Monitored Fire Extinguisher Technology a Hit at the Texas State Fire Marshals’ Conference
The en-Gauge technology to electronically monitor fire extinguishers was well received at the annual Texas State Fire Marshals’ Conference in Austin Texas. en-Gauge’s leading regional distributor displayed the technology at the conference and the activity around their display was consistently high throughout the show.
Many of the regional fire marshals hadn’t seen the technology in person and took advantage of the display to learn how it works and the many benefits it offers a life safety program. Many of the AHJ’s seeing the technology for the first time asked “why hasn’t this been done before”; a refrain we have heard for years from uniformed officials. Another exhibitor said afterwards; “the monitored fire extinguishers were definitely the main attraction during the exhibitor portion of the Conference.”
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.
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.
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
A third major concern that businesses must be aware of is empty or depressurized extinguishers. This is especially concerning, because the extinguisher is available and accessible, but when the user tries to fight the fire, the fire extinguisher does not function properly. A non-pressurized fire extinguisher is a code violation and an example of the type of concern the 30-day fire extinguisher inspection is meant to address. Unfortunately, it is a concern that is all to common as the 30-day fire extinguisher inspection leaves large windows of vulnerability (if they are performed at all).
As with missing and blocked fire extinguishers, it is easy to find depressurized (either through previous discharge or a slow leak) fire extinguishers in buildings. Here are some examples of depressurized or empty fire extinguishers I"ve found in the last few months:
Depressurized or Empty Fire Extinguishers
Sorry about the focus on this one, I was just getting used to my new iPhone
Empty or depressurized fire extinguishers are a serious life safety risk. They are meant to be identified and addressed during the monthy, 30-day fire extinguisher inspections. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of these inspections are actually performed and that puts lives at risk. The 30 day window between inspections also is a substantial concern. A much more effective method for complying with NFPA 10 is electronic monitoring of extinguishers which keeps track of the pressure in your extinguishers 24 X 7 X 365.
Blocked Fire Extinguishers are another serious code violation that are easy to find when you are out running errands or going to meetings. When access to a fire extinguisher is impeded by an object, it can mean the difference between life and death. This is another concern the 30-day fire extinguisher inspection is meant to address, but since such a small percentage of these inspections are actually performed, an extinguisher can remained blocked for months - or even years - at a time.
Here are some pictures of blocked fire extinguishers I have found in just that past few months.
Blocked Fire Extinguishers
This is a picture of a blocked fire extinguisher location with the extinguisher missing as well.
Blocked fire extinguishers are commonplace. Unfortunately, they are also a serious life safety risk for the occupants of any buildings in which they reside. The 30-day manual inspection as mandated by NFPA 10, is not sufficient to ensure fire extinguishers are accessible and available every day. The en-Gauge electronic fire extinguisher monitoring system ensures that your extinguishers are where they are supposed to be, free of obstruction and ready to fight fires 24 X 7 X 365.