'Rag and taggers' just got foiled again

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.--The "verification of service" collars being used by some fire extinguisher technicians here are so flimsy they can't possibly verify that the extinguishers have been serviced.
After receiving complaints, the Fire Protection Licensing Board--which licenses all of the firms and individuals that sell, service and install fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems--has proposed a new specification for the type of material from which a valid collar should be made.
"At the present time they're allowed to use flimsy paper-type polyethylene fabric that could easily be stretched to put over the valve and around the neck of the extinguisher, without actually servicing the extinguisher, and that's a no-no," said Joyce Lemons, executive secretary for the board.
To prevent what's known in the industry as "rag and tag," where a technician will clean off a fire extinguisher and sign a name on the paper tag without servicing the extinguisher, the National Fire Protection Association included a "verification of service collar" requirement in the 1998 edition of the NFPA 10.
The intent of the standard, said Mark Conroy, an NFPA senior fire protection engineer, is to use metal or hard polyethylene collars--stamped with the date of service--that cannot be stretched and cannot be placed on an extinguisher unless the valve is removed. If the valve is removed, Conroy said, "it's probable that the appropriate servicing was done."
The standard does not specify that the collar be hard polyethylene, but that was clearly the intent, Conroy said. "We even included a picture in the back of the NFPA book for informational purposes," he said.
Conroy surmised that the only reason someone would use a stretchable collar would be to cheat. He doubted that someone would choose the flimsy collars for price, because the hard plastic collars are not overly expensive.
Richard Fairclough, chief executive officer of Brooks Equipment in Charlotte, N.C., a manufacturer and national distributor of the hard plastic collars, said, "the ones we make are made of polymer ... if you buy 2,000 they are roughly $10 for a pack of 100, depending on the exact size of the collar."
Conroy said, "This is the first I've heard of something like this: someone cheating on the standard that was designed to prevent cheating."
Standards are often amended when gliches like this are found, Conroy said. He hopes that Arkansas fire officials will report this to NFPA.
The licensing board was scheduled to have a public hearing on the proposed change on Feb. 8, after Security Systems News went to print. Following the hearing, the change must be approved by a joint legislative committee. It will not need approval by the full Legislature. The proposed date for the change is July 1, 2006.