Hurricane Sandy has shown us that there is a thin line between functioning systems and a breakdown in life safety protections. One need only look at New York City's Bellevue Hospital and NYU Hospitals to see that cascading system failures put lives at risk. The dramatic image of patients being carried down flights of stairs illustrates the risk.
With floods, earthquakes and other calamities can come power loss, fire and blocked streets and no way for first responders to help. It is times like these where onsite safety equipment like fire extinguishers, AEDs, first aid kits and medical oxygen go from being the first line of defense to the last resort protection in all facilities particularly in healthcare. The factors that make fire extinguishers and other safety assets important don’t change in a catastrophe, faster response and having devices in the right place as the right time is vital.
The types of safety assets that should be monitored 24x7? Fire extinguishers, medical oxygen tanks, AEDs, crash carts, emergency evacuation sleds and chairs, flash lights, emergency lights and more. Be ready, monitor your equipment.
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.
It seems to us that it has been too long since we wrote a fire extinguisher success story wrap-up. As usual, the stories aren’t hard to find. Small fires kept from turning into large, devastating fires by quick thinking individuals using these critical life safety devices. Here is a wrap up:
Nursing Home Employees Keep Fire From Spreading
Nursing home employees in Missouri used a fire extinguisher to save the Bluffs Nursing home from burning down after a food warmer caught fire. According to an article from Connect Mid-Missouri:
The Columbia fire department says employees at a nursing home saved the building during an early evening fire.It happened at about 5:00pm last night at the Bluffs nursing home on Bluff Creek drive.
Firefighters found a small fire involving the plug from a food warmer and an electrical outlet that had been extinguished by employees using a fire extinguisher. The fire caused about $4,000 worth of damage.
Without the use of proper fire extinguishers by the employees this accident could have been much worse. Evacuating elderly people can be a very dangerous activity for both the firefighters and the people being evacuated.
Fire Extinguishers (and Good Fences) Make Good Neighbors
A neighbor with a keen eye saved a house in New London Connecticut using a fire extinguisher to put out a blaze before fire officials would even arrive. These actions prevented injuries and minimized the damages to the house. According to Connecticut’s TheDay.com:
An alert neighbor grabbed a fire extinguisher and quickly knocked down an outside fire at 12 Home St. on Monday afternoon. Battalion Chief Keith Nichols said fire personnel arrived around 2 p.m. to find lots of smoke with the blaze knocked down but still smoldering. No one was injured, Nichols said, and the damage was contained to the outside, porch and siding area of the multi-family home. Firefighters pulled siding from the home and sprayed it down. One firefighter used a chainsaw to cut away burnt siding and another peeled up porch slats to make sure the fire had not spread. Nichols did not know the cause of the fire, which remains under investigation by the fire marshal’s office.
This good neighbor was prepared and ready for an accident, when it happened he reacted and saved the house. Without the necessary equipment this small fire could’ve easily engulfed the entire house
Tenant Fights Kitchen Fire: Protects Fellow Residents, Building
The occupant of an apartment in Ohio saved his unit as well as others’ in the apartment building when he quelled a kitchen fire using a fire extinguisher. The article in IndieOnline.com reports:
According to reports, fire crews responded to 1819 Miles Ave. NW around 9:45 p.m. Fire Chief Tracy Hogue said that the occupant of the apartment where the fire started used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames and that the department needed minimal amounts of water to extinguish the fire. Smoke from the fire filled the entire apartment and forced the residents of the adjoining apartments to evacuate. The only damage reported was to the apartment where the fire originated. The smoke and heat damage, which was contained to the kitchen, was estimated at $5,000.
This quick thinking tenant was well prepared and potentially saved not only his unit, but also the entire building.
Couple Uses Fire Extinguishers To Escape Aggressive Blaze
A well prepared Oregon couple narrowly escape their home unharmed by using fire extinguishers to fend off flames that filled their home. An article by The Oregonian reports:
Regina and Dwayne Dennis discovered a blaze in their home in the 3700 block of North Vancouver Avenue and called 9-1-1 at 4:45 a.m. They then fought the blaze with fire extinguishers they kept in the house as they backed away from the flames and toward safety. "This is a case where the homeowners did everything right and got out of the house quickly and safely," said Paul Corah, spokesman for the Portland Fire Bureau. "They had working smoke alarms, portable fire extinguishers, called 911, and met firefighters out front just as they should have."
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.
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.
According to the most recent NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) data, in 2010 U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,331,500 fires. These fires resulted in 3,120 civilian fire fatalities, 17,720 civilian fire injuries and an estimated $15,478,000,000 in direct property loss.
Of these fires 98,000 were responded to in commercial or municipal buildings. Of the over $11.6 billion in property damage, more than $2.6 billion took place in these non-residential structures. This represents an average loss per reported incident in non-residential / commercial structures of over $34,000.
This only tells a portion of the fire story, however.
Fire Extinguishers Effectively Put Out 80% of All Fires
To highlight the effectiveness of extinguishers in the early stage fire fighting, a 2002 UK study performed by FETA (Fire Extinguishing Trades Association) and IFEDA (Independent Fire Engineering and Distributors Association)5 reviewed over 2100 fire incidents and found that in 80% of the cases a portable fire extinguisher successfully extinguished the fire and in 75% of those cases, the fire department was not required to attend.
A similar survey was conducted in 2002 by EUROFEU (European Committee of the Manufacturers of Fire Protection Equipment and Fire Fighting Vehicles)in 6 European countries and it found strikingly consistent results. In over 2600 incidents recorded it concluded that in 81.5% of cases the portable extinguisher successfully extinguished the fire and in 74.6% of the cases the fire department was not required to attend.
Extrapolating the results of these surveys to the U.S. market provides solid statistical evidence that in approximately 80% of all fire incidents a portable fire extinguisher is the only fire fighting tool needed to extinguish the fire. Further, they indicate that in 60% of all fire incidents the fire department is not notified (and thus the event would not appear in NFPA statistics).
Fire Extinguisher Success Rates (Estimated)
Fires Handled entirely by extinguishers with Fire Department not being notified = 1,997,250
Commercial Strucure fires handled entirely by exinguishers with Fire Department not being notified = 147,000
Estimated savings in avoided property loss in commercial buildings = 147,000 X $34,000 equals $4.998 Billion
Fires in which fire extinguishers were the only needed form of fire supression = 5,326,000
Fires in commercial structures in which extinguishers were the only needed form of fire suppression = 392,000
Although these are only estimates, these numbers make clear that the positive impact of fire extinguishers on society is tremendous. When fire extinguishers are not available to do their job because they are blocked, missing or depressurized, the results can be deadly, catastrophic and costly. en-Gauge's electronic fire extinguisher monitoring solution makes sure these vital life safety devices are available, accessible and working properly.
en-Gauge is dedicated to improving life safety, and for years we have been discussing the dangers related to uninspected and empty, missing and blocked fire extinguishers. Still, it never fails to distress us when we learn about a situation where uninspected fire extinguishers are a contributing factor to the loss of life.
A recent report from KOB Eyewitness News in Albuquerque, NM highlights just the kind of danger that unispected extinguishers can pose to families. In this situation, the extinguisher inspections were negelected in an apartment complex and the results were fatal for a little girl. According to kob.com:
There are many Albuquerque apartment complexes with big problems. What landlords and tenants may not realize is that some problems could be a matter of life or death.
A fire ripped through one Albuquerque apartment, killing one-year-old Malia Mitchell last September. The girl's mother tried using two different fire extinguishers but said neither of them worked.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently announced plans to federally fund Automated External Defibrillators and related training in hockey arenas and community recreation centers throughout Canada. According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation in their announcement of the initiative:
Defibrillators are electronic devices used to restart a person's heart that has stopped beating. They are safe, easy to use, and can be operated effectively by the lay public.
Up to 85 per cent of all cardiac arrests occur in public settings or homes. Less than five per cent of victims who have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital survive. The early use of a defibrillator along with CPR before the arrival of emergency services can increase the individual's chance of survival by up to 75 per cent. This is critical, given that the survival rate decreases seven to 10 per cent with every passing minute.
At en-Gauge, we are big believers in the effectiveness and importance of AED's. That is why we provide electronic monitoring of these critical life safety devices - to make sure they are where they are supposed to be and ready for action. For more information on how en-Gauge can help you deploy and monitor your AED life safety program, contact us today.