Fire & Security Check List to Welcome Back Onsite Employees

Fire & Security Check List to Welcome Back Onsite Employees

Perhaps you’ve seen the “funniest home (office) videos” on social media. Employees attend Zoom business meetings from their home dressed for the office from the waist up and dressed for the weekend from the waist down. Kids are spotted playing in the background, a cat strolls in front of a monitor.

But after working from home for a year due to COVID restrictions, many employees have been called back to the workplace. In addition to dusting off cubicles, restocking the break room and servicing computers that have been idle for months, there are important fire and security protocols to review and update to ensure the safety of employees and buildings.

Welcome Back Staff!

The crucial starting place in prepping for employee return is to make sure your life safety systems are inspected, up-to-code and compliant. Check your security cameras and positions to identify any changes and conditions. Have sprinkler systems inspected and serviced if necessary. Doors will need to be reprogrammed for hours of operation, who has access and when. As there may be new employees to process, card access systems will likely need to be updated.

Next, take a closer look at what safety plans you have in place in the event of an emergency. Questions to ask include:

  • Does your safety plan reflect the correct number of employees?
  • Is your safety and evacuation plan current?
  • Does everyone know what to do in an emergency? New employees need training and returning employees need a refresher course. I suggest staging a safety drill.
  • Who has access to the fire panels and sprinkler systems?
  • Do the right people know where your life safety equipment is located?
  • Have you designated leaders to take charge during an emergency?
  • Is there a designated person available at all times?

Fire Extinguishers: The First Line of Defense

Statistics on fire extinguishers illustrate their essential role in fire safety. Seventy-five percent of fires are limited to the object of origin when an extinguisher is used; 18 percent are limited to the room of origin; just eight percent go beyond the room of origin.

Accessibility to a fire extinguisher is key to limiting the scale of a fire. They should be mounted and located in conspicuous locations where they are immediately available for use. In fact, safety codes require at least one portable fire extinguisher within 75 feet of occupied areas. The question is, do all your employees—returning and new—know where all the fire extinguishers are located? Are they trained and certified on how to use fire extinguishers?

To ensure your employees are prepared, take advantage of Brothers Fire & Security’s online training academy, Life Safety Made Simple. How to Effectively Use Fire Extinguishers is a convenient and affordable 30-minute course that certifies staff and meets OSHA compliance.

Protection against COVID

For over a year, businesses have been making adjustments to workspaces to comply with changing COVID requirements. First and foremost, businesses must have a COVID-19 preparedness plan. The Stay Safe Minnesota website features a comprehensive document to walk you through the requirements, as well as helpful resources.

Brothers Fire & Security can help your business meet the cleaning, disinfecting and hand hygiene requirements. We are partnering with Everest Microbial Defense to offer the latest antimicrobial technology. Everest uses EV360™, a breakthrough solution that tests, disinfects and protects surfaces for up 90 days.

EV360™ is applied to all types of surfaces by an electrostatic sprayer and forms a durable and consistent bond with all surfaces. The coating becomes part of the surface, creating a field of nanospikes that mechanically kills bacteria, mold, viruses, or other microbes that come into contact with the surfaces. EV360™ is registered with the EPA, and is a safe, water-based coating.

I also encourage you to install hand sanitizer stations throughout the building, especially in high traffic areas. Everest’s hand purifier kills 99.99 percent of germs and keeps them away up to 24 hours even through hand washings. It’s safe for children and adults, maintains skin’s natural PH, has no gel residues, alcohol or fragrance, and is more economical than traditional alcohol-based products.

As we enter a new phase in the on-going fight against COVID, Brothers Fire & Security is ready, willing and able to help you welcome your employees back. Whether it’s checking your sprinkler system, testing fire extinguishers or disinfecting your workplace, we’re here for you. Give us a call at 800-607-2767.

About Brothers Fire & Security

As one of the premier providers of fire and security solutions in the Upper Midwest, Brothers Fire & Security strives to build long-term, value-added relationships. We work with business owners and property management companies, as well as all types of public institutions to solve fire and security needs. By taking advantage of our integrated bundled services, many of our clients find that they can save 25-30% on their safety services, annual inspections and more. From a single location to franchises throughout the region and the country, our integrated approach saves our clients valuable time, money, and stress. We provide fire protection systems, security systems, fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, 24-7 monitoring, fire extinguishers, card access and kitchen hoods. We also provide our Online Academy: Life Safety — Made Simple with eLearning courses designed to help you get and keep your staff trained and your business fire and security code compliant.

COVID-19: How to Navigate What’s Next and How to Plan

COVID-19: How to Navigate What’s Next and How to Plan

Excitement is in the air as life begins to get back to normal. It feels like we’ve been under a spell for a year that plunged us into the COVID fog. The spell is fading and the sky is clearing.

Here in Minnesota, doors opened even wider this month at dine-in restaurants, indoor and outdoor gatherings, sports, religious services and entertainment as restrictions have been lifted or greatly relaxed. Here’s a breakdown on some of the changes.

  • Indoor and outdoor dining capacity in bars and restaurants increased to 75 percent (250 people max).
  • Indoor events and entertainment venues ramped up to 50 percent capacity (250 people max). Venues with indoor seated capacity over 500 increased an additional 15 percent (3,000 max). Non-seated venues increased an additional 10 percent (1,500 max).
  • Outdoor venues may operate with an additional 25 percent of the occupant capacity above 500 (10,000 max). Non-seated outdoor venues may operate with an additional 15 percent of the capacity above 500 (10,000 max).
  • Youth and adult sports can have spectators based on venue capacity.
  • Indoor social gatherings increased to 15 people, and outdoor gatherings to 50 people.
  • Religious services opened to 100 percent capacity.
  • Weddings and funerals can have full capacity. Receptions must follow the venue guidelines.
  • Personal services (salons, tattoos, barbershops) can now operate at 100 percent capacity.

We can now make plans for boat cruises and bus tours, get together with family and friends, take part in fun runs, attend concerts, work out at the gym, go to water parks and pools and relax at the spa. The Twins will welcome up to 10,000 fans at Target Field, beginning with its April 8 home opener. Valleyfair opens May 22 and Soak City opens May 29. Plans are moving full-steam ahead for the Minnesota State Fair Aug. 26-Sept. 6.

Just keep those masks on, social distance and follow guidelines on hygiene and attendance. For more details check out the Minnesota’s Stay Safe site.

Open – Safely

While the attention on reopening Minnesota has focused on the health aspect, we can’t overlook building safety for employees and customers at thousands of businesses in the state.

Many buildings have been closed for months, so fire and security systems need to be inspected, serviced and brought up to code. New staff may be coming on board, which means they need training on safety plans, and returning staff probably need a refresher course. With all the personnel and work schedule changes, building and office access codes should be updated.

Kitchen hoods need to be cleaned and certified. Some restaurants have installed new air filtration and circulation technology. The bonus is they decrease the amount of grease that goes in the hood. This technology has helped Brothers Fire & Security’s hood cleaning servicing by making cleanup easier and safer.

Fire extinguishers have been hanging undisturbed on walls for over a year, so they need to be serviced, inspected and tagged. Make sure they are positioned every 75 feet of travel. All employees should know how to use fire extinguishers. Brothers Fire & Security offers affordable fire extinguisher training on its online academy, Life Safety — Made Simple. Training includes the correct way to use different kinds of fire extinguishers, firefighting concepts, and understanding life-saving steps to take when there’s a fire. Employees who complete the course are certified and training meets OSHA compliance requirements.

Fighting Germs

We’re always going to be dealing with viruses and other biohazards, so I recommend businesses invest in the latest germ-fighting technology. Brothers Fire & Security partners with Everest Microbial Defense™. They use EV360™, an antimicrobial technology that tests, disinfects and protects surfaces for up 90 days.

EV360™ is applied to all types of surfaces by an electrostatic sprayer and forms a durable and consistent bond with all surfaces. The coating becomes part of the surface, creating a field of nanospikes that mechanically kills bacteria, mold, viruses, or other microbes that come in contact with the surfaces. EV360™ is registered with the EPA, and is a safe, water-based coating.

Everest also has a hand purifier that kills 99.99 percent of germs and keeps them away up to 24 hours through hand washings. It’s safe for children and adults, maintains skin’s natural PH, has no gel residues, alcohol or fragrance, and is more economical than traditional alcohol-based products.

Yes, that sounds like a lot of prep for “business as usual,” but Brothers Fire & Security can help you check off those issues. Give us a call at 800-607-2767 and we’ll guide you through steps to successful reopening. We’ll even evaluate your current fire and security systems to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. 

 

About Brothers Fire & Security

As one of the premier providers of fire and security solutions in the Upper Midwest, Brothers Fire & Security strives to build long-term, value-added relationships. We work with business owners and property management companies, as well as all types of public institutions to solve fire and security needs. By taking advantage of our integrated bundled services, many of our clients find that they can save 25-30% on their safety services, annual inspections and more. From a single location to franchises throughout the region and the country, our integrated approach saves our clients valuable time, money, and stress. We provide fire protection systems, security systems, fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, 24-7 monitoring, fire extinguishers, card access and kitchen hoods. We also provide our Online Academy: Life Safety — Made Simple with eLearning courses designed to help you get and keep your staff trained and your business fire and security code compliant.

Warranties and the Power of Strong Vendor Partnerships

Warranties and the Power of Strong Vendor Partnerships

If dealing with warranties leaves you scratching your head trying to make sense of how they work and what’s required, you aren’t alone. Every manufacturer has their own warranty guarantees and they are all vastly different. Consider these definitions and questions:

  • Full warranties guarantee to repair or replace a faulty product during the warranty period. If the product is damaged or defective, companies offering a full warranty must repair or replace it within a reasonable time. Limited warranties work similarly, but with greater restrictions.
  • Contractual warranties are typically dictated by the contract, the owner, the client, and/or the sub-contractors.
  • Manufacturing warranties are assigned when you buy a product; this warranty usually doesn’t include the labor.
  • The lines separating insurance, warranties, and service contracts aren’t always clear.
  • Generally, the consumer must pay to send products back under warranty which can be time consuming and expensive.
  • What’s a call-back warranty?
  • Is it an express or implied warranty?
  • What is the difference between a guarantee and a warranty?

Got all that? It’s no wonder there’s a lot of confusion dealing with warranties. Often you don’t think about them until something goes wrong and you find out they weren’t what you expected.

It All Starts with Vendor Relationships

Evaluating warranties is often overlooked because businesses tend to focus only on the pre-transaction with a vendor. Yet, it’s even more important to focus on the post-transaction when selecting vendors for the long-term.

Brothers Fire & Security is constantly evaluating our vendors’ performances, and we recommend that you do the same. When it comes to fire and security systems, it’s a good idea to take the “good, better, best” approach in reviewing vendors and the warranties they offer and how they will honor them. Know what you’re buying and the full extent of the product, service, warranty, customer service support, vendor reputation, etc. I can never stress enough to research, research, research!

Questions to ask a vendor include:

  • Can you get a hold of the vendor during an emergency?
  • How is the vendor going to deal with you when something goes wrong?
  • Are they working hard to build and keep the relationship?
  • Do they go the extra mile for you and your business?
  • Are they going to go to bat for you and your company, or will they bail and make it your problem?

Try the Vendor Responsiveness Test

Vendors tend to be great on the front end, but it’s during challenges and emergencies that we get the real picture of how a vendor responds. We have certain vendors that make a great product, but their post-transaction and customer service experiences need serious improvement. When we need help, they recoil like a snapping turtle and are not helpful. It can take months to get a claim resolved. In the meantime, we’ve put our relationship (and reputation) with our customers at risk. Besides trying to solve a problem, it’s made more difficult because of the vendor response (or lack thereof) to emergencies. It’s the vendors that get a thorough evaluation and pass the responsiveness test that get to keep our business. If a vendor isn’t willing to continuously earn our business, then we continue to look for vendors who will.

In contrast, we have great contractors that get an A+ in their response. Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Company (RASCO) is our #1 favorite vendor and here’s why:

  • They are committed to both Brothers and our customers’ long-term success.
  • They always ask, “What can we do to help?”
  • They guide us through warranty issues when we have them.
  • They are excellent on the backend of the transaction which helps us provide outstanding customer service to our clients.
  • They have an experienced and knowledgeable team we can reach 24/7 when we need help to solve an issue for a client.

Why We Trust Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co., Inc.

Founded in 1920, Reliable is a fourth-generation, Fee family business. Reliable is a proven leader in the fire protection industry and a global manufacturer and distributor of fire protection products. Reliable manufactures the highest quality and most innovative fire sprinklers, valves and special systems on the market. Reliable distributes a full line of best-in-class system components and backs it up with premier customer service.   At Brothers Fire & Security, we have a long-standing relationship with Reliable and their Minnesota team of professionals who provide quality products and outstanding customer service. They are as committed to our customers as we are. And when we have a sprinkler emergency, the Reliable team can be trusted to back us up!

“Reliable has a long-standing partnership with Brothers Fire & Security” says Shawn Timm, Regional Sales Manager with Reliable. “Our entire staff is committed to providing excellent customer service while constantly looking for ways to improve. Brothers Fire & Security has been and continues to be a valued partner!”

Don’t Take Chances with Vendors

Vendor relationships are far too important to leave to chance. Every vendor you work with should be asking for your feedback on how they are doing and if your company’s needs are being met. Document any issues that you’re having with current vendors so that if you run into contract issues, you will have the proof to successfully terminate the relationship. If you have a vendor that you like but could perform better, let them know you’re thinking about taking your business to a different vendor. This may whip them into shape!

Replace those vendors that are NOT performing, are complacent or difficult to deal with! Consider going with one of their competitors. Take what you learned and tell the new vendor what you expect from them.

Not sure what you’re getting from your current vendors and their warranties? Brothers Fire & Security can help. Schedule a FREE vendor review and we’ll take a careful look. Our integrated bundled services could be exactly what you need to “guarantee” success. Just think, you can be among the 90% of our new customers to save an average of 25-30% on their fire and security systems.

About Brothers Fire & Security

As one of the premier providers of fire and security solutions in the Upper Midwest, Brothers Fire & Security strives to build long-term, value-added relationships. We work with business owners and property management companies, as well as all types of public institutions to solve fire and security needs. By taking advantage of our integrated bundled services, many of our clients find that they can save 25-30% on their safety services, annual inspections and more. From a single location to franchises throughout the region and the country, our integrated approach saves our clients valuable time, money, and stress. We provide fire protection systems, security systems, fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, 24-7 monitoring, fire extinguishers, card access and kitchen hoods. We also provide our Online Academy: Life Safety — Made Simple with eLearning courses designed to help you get and keep your staff trained and your business fire and security code compliant.

Tough Lessons Learned from Severe Weather in February

Tough Lessons Learned from Severe Weather in February

Mother Nature has been on a path of destruction this winter from Texas to the Midwest to the Carolinas. Weather patterns turned downright brutal in February. Relentless snow and ice storms, severely colder than normal temps, below-zero temps, and tornadoes overwhelmed millions of people and caused billions of dollars in damage.

The wrath of the 2021 Big Chill unleashed in Texas was documented in broadcast and social media. Who can forget images of snapped power lines covered in thick ice, impassable interstates, ice hanging from faucets and snow on a Galveston Beach?

Among the property casualties were sprinkler systems and frozen pipes. In one case, a sprinkler system at an Austin, Texas school froze and exploded at the entrance of the building. Frigid waters cascaded into the administrative offices and down the main hallway. Water seeped into the carpets and in between the tiled flooring..

So why did some sprinklers systems fail in the Big Chill? To explain why, I’m partnering with the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) for this blog. Brothers Fire & Security has been a member of this organization for over 20 years.

NFSA’s mission is to protect lives and property from fire through the wide-spread acceptance of the fire sprinkler concept. The organization works closely with state and local lawmakers to pass legislation to make homes and businesses safer. NFSA collaborates with the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and several other grassroots organizations. Its diverse team of fire officials, contractors, engineers, attorneys, and tradespeople pulls from a vast variety of skills and experiences. With such credentials and expertise, NFSA is the “go-to” resource as we explore what happened with the Big Chill and what we can do when it happens again—or better yet, prevent it.

It’s All About the Frost Line

Location of the frost line contributed to the damage at the school in Texas, and thousands of homes and businesses in Texas and other southern states, the frost line https://www.hammerpedia.com/frost-line-map is the depth at which the ground freezes and is determined by National Weather Service. Frost lines differ throughout the country. Here in Minnesota, the line ranges from 70 inches along Interstate 90 to 100 inches in Lake of the Woods. In contrast, the line in Texas is 5-20 inches.

When cold weather changes water from liquid to solid, it expands 9% in volume. Because of this, it’s important that the footings for a building or a deck be placed below the frost line so the posts don’t shift as the ground freezes and thaws. Water and sewer pipe also need to buried below the frost depth. As the frost line goes deeper, frost heave can be detrimental to footings, foundations, pipes and sewers. Which is exactly what happened in Texas last month.

Lessons Learned from the Big Chill

Given the February Deep Freeze and extreme weather patterns throughout the country, the current frost lines for Texas and other southern states may not be deep enough anymore. It’s time to reevaluate the frost line requirements and building codes. While one event may or may not justify this, frost depths for mains are established by NFPA 13 and NFPA 24. These installation standards require fire service mains to be another 12 in. deeper than the published frost depths.

Building codes are evaluated and adopted by the International Building Code (IBC) and International Code Council (ICC). The ICC writes and publishes codes, such as the IBC. State and local jurisdictions evaluate and adopt. For example MN adopts the IBC and enforces it. The IBC relies on data from the National Weather Service. Most construction companies and Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) go with the IBC as the minimum standard to determine how deep to bury sprinkler system pipes. Fire service lines depths for fire sprinkler systems come from NFPA 13 and NFPA 24.

The IBC is a building code that references NFPA 13. Building codes are minimum laws, yet there are forces at work that challenge building codes:

  • Science and scientists who track the issues and building codes.
  • Contractors who push back because it costs more to dig deeper.
  • Some companies, like large hotel chains, have their own code requirements.
  • Insurance companies sometimes have their own standards that go beyond the IBC.

Sprinkler System Check List

While it’s up to industry experts to reevaluate building codes, there are steps you can take to prevent sprinkler system cold weather problems. Big Chill 2021 may be behind us (we hope!), but I encourage you to check your sprinkler systems now to prevent problems later.

  • Will your sprinkler system fail during extreme stress conditions because you’re asking it to perform above the normal load? Fire sprinklers perform their best in extreme conditions
  • Do you know where your backflow preventer (BFP) is located? Inside or outside? In northern states like Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas, the RPV is usually housed inside buildings because temperatures are generally much colder longer. In southern states like Florida, Texas and California, RPVs are typically housed outside. February’s temperatures in the south created major issues for many commercial systems where the BFP were outside.
  • At any onset of cold weather, make sure that your valve rooms have proper heat and the heating elements have been recently checked and serviced.
  • Use heat tape in a temperature emergency. The IBC, NFPA 13, NFPA 14, NFPA 20, NFPA 25 requirements are to maintain the area temperature to 40 degrees.
  • Check your local building codes to determine the proper depth below the frost line building footings should sit.
  • Keep sprinkler systems up to date with scheduled service calls and inspections to spot any issues that need to be addressed. Brothers Fire & Security can help you with that.

If you have concerns about the sprinkler system, the first step is to identify any breaks. Look for leaks on the pipes and the surrounding area. If you don’t see any leaks, hire a reputable sprinkler contractor in your area to review the system. Check out the member list on NFSA.org. (Brothers Fire & Security is on the list!) Use a licensed NFSA member contractor for service or repairs. Utilize all the sprinkler system resources available on nfsa.org and the Brothers Fire & Security blog. You can also give us a call if you have any questions or concerns at 800-607-2767.
I don’t know about you, but I sure hope the spring thaw comes early this year!

About Brothers Fire & Security

As one of the premier providers of fire and security solutions in the Upper Midwest, Brothers Fire & Security strives to build long-term, value-added relationships. We work with business owners and property management companies, as well as all types of public institutions to solve fire and security needs. By taking advantage of our integrated bundled services, many of our clients find that they can save 25-30% on their safety services, annual inspections and more. From a single location to franchises throughout the region and the country, our integrated approach saves our clients valuable time, money, and stress. We provide fire protection systems, security systems, fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, 24-7 monitoring, fire extinguishers, card access and kitchen hoods. We also provide our Online Academy: Life Safety — Made Simple with eLearning courses designed to help you get and keep your staff trained and your business fire and security code compliant.

If You Can’t Get New Systems, Love the Ones You’re With

If You Can’t Get New Systems, Love the Ones You’re With

The #1 myth about fire and security systems is that once they’re installed, it’s “one and done.” Not true. As your business expands, dials back or changes over time, your systems require regular maintenance and ongoing monitoring. Neglected fire and security systems can increase risk and cause serious problems when not addressed.

I totally understand that getting a new system might not be in the cards for your business right now. In that case, take some advice from the 1970s hit from Crosby, Stills and Nash: “Don’t be angry, don’t be sad, don’t sit cryin’, … love the one you’re with.”

Nothing Lasts Forever

Now, as a general rule, if you baby your fire and security systems with annual maintenance and inspections, you can get about 10 years of coverage. But, if you’re tough on your systems, the average life cycle is about five years. Several factors influence life spans:

  • Type of equipment: For example, older analog cameras can hamper capturing the data that helps police apprehend vandals and press charges.
  • How much the systems are used: Like a lightbulb, a camera sometimes burns out if it’s always on. Images may start to blur and produce lesser quality as they age.
  • Ongoing technology changes: Systems can be updated or adapted with the latest technology, such as adding a box will turn an analog camera into an IP-driven device.
  • Extreme weather: We live in a part of the country with a 150-degree temperature range over the year. Fire and security systems must withstand hail, high winds, blizzards, heavy rain, and weather-related power outages.

2020 was an especially difficult year here in the Twin Cities. We all found out just how crucial fire and security systems are. Hundreds of businesses experienced fires, vandalism, looting, break-ins and theft—both large and small scale—as a result of the spring riots and closures from the past several months.

COVID has been another challenge. Businesses have reported an uptick in petty theft, probably due to higher-than-normal staff turnover due to employee illness or down-sizing. Access codes should be changed frequently, and surveillance cameras must operate effectively. Plus, system tests, inspections and service calls need to be done following stringent COVID safety protocol.

TLC for Your Systems

February is a great time to show some “love” to your fire and security systems. Brothers Fire & Security can evaluate how your systems are performing and make recommendations for improvements.

  • Do you have more than one vendor? (Hint: Two is one too many.) How are those relationships working out? Are you paying too much? Schedule a FREE vendor review consultation with us. We’ll take an independent look at your systems to make sure your vendors meet your current needs. We can save you an average of 25% when you bundle services all under one roof.
  • To complement your system updates, make sure your new hires and staff are up to date with how fire extinguishers work. Our Life Safety Made Simple online training platform features “How to Effectively Use Fire Extinguishers.” Not only will this knowledge be an effective defense against fires, but the course will also keep your staff in OSHA compliance.
  • Not sure what you need? Let us help you plan your 2021 and 2022 budgets to make sure that your fire and security needs are being met with our cost-effective solutions.

Important Actions Steps

The Brothers Fire & Security website is packed with lots of free education and information about many life safety issues

  • Check out our FREE resources about testing and inspections and download the matrix worksheet to plan your system’s maintenance.
  • Review our blogs for news about fire and security systems and safety education.

Finally, continue to assess how your fire and security systems are meeting your current and upcoming needs. If you have questions or concerns, we’re here to help you 24-7, every day of the year!

About Brothers Fire & Security

As one of the premier providers of fire and security solutions in the Upper Midwest, Brothers Fire & Security strives to build long-term, value-added relationships. We work with business owners and property management companies, as well as all types of public institutions to solve fire and security needs. By taking advantage of our integrated bundled services, many of our clients find that they can save 25-30% on their safety services, annual inspections and more. From a single location to franchises throughout the region and the country, our integrated approach saves our clients valuable time, money, and stress. We provide fire protection systems, security systems, fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, 24-7 monitoring, fire extinguishers, card access and kitchen hoods. We also provide our Online Academy: Life Safety — Made Simple with eLearning courses designed to help you get and keep your staff trained and your business fire and security code compliant.