Life Spans of Photoelectric and Ionization Detectors and the Importance of Replacing Them

Learn when to swap out old smoke detectors, and which types are better at what

Smoke detectors are a given in most structures, but are they being properly maintained? While most homes and business have fire safety alarms, some individuals don’t fully understand how these units work, which to purchase, and the necessity of testing and replacing them on a regular basis.

In fact, some owners or managers of commercial facilities assume that if detectors are properly installed and working, little maintenance or replacement is required. These devices wear out, however. And they have a chance of failure at roughly five or ten-year intervals, depending on the type.

Two main types of smoke detectors

There are two types of detectors that are commercially available, offering protection from fire and smoke in different ways. Home consumers often purchase the cheapest unit when looking for a new smoke detector, without fully researching its capabilities. And while commercial buyers are more likely to use a combination of both varieties, they should avoid adopting a ‘set it and forget’ way of thinking about these vital fire safety tools. Here are the details on each:

Ionization smoke detectors

An ionization smoke detector is typically cheaper to make and is popular among individuals looking for a budget-friendly option. It uses a small, essentially harmless radioactive element (0.9 microcurie of americium-241, to be precise) that creates an electrical current between two plates in an ionization chamber. When particles of smoke enter the chamber, the detector senses the break in current and sets off an alarm. These units are very sensitive and therefore prone to false alarms. They are also quicker to detect flaming fires but less adept at sensing smoldering fires.

Photoelectric smoke detectors

Photoelectric detectors use both a sensor and a light source to detect smoke. When smoke travels between the two, some of the light is refracted 90 degrees off the smoke particles and hits the sensor, tripping the alarm. A downside to these types of units is that the photo lens can become dirty, making the detector less accurate. They are also typically more expensive than ionization smoke detectors because of their more complicated components. Photoelectric detectors excel at sensing smoky, smoldering fires and trigger fewer false alarms.

NPFA recommends using both – and replacing them at least every 10 years

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that both types of alarms (or dual sensor smoke alarms) are used, and stipulates that individuals should test detectors at least once per month and maintain them per the manufacturer’s instructions, including checking the power source and properly cleaning any sensors.

And since detectors can become less effective over time, they need to replaced at least every 10 years. There is a caveat to this guideline, however: some fire safety experts recommend a shorter shelf-life for photoelectric units and advocate installing new ones about every five years.

State building codes are beginning to change

In an effort to further protect individuals from all types of fires, state building codes are starting to adapt. In the state of Massachusetts, for example, new homes can’t simply rely on ionization alarms; a detector must be photoelectric if it is placed within 20 feet of a bathroom or kitchen. Similarly, Vermont has passed legislation requiring all homes that are built or sold to have at least one photoelectric smoke detector on each floor.

Be safe: consider both and make sure you replace them

Regardless of the level of protection your home or business has from ionization detectors, photoelectric, or some combination of the technologies, it is essential to replace the units at least every ten years, if not before, and test them regularly. For more information about smoke detector technology and maintenance, or any other aspect of your home or business’s life safety systems, reach out to the safety experts at LifeSafety Management at (800) 330-1158 or through our contact form.

The Importance and Benefits of Integrated Testing for Fire and Sprinkler Systems

Cost, convenience, and code: why these life safety systems need to be evaluated together

Fire safety and sprinkler systems are perhaps the most important elements of a building’s life safety apparatus, protecting a structure and its occupants when they need it the most. However, it can be a complex process to ensure that all components of your system are properly tested and inspected, and if not done right, they may not be up to code.

Building owners and contractors should consider using a full-service firm like LifeSafety Management, which provides integrated testing and inspections for all fire, sprinkler, and all other life safety systems. One benefit stems from bundled services – much like a phone company provides TV, phone, and internet services in one package to generate savings and convenience, we offer complete life safety systems testing, maintenance, and inspections that save you time, money, and scheduling difficulties.

But there’s a much bigger benefit – and a potential issue. If these items aren’t tested together, they may not work correctly and your building may be in violation of code. And with life safety systems, the stakes are much higher than with most other value propositions, especially if you are a building owner responsible for protecting people and property.

Integrated testing ensures you’re compliant with NFPA code

It’s essential to make sure that your sprinkler and fire safety systems follow applicable codes issued by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), specifically NFPA 72 and NFPA 25.

NFPA 72 covers fire safety systems, specifically “the application, installation, location, performance, inspection, testing, and maintenance of fire alarm systems, supervising station alarm systems, public emergency alarm reporting systems, fire warning equipment and emergency communications systems (ECS), and their components.” NFPA 25 is geared toward sprinklers, “govern[ing] the periodic inspection, testing, and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems including land-based and marine applications.”

An essential stipulation of these codes is that both a certified fire inspector and a sprinkler inspector inspect and test each of the components at the same time to ensure that the systems work in conjunction. Using different contractors can make this difficult and cause some common issues:

  • With individual contractors, a sprinkler inspector may not be licensed to inspect the fire safety system, and vice versa.
  • Using different contractors who can’t test both systems often means that they have difficulty coordinating schedules. In this situation, each inspector often goes ahead with testing and inspection on his own – but full code compliance means both systems need to be done at the same time.

The cost savings and efficiency of integrated testing

Using one company to provide fire and sprinkler testing decreases the time it takes to schedule and complete the actual evaluations, which could reduce disruptions to your building. And a full-service provider can also save you money. Hidden or variable fees, additional hourly charges, and the expense of unnecessary service calls when using multiple contractors can create additional and unforeseen costs. A firm that offers consolidated services narrows down the line item on your expense sheet to a single, consistent entry.

Avoid the blame game during repairs and service calls

Conducting repairs when they are deemed necessary is a key requirement of testing and inspection services. Unfortunately, when a building owner involves multiple companies and something doesn’t work correctly, there can be a lot of finger pointing.

For example, a sprinkler contractor might assert that “It’s the electrical piece that’s the issue,” whereas the fire system inspector or the HVAC contractor may blame any malfunction on another component. With a full-service firm responsible for all aspects of the system, the blame game doesn’t happen – the issue is simply identified and fixed.

Other benefits of hiring an integrated service include:

  • Having one contact results in less wasted service calls – avoiding calls to the wrong type of contractor
  • All inspection, testing, and maintenance services are billed on a single invoice, which means less processing time and cost for vendor set up
  • It eases budgeting for a building owner or manager – costs are straightforward and the need for bids from individual contractors is reduced or eliminated
  • There is less chance of a vital issue being overlooked. A full-service vendor closely evaluates the aspects of a life safety system in concert – and takes responsibility for all of them

To fully understand the efficiency of hiring a firm like LifeSafety Management is to see what we do in action. We will not only test and maintain your building’s fire and sprinkler systems, we coordinate services for all essential components of your life safety apparatus – including backflow preventers, fire hydrants, extinguishers, elevators, the HVAC system, and more.

We are dedicated to ensuring that your building and its occupants are completely and consistently protected. Contact us today at (800) 330-1158 or through our online contact form for a free consultation.

The Importance of Backflow Testing and Compliance for Your Fire Sprinkler System

Image credit: Wikipedia

How this important technology keeps public water systems safe – and why you need to have yours inspected

A typical building derives its water supply from the city water main adjacent to it, which feeds all of its water needs, including the sprinkler system installed to fight fires. The owner or manager of the building usually contracts a company, such as LifeSafety Management, to tap into the main and run piping underground to feed the system.

All of this sprinkler water comes from the same city source that provides water for the structure’s other needs, including toilets, sinks, and water fountains.

What is backflow?

Backflow occurs when water flows from a structure’s plumbing system in the opposite direction from which it is intended. It is dangerous because water that becomes stagnant can lead to contamination in plumbing systems and pollute the city water main.

According to the American Water Works Association, backflow problems occur in five percent of all homes with backflow sensing systems and are even more likely to occur in commercial structures. In addition, these issues can be a seriously expensive hassle; according to a report published by the EPA, backflow incidents cost an average of $14,800 each and took nearly 500 hours to fix.

Why is backflow in sprinkler systems especially dangerous?

Backflow in sprinkler systems can be a serious problem because a large volume of water never moves when it sits in a building’s sprinkler system, unless it’s flowing during a sprinkler test, a fire activates it, or a sprinkler line breaks. Therefore, the water can become stagnant, and public safety officials do not want it flowing back into the water main.

For example, without a mechanism in place to prevent it, gravity would easily push stagnant water that’s been sitting in the sprinkler system of a 10 story-building back into the water supply, potentially causing serious issues.

This is why it’s essential to have a backflow preventer in homes, offices, and other buildings with sprinkler systems.

What is a backflow preventer and why do I need it?

A backflow preventer is device that keeps the water inside the sprinkler system, making sure that it travels only in one direction: from the water main into the sprinkler system.

It is similar to a hose bib on your garden hose; in fact, there is a mini-backflow preventer on the nozzle that makes water squirt out the sides rather than shoot back up into the source. The backflow preventer in commercial buildings is a tool for utility departments to ensure that their water stays safe and pure.

What is the required inspection and maintenance on backflow systems?

Florida statutes require annual inspections and testing of backflow preventers by a licensed fire sprinkler inspector who is certified for testing backflow prevention.

Once a licensed inspector certifies your backflow prevention system, it must be approved by your local water utility or public works department. There are multiple agencies that are licensed to complete certification for backflow prevention for fire sprinkler inspectors; in the State of Florida, the University of Florida’s Training, Research and Education for Environmental Occupations (TREEO) center is one of the primary institutions that trains and certifies these professionals.

Why is getting my backflow prevention system inspected (and repaired, if necessary) absolutely essential?

1. It’s mandated yearly by the state of Florida. Failing to get your backflow prevention system inspected, certified, and repaired isn’t just against the law; it’s also putting you and your neighbors at serious risk for water contamination.

2. Depending on your specific municipality, the utility department can and will shut off the entire water supply to your building, or just the domestic water supply (everything but the sprinkler systems), if the backflow is malfunctioning or if you have failed to obtain annual inspection and maintenance. This means that toilets, sinks, and showers won’t work – although the sprinklers will still be operational to protect you in case of fire.

If you have questions about backflow, need to get your annual inspection, or believe there may be a problem with your backflow preventer or other aspects of your building’s sprinkler system, call the experts at LifeSafety Management at (800) 330-1158, or reach us through our online contact form.

Why Every Component of Your Life Safety System Should Be Tested at the Same Time

You won’t know If they work together unless they’re tested together

Life Safety systems that protect commercial structures from fire, smoke, and other natural disasters utilize a wide variety of equipment and technologies, including:

  • Sprinklers
  • Alarms
  • Stairwell pressurization systems
  • Elevator safety systems
  • Emergency and exit lighting
  • Pull stations
  • Smoke detectors
  • Emergency and standby power systems

It’s crucial that each individual portion of the system functions and works properly during a fire or other emergency, which is why mandatory testing procedures require detailed coordination.

Every component needs to be tested together

In buildings, especially large commercial structures, many of these components, including the security systems, elevators, and fire safety systems, are often installed, maintained, and inspected by different contractors. This can make it difficult for a building owner to coordinate tests, unless a single, full-service firm is responsible for the integrity of the entire system.

The fire safety system is essentially the brain of your building’s safety apparatus – each of the individual components need to work in concert during a fire. In fact, the fire safety system takes control of many other portions of a structure during an emergency. Some important interactions include:

  • Sprinklers and fire alarms: The activation of water through the sprinklers is one mechanism that can trigger the fire alarm.
  • Fire alarms and elevator controllers: When a fire alarm goes off, the fire safety system takes over the elevator controller to capture the elevators, bring them down to the first floor, open the doors, and lock them open.
  • HVAC systems: Elements of the HVAC system (including fans and vents that will dissipate smoke) are tied to and controlled by the fire safety system. The AC is shut down down during an emergency, and even the hoods in any kitchen facilities will be switched on to vent smoke.
  • Security systems: Parking garage doors and gates need to opened automatically during a fire so that emergency services vehicles can access the premises. The security system of course needs to be unlocked and shut off.

The risk of fire and the most important elements of a life safety system

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 1,298,000 fires reported in the United States in 2014, causing thousands of deaths and $11.6 billion in property damage. Given these statistics, it’s essential to make sure that all these parts of your life safety system work, and, importantly, that they all work correctly together. In addition to the legal responsibilities of a building owner to maintain and test the life safety system, a disaster is not the time to discover that some components are malfunctioning.

An integrated life safety system test is like a complex fire drill for your business

In addition to the interactions listed above, a full test also helps you answer questions like:

  • When you pull the fire alarm, does the alarm actually activate and send notification signals?
  • When the smoke detector goes off, do does it activate extinguisher systems, such as pre-action systems or extinguisher systems for computer rooms?
  • Does the emergency and exit lighting work when power is cut to the building?
  • Is necessary access (for public safety officials) and egress (for evacuating occupants) opened automatically?

While all parts of your life safety system are extremely important in the case of a fire or other disaster, sprinklers, smoke detectors, and emergency power systems are three of the most essential elements of any disaster prevention apparatus. The National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (NFASC) Handbook emphasizes that the coordinated testing of integrated systems is especially important and may require additional support personnel, potentially including building management, and, in some cases, inspection authorities.


Non-residential fires represent only seven percent of reported fires in the US, but they result in 23 percent of of dollar losses nationwide. The installation and inspection of your fire sprinkler system is essential to protect your property and your business from serious physical and financial damage. Additionally, the installation, inspection, and maintenance of sprinkler systems in a commercial facility are mandated by law.

Smoke alarms, elevators, and emergency power systems

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), smoke alarms effectively alert occupants of non-residential buildings about 70 percent of the time. The most common cause of smoke alarm failure is power source problems; another reason why it’s essential to ensure that all life safety components are tested concurrently, including your emergency power system.

In addition, the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 72 guidelines specify that elevator shutdown and fire protection systems and protocols must be fully tested by experienced, certified personnel.

The benefits of using LifeSafety Management to test your system

In addition to ensuring that all your safety systems work together, using LifeSafety management to conduct a comprehensive building safety test has other benefits:

  • It saves time; there’s only one contact to deal with
  • It avoids scheduling difficulties among different contactors and agencies
  • It can save building owners money vs. hiring multiple contractors

Dealing with five or six contractors just to make sure your building is safe can be a serious hassle. In addition, a collection of firms and agencies may miss serious safety equipment problems, since they’re only focused on one area at a time instead of reviewing your system as a whole.

The NFPA reports that there were over 100,000 non-residential fires in the US in 2013, causing 2.6 billion dollars in damage. It’s essential that your building is prepared by having all of your life safety systems fully maintained and regularly tested.

If the life safety system in your building needs a checkup, or your fire sprinklers, emergency lighting, smoke detectors, or other safety technology requires repair, call the full-service experts at LifeSafety Management at (800) 330-1158 or reach us through our online contact form.

A Security System is the Cornerstone of a Smart Home

Your home isn’t ‘smart’ unless it’s secure

Across the U.S., many modern homes have been installed with smart technology. The definition of what makes a residence “smart” varies, but real estate giant Coldwell Banker and the technology publication CNET teamed up in an attempt to standardize its meaning:

“A home that is equipped with network-connected products (i.e., “smart products,” connected via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or similar protocols) for controlling, automating and optimizing functions such as temperature, lighting, security, safety or entertainment, either remotely by a phone, tablet, computer or a separate system within the home itself.”

And crucially, it needs a security component:

“The home must have a smart security feature or a smart temperature feature in addition to a reliable internet connection.”

The need for this aspect of the technology makes sense, given current crime statistics; according to the FBI, there were over 8.2 million property crimes in the United States in 2014. And more than 20 percent, or more than 1.6 million, of those were burglaries.

Thus, while a remotely-controlled thermostats and appliances are fantastic and convenient, robust, internet-enabled security measures are the centerpiece of a truly smart home. Let’s review some essential modern features:

CCTV/Remote Video: CCTV systems that are accessible from a range of mobile platforms allow you see inside and outside your home in real-time, from anywhere. There are a wide variety of options depending on the square footage of your property and the security level you desire. CCTV can help prevent crimes such as break-ins and burglaries as well as provide video evidence after the fact to help authorities identify, locate, and apprehend potential suspects.

Alarm Security Systems: Not only do alarm systems help deter crimes, but they lessen the intensity of them when they occur. According to the Electronic Security Association, break-ins of homes with a security system cost owners (and their insurance companies) 39 percent less than those without one, an average difference of over $2,000.

These savings are passed on the the consumer. According to CoverHound Inc. and the Insurance Information Institute, individuals can save between 15 and 20 percent on home insurance premiums by installing a comprehensive alarm and security system.

Premise Automation: Premise automation allows people to manage their home in many different ways, including by controlling the thermostat, turning fans on and off, and locking and unlocking doors remotely. Some homeowners use premise automation to turn their lights and air conditioning off to save energy while at work or on vacation, and it can be employed to let in neighbors to supervise a home when residents are away.

Since 30 percent of burglars enter properties from unlocked doors and windows, the ability to check on the status of the house remotely and then quickly secure it a moment’s notice can be a vital security measure.

Wireless and Internet Based Monitoring: CCTV and premise automation systems allow owners to monitor their home from anywhere in the word. And wireless and internet-based monitoring can better protect a home than a wired system: According to a study conducted by the University of North Carolina Charlotte, approximately one in five burglars cut alarm wires during a break-in. Individuals with wireless monitoring can see such activities from any distance and take steps to notify the proper authorities, and the systems themselves are potentially less vulnerable to physical break-in measures.

Protect Your Business and Supervise Employees: CCTV, premise automation, and wireless monitoring can also be used to protect smart businesses from internal and external threats. In addition to preventing break-ins, vandalism, and burglaries, these systems can also be used to monitor employees and keep track of inventory.

Forbes reports that US retailers lose up to 60 billion dollars a year to employee theft. An effective security system gives business owners and managers to the ability to keep an eye on inventory at all times, and of course identify and track down criminals and stolen goods after the fact.

Is your home or business smart?

According to the Electronic Security Association and the FBI, one burglary occurs in the United States every 15 seconds. And while automation technology has made managing homes and businesses incredibly convenient, these systems need to be based around a powerful security component that merges remote access and monitoring capabilities with wireless technology.

If you’re interested in learning more about modern security features for your smart home or business, or you are interested in installing a security system as a component of your life safety system, contact the professionals at LifeSafety Management at (800) 330-1158, or reach us through our online contact form.

The Role of Bidirectional Amplifier Systems in Fire Safety

New codes in Broward County may require you to boost the signal

Bidirectional amplifier (BDA) systems, aka “signal boosters,” have been used in the cellular industry for a number of years to promote reception in places like the lower floors of tall buildings, stadiums, basements, and tunnels. And the public safety industry has been using these systems even longer. But it’s only been since April 15th of this year that Broward County enacted building codes mandating the installation of BDAs to ensure that public safety officials can communicate effectively in all areas of a building during an emergency. And while Broward is at the vanguard of BDA regulation, other municipalities in Florida are sure to follow. Here’s what you need to know to make sure your building is protected and up to code.

How do bidirectional amplifier systems work?

Bidirectional amplifier systems feature an antenna on the roof of a building that is connected to an amplifier that drives a signal to antennae strategically placed throughout the structure. This set up allows for uniform signal coverage, especially in larger buildings where there are key areas at which radio signals may be blocked.

What are the details of the new Broward County building codes surrounding BDAs?

Broward County’s new building code went into effect on April 15, 2016. It requires fire inspectors to check if public safety radios work in critical parts of buildings such as stairways, in front of fire alarm panels, near elevators, and along routes of evacuation. If these radios do not get signal in these essential areas, the fire inspector will issue the building owner a code violation and mandate the installation of a working BDA.

Details in the Broward County code

Below are some of Broward’s specific guidelines on bidirectional amplifier systems:

  • All BDA systems must be properly permitted and inspected.
  • All systems must be installed by a qualified vendor.
  • An engineer is required to sign off on all BDA plans prior to installation.
  • • The BDA must be tied into the fire department panel, so if something goes wrong with the system it sends a signal to the monitoring company.
  • Building owners need a maintenance agreement in place with a reputable vendor who can fix any of these reported problems within 48 hours.

What about other areas in Florida?

Across the State of Florida, building codes are extremely disorganized and fragmented. Neighboring Miami-Dade County, for example, does not have a similar code to the one recently enacted in Broward, and the 35 municipalities in Florida have a hodge-podge of directives, guidelines, and codes in place. In some cases, enforcement may be as arbitrary as a fire inspector identifying something as a problem, even if it’s not necessarily documented as a building code.

While NFPA 72 does issue guidelines related to bidirectional amplifier systems, these are not backed by the enforcement of law. And the State of Florida has only adopted NFPA 2010, which has some language on BDAs, but not does not go into nearly as much detail as NFPA 2015.

While the government may be slow to adopt and codify these guidelines, stricter legal requirements related to BDAs may be coming statewide, and certainly within more and more individual municipalities. Thus, building owners should do what they can to stay ahead of this legal evolution and make sure they are prepared.

How costly and complex are most BDA installations?

BDA installations can range in complexity, depending on a variety of factors. Each site must be surveyed by an engineer to determine if there are any communications failures. Once these issues are identified, a system must be designed and installed to overcome them.

Because of the complexity of some installations, it’s important to work with a contractor with significant experience installing a wide range of BDA solutions. Some buildings may have no or only a few dead spots, if they happen to be positioned closely to a public safety radio tower, for example. But larger buildings that are positioned farther from the towers will likely have a number of problem areas requiring amplification.

According to Broward’s new code, critical areas in a building must have 99 percent radio coverage, whereas everywhere else must meet a standard of 90 percent. Installing a new BDA to achieve these levels may be relatively straightforward in modern structures that were built with conduits and logical cable runs already installed, but older buildings will present more challenges and cost for these installations.

Costs may run over a million dollars in more complex cases, and take four to five months for both the permitting and installation processes. If you’re a building owner or developer, the sooner you address this issue, the easier the process may be, especially for new structures that are pending construction.

Is your building properly protected with a bidirectional amplifier system?

If you’re in Broward County and own a building that is not properly outfitted with a bidirectional amplifier system, you could have both a safety and a legal issue. For more information about recently issued code requirements, or to talk with Life Safety Management about seeing if you are in compliance or designing and installing a BDA in your facility, give us a call today at (800) 330-1158, or reach us through our online contact form.

Why (and How) Annual Fire Extinguisher Maintenance is Required

It’s an OSHA regulation.

There are many things that come with “set it and forget it” promises, but fire extinguishers aren’t one of them. You may never use them. But what good is a safety precaution that fails you if the unexpected does happen?

It’s for this reason that the Department of Labor and the National Fire Protection Association have codes and standards regarding fire extinguishers. These aren’t in place to waste your time. They were created to save lives.

OSHA says, “do it”

United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration has specific requirements you must follow for portable fire extinguishers.

It’s written in ‘government-speak’ and uses the word, “shall.” Don’t let that fool you. This is not an option. Section 1910.157(e)(3) of OSHA’s Fire Protection documentation states:

  • The employer shall assure that portable fire extinguishers are subjected to an annual maintenance check [by a licensed fire equipment dealer] … The employer shall record the annual maintenance date and retain this record for one year after the last entry or the life of the shell, whichever is less. The record shall be available to the Assistant Secretary upon request.

In addition, stored pressure extinguishers must have an internal examination every six years by a Florida state-licensed fire extinguisher dealer. And employers are required to do a quick check of their fire extinguishers every month to make sure they’re mounted properly, have no apparent physical damage, are not obstructed from view and accessibility, and that all pressure gauges (if applicable) are in the operable range.

But why stop there? Good to know your portable fire extinguishers get regular checkups and are ready to use, but does everybody in your organization know how to use them? It’s for this reason that OSHA also has Section 1910.157(d)(3):

  • The employer may use uniformly spaced standpipe systems or hose stations connected to a sprinkler system installed for emergency use by employees instead of Class A portable fire extinguishers, provided that such systems meet the respective requirements of 1910.158 or 1910.159, that they provide total coverage of the area to be protected, and that employees are trained at least annually in their use.

Keep in mind, too, that OSHA requires you to give this training to all employees when they’re first hired.

Check with your insurance provider and be aware of Florida requirements

Not only does the federal government mandate that you to pay attention to your portable fire extinguishers, so does your insurance company. Not doing so could affect your coverage in the event of an emergency. More importantly, the State of Florida requires inspections – at least monthly by the owner of the extinguisher and annually by a licensed company – as stipulated by the National Fire Protection Association in NFPA 10.

This is something you’ll want to delegate to people who specialize in fire safety protection.

”Hey, that reminds me of a question.”

These safety requirements often get people thinking about the care and maintenance of portable fire extinguishers. Here are a few of the most common questions:

  • How many do I need? It’s a math equation. The amount of time in seconds it takes for someone to reach an extinguisher to put out a fire determines this. Get a certified safety organization involved to help you with the right number.
  • Can they sit on the floor? Absolutely not. Portable fire extinguishers are required to be installed in a cabinet or wall recess, or on a special wall bracket.
  • Where do they have to be? This is more about logic, common sense, and safety. Most safety organizations recommend locations near your entrances and exits. Others should be placed along their paths of travel so they’re available along the way.
  • Can these things go off by accident? If you’ve got this concern, it means you may need a refresher on portable fire extinguishers. Here’s the quick scoop. There’s a safety pin in the handle, and it prevents an accidental discharge. Check the gauge on each extinguisher during your regular inspections. If you see that the indicator needle isn’t in the designated safe zone, contact your fire safety company.
  • Do we have the right type? Portable fire extinguishers are manufactured to work on the combustible materials in their general facility. You are required to have appropriate portable fire protection, so if you’re not sure, the right thing to do is bring in professionals who can help you find out.

Don’t forget about other fire safety requirements

Portable fire extinguishers aren’t the only thing OSHA and other organizations require you to regularly test and maintain. Another important annual inspection puts a focus on your building’s emergency lighting system.

It’s required so people can safely find their way to an exit. The systems are usually battery-operated, which means they need to be tested regularly to ensure they’re operational in case of an emergency.

Never out of mind

Safety precautions such as portable fire extinguishers and emergency exit lights are in place to give you security. It’s easy to shift this concern into a “set it and forget it” mode, but safety doesn’t work that way. You need regular checkups to ensure that these measures are ready to do their jobs. They may never get used, but the time and effort to make sure they’re prepared is never wasted.

At LifeSafety Management, we offer full-service fire safety inspection and maintenance services. We’ll ensure that your fire extinguishers – and all of your safety measures – are up to code and ready in the event of an emergency. If you have any questions, reach out to our team today by phone at(800) 330-1158 or through our online contact form.

The Importance of Correcting Deficiencies in your Fire Sprinkler System

Don’t make the mistake of failing to maintain your best line of fire defense

While installing fire sprinklers in your commercial or residential building is a pivotal step to protect your property and people, regular fire sprinkler system maintenance is also incredibly important to guarantee that your system is always working properly.

To be sure your system is properly maintained, we’ve put together a guide offering insight into how and why you should correct any deficiencies in your fire sprinklers as soon as possible.

Fire Sprinklers must be inspected on a regular basis

The Florida Fire Sprinkler Association (FFSA), an association of fire protection contractors, fire marshals, and other interested parties, notes that all fire sprinklers in Florida must be inspected in accordance with the Florida Administrative Code (FAC) by a fire-protection contractor who is licensed by state statutes. These regular inspections ensure that sprinkler systems are working properly in the event of a fire.

During inspection, any impairments or problems must be fixed immediately

Should any issues be found that render a sprinkler system out of compliance with applicable FFSA and FAC standards, a completed RED Noncompliance tag is required to be attached to the main control valve indicating that corrective action must be taken. Any problems should be addressed immediately to avoid fines and other potential liabilities.

Defective sprinkler systems can cause additional damage

If a sprinkler system is broken, it can cause water damage (not to mention any additional fire damage if the system happens to malfunction during an actual fire). For example, a corroded pipe could blow out at any time and completely flood a particular area of a building. Regular inspections and preventative maintenance can avoid any unforeseen catastrophes.

There are penalties for improperly-maintaining sprinkler systems

The consequences of poorly-maintained fire sprinkler systems can include a finding of fault from the fire department, legal liability, and increased insurance rates or unpaid claims due to lack of system maintenance.

Common deficiencies seen in sprinkler systems

There are a number of problems that can arise in poorly-maintained systems, and some are especially prevalent in South Florida’s coastal, subtropical climate. Some common issues:

  • Painted sprinkler heads: Sprinkler heads can become damaged when careless contractors paint over the heads themselves. If paint has come into contact with sprinkler heads, they either won’t work as designed, or won’t work at all.
  • Climate damage: Depending on where the building is located, a corrosive atmosphere can make it harder to maintain a fire sprinkler system and cause it to break down. This is especially relevant in South Florida, where salty, humid air and heat can punish mechanical systems.

Issues with alarm triggers: Fire alarm devices are sometimes triggered by sprinkler systems. In these cases, the sprinkler uses a mechanical process to send a signal to the alarm after the sprinkler head itself activates: When water begins to move, it trips a plastic paddle mounted in the piping that pushes up and completes an electrical circuit to the fire alarm panel. If any component in this mechanical process is broken, malfunctioning, or blocked, the alarm itself may not work, though many systems have other means of sounding an alarm, including manual pull stations, heat detectors, and smoke detectors.

Interested in learning more about proper fire sprinkler system maintenance?

At LifeSafety Management, we offer full-service fire sprinkler installation, design, testing, inspection, and repair services. We’ll ensure that your system meets all necessary FFSA and FAC requirements, and we are prepared to correct any deficiencies. If you’re unsure whether your sprinkler system has been properly maintained, reach out to our team today by phone at (800) 330-1158 or through our online contact form.

Did You Know that Home Smoke Alarms Need to be Replaced Every 10 Years?

Learn why you should prioritize maintenance of this vital fire safety equipment.

When is the last time that you replaced the smoke alarm in your home? If you can’t remember, it’s likely been longer than 10 years. And according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), that means that you’re due for a replacement.

Smoke alarms are an incredibly important part of any household, and maintaining them can mean the difference between your family being badly injured or even perishing in an accidental house fire. Don’t put it off.

Different types of smoke alarms

When considering a new unit, consider the benefits and drawbacks of a replacement. Below is a review of the two most commonly-used smoke alarms and a summary of their capabilities:

Photoelectric smoke detectors

Photoelectric smoke alarms feature a sensor and light source; as smoke travels between the two, the detector is activated. A drawback of these systems is that the lens can become dusty over time, making the detector less likely to identify smoke. Photoelectric alarms provide adequate protection for smoldering fires, but they are not as good at sensing flaming fires. They are usually employed in larger rooms.

Ionizing smoke detectors

An ionizing smoke detector is typically cheaper to manufacture (and purchase) than a photoelectric unit. They utilize a radioactive element that sends a constant electric current by way of an ionization chamber located between two electrodes. Any particle entering the chamber, such as smoke, breaks the current and sounds the alarm. These types of units are extremely sensitive. This makes them good at detecting a fire, but more susceptible to false alarms.

The NFPA recommends employing both photoelectric and ionizing detectors to adequately protect your home from different types of fires. Helpfully, certain models combine both technologies in a single unit.

Smoke detectors weaken over time

According to the NPFA, smoke alarms wear out and “become less reliable over time.” And research from the Consumer Products Safety Commission has shown that when any part of a detector fails, the entire unit fails. Thus, homeowners should stick to the 10-year replacement guideline to avoid a catastrophic malfunction.

Label your smoke alarms

When you do decide to replace your smoke alarm, it’s important to label the new unit with the date that it was replaced. Many manufacturers include stickers allowing you to quickly assess the age of your detector.

Regular testing is vital

Aside from replacing your equipment every 10 years, routine testing is also incredibly important. The NPFA recommends checking all of your smoke alarms monthly, and immediately replacing any units that aren’t functioning properly.

Don’t become tomorrow’s news story

Too often we neglect to properly maintain items that end up costing us dearly in the long run. One thing that you can’t afford to skimp on is proper smoke alarm maintenance and replacement. If you’re unsure of when you last changed your equipment, it’s best to go ahead and get new ones to ensure that your home and family are protected in the event of a fire.

For more information on the latest smoke alarm technology or any questions related to proper fire safety, don’t hesitate to contact LifeSafety Management at (800) 330-1158or through our online contact form.

The Surprising Benefits of Proper Fire Extinguisher Maintenance and Inspection

An experienced technician goes above and beyond making sure that your fire safety equipment works

Annual maintenance of fire extinguishers is often looked at as just another business expense. In reality, it’s a necessity to comply with certification under NFPA 10. NPFA 10 is a set of guidelines established by fire safety professionals with the National Fire Protection Association that has been adopted by the state of Florida. It ensures that portable fire extinguishers will work as intended as the first line of defense against a fire of limited scope.

Provided that you choose a fire extinguisher maintenance contractor with the necessary accreditations, a good technician doesn’t just make sure that the extinguishers work – he or she will look at all factors to ensure that your property is adequately protected in the event of a fire. In this blog we’ll highlight some underappreciated benefits that come from regular fire extinguisher maintenance visits.

Assessing any new equipment or processes

While a fire extinguisher technician’s primary role at your company is to service any portable fire extinguishers in accordance with NPFA 10, other elements will be evaluated during an inspection. These may include consideration of how recently relocated offices or equipment, new machinery, changes in certain processes, or the manufacture of new products, among many other factors, alter how your facility needs to be protected. Your fire risk levels may have increased or decreased since the last inspection. And these are risks that you may not know about without enlisting the services of a reputable contractor.

Ensuring that equipment is located correctly, with no signs of tampering

A reliable contractor will ensure that all of your fire extinguishers are not only operating properly, but positioned correctly as well. Before hiring any maintenance company, make sure that its technicians are highly trained, properly credentialed, and use NPFA 10 documentation as a reference. All of the technicians at LifeSafety Management are graduates of the Florida State Fire College and hold a permit issued by the Florida State Fire Marshal to service fire equipment.

Evaluating the design of well-marked escape routes

Because fire extinguisher technicians are well versed in all necessary federal and state standards, they’ll also notice any issues with escape routes and required warning signs at your property. Your contractor will advise you of any changes that are necessary to adhere to government regulations regarding clearly-marked means of escape in the event of a fire.

Providing you with documentation

According to NPFA 10, building owners must have documentation that fire extinguishers are properly maintained by a state-licensed fire equipment dealer and state-permitted fire extinguisher inspectors on an annual basis. Therefore, it’s imperative that your technician fills out detailed information on each fire extinguisher tag located within your facility. It is a requirement that all fire extinguishers serviced at your site are documented with a serial number, location, type, and service performed, and this documentation is required to be on site with the equipment for inspection by your local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

Are your fire extinguishers being properly maintained?

Are you second guessing whether your building is up to code and that all fire safety equipment is properly maintained? If so, contact the fire safety experts at LifeSafety Management today by phone at (800) 330-1158 or by filling out our online contact form. Our experienced technicians will make sure that your property’s fire extinguishers, emergency lights, and exit signs are inspected and maintained, and provide you with practical and economical solutions to remedy any issues.