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  1. Are There More Women Firefighters in Our Future?

    August 23, 2018 by Total Fire and Safety

     

    Are there more women firefighters in our future?  YES! Groups of Suburban Chicago young women are proving it. This past summer a local Fire Protection District hosted a Girls Firefighter Summer Camp which was enthusiastically attended by many girls who are considering firefighting as a career. The girls learned all aspects of firefighting through hands-on training, like climbing ladders, treating patients, and putting out fires, etc.  The goal of the camp was to show girls they can do the job, but they need look no further than the past and the present for their role models and inspiration.

    Women Firefighters in History

    Women have been firefighters for over 200 years which is an amazing fact in an industry so dominated by males.

    • Molly Williams was the first woman firefighter. She was a slave in New York City until she became a member of Oceanus Engine Company #11 in 1815. Although she was as tough as the men, she always wore a calico dress and checkered apron to the fires.
    • In 1820, Marina Betts joined the Pittsburgh fire department, a career that lasted 10 years.
    • During WWII, two military fire departments in Illinois were staffed entirely by women volunteers.
    • Lauren Howard was the first career female firefighter in Chicago. She joined the force in 1980 and was the only woman until 1986.

    Women Firefighters Today

    According to NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), 252,000 women work in the firefighting industry, but nationwide, only 4% of firefighters are women, a staggering number when compared to the 90% of women nurses and 97.5% of women teachers. In fact, females in farming and construction have a higher percent than female firefighters.

    The International Fire Chief’s Association started a council for women fire chiefs in 2017 to network, share ideas and identify strategies to improve their organization. The council of 16 represented approximately 50 female fire chiefs across the country.

    Even for the strongest female, the road to firefighting is not easy. Cities like Joliet, Illinois are hiring their first female recruit this year in their long, century old history. Another department in East Point, Georgia recently made headlines by hiring the first ever African-American female fire chief in the United States.

    Male and Female Qualities

    Let’s face it. When someone’s house is burning, most people don’t care if it’s a man or woman who shows up to help…they just want a good firefighter. And the  attributes of a good firefighter are numerous and have nothing to do with gender.

    • Honest and dependable
    • Learns quickly; can remember and use their training when the pressure is on
    • Physically fit; is committed to a healthy lifestyle and to maintaining fitness
    • Functions well as part of a team
    • Cares about and respects co-workers and members of the community
    • Communicates and listens well
    • Is dedicated to her/his work
    • Has, and uses, common sense
    • Is emotionally stable and deals with stress appropriately
    • Has a sense of humor
    • Is open-minded and flexible, willing to try new things and listen to new ideas

    At Total Fire & Safety, we believe our work in inspection, installation and maintenance of fire safety equipment helps keep firefighters safe by helping minimize fire damage and providing what’s needed to fight fires until the force arrives. We salute all fire fighters and especially the brave women of the force who work to keep us safe!


  2. Are You In the Dark About Emergency Exit Lights?

    March 15, 2018 by Total Fire and Safety

    Nobody thinks much about emergency exit lights. But if the power suddenly goes out, smoke fills the room and you can’t see a foot in front of you, relying on the emergency lights may be your only means of escape.

    Emergency exit lights are essential to safety in any dangerous situation. They can alarm someone in a fire, be the only source of light in the dark, and the key to safely exiting the building. Emergency exit lights are often overlooked and taken for granted, but take note of how many you come across every day. Do you realize how many requirements and regulations go into the installation and maintenance of one exit sign?

    There are numerous agencies that govern emergency exit lighting and signs: OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), NFPA (National Fire Protection Administration, JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and the International Building Code and International Fire Code. Above all these agencies, the local authority is responsible for monitoring and enforcing building/fire codes.

    According to OSHA, an exit route is defined as a continuous and unobstructed path of exit travel from any point within a workplace to a place of safety. There are three parts to an exit route:

    • Exit access-part of the exit route that leads to an exit.
    • Exit-part of the exit route that is separated from other areas and provides a safe means of travel to exit discharge.
    • Exit discharge-part of the exit route that leads to directly outside or refuge area.

    OSHA’s requirements for the lighting of these afore mentioned exit routes is covered under 1910.37(b). It states that each exit route must be sufficiently lighted so an employee with normal vision can see along the exit route and each exit must be clearly visible and marked by a sign reading “EXIT.” Additional information for OSHA requirements can be found at www.osha.gov.

    The NFPA guidance for emergency exit lighting and signs can be found in the NFPA 101, Life Safety Code. The NFPA’s Life Safety Code provides information for placement, illumination, and visibility for exit signs.

    • Placement of exit sign. Any exit signs must be located so that no point in an exit access area is more than the sign’s viewing distance, or 100 feet from the nearest sign.
    • Visibility of exit signs-Every sign must be located and of such size, distinctive color and design that is visible and contrasts from the background of its placement. NFPA also states no decorations, furnishings, or equipment that impairs visibility of a sign shall be permitted. Nothing should be placed near an exit sign that distracts attention and inhibits visibility of an exit sign.
    • Illumination of Exit Signs-The NFPA states all exit signs must be illuminated by a reliable light source and legible in normal and emergency exit lighting modes. There are two categories of illumination: external illumination, which comes from outside the exit sign and internal illumination, which comes from a source inside an exit sign.

    According to the NFPA, emergency illumination must be provided for a minimum of 1.5 hours in the event of power outage. The emergency lighting must be illuminated not less than an average of one lumen per square foot. The maximum illumination at any point can be 40 times the minimum illumination. All emergency exit lighting must be able to provide lighting automatically when normal light is interrupted.

    Many emergency exit lights are now using LED lights. The NFPA states that LED lights are longer lasting, provide better light and are most durable. In emergency situations, LED lights emit sufficient lighting and are most effective when placed properly. They are also most energy efficient, saving the building money.

    According to the NFPA requirements for testing, there are three categories of emergency lights: traditional, self-testing, and computer base self-testing. A monthly activation test which involves having the lights illuminate for no less than 30 seconds and an annual test which keeps the lights illuminated for 1.5 hours, simulating a long-term emergency. Records of these test must be maintained for inspection.

    Many regulations, codes, and considerations go into the signs and lights you see every day so it is important to have regular maintenance and testing of these lights. Total Fire and Safety has a knowledge team for inspecting emergency exit lighting. With regular maintenance and testing from Total Fire and Safety, you can be assured your emergency exit lighting is up to code and the safety of your employees/tenants is assured. Give us a call today 630-960-5060.


  3. Fire in the Office! Do You Have a Fire Emergency Preparedness Plan?

    February 13, 2018 by Total Fire and Safety

     

    When a ballistic missile warning sounded in Hawaii recently, few people had an emergency preparedness plan in place. Instead, people were sent into panic. Parents threw their children into sewers, people caught in traffic ran from their cars, some Googled “how to shelter from a nuclear bomb.”  We can look at this now in hindsight and think we would have handled it differently. But would we?  Whether it’s a ballistic missile, tornado, or a fire it is important to have an emergency preparedness plan.

    When a fire occurs in the office, people are likely to react the same way. However, if employees understand what’s going on, what to do, where to go and how to get there, panic will not set in. A fire emergency preparedness plan will help employees feel in control during an emergency and do what needs to be done. .

    One way to help employees respond appropriately in an emergency is to remember to REACT:

    • R-Remove persons from danger. Know the location of fire exits and that they are not blocked. Steer clear of elevators and equip them with warning signs: in case of fire do not use. They can trap people and must be available to firefighters. Figure out a designated meeting area for employees, safe from danger. Make a procedure in case of entrapment in the building. Assign someone to always keep a list of employees and visitors, so you can begin a roll call once in the safety area.
    • E-Ensure doors and windows are closed. Keep doors and windows closed to prevent spreading of the fire.
    • A-Activate building alarm. Make sure alarms or a warning signal are working properly and that your employees are familiar with the sound. Most importantly, have regular fire drills.
    • C-Call the fire department. Never investigate the fire on your own. Time is minimal for your employees to reach safety quickly.
    • T-Treat all fires as dangerous.

    A fire preparedness plan also includes having the right equipment and in working order too. Does your place of business have everything it needs to survive a fire? And has it been inspected lately? Know that your facility is up-to-date on the systems it needs to have ready to go in case of a fire:

    Don’t forget that the second part of having the right fire equipment is having employees that can operate the equipment safely. Total Fire and Safety offers training courses for employees on all our technologies and equipment. Having employees properly trained improves chances of putting out small fires.

    As you can see there are many safety precautions to include in a fire preparedness plan.  If your building does not have the proper safety equipment or it is not up to date, there could be catastrophic consequences. Total Fire and Safety always has the well-being of the customer in mind as we complete our inspections.  We never give less than 100 precent because you can never be too prepared for a fire. Contact us at: 630.960.5060

     


  4. Your Fire Safety in a High-Rise Building

    July 14, 2017 by Total Fire and Safety

    While fire safety in high-rise buildings is always a concern, NFPA fire safety codes for high-rise buildings in the U.S., especially in the city of Chicago, are well enforced. 

    In fact, the National Fire Protection Association even reports that the fire death rate per 1,000 fires is generally lower in high-rise buildings than in similar, lower buildings (fewer than seven stories). That is because there is usually a greater use of fire protection systems in high rises, along with features such as sprinkler systems and one-way communication systems which are able to make critical announcements to everyone in the building. In the city of Chicago, standpipes, which help propel water into the floors of the building from the inside, are required for every building over 80 feet tall, and also help to douse fires effectively.

    In the city of Chicago, property managers are required to distribute updated fire safety information annually, but the tenant, or employer, is also required to have an emergency fire plan in place and communicate it to their employees. Depending on the size of the company you work in, emergency fire equipment training may also be OSHA-required. Whether or not.  If you work in a high-rise, be prepared for a fire emergency

    • Know your employer’s fire safety plan.
    • Know where the nearest fire exits are and make sure they are clear of clutter at all time.
    • Know several exits in case one or more should be blocked by smoke or fire.
    • Attend any required fire safety training offered by your employee.

    In the event of an emergency on your floor, remember to remain CALM, which is not just an attitude, it’s an acronym!

    C     Someone should call 911 and report the fire from a safe part of the floor, per the floor emergency plan.

    A    If applicable, alert other tenants on the floor

    L–    Listen for important information from fire officials. Your building may have a PA system that can be used by the fire department to give you instructions to either evacuate or stay in place.

    M– If applicable, move to safety as directed by the fire department.

    There is no “one size fits all” fire emergency plan for high-rise workplaces because every fire, building and safety condition is different. However, the decision as to whether you should evacuate or shelter in place will be made by the fire department based on the applications of the building and the conditions of the fire.

    If you evacuate…

    • You should always use the stairs to exit the building…never the elevator unless directed by the fire department.
    • Never head to the roof. Smoke, fire and heat rise quickly and you put yourself in greater danger.
    • Keep low. Smoke and fire rise. The air is cooler and cleaner below.

    If you shelter in place…

    • Stuff wet towels around the door and vents to keep smoke out
    • Make sure the fire department knows where you are
    • Open a window slightly and wave a bright cloth to signal your location
    • Do not break windows
    • Be prepared to close the window if it makes the smoke condition worse, but you could leave the cloth outside as a symbol
    • Try to communicate with the fire department to monitor their progress. Stay calm. It can take time.

    You can find out more about high-rise fire safety in this video from the City of Chicago:

    Your fire safety in a high rise building is an important consideration, as is your employer’s emergency fire plan. At Total Fire & Safety, our job is to help keep the tenants of high-rise buildings safe with up-to-date fire protection and life safety training and equipment. To find out more, visit totalfireandsafety.com today.

     


  5. The Ghost Ship Fire: 36 Lives Lost From Lack of Fire Safety Systems

    December 14, 2016 by Total Fire and Safety

    Ghost-Ship-FireOn December 2 in Oakland California, a deadly fire took 36 lives in a warehouse facility turned artist residence known as the Ghost Ship Artist Collective. It took four days for local firefighters to recover the scene. An absolute contributing factor? The lack of a sprinkler and fire alarm systems, blocked and inadequate fire exits and a lack of working fire extinguishers.

    In fact, the few extinguishers found among the bodies were inoperable. Officials say it is the highest number of fatalities in a structure fire in the U.S. in the last 13 years.

    The tragedy shed negative light on the building owner, who refused to comply with fire codes and the state of the Oakland housing market, where people endured living in dangerous conditions since there was no other affordable alternative in the area. The city is also under scrutiny since the building had not been inspected for 30 years, and rightly should have been closed down.

    But for those of us in fire safety, like Total Fire, the tragedy is a demonstration of the importance of our work, and how what we do saves lives.

    The Looming Disaster

    The Ghost Ship had been home to numerous fire hazards for some time and was no stranger to the authorities. The facility had been reported for tall weeds, mounds of garbage on the grounds, and illegal conduct of the community within, even though the space was not meant for residential use. The cause of the fire is still under investigation but at first, an old refrigerator was thought to be the cause.

    The interior of the building was a chaotic mixture of improper electrical wiring and makeshift staircases, stacks of wood, furniture and other junk scattered around and wooden structures in progress. The fire started on the first floor, and people trying to evacuate had to weave through the inside clutter and climb a rickety, tight staircase to get out. People on the second floor were trapped by smoke and flames.

    Many of the bodies were found as they were in their last moments–holding and hugging each other in fear.

    At Total Fire & Safety, we truly believe we do something more than just come to work, collect a pay check and go home. We play an important role in keeping our community safe!

    Steven Holowka, our fire alarm division manager, puts it this way: “I tell my team to take the mindset that every building we take care of has someone you love  in there. Would you want your loved ones being in a building that wasn’t properly taken care of?  Would you feel okay  if you one of your loved ones died in a building that wasn’t properly maintained?”

    In the case of the Oakland tragedy, an inspection attempt was made as recently as last month when a code enforcement officer responded to complaints about piles of garbage. No one came to the door and the Oakland inspectors are not allowed to gain access to a building without permission.

    The blaze started during a rave dance party, and the facility was not equipped or zoned for such a gathering. NFPA reminds us that in the case of nightclubs, theaters and auditoriums where large numbers of people gather, fires are the most deadly when the proper features and systems are not in place.

    For theaters, night clubs, venues, etc. NFPA codes call for a considerable number of safety systems and features to be present for these structures, not just a single safety system or feature.

    Saving Lives, a System at a Time

    When building owners take shortcuts in service, look for the cheapest option or have the mindset that a fire like this could never happen to them, the consequences can be dire. That’s why we make sure we are doing our part in taking care of our customers and ensure that the systems they have onsite are adequate for their needs.

    Our entire team, including our administrative employees, field technicians, managers and even our owner believes that it is our responsibility to do our job 100%  because in the end we are protecting what matters most–people’s lives.

    When we arrive at a facility we..

    • TEST and INSPECT to make sure everything is in working order
    • PROVIDE REPAIR/INSTALL SERVICE so everything is done correctly and ready to activate in an emergency
    •  and VERIFY that everything is up to code for the customer.

    The fire at the Ghost Ship will rank among the Rhode Island Nightclub fire of 2003 and the Queen of Angels fire from 1958 as tragedies that could have been prevented or lessened considerably had the right life safety systems been in place.

    As fire safety systems continue to improve, Jim Pauley of the NFPA warns that “we can’t be complacent just because numbers have gotten better.” It’s important that everyone responsible for the safety of those inside a facility have it properly inspected with well maintained and fully operational fire safety systems in place. Do you?

    If you are unsure of whether your building is up to code, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Total Fire & Safety. We take our jobs seriously because we know what we do saves lives!


  6. Total Fire & Safety at the #NationalRestaurantAssociation Show!

    May 23, 2016 by Total Fire and Safety

    We are live at the National Restaurant Association (#nra) at

    McCormick Place  here in Chicago!

    The event opened May 21 and closes tomorrow so there is still time to come down and see us. The association is expecting  42,000+ foodservice buyers with big budgets and an appetite to buy. Total Fire & Safety has a booth here to network with more businesses and get the word out about our services, especially for restaurants. With the growing need for suppression systems, service to food-serving businesses like restaurants are an expanding part of our business. Come visit us in booth #8900-9000 at this convention, and pick up some samples along the way!

    (From left to right: Jason Schroeder, V.P. of Business Development and Marc Spinder, Outside Sales Representative are at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago.)

     

     

    For more information,

      contact Total Fire & Safety

      at 630-960-5060.

     


  7. Foundry Fire Demonstrates Importance of Proper Commercial Fire Protection

    December 21, 2015 by Total Fire and Safety

    Photo from Daily Herald Business Ledger/Laura Stoecker/lstoecker@dailyherald.com

    Business owners everywhere know they have to keep their fire protection systems up to code, but what happens when they don’t?

    In March 2014, a fire broke out in a foundry building located in Batavia, IL, caused by a careless employee. The fire happened when no one was working in the building, so no employees were hurt. However, the fire caused considerable damage to the foundry as well as the next-door business, Dewell & Dewell, which shares a wall with the foundry. Later, an investigation revealed that the reason the fire caused nearly $500K in damages was that the former tenant, Master Cast Inc., did not maintain a proper fire alarm and fire suppression system.

    Now, Master Cast Inc. is being taken to court in a suit alleging the company did not have proper fire alarms and commercial sprinkler systems. The building owner is seeking $450K in damages from Master Cast Inc., and Dewell & Dewell is seeking more than $50K. The lawsuit will come to court this February.

    This event is only one of the many cases every year in which a lack of properly installed fire safety equipment leads to extensive damage from fires. If your business isn’t up-to-code on all of your sprinklers, suppression systems and alarms, your business could face disastrous consequences.

    This fire also addresses an issue that businesses don’t always prepare for– employee fire safety training. According to the Kane County lawsuit, the fire started when an employee used a grinder near cardboard boxes. An employee who has been trained well would have avoided the fire hazard, and possibly even fight the fire, using an extinguisher the right way.

    The best way to avoid situations like this is to ensure that you have regularly scheduled fire equipment inspections. A professional service like Total Fire & Safety can keep your place of business up-to-code and inspected on a regular basis. For information on the many services available to prevent this kind of situation for your business, contact Total Fire & Safety.

    Read the latest in the court investigation here:

    http://dhbusinessledger.com/Content/Suburban-Trends-and-Issues/Suburban-Trends-and-Issues/Article/Lawsuit-Batavia-foundry-had-no-sprinklers-fire-caused-by-negligent-worker/87/172/17397