NFPA says OK to monitored extinguishers

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Tuesday, August 1, 2006

ROCKLAND, Mass.--Since the National Fire Protection Association gave the nod to electronically monitored fire extinguishers at the June NFPA World Safety Conference, John McSheffrey's phone has been ringing a lot more often. McSheffrey is vice president of business development for MIJA, a manufacturer of fire extinguisher gauges and an electronic monitoring device for extinguishers called en-Guage.
"We are already seeing the results," he said. "Specifiers [architectural designers of fire protection programs] often refer to NFPA 10 and they're getting back in touch with us. We've gotten calls from distributors and several end users," he said.
At the conference, the NFPA voted to amend NFPA 10, the standard for fire extinguishers, and NFPA 72, the fire alarm standard, to include electronic monitoring in lieu of mandatory physical 30-day inspections. The ruling will go into effect in September, after ratification by the NFPA Standards Council.
Electronic monitoring of fire extinguishers is already allowed under a different code, the International Code Council's, which is used by many states and local municipalities (see "Push for monitored," in December 2005 issue of Security Systems News). NFPA codes, however, are more widely used, McSheffrey said. "That's why this is so important that the NFPA fully recognizes electronic monitoring as equivalent to 30-day inspections," he added.
Since NFPA codes are the code of choice for many government entities, McSheffrey hopes to further tap that market.
While support for code change was overwhelming, McSheffrey said, not everyone favored the change. The National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors opposed the change, but has decided against a possible appeal of the code change (see accompanying story, this page).
Bruce Fraser, director of industry relations for Simplex Grinnell, spoke in favor of the code change at the NFPA technical session in June, "I don't think anything should be excluded from the code that provides an improved level of safety."
"The real benefit I see [from the electronically monitored system] is that you know right away if someone is tampering with an extinguisher or using it for an actual fire incident," Fraser said, noting that applications such as college dormitories, where tampering is likely to occur, are ideal uses for this technology.
He also likes the fact that the monitored extinguishers can be tied into standalone control units or tied into existing fire alarm system. Fraser noted that the monitored extinguishers work well with today's addressable systems.
It's a widely acknowledged fact that the required 30-day inspections very often do not occur because they are "too onerous for the owner, or they just don't have the staff to do it. There is also a cost associated," with the inspections, Fraser said.