Inspecting Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors are important tools in fire prevention. But just because your company has smoke detectors installed does not necessarily mean your business and employees are safe. As smoke detectors age, they can become less sensitive. This can render them ineffieicent. NFPA 72 requires that smoke detectors are regularly tested for both functionality and sensitivity. 

Each smoke detector must be tested within its listed and marked sensitivity range with UL-approved testing equipment within 1st year of install.  After the first year, it is required to be tested every 2 years after until the 5thyear.  Then the smoke detectors must be tested for sensitivity every 5 years.

This is completed with Manufacturer-approved method of sensitivity testing that measures true sensitivity of a detector head with a controlled amount of smoke pumped through its system, introducing into the detector. Both Photoelectric and Ionization detectors must be included.

Battery-operated and portable devices must be used and come with all accessories needed to perform sensitivity tests on detectors: main control unit, head, (2) different size extension cables, and charger. Sensitivity detector must self-calibrate before every test. Results must be shown in %/Ft.

Smoke detectors that are tested and found to be outside of their listed and marked sensitivity range, must be cleaned and recalibrated or replaced OR if they are field adjustable, they are permitted to be field adjusted within the listed and marked sensitivity range. (NFPA 72-2016 14.4.4.3.4-5)

Call Reliable Fire & Security to inspect not only your Smoke Detectors but all of your fire protection devices at 708-597-4600 .  Visit our website for a complete list of services at www.reliablefire.com  #firesafety #smokedetector #fireinspection #firealarm #firesprinkler #security #CCTV #cloudbasedsolutions #cardaccess #onecalldoesitall

Server Room Safety

Your server room is one of the worst possible places for any fire to start. Business and organization interruption are inevitable and while hardware can be replaced in time, very often up-to-date data cannot. Even if the fire is quickly contained, smoke from a fire can lead to extensive IT server and network peripheral damage due to the corrosive chemicals within the smoke.  Brief smoke exposure can damage sensitive electronics as can high temperatures and off course exposure to flames.

How do you protect a server room from fire and smoke damage? The best approach is to understand and remove the common causes of fire within server rooms and to install the right type of environment monitoring and fire suppression system.

The Common Causes of Server Room Fires

The harddrives within modern servers can draw large amounts of power and there is a cumulative effective when multiple servers are placed within a server rack cabinet.

Electrical short-circuits can occur within any component within the critical power path delivering electricity from the building to your electronic equipment. 

Overloaded circuits are one of the most principle causes of short-circuits and fire within this type of mission critical environment and it is therefore important to ensure power supply phases are not overloaded and are balanced with adequate discrimination and fast acting circuit breaker protection.

Overheating is the second most common cause of fires and especially within high density racks when cooling systems fail. Environment and temperature monitoring can help to identify ‘hot-spots’ within server cabinets and the rooms themselves, allowing correction through better equipment layout and adequate cooling. N+X redundancy can also be built into the cooling systems with portable CRACs and air conditioning units available quickly.

Finally, the raised access floor within a server room or data centre can also hide and prevent access to faulting wiring. This is a hard issue to detect and one that can be prevented using proper channeling and correct cable installation whether its for power or data.

How to Minimize and Prevent Server Room Fires

Most server room fires are easily preventable and there are several ways to reduce the chances of a fire occurring. 

Here are some tips in keeping your server rooms safe:

  • Maintain suitable temperature and humidity levels: server room temperatures should be cooled to within 20-25˚C with a humidity level of 40-60% relative humidity. These factors can reduce the potential for electrostatic discharge (static electricity) and condensations and water ingress.
  • Ensure proper ventilation: IT equipment within server racks must be installed to optimise cooling with the rack and prevent the build-up of ‘hot-spots’. The server racks should able be arranged into rows with easy front and rear access as well as the two end-sides. If the entire arrangement is made to optimise the floor and rack space and ensure adequate cooling, this will reduce the fire risk and make it easier to extinguish if one starts.
  • Keep a clean and tidy environment: regular IT room cleaning is important to remove dust and debris and prevent this building up. Any such accumulation can lead to overheating and the potential for static as well as acting as a potential fuel for any fire. It is also important to maintain a tidy environment using structured cabling assembles and containment. Potential fuel sources including waste or shredded paper and other potential flammable items should not kept within the area.
  • Regular equipment checks and maintenance: any damaged power cords or equipment must be immediately replaced. Temperature monitoring and routine maintenance can identify potential system or component failures as failing equipment tends to become less energy efficient and warmer as it nears component breakdown and end-of-life. Power supplies and batteries are good examples of this which can be caught and identified during regular preventative maintenance of critical systems (power, cooling and IT).
  • Above all it is important to carry out a fire risk assessment and ideally to have this completed by an external supplier or consultant who can provide an outside view and challenge assumptions

Select the Right Server Room Fire Suppression System

fire suppression system must be installed within high power density rooms having the potential for fire and smoke damage. Most server rooms operators opt for a clean agent-based fire protection system rather than water.

Water from overhead sprinkler systems can lead to even further damage and potentially make systems unrecoverable. Clean agent-based systems are capable of quickly suppressing a fire and with minimal equipment and room damage. The clean agent is a gas or chemical or combination selected to suit the room environment, equipment within it and meet guidelines and regulations.

It is also important to remember that the fire cannot be suppressed without an adequate supply of the clean agent. If the fire cannot be contained within the room, the fire suppressing agent can also leak out. Power also needs to be cut-off during a fire as the cause of the fire itself could be an electrical short-circuit. The HVAC system also needs to be automatically shutdown to prevent fire spreading through ducting and air flow passages.

Strong fires may require further action from local fire services as the agent may not be capable of extinguishing the fire early and the fire suppression system may only be for a localised area rather than a wider-scale building. For some sites, water sprinklers can provide additional back-up within the sensitive data area as well as within the wider building itself.

Call Reliable Fire & Security to pick the perfect fire suppression system for your server room at 708-597-4600.

Exit And Emergency Lighting

Numerous regulatory agencies and codes govern emergency lighting and exit sign requirements. Aside from being code compliant, employers must also follow the requirements of their local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). Chicago has their unique codes and requirements for exit signs and emergency lighting. Reach out to your local fire marshal or inspector to see what the codes are regarding local emergency exit requirements.

Under 29 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) 1910.34(c) OSHA defines “exit route” as, “a continuous and unobstructed path of exit travel from any point within a workplace to a place of safety (including refuge areas).” An exit route includes all vertical and horizontal areas along the route and consists of the following three parts:

Exit Access−means that a portion of an exit route that leads to an exit. An example of exit access is a corridor on the fifth floor of an office building that leads to a two-hour fire-resistance-rated enclosed stairway (the Exit).

Exit means that portion of an exit route that is generally separated from other areas to provide a protected way of travel to the exit discharge. An example of an exit is a two-hour fire-resistance-rated enclosed stairway that leads from the fifth floor of an office building to the outside of the building.

Exit Discharge−means the part of the exit route that leads directly outside or to a street, walkway, refuge area, public way, or open space with access to the outside. An example of an exit discharge is a door at the bottom of a two-hour fire-resistance-rated enclosed stairway that discharges to a place of safety outside the building.

OSHA’s requirements for lighting and marking exit routes are covered under 1910.37(b). It states that each exit route must be adequately lighted so that an employee with normal vision can see along the exit route and each exit must be visible and marked by a sign reading “Exit.” Additional requirements include the following:

Each exit route door must be free of decorations or signs that obscure the visibility of the exit route door.

If the direction of travel to the exit or exit discharge is not immediately visable, signs must be posted along the exit access indicating the direction of travel to the nearest exit and exit discharge. Additionally, the line-of-sight to an exit sign must be visible at all times.

Each doorway or passage along an exit access that could be mistaken for an exit must be marked “Not an Exit” or similar designation, or be identified by a sign indicating its actual use (e.g., closet).

Each exit sign must be illuminated to a surface value of at least five-foot candles (54 lux) by a reliable light source and be distinctive in color. Self-luminous or electroluminescent signs that have a minimum luminance surface value of at least .06-foot-lamberts are permitted.

Each exit sign must have the word “Exit” in plainly legible letters not less than six inches (15.2 centimeters (cm)) high, with the principal strokes of the letters in the word “Exit” not less than 3/4- inch (1.9 cm) wide.

OSHA references its acceptance of the NFPA’s emergency exit requirements under 1910.35, where it states that employers who are following the exit-route provisions of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, meet OSHA’s requirements. OSHA also acknowledges that those following the International Code Council’s, International Fire Code, satisfy OSHA’s compliance requirements.

NFPA‘s Exit Sign Requirements

Within the 2015 edition of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, section 7.10. It contains details regarding the placement, visibility, and acceptable forms of illumination for exit signs. NFPA states that any new exit signs must be located so that no point in an exit access corridor is more than the sign’s rated viewing distance or 100-feet, whichever is less, from the nearest sign. Exit signs with directional indicators must be placed in every location where the direction of travel to reach the nearest exit is not apparent.

The NFPA states that every sign must be readily visible and must contrast with the background where it’s placed. “No decorations, furnishings, or equipment that impairs visibility of a sign shall be permitted. No brightly illuminated sign (for other than exit purposes), display, or object in or near the line of vision of the required exit sign that could distract attention from the exit sign shall be permitted.”

Under section 7.10.1.2 of the Life Safety Code, it declares that all exit signs must be illuminated by a reliable light source and must be legible in both normal and emergency exit lighting modes. Section 7.10 breaks illumination into two broad categories: externally illuminated and internally illuminated. Externally illuminated refers to a source of illumination that comes from outside the exit sign while internally illuminated exit signs possess the illumination source inside the sign.

For externally illuminated signs, the Life Safety Code section 7.10.6.3 requires a level of illumination of not less than five-foot candles (54 lux) at the illuminated surface and a contrast ratio of not less than five-tenths.

Internally illuminated signs must be listed under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/Underwriters Laboratory (UL) 924, Standard for Emergency Lighting and Power Equipment. The Life Safety Code does allow for three exceptions to this for certain approved existing exit signs (section 7.10.7.1). The exceptions are:

They are approved existing signs.

They are existing signs having the required wording in legible letters not less than four inches (100 millimeters (mm)) high.

They are signs that are under Exit Door Tactile Signage (7.10.1.3) and Floor Proximity Exit Signs (7.10.1.6).

Also under internally illuminated, the Life Safety Code section 7.10.7.2 details the illumination requirements for photoluminescent signs. Photoluminescent is defined as “having the ability to store incident electromagnetic radiation typically from ambient light sources, and release it in the form of visible light.” Photoluminescent signs must be continually illuminated while the building is occupied; the charging illumination must be a reliable light source as determined by the AHJ.

Emergency Lighting Requirements

Also referred to as egress lighting, emergency lighting is designed to illuminate and identify hallways, stairwells, and exits to facilitate a safe and orderly evacuation from a facility. Emergency lighting is generally required in all commercial, industrial, educational, religious, institutional, public housing, medical, and many other facilities whether for-profit or non-profit.

Within the Life Safety Code, the NFPA’s requirements for emergency lighting are referenced under section 7.9. Emergency illumination (when required) must be provided for a minimum of 1.5-hours in the event of failure of normal lighting. The emergency lighting must be positioned to provide initial illumination of not less than an average of one footcandle (10.8-lux) and a minimum at any point of 0.1-footcandle (1.1-lux) measured along the path of egress at floor level. These levels can decline to a minimum of 0.6-footcandle (6.5-lux) average and 0.06-foot-candle (0.65-lux) at any one point at the end of emergency lighting time (1.5-hours). The maximum illumination at any one point can be no more than 40 times the minimum illumination at any one point to prevent excessively bright and dark spots (section 7.9.2.1.3). The emergency lighting system must be positioned to provide illumination automatically in the event of any interruption of normal lighting (section 7.9.2.3).

Testing Requirements for Emergency Lighting

Section 7.9.3, of the Life Safety Code, addresses the NFPA’s requirements for testing of emergency lights. The section acknowledges three different categories of emergency lights: traditional, self-testing/self-diagnostic, and computer-based self-testing/self-diagnostic. It essentially requires both a monthly activation test, where the lights remain illuminated for a minimum of 30-seconds and an annual test where the lights are activated for 1.5-hours to simulate a long-term emergency event.

Why Your Employees Need Fire Extinguisher Training

According to the OSHA: “Where the employer has provided portable fire extinguishers for employee use in the workplace, the employer shall also provide an educational program to familiarize employees with the general principles of fire extinguisher use and the hazards involved with incipient stage firefighting.”  Just because the employer provides fire extinguishers, does not mean the employees are certified to use them. Workers must be trained to: Recognize when to use a portable fire extinguisher and how to correctly operate the fire extinguisher.

According to OSHA Interpretation Letter, employers do not have to start and extinguish fires to simulate emergency fire conditions during employee training. “Hands-on training does not necessarily mean ‘live fire’ demonstration,” the letter states. “As a minimum, hands-on training should include the actual discharging of fire extinguishers appropriate for the type of fires expected, unracking of standpipe hoses, and test-sounding of fire alarm boxes.”

Responding to a Fire

Before trying to control fire with a portable extinguisher, the worker who discovers the fire should activate the alarm, enabling others to evacuate to a safe area, OSHA advised. The fire department should be called at this time.

General procedures for responding to a small, incipient-stage fire are as follows:

  • Identify a safe evacuation path before approaching the fire.
  • Do not allow the fire, heat, or smoke to come between you and your evacuation path.
  • Use the PASS technique from a safe distance: PULL the pin; AIM low, pointing the extinguisher nozzle at the base of the fire; SQUEEZE the handle, to release the extinguishing agent; SWEEP from side to side at the base of the fire until it appears to be out.
  • Evacuate if the extinguisher runs out of fluid and the fire is not out.
  • Evacuate if the fire progresses beyond the incipient stage.

If your facility has a sprinkler system, evacuate, letting the sprinklers run, as advised by OSHA.

Reliable Fire & Safety can certify and train employees to use a fire extinguisher correctly.  Please call us at 708-597-4600.