved reliability and added safety of electronically monitored fire extinguishers, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) voted to amend NFPA 10 and NFPA 72 to include electronic monitoring in lieu of mandatory physical 30-day inspections.
The NFPA made its decision during its annual World Safety Conference and Exposition that took place in Orlando, Fla., June 4-8. The ruling will go into effect in September following ratification by the NFPA Standards Council.
Strong support for the acceptance of the technology came from fire officials, end users and members of the fire protection industry. Mike Halligan from the University of Utah provided written testimony in support of the proposed changes. His school installed electronically monitored fire extinguishers in two residence halls in September 2003. Halligan remarked that prior to their installation, the university averaged 50 stolen or fire extinguisher tampers per year. After installing electronically monitored extinguishers they experienced only one tamper in three years.
According to the NFPA, electronically monitored fire extinguishers allowed under their codes must include the ability to assess proper location, access without obstruction and pressurization. Moreover, the system must provide record keeping in the form of an electronic event log at the control panel.
Don Bliss, former New Hampshire state fire marshal also testified in support of recognizing the technology as an equivalent to the mandatory 30-day inspections. After the floor vote, Bliss said, “The overwhelming support for the technology just makes sense: The technology brings better accountability to fire extinguishers, helps ensure code compliance and improves life safety,” before adding, “and isn’t that why we are all here?”
Specific changes to the NFPA codes include the addition of a definition of electronic monitoring in Chapter 3 and specific details in Chapter 7 “Inspection, Maintenance and Recharging of Portable Fire Extinguishers,” of NFPA 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers. Chapter 7 section 2.1.1 “frequency” newly states, “Fire extinguishers shall be inspected when initially placed in service and thereafter at a minimum of 30 day intervals or electronically monitored.”
NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm Code included the addition of electronic monitoring definitions to chapters 3, 5 and 6.
These NFPA amendments follow similar measures taken by the International Code Council that allowed electronic monitoring of fire extinguishers in lieu of 30-day physical inspections at the start of 2005.
For some buildings, which have hundreds and often thousands of extinguishers on-site, physical inspections can be very costly and time consuming efforts. Proponents say electronic monitoring reduces these expenses and improves safety. “Fire equipment industry studies show that 90 percent of 30-day inspections simply do not happen – representing a huge security and life-safety risk,” said John McSheffrey, vice president business development, for MIJA Inc. of Rockland, Mass. “I think historically speaking, today’s vote will be looked at as the turning point for fire extinguishers, the day in which extinguishers became a fully recognized component of an intelligent fire protection package. Going forth, why would anyone specify stand alone extinguishers in larger occupancies?”
MIJA is a manufacturer of an approved, listed electronic monitoring device for fire extinguishers called, en-Gauge® that constantly monitors for presence, pressure and obstruction to access. In the event that any of these three items are found compromised, the system sends an alert to officials so they can immediately rectify the situation. Airports, universities, correctional facilities and school districts are among the occupancies across the United States currently using en-Gauge technology to monitor their extinguishers.
This past week I stayed in Miami in a boutique size, big chain hotel. My stay at the hotel was terrific. Helpful and friendly staff, clean rooms and well kept facilities made my stay very pleasant, I would gladly stay there again. Even in this well run hotel, however, the fire extinguisher outside my room was empty.
Walking to my room, I noticed the Class ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher on the 9th floor had lost pressure The pressure gauge read empty. There was no visible means to tell when it was last inspected. The fire extinguisher was in a locked cabinet.
I informed the front desk to the problem on both Saturday the 18th and Sunday the 19th, and yet the inoperable fire extinguisher remained in service through my return to the hotel on the Wednesday the 22nd.
On Wednesday the 22nd, I again informed the front desk and stressed why having no usable fire extinguishers on the 9th floor was such a bad idea. When I checked on the 23rd, nothing had been done although it was assured it would get fixed.
During both my visits to the hotel there was construction being done on the 9th floor, and the only visible fire extinguisher was the empty, inoperative fire extinguisher close by in the hall. This creates a dangerous workplace situation, as well as a situation where hotel guests are at increased, unnecessary risk.
During my second visit I mentioned this issue to a member of the wait staff while asking who to talk to about this. He said that he was not surprised as there has been “an empty one in the kitchen for months”.
I can’t say how long the fire extinguisher was empty. I can say it showed no signs of vandalism and it may have been inspected to code. It likely just leaked.
I do not know if has been fixed.
Yet again, proof that 30 day fire extinguisher inspections are insufficient.
Fire extinguisher inspection
There are building owners and managers in all sectors who neglect 30 day fire extinguisher inspections, To those that do, I say, you’re making a mistake. You need to respect the fire codes and get the inspection job done or start monitoring your fire extinguishers.
Fire extinguishers and fire systems as a whole are not infallible, buildings need layers of fire protection, fire extinguishers are layer #1 in stopping a small fire from becoming a blaze. Fire extinguishers in commercial structures in the United States stop more than 500 fires everyday* That includes an estimated 20 times everyday in hotels.
Fire Extinguishers are the first line of defense when a fire incident occurs. For the extinuisher to do its job, it must be available, accessible and function properly - all things the en-Gauge electronic fire extinuisher monitoring solution insures.
With that said, we love to read stories about Fire Exinguishers doing their job and putting out fires or helping people control fires until help arrives or they can evacuate.
Here is a list of Fire Extinguisher Success Stories from the last few days:
On Veteran's Day, an assistant High School Principal - a veteran himself - extinguished a fire with a fire extinguisher at Whitemarsh High School in Pennsylvania. According to The Times Herald:
Assistant Principal Dan Balek, a veteran, was on hand to save the day at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School (PWHS) after part of the east wing faculty kitchen area caught fire Thursday afternoon.
While the cause of the fire remains unclear, school spokesman Dave Sherman said Balek happened to be in the area at the time.
"The school was evacuated briefly and (Balek) used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire before the fire department arrived," said Sherman.
It is common to hear about fires put out prior to the fire department arriving. This emphasizes the importance of consistent monitoring of the fire extinguishers to be confident that they are available and ready to work.
A small fire on the Orange Line in the Downtown Crossing MBTA Station in Boston caused disruption of service and the evacuation of the station, but no injuries were reported. According to Boston.com:
A small fire in the Downtown Crossing MBTA station Saturday night disrupted subway service, but caused no reported injuries, Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said.
Officials evacuated the station as a precaution after the fire, which occurred about 10 p.m., MacDonald said. The flame started around the wheel of a Orange Line train, and firefighters quickly put it out with a fire extinguisher before it could make a lot of smoke, MacDonald said.
Intentionally Set School Fire in Washington State Supressed with Fire Extinguisher
A fire intentionally set in the 3rd floor girls bathroom at Kitsap High School in Kitsap, Washington was identified and extinguished by school officials after smoke was reported. According to the Central Kipsap Reporter:
School officials were alerted to the fire and used a fire extinguisher to snuff out the small blaze, according to a statement from the fire department. No one was injured.
Estimates put the damage at about $2,000.
District spokesman David Beil said about 1,200 students were temporarily evacuated.
According to a student at the school who commented on the article:
omg me and my bros and my friendsgo to this schoolitwas so creepy!! there was smoke everywhere!!
We love this comment and think that the english teachers at the school probably will too.
According to the Kitsap Sun - yup, the same Kitsap - a fire at a manufacturing plant on Bainbridge Island experienced an electric fire:
Employees at the rod-and-reel plant noticed sparks and a flame coming from the wall socket about 8:30 p.m., according to a report from Bainbridge Island Fire Department. An alert employee grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the blaze.
As a precaution, the building was evacuated.
When firefighters arrived, they checked the outlet and surrounding wall with a thermal imaging camera and found no lingering heat. Employees were allowed to go home, and maintenance staffers took over repairs.
This is a perfect example of why you call the Fire Department, even if you think you have fought the blaze successfully. Fires that may look like they have been extinguished can smolder for hours and come back to life later. The Fire Department knows what to look for and should always be contacted in any fire emergency.
Remember, make sure you perform your yearly fire extinguisher inspections and to ensure that your extinguishers are available, accessable and ready to use 24 X 7, 365, rely upon en-Gauge. The only electronically monitored fire extinguisher solution. Contact Us today to Learn More
Following the fire code is a challenge for the best of us; it is even a challenge for The White House. Recently The White House released a video "Catching Up With The Curator, The White House Fire of 1814". Terrific history video that shows the fire damage to the north portico that is still visible. Right next to the visible fire damage is a blockd fire extinguisher, ironic.
YouTube Video: Check out the 15 second mark, but the whole thing is worth watching.
Two Texas companies learned the hard way this week that failure to provide a safe workplace - and in particular accessible and functioning fire extinguishers - is very bad for business. OSHA, the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, cited the companies on multiple willful and serious violations and levied fines that equal almost $400,000.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued Texas Linen Company Ltd. five serious and 15 repeat citations following a safety and health inspection at the company's facility in Austin, Texas. Proposed penalties total $126,400.
...Repeat citations were issued alleging a failure to keep flooring dry; cover floor holes; provide machine guards for rotating parts, points of operation, and sprockets and chains; provide illuminated exit signs and clear exit access; provide properly identified locks for machine servicing; and provide working and easily accessible portable fire extinguishers.
In a separate incident, OSHA has cited U.S. Minerals Inc. with three alleged willful and 35 alleged serious violations for exposing workers to multiple safety and health hazards at the company's facility in Galveston. Proposed penalties total $273,000.According to the Houston Examiner:
Serious violations include failing to provide covers on chute floors, failing to remove damaged portable metal ladders from service, failing to ensure compressed gas cylinders were properly secured, failing to provide fire extinguishers where combustible and flammable materials were stored and failing to develop and document machine specific lockout/tag out procedures for equipment. A serious violation is one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
...Speaking on this issue, Mark Briggs, OSHA's area director for the Houston South Area Office said, “Employers' disregard for worker safety will not be tolerated. This company jeopardized the safety of its employees
As a company that has a history of over 40 years in fire protection and life safety, we understand how vital the work is that OSHA does in ensuring workplace safety. Unfortunately, there are large spans of time in between inspections. That is why it the en-Gauge fire extinguisher monitoring solution is so important to workplace safety. The en-Gauge system monitors fire extinguishers 24 X 7 X 365 and ensures that these critical life safety devices are available, accessible and ready for use when needed. Protect your company, lower your risk and make sure your employees are safe.
A very sad story. In Albuquerque, NM a 1 year old toddler was killed in a fire that was started when her 4 year old sister was playing with a lighter. Unfortunately, it is possible that this tragedy did not need to happen.
According to KOB.com, the website of Channel 4 news in Albuquerque:
The city found 30 units without working smoke detectors in the complex located near Topke and San Mateo in Northeast Albuquerque.
Officials say that while all units were equipped with a fire extinguisher, every one had expired tags.
The new apartment managers have assured the city that they are working to get all extinguishers checked.
Mitchell’s mother Tataneisha told KOB Eyewitness News 4 that she had tried to put the fire out using the extinguisher but she couldn’t get it to work.
These types of stories are all too common. When a fire is in its early stages, we rely on fire extinguishers to be available and functional. When they don't work, the ability to manage the fire is greatly compromised, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Fire extinguishers must be monitored, maintained and accessible in order to ensure this type of terrible story doesn't keep repeating itself.