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Frequently Asked Questions about Fire Protection

As you research fire protection options, you probably have several questions concerning what your building requires. These fire protection FAQs answer some common questions we receive here at Unifour Fire & Safety.

Do I need both a fire alarm and fire sprinklers?

It’s easy to think that with so many components in a fire protection system, some redundancy might allow you to skip a feature or two. However, a fire alarm and fire sprinklers are both vital pieces of fire protection equipment.

The function of a fire alarm is to spread the word about a fire. It features smoke detectors to sense fire, pull stations for watchful people to set off the alarm, and strobe lights and horns to alert everyone in the building that they must evacuate. A monitored fire alarm also sends a message to the fire department so trucks dispatch to your location immediately.

On the other hand, fire sprinklers go straight to work putting out the fire. High heat sets off one sprinkler at a time to help minimize property damage. Sprinkler systems can also be monitored for automatic fire department dispatch, but the primary focus is to douse the blaze as quickly as possible.

Together, fire alarms and fire sprinklers save lives and drastically reduce property damage.

How do I know if my fire extinguishers are working?

A vast majority of the time, your fire extinguishers sit dormant. The best way to tell if they’re working is to schedule routine fire extinguisher inspections. You can perform simple checks yourself, but more in-depth testing from a professional should take place once a year. Then, every six years, your fire extinguishers must undergo a complete breakdown and internal inspection.

Do I need a fire pump?

If your building features fire sprinklers, chances are good you also need a fire pump. This machine ensures every sprinkler in the building receives enough water to extinguish a fast-growing blaze. If the pressure drops, the fire pump turns on automatically to increase the water flow to an adequate level.

Water pressure is most likely to be a problem in high-rises, large buildings, and structures with ground-level water tanks. These types of properties need fire pumps the most, though we install them in other buildings as well.

How often do I need fire protection system inspection and testing?

The short answer to this question is to schedule inspection and testing services for your fire protection equipment once a year. Annual maintenance from the professionals at Unifour Fire & Safety helps to catch and correct problems with your fire protection system. It’s important to maintain records of our visits for auditing purposes since fire code requires annual fire protection system testing in many states.

Keep in mind that you should also perform simple inspections and testing between yearly visits from a professional. Contact us for a complete list of safety checks you can perform yourself.

Why is fire protection in restaurants and commercial kitchens so important?

Cooking equipment is the number one cause of structure fires, both in residential and commercial buildings. The combination of open flames, high temperatures, flammable cooking fuels, and a frenzied environment makes kitchens a prime place for flash fires. Since the kitchen is the heart of every restaurant, it’s vital to have adequate fire protection here.

Commercial kitchen fire suppression is a combination of several components, including hood ventilation and automatic foam fire suppression. It’s also important to have Class K fire extinguishers installed in your restaurant or commercial kitchen. This way, attentive cook staff can douse the blaze quickly before it spreads to the rest of the building.

Which fire extinguisher should I use?

Not all extinguishers are created equal. In fact, there are different fire extinguisher classes designed to put out various types of fires. If flames break out in your home, office, or other building with ordinary combustible products, flammable liquids, and electrical wiring, a multipurpose ABC fire extinguisher is the proper tool to douse the blaze.

For cooking fires in commercial kitchens, a Class K extinguisher is needed to put out the fire and prevent it from reflashing. Class D extinguishers are less common and are only used to fight fires that break out in chemical plants and industrial facilities with combustible metals onsite, such as sodium, potassium, titanium, and magnesium.

How often does my fire hydrant need to be inspected?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires annual fire hydrant inspections to make sure these fixtures remain in good working order. After all, while automatic fire sprinklers and suppression systems are the first lines of defense, they aren’t always enough to tackle raging flames. In this case, a hydrant is critical for firefighters to tap into when they arrive on the scene to douse the blaze.

A fire hydrant inspection checks for wear and tear, rust and corrosion, accidental damage, vandalism, mechanical malfunction, and partially closed tap valves that could impair water flow. The time and effort required to arrange annual fire hydrant inspections are well worth the peace of mind that comes from knowing these fixtures will perform as expected if you need them in a fire emergency.

What is the difference between standard and quick response fire sprinkler heads?

Standard response (SR) and quick response (QR) fire sprinkler heads have several similarities. They both feature glass bulbs with colored liquid inside that burst when they reach a specific temperature to start the water flowing. Both SR and QR sprinkler heads activate individually with the important purpose of dousing the flames and surrounding areas to prevent the fire from spreading while minimizing water damage at the same time.

The biggest difference between the two systems is that QR sprinkler heads have a smaller glass bulb measuring 3 mm and activate at a slightly lower temperature than SR sprinkler heads, which have 5 mm bulbs. This quality makes QR sprinkler heads appropriate for light hazard applications where ambient temperatures aren’t likely to rise near the activation temperature rating.

QR sprinkler heads also discharge water higher up so it douses the ceiling and prevents flash-over, making it easier for occupants to evacuate safely. For this reason, QR sprinkler heads are ideal for highly populated buildings, such as apartments and assisted living facilities.

How often do I need to replace my fire extinguishers?

Because fire extinguishers come in different sizes, are made of different materials, and contain different extinguishing agents, there isn’t a standard timeframe for replacing them. The best way to make sure your extinguishers are usable is to have them inspected annually. Then, subjecting the cylinders to internal inspections, pressure tests, and recharge services roughly every six years can keep them in service for decades.

However, you should replace your fire extinguishers if you ever notice problems during an inspection, such as a rusty or corroded cylinder, missing or damaged components, inaccurate gauge readings, or missing inspection label. If a cylinder fails a pressure test, this is also an indication that you should discard it and replace it with a new one.

Looking for a fire protection company in the Southeast? Call Unifour Fire & Safety at 866-511-5540 to request a quote on installation, replacement, repair, or inspection/testing of your fire protection equipment today!