Throughout the summer months, a lot of schools, hospital buildings and office complexes undergo construction, expansion, and maintenance. As the work is carried out, are these unfinished spaces properly protected from a fire and life safety emergency?
Consider a recent headline from Maryland: “$39M in damages after five-alarm fire destroys College Park building under construction”. The fire chief noted that the building’s sprinkler system was not functional because the site was under construction. Hundreds of firefighters worked all day, battling the fire and ensuring the safety of people in the area.
Unfortunately, this event is not unique. Statistics from NFPA 2017 noted 3,820 construction site fires took place each year from 2011 – 2015. The combination of heaters, welding and grinding work, piles of construction materials and cardboard can create extremely dangerous situations. On a college campus or hospital complex where people are present during active construction, reducing this risk is paramount.
What is being done to mitigate the risk? NFPA 241 exists to safeguard us against construction dangers. The standard states that contractors are responsible for keeping a building up to code throughout the life of the permit. They are responsible for having life safety measures in place to secure their building permit. The AHJ or building inspector must ensure that a facility meets the standard throughout the project. A Fire Protection Program Manager reviews the safety plan and ensures compliance every day.
Ensuring protection at a live construction site does not have to be difficult, costly or time-consuming. Wireless detection systems, such as SWIFT® Wireless from Fire-Lite and Silent Knight, are designed to fit these applications. The systems can be used to protect a new hospital annex or school facility, or to retrofit an existing building. Wireless devices can seamlessly integrate through a gateway tied to the existing fire and life safety panel, such as the Endurance Series from Fire-Lite and the 6000 Series from Silent Knight. These devices run off battery power and use a wireless mesh to remain continually connected to the fire panel, providing temporary fire and life safety detection within the construction spaces.
Protecting an active construction site at every stage requires a bit of creativity, but it is possible. To fully understand the risks and protection measures required, all engineers, contractors and AHJ’s should be educated on NFPA 241. They also must be vigilant in keeping a job site properly protected as construction progresses. Wireless technology that integrates with wired devices and panels is a flexible solution to keep a site protected from inception through completion.