Building and construction sites are some of the most hazardous workplaces. Among the dangers inherent in the ever-changing work environment of construction sites, accidental fire is a prominent one. Fires can arise easily on construction sites for the same reasons that they start in residential and business buildings; from mishaps in the kitchen, for example. And, there are other factors specific to construction sites such as:
- High intensity and high stress manual work in a constantly changing environment,
- Temporary nature of the electrical wiring and lighting, and,
- Sources of electrical sparks like grinders, welding machines, soldering appliances, and other high voltage equipment.
A report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) on “Fires in Structures Under Construction or Renovation” states that, from 2013 to 2017, there were 3,840 fires on average per year on construction sites. During the same period, the annual average count for renovation sites was 2,580 fires. The NFPA report goes on to state that for every year from 2013 to 2017, the construction sites accounted for an average of four civilian deaths and 49 civilian injuries in addition to $304 million in property damages. The corresponding numbers from the renovation site fires were eight civilian deaths, 52 civilian injuries, and $104 million in property damages per year.
These numbers prove that fire alarms are necessary on construction sites to save lives, to prevent injuries, and to avoid financial losses. What are the important factors to consider in fire alarm systems for use on construction sites? They must comply with the relevant safety standards. They must also have features that make it easy to install, operate, and maintain them.
Compliance With Standards
It is important that the system you select complies with the regional standards for the installation and performance of fire alarm system. The international standard is ISO 7240-14 but each country has its own. NFPA 72 and NFPA 241 are the consensus-based standards widely used in the US. UK uses BS 5839-1 and HSG168. Note that there may be regional standards that can be more restrictive than the national and international specifications. It is also necessary to ensure that the alarm devices you use help you to achieve OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) compliance in the US.
The fire alarm system must have the right feature set for use on construction sites. The most desirable features are:
- Rapid setup and takedown
- Robustness, reliability, and durability
- Wireless operations
- Battery power
- Cost effectiveness
Rapid Setup and Takedown
The fire alarm system must be flexible enough to accommodate the fast changing layout of the construction site as structures are added and taken down. The minimum requirement for flexibility is that the smoke and fire detection units must be easy to install and uninstall. Attaching them to, and removing them from, different surfaces like drywalls, metals or wood. It must not be complex to reprogram the central console as the detection units are moved around the construction site. Better yet, the console must be smart enough to track the detection units without any manual intervention.
Robustness, Reliability, and Durability
Construction sites are rugged and open to the elements. There will be heat generating machinery active during the day and possibly freezing temperatures at night. Fall and winter may bring rain and snow as well. The fire alarm system components must be able to function properly in all ambient conditions. They must also have a long operating life to avoid frequent breakdowns that cause gaps in full coverage of the site.
Wireless vs Wired
It is a no-brainer that fire alarm systems that can be controlled remotely and communicate wirelessly are ideal for construction sites. Given the fluid nature of construction site layouts and the high, unpredictable foot traffic, wired fire alarm systems are difficult to install and maintain. But it is quite easy to set up a Wi-Fi system that provides uninterrupted network coverage over the entire site from start of construction to the end with minimal or no maintenance.
Battery or Line Power
Electricity supply can be unreliable and even non-existent at various spots on the site. So line power is just not an option for powering alarm equipment; they must be able to work on batteries that last for a long time. The current state of battery technology provides batteries that are capable of powering fire alarm devices for over three years.
Due to the open nature of construction sites, all equipment on site are susceptible to theft and vandalism. Fire alarm components must have robust securing mechanisms that tether them firmly in place and have tough outer cases to protect them from vandals. They must use strong data encryption to thwart cyber-attacks.
Last, but not the least, is the cost for installing and maintaining the system. The ideal fire alarm system is one that provides at a competitive price, all the features mentioned above, along with great customer service from the supplier. Note that the cheapest system is not necessarily the ideal one.
Mobile Video Guard is an industry-leading expert that has been solving the surveillance and security challenges faced by the construction industry for the past 25 years. We are now leveraging our experience in surveillance to offer temporary fire protection for construction sites. Mobile Video Guard brings to fire protection the same level of expertise that helped build our reputation in the surveillance business. Our suppliers make the best equipment in the industry for monitoring sites for smoke and fire.
The latest offering from Mobile Video Guard for fire protection is the Ramtech Wes3 system. Our customers can buy or lease this system from us, and we will provide round the clock monitoring service. The Wes3 system developed by the experts at Ramtech Electronics meets national and international standards and gives reliable service for a long time. You can read about the capabilities of Wes3 on our temporary fire protection page or download its information brochure.
Please get in touch with us to find out how Wes3 can fully protect your construction or renovation site against threats from smoke and fire.