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  1. 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!

  2. 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.


  3. Deck the Halls of the Office…..Safely!

    December 15, 2015 by Total Fire and Safety

    Workplace safety is always important, but do you know how to safely spread holiday cheer without creating fire hazards? Here are a few crucial tips to keep in mind as you deck your workplace halls!

    1. Decorate in areas that won’t create obstacles. The best places for decorations are locations that are out of the way, but are still frequented by employees, such as reception areas, break rooms, foyers, and lobbies. Never place decorations in exit corridors, or in places that obstruct the view of exit signs, fire alarms, extinguishers, or hose cabinets.

    2. Be cautious with cords! Extension cords and string lights can pose a serious fire hazard if used incorrectly. Make sure that there are no broken or frayed wires or loose connections. If any cords appear damaged, don’t use them. Never nail or staple power cords or strings of lights, as this could seriously damage them and even cause an electric shock. Also make sure not to overload electrical outlets.

    3. Choose your decorations wisely. Inspect all decorations taken out of storage, especially electronic decorations, for damage before using them. Never use decorations that have an open flame. Choose fire-retardant materials for your decoration, and make sure they do not dangle or hang in places where employees could trip over them. Under no circumstances should a decoration be hanging from a sprinkler. Make sure Christmas trees or other tall, freestanding decorations are out of the way and cannot be tipped over.

    Make sure your holidays are safe and filled with cheer! If you have any questions about fire safety, equipment, or first aid in your place of business, you can contact Total Fire & Safety at 630-960-4823.


  4. Total Fire & Safety at Navy Pier!

    November 18, 2015 by Total Fire and Safety

    The Total Fire & Safety team is on the scene today at the 2015 Chicagoland Cooperator’s Condo, HOA, Co-Op and Apt. Expo at Navy Pier in Chicago. Pictured here at the TFS booth are (from left to right) Jeff Buff, (Customer Service Representative), Randy Donka (Outside Sales Representative), and Marc Spinder, (Outside Sales Representative).
    The show brings together thousands of board and association members, property managers, homeowners and apartment building owners to meet, attend educational seminars and get their questions answered.

    For Total Fire & Safety, this is a chance to showcase our various fire safety and first aid solutions. If you’re in the downtown area, join us today at Navy Pier! Free admission and lots of other freebies inside!

    If we don’t see you there, contact us any time with your questions regarding fire safety. We’re here to help.

  5. Leading Causes of Fires in Commercial Properties

    August 27, 2015 by Total Fire and Safety

    The NFPA has done a myriad of studies on the causes of fires in different types of businesses and public. For example, fires in office spaces are much more likely on weekdays when people are in the building, and also less likely (about 31 percent less likely) between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. However, the fires that do happen between those hours tend to do more damage. In industrial and manufacturing facilities, about two thirds of all fires occurred specifically in manufacturing facilities as opposed to industrial, utility, defense, agriculture, or mining properties. It is always important that fire safety equipment such as commercial sprinklers and commercial fire extinguishers are up to date and properly installed so that fire risks are minimized. Here are some lists of the top five causes of fires in certain types of businesses, with number one being the most prevalent.




    1. Cooking Equipment

    2. Electrical distribution and lighting equipment

    3. Heating equipment

    4. Intentional

    5. Smoking materials


    1.Flammable or combustible liquids or gases, piping, or filter

    2.Dust, fiber, link, including sawdust or excelsior

    3.Electrical wire or cable insulation

    4.Unclassified item first ignited

    5.Structural member of framing


    1.Cooking equipment

    2.Electrical distribution and lighting equipment

    3.Heating equipment


    5.Smoking materials


    1.Cooking equipment

    2.Heating equipment


    4.Electrical distribution or lighting equipment

    5.Candles or lightning

    Knowing what kind of fire risks your business is most likely to face is an important step in preventing them. Make sure to contact a fire safety professional at Total Fire & Safety to stay in compliance and protect your business from possible fires.


  6. Sprinklers in Small Spaces: Do You Need One?

    May 4, 2015 by Total Fire and Safety

    commercial-sprinkler-maintenanceMany people question whether or not a small, concealed space on their premises actually needs a sprinkler. There is a lot of confusion about the matter, and truthfully, it is wise to always seek a professional opinion before installing. NFPA 13 Section describes 18 requirements by which a space can be considered safe without a sprinkler, or sprinkler-exempt.  However, in general, concealed spaces that are “sprinkler-exempt” should have one or more of these characteristics

    Construction that is limited combustible or non-combustible. These types of constructions will greatly reduce the chance of ignition and spread of fire and thus may not need a sprinkler.

    Unoccupiable space. If a person cannot potentially do work in the space or occupy it for a time, it may not be necessary to install a sprinkler.

    Small, empty spaces or storage spaces that are not used to store combustible materials. These tight quarters are not occupied by people, and if they are not being used to store anything that would ignite or spread fire, they may not require a sprinkler.

    Spaces that are inaccessible. If a space is accessible, it could allow storage of combustible materials. If not, the space may be sprinkler-exempt.

    If you have a small or concealed space where you do not wish to install a sprinkler, it is best to check with a professional to make sure your decision is within code. This list covers the recurring factors that have the final say in whether a concealed space might need sprinklers installed. For more information, refer to the NFPA 13 document, the website, or call Total Fire & Safety. We offer sprinkler system inspection and installation and can help you determine definitively whether a small space is sprinkler-exempt according to NFPA guidelines.  Contact us at 630.960.5060.


  7. Fighting Fire….with Sound?

    April 1, 2015 by Total Fire and Safety

    Imagine a fire extinguisher that sprays nothing….but sound. Could it really fight fires?

    Two engineering students, Viet Tran and Seth Robertson from George Mason University, were recently in the news for creating a blaze battler that uses sound to extinguish fires.

    Besides fighting a stovetop kitchen fire without creating a mess, an even better application that they envision would be tackling forest fires with the help of swarm robotics, or drones.  The two inventors hold a preliminary patent application for their invention. Maybe one day we’ll be offering “sound extinguishers” at Total Fire & Safety!


    Check out their Youtube video here…


    March 24, 2015 by Total Fire and Safety

    Do you have a Kidde fire extinguisher at home?

    The Kidde plastic valve disposable fire extinguisher has been recalled because of a faulty valve component that can cause failure to fully discharge when the lever is repeatedly pressed and released during a fire emergency. According to Kidde, about 4.6 million units in the U.S. and 175,000 in Canada have been sold with the faulty Zytel® black plastic valves. This affects 31 models of Kidde disposable fire extinguishers.

    Kidde has received 11 reports of the recalled fire extinguishers failing to discharge as expected, but no injuries have been reported.

     The recalled extinguishers are red, white or silver and are either ABC or BC rated.

    The ratings can be found to the right of the nameplate.  Manufacture dates included in the recall are July 23, 2013 through October 15, 2014. A 10-digit date code is stamped on the side of the cylinder, near the bottom. Digits five through nine represent the day and year of manufacture in DDDYY format. Date codes for recalled units manufactured in 2013 are XXXX 20413 X through XXXX 36513 X and 2014 are XXXX 00114 X through XXXX 28814 X.

    A nameplate affixed to the front of the fire extinguisher has one of the following model numbers: FC10BC, 1A 10BC, 1A 10BCW, 2A10BC, 5BC, 5BCW, FA10G, FA110, FA5B, FC10, FC110, FC5, FH/RESSP, FX10, FX10BC, FX10K, FX210, FX210R, FX210W, FX340GW, FX340SC, FX511, KFH Twin, M110 Twin, M5 Twin, Mariner 10,Mariner 110,Mariner 5,Mariner 5 G,RESSP,XL 5MR, XL 5MR.

    The extinguishers were sold at Home Depot, Menards, Walmart and other department, home and hardware stores nationwide, and online from August 2013 through November 2014 for between $18 and $65, and about $200.

     Consumers with the recalled fire extinguisher should immediately contact Kidde for a replacement!

    Their toll-free line is (855) 283-7991 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or online at and click on Safety Notice for more information.



    January 31, 2015 by Total Fire and Safety

    At Total Fire & Safety, most of our commercial fire protection service customers are based in the “snow belt”, which includes Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, where ice and sub-zero temperatures can cause troublesome pipe freezing.While most buildings take advantage of dry pipe systems, which are ideal for cold weather areas, building owners who have water-filled fire protection equipment need to take some cold weather precautions to stay safe.

    It is the responsibility of every building owner with at-risk equipment to ensure that the building temperature remains at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above at all times.  In buildings where there are sprinkler valve rooms and pump houses with small diameter valve trim piping, a freeze can occur within a few hours after the temperature falls below 32 degrees.

    However, any commercial fire protection service company can help a building owner do all they can to keep their building’s fire protection service in working order despite the cold.  For example:

    1. Carefully testing fire equipment for the first time after the heating system has been turned on. In areas with smoke detectors, the fire detection system should be disabled so accumulated dust on the heat strips will burn off but not set off the alarm. In the worst case scenario, if smoke detectors activate unexpectedly, various sensitive electrical/data equipment rooms protected with the gaseous fire suppression systems (FM-200, Halon, CO2, etc.), could discharge.

    2. Checking that all ambient heaters and heat tracing used for the fire protection equipment are operating for the cold weather.

    3. Inspecting the integrity of the piping and equipment insulation.

    4.  Noticing and troubleshooting where residual discharge water or condensation may have accumulated on low point drains on dry pipe and in pre-action and deluge pilot systems before opening the drain valves.

    5. Checking air dryers in your dry pipe, pre-action, or deluge pilot systems.

    6. Checking antifreeze solution in your antifreeze sprinkler systems. These systems are still permitted until September 30, 2022 as long as they meet all NFPA requirements.

    7. Checking that drip drains on your hydrants, FDCs, valve trims and similar equipment are evacuating water from the system.

    8. Installing low temperature alarms in any location that could be subject to freezing temperatures.

    9. Helping you devise a plan to shorten downtime and stay safe in case the fire sprinkler system freezes.

    If you’re wondering if your fire protection service is ready for the cold, Total Fire & Safety has the guidance and expertise you need to protect your property this winter.

    Contact us today at 630-960-5060.

  10. Commercial Sprinkler Systems: Why Fire Sprinkler Inspection is Important

    December 10, 2014 by Total Fire and Safety

    commercial-sprinkler-maintenanceYour facility’s commercial sprinkler system lies dormant until their operation is critical during a life-threatening emergency. If they fail at that certain time, lives can be lost. Regular fire sprinkler inspection can ensure peak performance when the situation heats up!

    Sprinkler systems respond to heat, not smoke, and are carefully designed to activate early but only in real fire, not non-fire situations.  Sprinklers release much less water than a fire department would, however by the time the fire department arrives, more water is needed to extinguish the fire.

    One of our services at Total Fire & Safety is to perform regular, on-site sprinkler inspections to help our clients comply with NFPA 25. NFPA 25 is our guideline for inspection, testing, and maintenance of sprinkler systems (water-based fire protection systems) to avoid failure and ensure fast, effective response in a fire emergency.

    Sprinklers are very effective; however, a recently published report by John Hall, Jr. entitled “U.S. Experience with Sprinklers” revealed that in reported structure fires from 2007-2011, sprinklers operated 91% of the time in structures large enough to activate sprinklers. Their effectiveness rate was 96%, which is good, but not perfect.  Why would a sprinkler system fail in an emergency?

    The National Fire Prevention Research Foundation (NFRP) prepared a report that they recently presented at a workshop in Chicago. Their findings on the major reasons for sprinkler system failure were:

    64%  Shutoff of the system before fire began. This may occur in the course of routine inspection or maintenance and is easy to monitor for safety.

    17% Lack of maintenance.  If a sprinkler system is not maintained, chances are it will not operate correctly in an emergency.

    6% Manual intervention that defeated the system.  Sometimes we are to blame for turning off or damaging the system during its deployment.

    6% Inappropriate system for the type of fire. A competent fire protection company like Total Fire & Safety can help you  determine the right sprinkler system for the job, whether it be wet pipe or dry pipe systems.

    7% Component damage.  Proper inspection and maintenance can ensure that the fire protection equipment is in proper working order.

    As you can see, your sprinkler system must be well maintained and ready to deploy at all times in case of a fire.  When is the last time you had your sprinkler system inspected? Call Total Fire & Safety today to see if maintenance or an upgrade is needed at 630-960-5060.