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.
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.
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.”
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.