Fire safety has become one of the biggest part of a Facility Manager's responsibility, and for good reason. Some of the most critical aspects of an effective maintenance plan involves fire related items and managing all aspects of your fire protection systems can take up a large part of your week. So how can you effectively make sure that everything will be in compliance with the latest building codes, fire marshall inspections and safety committee checklists? Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) is definitely the answer, but first let's try and understand what we need to maintain in order to keep up effective and safe Fire Protection Systems.
Fire Protection Systems
The goal of your fire protection system is to provide your building residents or visitors with a safe environment to live and work. Although protecting the facility and it's assets becomes secondary to the life safety of the individuals on the premises, consideration to the latter must also be included in your plan. In some cases, it may be wise to identify and work at protecting those assets that are more susceptable to combustion. Isolating them, or including them within your fire protection systems may help you save lives. Typically, you will encounter three types of fire protection systems within your facility - passive, detection and suppression.
Passive Protection Systems
Modern fire safety codes now include many more requirements for passive fire protection systems. Most of the passive systems need to be considered when building a new structure or renovating an older one. They would include fire safety doors or firewalls, which are fireproof barriers used to prevent the spread of fire between or through the building. Firewalls are constructed in such a way as to achieve a fire-resistance rating mandated by the local fire code, and are usually made of concrete, concrete blocks or reinforced concrete. Holes through firewalls, such as for pipes and cables, must be protected with a fire stop assembly to prevent the spread of fire through the wall and larger openings, such as doors and windows, must be fire rated as fire door assemblies and fire window assemblies.
Detection Protection Systems
All buildings these days need to be equipped with active fire alarm systems designed to detect the unwanted presence of fire or smoke, and they do this by monitoring environmental changes. It is common for many of these detection fire protection systems to be integrated with other building automation systems and are in most cases monitored externally by a security company. Some are often automatically linked to elevator functions and emergency power generators or suppression systems. Typically a fire protection system will contain the following parts:
- Fire alarm control panel, which is the hub of the system and monitors information coming in from your various contact points and relays the information to the other systems in the work flow.
- Primary power supply allows for current supplied directly from a commercial power utility.
- Secondary power supply, or back up units, can be batteries or emergency generators used in case the primary power supply fails.
- Initiating devices are the components around your facility that serve as the point of input for information into the fire alarm control panel. They are typically heat detectors, smoke detectors or even manual pull stations.
- Notification appliances, which provide information throughout the facility to residents or visitors, are items such as flashing lights, horns, chimes or speakers. Signage like a properly lit-up exit sign or directional evacuation lights also fall under this category.
- Safety interfaces allow for the fire alarm system to control aspects of the building's environment and prepare for a fire. Stopping elevators, shutting off the A/C or powering off other machinery that could influence the spread of the fire, can be automated with a direct interface to the control panel which automatically controls those devices.
Suppression Protection Systems
Although fire detection and alarms provide early warning of an impending fire or smoke situation, it is the fire suppression system that works overtime thereafter. There are various systems available on the market depending on the design of the building, construction details or even code requirements. Some examples of these are wet or dry pipe sprinkler systems, clean agent systems and kitchen hood systems, all of which are designed to suppress or extinguish fire before they cause loss of life or significant property damage. The most common type of fire suppression system is the wet sprinkler system, which is a set of connecting pipes usually hanging overhead, constantly filled with water. Each sprinkler head is angled or aimed to the proper direction and all of the corresponding mechanism related to the units such as compressors and pumps must be inspected regularly.
It is very clear that a CMMS is needed in order to manage the inspection and maintenance of your fire systems on a regular basis. If done properly, over 20% of your overall preventive maintenance plan will include fire protection related tasks. That's a huge part of your weekly activity and one can't be expected to execute and document all of those items using traditional paper methods. Now that you know all about the different types of fire protection systems that your building contains, CMMS can help you organize, remind you, track and even keep documentation on all of the types of activities you do related to keeping the facility safe.