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In The Hot Seat: Five Common Fire Code Violations

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there were 99,500 non-residential fires in businesses ranging from healthcare facilities to hotels to multi-tenant office buildings, resulting in 65 deaths, 1,525 injuries and more than $2.5 million in losses in 2012. Properly maintained fire protection equipment reduces the risk of loss, but there are many things that can make equipment noncompliant or even render it inoperable. To help organizations improve their fire prevention programs and avoid unnecessary fines, Cintas today identified five common fire code violations.

“It’s not enough to have fire protection equipment in place,” said John Amann, Vice President, Cintas Fire Protection, “Periodic testing and inspection of that equipment is necessary to ensure that it will function in an emergency.”

Cintas recommends conducting an assessment to ensure you’re not violating fire code in these common ways:

  1. Painted Sprinkler Heads – Sprinkler heads should not be painted (they’re not meant to be pretty) or covered in any way. In addition to regular inspections, sprinkler systems must be inspected internally every five years to ensure they are free of buildup that would restrict water flow.
  2. Fire extinguishers that do not meet requirements for hazard type – Different hazards require different types of extinguishers, and using the wrong extinguisher can sometimes make the fire worse. The type and number of fire extinguishers needed change with the use and contents of a building. Make sure that you have the appropriate extinguisher available based on the hazards present in your business.
  3. Failures in emergency lighting and exit signs - Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) 1910.37 and NFPA 101 require emergency lights and exit signs to be tested for 30 seconds monthly and 90 minutes annually, along with other important but easy-to-miss vitals a trained technician will know to check.
  4. Alarm systems not tested at required intervals – Lives are at stake when a fire occurs and an alarm system won’t do its job if it’s not properly maintained. NFPA 72 outlines required testing intervals for automatic fire alarm systems. Proper maintenance of a fire alarm system will greatly improve the chances that it will detect a fire, notify the building occupants, and alert first responders.
  5. No inspection paperwork – If no paperwork exists, did the inspection really take place? Work with a fire protection provider that offers complete, easy to understand inspection reports. This will help you to easily keep track of all completed inspections and quickly reference them when needed.

“Ignoring fire protection equipment deficiencies increases the likelihood of extensive damage, injury, or even death,” added Amann, “Partnering with an expert service provider is the best way to ensure equipment is properly maintained and in compliance with fire codes.”

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