You've probably heard the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" before. Maybe you take this approach when it comes to your building's fire protection program. Why bother testing or replacing equipment that you know already works, right? In actuality, regular maintenance and testing can end up helping you in the long run. Just because a piece of fire protection equipment appears to be in good working order doesn't mean it will stay in that condition or that it is National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) code compliant.
Here are four components of a facility manager's fire protection program that can go overlooked:
1) Fire sprinkler systems – It's often believed that if fire protection equipment such as the fire sprinkler system is working then a building is in the clear. However, your fire sprinkler system may have undetected issues such as problems with valves opening and closing, corroded pipes, or damaged sprinkler heads. All of these deficiencies would render the equipment both noncompliant and dangerous in the event of a fire.
2) Obstructed equipment – Any fire protection equipment that is obstructed from view is considered noncompliant – after all, what good is equipment that no one can reach? Exit signs must not be covered or otherwise obstructed from sight. Also be sure that all paths of egress and exits are not obstructed in any way.
3) Light bulbs and backup batteries – An often disregarded fire protection system aspect is missing or burnt out light bulbs and backup batteries. These items tend to go ignored when it comes to everyday maintenance because they're not always immediately noticeable. However, forgetting to replace a light bulb or backup battery could cause a safety issue and result in a hefty fine come inspection time. Light bulbs should be replaced as part of your regularly scheduled maintenance, and backup batteries typically need to be replaced once a year.
4) Sensitivity testing – Smoke alarm sensitivity testing is another part of a facility manager's fire protection program that is regularly forgotten. If smoke alarms are too sensitive, they may be susceptible to nuisance alarms. However, if a smoke alarm is not sensitive enough, it may not be able to detect smoke from a small fire which puts building occupants in danger. According to NFPA 72, sensitivity testing should be conducted every other year after the first test.
As a facility manager, your fire protection program is one of the most important aspects of your job. No component should be considered too small or unimportant to address as soon as you notice a deficiency. Consider working with a certified fire protection provider to restructure your current fire protection program and keep track of regular maintenance and inspection schedules. By regularly maintaining, testing, and inspecting all fire protection equipment, you can ensure security and compliance for your building and most importantly, safety for occupants.
John Amann is vice president of operations for Cintas Corporation, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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