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October 2002: Communicating with your Fire Department about your Facility

Within all facilities there are numerous fire protection systems. It is extremely important to have the local fire department familiar with your automatic sprinkler system, gaseous suppression system and a detection system.

NFPA provides fire service profession qualification standards. These state that firefighters must know about and be familiar with sprinkler systems facility and other suppression and detection systems. Local firefighters and other first responders should come to your facility on a minimum annual basis to become familiar with and understand your systems. You should drill them and establish a level of trust with their capabilities. In the event of an emergency, you want to be sure they know exactly what they are doing.

Automatic Fire Sprinkler Systems

Firefighters need to know the answers to the following questions:

- Where is the fire department connection located (and how many are there)?

- If there is more than one sprinkler system protecting the complex, is there more than one connection?

- If so, what part of the building(s) does each fire department connection cover?

- Does it supply yard mains and/or private hydrants?

- Are there also separate connections for standpipes?

- What length of hose is needed to make the connection?

- How far is it to a fire hydrant or other water source?

- Is the connection feeding a wet, dry, deluge, or a preacton system?

- Are the threads on the connection compatible with the department threads?

- What size hose do you need to make the connection?

- Do you need any special tools to make the connection?

Firefighters also need to know if there are any areas of the facility were there are no sprinkler systems. Also if you have foam sprinklers it is important that the firefighters know what type of foam is used.

Fire Pumps

Firefighters need to know the answers to the following questions:

- Where are the pumps located?

- Are they accessible?

- Are they diesel or electric?

- Will they need to check the fuel?

- How long are they able to run without refueling?

- Will cutting off the building's power affect the pumps as well?

- Are facility people available to monitor fire pumps during an emergency?

- Do the pumps draw from a tank?

- What is the capacity of the tank?

- How long can it feed the pump until it runs dry?

- Can the fire department safely verify the water levels during a fire?

- Are the pumps working properly and being maintained according to NFPA 25?

Clean Agent Systems:

Firefighters need to know the answers to the following questions:

- Can they tell whether or not the system has activated, and at what time?

- Can they tell the difference between first zone alarm warning and a two- zone release?

- What area of the facility is protected by the system?

- Where exactly is the agent released?

- Do they know where the tools are to lift floor panels (and how to use them)?

- Are the ventilation systems self-contained?

- Do they automatically shut down?

- Do they understand how to operate the system manually?

- Do they understand how the system functions?

- Is there a reserve bank of the agent?

- How is it released?

- Where are the tanks, the controls, and the panels?

- Are they accessible?

- Do they know what agent is used?

- Is it suitable for occupied areas?

- Are there limitations on exposure?

- Do they understand the environmental impact if any?

- Will they enter the area with a self-contained breathing apparatus if the agent has been released?

- Is the power shut down by sections?

- What is affected during a power shutdown, how is this done?

- After a fire how will the room be vented?

Understanding the Fire Department's equipment and the building's abilities will go a long way in reducing potential damage to your property.

Carbon Dioxide Systems:

It is important that firefighters are aware of the CO2 systems based on the life safety implications. Because of the method used with this system, many of the same questions apply from the clean agent systems listed above.

In summary, if you work with the Fire Department and invite firefighters to visit your facility, then in the event of an emergency they can be as efficient as possible and prevent major damage to your property.