EMERGENCY EXIT SIGNS ARE ONLY EFFECTIVE IF THEY’RE PLACED PROPERLY
The placement of fire exit signs should never be overlooked. Not only is the effective placement of these signs critical to the safety of the people working or visiting your building, they're also required by building and fire codes to ensure those unfamiliar with a building's layout are directed to safety if a fire were ever to happen.
If a fire ignites and your building starts to fill with smoke:
Do you know how to get out quickly?
Do you know where the closest exits are?
What if your first choice for a fire exit is blocked by smoke or fire?
Is there an alternate exit?
Answering these questions before you encounter them will go a long way in keeping the people in your building safe! Placing fire exit signs effectively can keep the occupants safe by directing them to safety even if they're not familiar with the building's layout.
Follow the Green Running Man!
In 2010, the National Resource Council's building regulations group updated its model building code to reflect Canada's changing demographics and bring exit and emergency signage requirements in line with international standards. That included phasing out the familiar red "EXIT" signs and replacing them with a photoluminescent green "running man" sign commonly found in Asia, Australia and Europe.
The "running man" signs are photoluminescent, capable of giving off light without any electricity. Their green colour is meant to depict "go" or "safety," which is a stark contrast to the red "EXIT" signs that traditionally represent "stop" or form of hazard.
Building and fire code requires any photoluminescent signage to comply with and be ULC-approved for luminosity and duration of illumination. The sign must also indicate the direction of the nearest exit or egress itself. These new signs represent not only a new, internationally recognized safety feature for Canadians, new and old, but also a cost-savings to building operators. The signs are environmentally-friendly and don't require any electricity. Compared to the red "EXIT" counterparts, this will now eliminate energy consumption costs completely!
The "running man" signs are ULC 572-compliant for 50-, 75-, and 100-foot visibility.
How is an Exit Route Defined?
An exit route is a continuous and unobstructed path to exit a building from any point in a workplace to safety. It must provide:
Exit access: the portion of an exit route that leads to an exit.
Exit: the portion of an exit route separated from other areas to provide a protected way of travel to the exit discharge.
Exit discharge: the part of the exit route that leads directly to a street, walkway, refuge area or open space with access to the outside.
For additional information, refer to the National Building Code of Canada (2015)
Keeping Fire Exits Safe
Exit routes must be maintained and kept safe. They must be free of materials that are highly flammable or explosive, including curtains or other decorations. They should also direct people away from highly hazardous areas unless the path of travel is efficiently shielded.
Exit routes must be outfitted with sufficient lighting, including emergency lighting that's adequate enough for anyone with normal vision.
General Code Requirements for Fire Exit Signs
Fire codes typically require building operators to provide a map of emergency exits in every public area, along with illuminated signs that will help occupants to a safe place if an incident occurs. Simply speaking, the fire code requires a safe route out of the building if the main doors are blocked.
Emergency exits and evacuation pathways must be clearly marked at all times. Any doorways or other passages that might be mistaken for exits must be clearly identified as well. Authorized signs must be visible and illuminated.
You must also identify any areas that house fire extinguishers and fire hose cabinets, which ensures quick action by emergency personnel and trained employees in an emergency scenario. Be sure that these signs align with corresponding equipment. These should include:
FIRE ALARM signs
FIRE EXTINGUISHER signs
FIRE EVACUATION signs
Proper placement of emergency exit signs can be the difference between life and death and should never be overlooked. Always consult a fire services professional to ensure that your building is up to code with the locations of your exit signs and that they direct people to safety in the unfortunate event of a fire.
Control Fire Systems Ltd. was founded in 1975. We are an international special hazard fire suppression equipment supply company (including fire safety products) that comes equipped with the expertise you need to keep your building protected against the devastating impacts of fire.
Reach out to us today and see how we can assist you with any of your current and or future fire protection equipment and service needs.
Fire safety might not be the first thing on your mind as you try to run and grow your business, but taking the steps necessary to ensure your commercial fire alarm system is tested and in compliance with requirements outlined by the fire code goes a long way in keeping you, your employees and your business safe.
These alarms not only keep your employees safe if there is a fire in your building, but also alert the authorities if a fire erupts outside of business hours. Keeping these systems working properly requires regular testing by a licensed technician, who will determine whether or not your fire alarm system and associated components are compliant with NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code and identify areas that may need attention, such as faulty components that would need to be swapped out.
The regular inspection and maintenance of your fire alarm system also helps to ensure that your fire alarm systems align with any fire protection requirements outlined by your insurance provider, which could save you money should you need to make a claim against your policy.
Initial Testing Guidelines
The fire alarm system could become compromised at any time, either during installation or after. System tests conducted when the system is first installed will confirm whether or not the installation has met all of the requirements as determined in the NFPA 72, as well as any other related standards and codes. This initial testing must also prove the fire safety system is operating in the proper sequence, according to safety guidelines. Following testing, the engineer will need to issue to the building owner or manager a comprehensive ledger that explains the type of testing that was conducted, whether or not the system passed, and what kind of improvement are required if enhancements to the system need to be made to ensure compliance.. Records of this testing must be kept secure and on hand in the case they're needed for legal defense in a court of law.
Annual fire alarm inspections must always be conducted by licensed technicians, while associated suppression systems need to be tested every six months. Depending on the size of your building, it may be necessary to schedule monthly inspections. For example, in a larger building, certified technicians will test a portion of your fire alarm system on a monthly basis, examining a different system zone each time.
Various factors can impact the effectiveness of a smoke alarm and impact its ability to function at optimal level. Following testing requirements outlined by the fire code help to limit equipment issues related to:
Dust and dirt buildup,
Vandalism or tampering,
Lack of monitoring of system connectivity
Environmental exposures to temperature, humidity and voltage
Preventing False Alarms
Keeping your fire alarm system in optimal working order prevents annoying false alarms, which can not only cost you a lot of money, but also cause some trouble with your local fire department. You'll likely have to pay for any false alarms in which the fire department investigates the cause of the alarm. You can also end up with with a hefty fine if the fire department responds to too many false alarms.
Where There's Smoke, There's Fire
Smoke and smoke inhalation represents a significant risk for buildings owners and managers, even more so than a fire. In fact, more people die from smoke inhalation than they do burns from a fire. Thick and heavy smoke in a confined area can incapacitate occupants quickly, and render them unable to reach a building's exit. Fire alarm and detection systems must be able to warn people early enough in the case of a fire to ensure they have time reach an exit, and avoid falling victim to a smoke inhalation-related incident. The fire alarm and detection systems must also activate early enough to notify firefighters and first responders so that they're able to contain the fire quickly, help to minimize property damage and preserve your assets.
Why You Need a Service Contract
Establishing a strong relationship with a fire testing provider is a good step to take to keep your fire alarm systems operating optimally. Many providers offer service contracts that include regular maintenance and general upkeep to make sure you're in compliance with fire code requirements. Investing in a service contract generally provides discounts for parts and labor, saving you money if there's any issues with your system while maintaining compliance, giving you the peace of mind that your alarms are working properly.
The Bottom Line: You Should Know How to Spot Potential Issues
Fire alarm systems are designed to last for years, but that doesn't mean they don't need attention. Taking the steps necessary to ensure your fire alarm system is inspected regularly and necessary repairs are taken care of quickly keeps your system in top operating condition, prevents the loss of life and limits damage to your property.
It's not enough to contact a local fire alarm company and arrange for the right equipment to be installed. There is also the need to ensure that the equipment is kept in perfect condition. Fortunately, the process of maintaining the equipment properly is not as difficult as some think. Here are some basics that need to be included in the ongoing care of the alarms and associated equipment.
Central Location for All Related Documents
At first glance, creating a cache of documents related to the fire alarm equipment may not seem all that important. In fact, this will provide the foundation and structure for all of the maintenance and upkeep.
That cache should include the original warranties, copies of service agreements, and the master checklist for inspecting each element of the equipment. Example, verification and annual inspection reports.
It's not too much to maintain a set of hard copy documents and a second digital set that can be accessed from a remote location. Choosing to scan and upload the documents to a cloud location will mean that if the originals are destroyed, there is still the ability to print out a fresh set.
Maintaining a Service Contract
Most fire alarm companies offer service contracts that include regular maintenance and upkeep. Investing in a contract means that every element of the alarm system will be checked in compliance with a schedule. If there is any type of repair needed, the terms of the contract will often provide discounts for parts and labour. The peace of mind that comes with knowing the alarms are in proper working order is more than enough to justify the annual cost of the contract.
Knowing How to Spot Potential Issues
Remember that fire alarm systems are designed to last for years, but they do need attention. Take the proper steps to ensure the system is inspected regularly and that repairs are not set aside for a later date. By keeping the alarm equipment in top operating condition, it's easier to prevent the loss of lives and limit damage to the property.
Smoke alarms, in commercial and industrial facilities, serve to monitor large areas for any smoke threats which may pose a danger to the property and its occupants. These alarms act as vital elements of effective security systems ensuring the safety of multitudes of people and assets.
Smoke Alarms in Your Fire Suppression System Setup
In a business setting, smoke detectors play a critical role in signalling a fire emergency to the alarm panels linked to the greater fire alarm system. The activation of this system in turn triggers a cascade of other alarms aimed at addressing the threat, coordinating response efforts, and triggering your suppression system.
While most public awareness campaigns usually focus on residential smoke alarm maintenance, it is equally important to ensure that businesses, large and small, also maintain this essential notification system. Various factors can impact the effectiveness of a smoke alarm and impact its ability to function at optimal level:
Dust and dirt buildup,
Vandalism or tampering,
Lack of monitoring of system connectivity
Environmental exposures to temperature, humidity and voltage
These factors can pose a serious risk to the integrity of a fire alarm system and require close and careful attention. However, regular testing and maintenance of smoke alarms and fire systems are not only to ensure technical efficiency but also for these reasons:
Reason #1: SAFETY FIRST
Most often, smoke alarms are the first indicator which alerts occupants of a building to the presence of dangerous smoke and can mean the difference between a quick, safe response and a tragic disaster. The maintenance of a sensitive and effective smoke detection system allows for the early detection of any kind of fire threat so that people can be moved to safety as quickly as possible. This prompt evacuation of personnel and staff helps to avoid the dangerous health consequences of major smoke inhalation and injury. In addition, most alarm systems also provide the opportunity for emergency response personnel to pinpoint the location of the fire. This allows the responders to be strategic in their approach to extinguishing the threat while also helping to ensure their safety in doing so.
Reason #2: IT'S THE LAW
The National Canadian Fire Alarm Code and Standards carefully detail the regulations regarding the installation and maintenance of all smoke alarms and fire alarm systems for commercial buildings. These regulations have been developed to ensure the safety and security of occupants and property. Failure to comply with government regulations regarding commercial fire safety standards can result in heavy fines and legal consequences. Companies also face the risk of lawsuit due to negligent maintenance of smoke and fire alarm systems in the event occupants are injured or surrounding properties are damaged or destroyed.
Reason #3: PROTECTION OF ASSETS
Commercial properties often contain large quantities of materials which have been purchased for business purposes. The setup and operations of businesses often require heavy investments into real estate, site design, office furniture, electronics, supplies and inventory. Preventative measures like the proper installation and maintenance of smoke alarms and fire systems serves to help in safeguarding these assets from damage, loss, and the cost of repair or replacement.
Regular maintenance of smoke detectors and fire alarm systems by certified, qualified fire safety professionals can serve to protect not only the people involved in your business, but also your business itself.
For more information on developing a maintenance plan for your commercial fire system, contact Control Fire Systems today for a free consultation and quote.
The most common types of alarms that businesses use are conventional and addressable alarm systems.
Both types of alarm link devices (such as call points and smoke detectors) to a main control panel. The main difference between the two is that with addressable fire alarm systems, you can pinpoint exactly which device has been activated.
How do addressable and conventional alarms differ?
Every device connected to the addressable system has its own unique address. When a fire is detected, the device’s address shows up on the main control panel, telling you exactly which device has been activated. This will enable you to find the exact location of a fire and extinguish them quickly.
With a conventional system, there is no way of pinpointing the exact location of the fire. However, by wiring your building into different zones, you can get a general idea of where the fire is. For instance, if you have two floors, you could wire the first as ‘zone 1’ and the second as zone 2. So if a fire occurs in zone 1, you know that the fire is somewhere on the first floor.
alarmsystemsAddressable alarm systems connect devices using a loop. This is where one wire connects all devices to the control panel. Both ends of the wire loop connect to the control panel.
With a conventional alarm, each device will be connected to the control panel via its own wire, rather than a shared one. One end of the wire will be touching the device, and another touching the control panel.
Which is the cheaper option for you?
Conventional alarm panels cost a lot less to buy but are more expensive to install. This is because each device that is being connected needs its own wire. With addressable systems, one wire loop will connect several devices. This means conventional systems require more wire and more man hours during the installation phase.
Additionally, addressable systems have a range of other facilities that can help save money. For instance, addressable alarm panels monitor the air flow through smoke detectors to prevent the occurrence of false alarms, which can be costly to a business.
Which is more reliable?
The addressable alarm panel is also the more reliable of the two. This is because the wire connects to the control panel at both ends (see the diagram above). If one end of the loop becomes severed, signals can still be sent to the control panel via the other end of the loop. Loop isolation modules are also used to separate devices on the loop. This means that if one device becomes disconnected, it won’t disable the circuit. With a conventional system, if a wire has become severed, the device will become disconnected.
Functionally, the addressable fire alarm unit is superior, which can help prevent costly activities and save time when detecting a fire. It’s also cheaper and easier to install. But in terms of buying price, a conventional
system is cheaper, and will meet the functional needs of small premises where a sophisticated system is not necessary.