False Alarms and Missing Fire Extinguishers - A Bad Combination
This is the type of story that we run across all too often at en-Gauge. Some pranksters at Western Washington University have taken to pulling fire alarms in the middle of the night. And to make things worse, there have been several instances where fire extinguishers have gone missing or have been discharged during the same time period. These types of actions when found in combination can increase the likelihood of a tragedy occuring in the event of an actual emergency.
According to the Western Front, the school newspaper:
Chief of the Bellingham Fire Department Bill Boyd said pulling a fire alarm when there isn’t a fire is similar to the “crying wolf” analogy.
“Repeat false fire alarms in the same location can lull occupants into a false sense of security,” Boyd said.
He said he realizes false fire alarms are occasional, but is still aware of the danger they can cause.
“Most of our false fire alarm responses are due to malfunctioning smoke and heat detectors or properly operating detectors that were tripped inadvertently due to construction dust or burned food,” he said. “It does have an impact on our response readiness and ability to quickly respond to emergencies when the dispatched engine company is tied up on the alarm investigation.”
In addition to the impact this has on the students and the fire authorities, in the event of an actual fire, missing or empty fire extinguishers can lead to a rapidly escalating emergency. As we've mentioned in the past, fire extinguishers put out an estimated 5 Million plus fires in the U.S. in 2010, and is most often the first line of fire defense for residents. en-Gauge fire extinguisher monitoring technology ensures that fire extinguishers on campus are in place, pressurized and accessible, while at the same time dramatically decreasing or eliminating the instances of costly fire extinguisher vandalism. To learn more about why monitored fire extinguishers are a vital piece of the fire safety program at every campus, watch this short presentation: 4 Reasons it is an Emergency when a Fire Extinguisher is Pulled on Campus.
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
We run across these stories ALL the time. Fire extinguishers are the first response against indoor fires. Properly functioning fire extinguishers can put out the majority of early stage fires. In order to protect the lives of those who you are responsible for it is important to ensure that your fire extinguishers are working properly. Here are 10 recent incidents in which fire extinguishers were stolen or vandalized leaving a building at risk in the case of Dickenson High or and in extreme cases like the motel fire in Hoover Alabama, resulted in loss of life.
Stories like these are testament to the fact that in this day and age, there is no excuse for not monitoring fire extinguishers. A thirty-day checkup is simply not good enough, especially when we have the option to monitor extinguisher’s 24 hours a day.
Virtually every day, stories about vandalism in schools appear in the press, all with one consistent theme. The vandals and criminals discharge fire extinguishers in the facilities causing substantial damage, evacuations, school closings and costly cleanup charges. Here are some stories about schools that have been subjected to fire extinguisher vandalism in just the past few weeks.
Fire Extinguisher Vandalism Rates Increase at St. Boneventure University
According to a recent article in the school newspaper, The Bona Venture, Fire Extinguisher vandalism and misuse rates have increased dramatically campus wide in the last several weeks. Misuse of this vital fire safety equipment has resulted in mass student evacuation from buildings and residence halls and costly cleanup projects. As Ralph Aloia, the deputy director of safety and security for the university points out:
"The cost of a fire extinguisher itself is around $70; however, the cost to the community could be their safety, welfare and health," Aloia said. "When extinguishers are taken from their intended area and discharged, the potential cost of personal-property damage and life safety from fires to others is a huge issue."
"It is only a matter of time when a fire happens again," he said. "The history of the university speaks volumes about fires here. The community needs to come together about disregarding each others' safety. How would one actually feel if they knew their actions led to someone getting severely hurt?"
Vermont School Vandalized for the Third Time This Year
A tiny Vermont school district has been burglarized and vandalized three times so far this academic year. As Vermont TV station WPTZ.com reports:
Vermont State Police are investigating a burglary at the Twinfield Union School early this morning, the third break-in in the tiny district this academic year.
Superintendent Nancy Thomas said a damage estimate was not yet available but she said there was broken glass, fire extinguisher residue all over and office equipment was stolen.
The 440-student K through 12 school was closed Monday for cleanup but will reopen on Tuesday.
As a community, when a school is forced to close for a day due to fire extinguisher vandalism, what is the economic impact? How many parents need to take a day off from work? How much lost productivity does this result in? The cost is a lot higher than a custodian's time to thoroughly clean a building.
Vandals Trash Special Needs School, Discharge Extinguishers
In a sad story, vandals in California broke into a special needs school and caused significant damage to the Richard Henry Dana Exceptional Needs Facility and the elementary school next door. In each instance, there was significant damage to the facility and the locations were coated with residue from discharged extinguishers. Watch this segment from KABC in Los Angeles to see the damage.
As you can see in the video, the police investigators don't hold out much hope that the criminals will be caught. Another benefit of electronically monitoring fire extinguishers is that alarms can be triggered when an extinguisher is pulled, resulting in a rapid response to situations like this.
Oklahoma City School Vandalized, Thousands in Damages
A metro elementary school was targeted by vandals over the weekend. Officials say the vandals caused thousands of dollars in damage and it's not the first time this school has been hit recently.
Principal Phillip Cunningham said, "Everything was on the floor, fire extinguishers discharged, a lot of equipment broken and damaged."
These types of stories are all too common. With budgets tight and school boards struggling to stretch every dollar, losing days to cleanup or fire damage is unacceptable. To learn more about how to ensure your school is protected with electronically monitored fire extinguishers, contact en-Gauge today.
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.