January 31, 2023

Use of wireless technology for fire safety on the construction site


It’s no secret that construction sites are teeming with potential dangers, and without proper protection it is generally accepted that a construction site can very quickly become a dangerous place.

Fire in particular is a major concern. As of November 2021, 10 people, including two firefighters, were injured in a fire in a Brooklyn construction site. Although this is shocking, when you consider that a construction site is vulnerable to fire for many reasons, the fact that a fire may have started is unfortunately not so surprising.

However, with the right fire protection technology in place at the very start of construction, modification or demolition, sites can be monitored for potential fires and if they do occur they can quickly be prevented. to get out of hand.

Why is fire such a threat?

Workers on site who operate machinery are often in close proximity to sources of ignition, such as highly combustible materials and solvents. In addition to this, a fire could also occur during the construction phase, as open sites are often more vulnerable to theft, vandalism and arson. This risk is further increased by the fact that typical building protection systems such as sprinklers, firewalls and detectors are not always in place until the final stages of construction.

For the reasons mentioned, both builders and insurance companies know that fire is a very real threat – so why do many construction sites choose to operate without the best fire protection? Whatever the reason, be it time, cost, or a combination of the two, if a fire breaks out, being able to act quickly is crucial. If allowed to spread, the consequences can be serious in terms of human and financial losses.

To put this into perspective, according to the NFPA, thelocal fire departments responded to an estimated average of 3,840 fires in structures under construction and 2,580 fires in structures undergoing major renovation per year in 2013-2017. In addition, fires in structures under construction have caused an average of four civilian deaths, 49 civilian injuries and $ 304 million in direct property damage each year. Meanwhile, fires in structures undergoing major renovations have caused an average of eight civilian deaths, 52 civilian injuries and $ 104 million in direct property damage each year.

To take part

The NFPA Code 241 standards state that construction sites must put safety measures in place from the first demolition of the ground up to and including the final phase of construction. When it comes to wired fire detection, this can initially seem problematic if a reliable source of electricity is not yet fully equipped on the job site.

Due to the lack of electricity, some sites still use obsolete pneumatic horns as an evacuation method on construction sites. However, this has drawbacks. Namely, an air horn cannot provide a site-wide evacuation because it cannot tell you where the fire is, just that there is a fire somewhere on the site. site.

It can also be difficult to distinguish the sound of an air horn from other background noises at a site. In addition, there is no possibility with a pneumatic horn to add smoke / heat sensors and other value added functions, such as a medical call function. This is not the case, however, if smarter wireless fire safety technology is used in these scenarios.

The Ramtech WES3 Fire Escape Detection System eliminates the need for a hard-wired power source and no hard-wired panels are required as with most other similar systems. Each unit is powered by a three-year battery life under normal use to secure the job site during all phases of construction, whether or not electricity is available. Each WES3 unit can also be mounted anywhere.

Preparation is the key

In addition to being quick and easy to install and deploy, the WES3 system greatly assists in the creation of a pre-incident construction plan in accordance with NFPA 1620. If you have a site with hundreds of workers and something happens, it is important to be able to locate the fire and also evacuate workers away from it. fire. WES3 effectively achieves this goal because each unit can be numbered and named so that all alerts give an accurate location.

WES3 protection is constant, which means that no matter when or where, fire can be detected and communicated to personnel through the use of secure radio frequencies. With an unlimited number of units that can be used per site, more units can be added as construction progresses. Repeater units ensure that the signal is boosted at particularly large sites. An emergency signal can be triggered automatically or manually from anywhere. All this is possible without wires or cables and without having to rely on the presence of workers to detect and extinguish fires.

Save lives

According to Lt. Chris Towski of the Cambridge, Massachusetts Fire Department, using WES3 technology for early detection can mean the difference between life and death.

“As a fire safety advocate for buildings under construction, I learned how difficult protecting personnel and property can be during vulnerable stages of the project,” says Towski. “It seems appropriate to have products available that not only take advantage of innovations and technologies, but also offer future expansion capabilities. Finding these products in place, used correctly, should help fire departments have real-time information and early notification to improve their duties and responsibilities to get the job done.

Do not let yourself be surprised

In the event of a fire on the site, those responsible will be held responsible. While the owner of the building holds the primary responsibility, it is the responsibility of the contractor to perform it on a daily basis. Pre-construction planning documents and processes should be developed with the fire department to clearly define the owner’s responsibilities during the construction phase and ensure that the NFPA 241 code is maintained. The NFPA Code 241 standard was recently updated to the 2022 edition and as such should be carefully reviewed to ensure compliance.

Space Age can help construction sites meet parts of the latest NFPA 241 code by implementing the WES3 Wireless Escape and Emergency System. With advancements in the use of wireless fire safety technology, it is more possible than ever to save lives, protect building infrastructure and protect communities. Those who choose to take advantage of it will reap the benefits of a more secure and secure future.

Written by James Mongeau, Director of the NFPA241 Code Committee and Director of Business Development at Space Age Electronics, who manufactures equipment in the fire alarm and life safety industry, explains the dynamic safety needs of construction sites, including how fires during construction, modification or demolition operations can be eliminated or controlled through early planning, scheduling, rapid communication and on-site security.

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