Firing Up Guard Tour
One way is to use guard tour verification technology to check fire extinguishers, tamper switches, fire pumps and safety exits.
One example: Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Md. The Center covers nine buildings of about one million square feet. With two fire and safety employees, there is a challenge to cover 2,500 or so checkpoints. The challenge is met, according to the Center’s fire marshal, by using guard tour technology that has been customized for fire and life safety needs. Called FireProof, the system from Tiscor of Poway, Calif., consists of a compact, portable device that records the time, date and location of each piece of equipment and checkpoint.
Mercy Medical Center, because of its mission and type of facility, must meet compliance with regulations from federal, state and healthcare commission agencies.
Detailed ReportsFireProof’s report-generating feature allows Center staff members to produce accurate and detailed reports documenting inspection activities. Such reporting capability also helps the Center deal with vendors seeking specific equipment history. The bottom line: less time spent on inspections and more accountability. For instance, many times a technician will encounter fire extinguishers with missing pins. The tech simply swipes a special barcode from a carry-around card. The barcode denotes the piece of equipment that needs to be fixed.
The handheld device also can be programmed for so-called “roaming” routes. When an inspector doesn’t want to be guided from one location to the next, he or she can select the “roam” route.
FireProof is a software management tool that tracks the inspection and maintenance activities for fire extinguishers; fire hoses; ladders; sprinkler systems; eyewash stations and showers; emergency exits; safety signs and more. Such technology streamlines equipment tracking by eliminating log sheets and manual data entry.
In addition to Tiscor, there are additional sources of guard tour systems that both are based on other data collection technologies and can be adapted to integrating into fire and life safety inspection and maintenance tasks.
The PulseStar from Videx of Corvallis, Ore., for example, uses touch memory buttons. The system’s portable touch memory reader can accommodate up to 5,400 button reads prior to downloading and the reader has no need for rechargeable batteries.
The PulseStar download station provides the communications link between the reader, which is carried by an officer or life safety inspector, and a personal computer or an organization’s computer network. Downloading is via infrared.
One unique aspect of the Videx approach is the ability of PulseStar to work in harsh outdoor conditions. The reader’s cylindrical metal case is sealed against dirt and moisture. In addition, the unit indicates a successful read not with a tone but with a pulse so that the unit can operate in a high-noise environment such as a factory or in a no-noise environment such as a hospital.
Another, similar approach comes from TimeKeeping Systems of Solon, Ohio. It markets The Pipe, a guard tour data collector. Also using touch memory, The Pipe is made of corrosion resistant stainless steel alloy and the case is sealed, making it tamper-resistant and waterproof. TimeKeeping Systems matches The Pipe with its Guard1 Plus software.
What’s even more important for life safety and security executives needing to analyze and maintain fire prevention systems, Guard1 Plus creates a diversity of reports that also can be customized.
At Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, for instance, the alarms technician prints a main report once a week for review. If there is an incident or exception, there is additional or more frequent reporting.
The Boss from Morse Watchmans of Oxford, Conn., has a display screen and keypad on the data recorder unit. As life safety inspectors make their rounds, they can enter in a user-programmable code on the keypad. Working with The Boss, the Tour-Pro guard tour software from Morse Watchmans downloads tour information, programs the data recorder, generates custom reports and manages maintenance files.
Miami-based Deggy Corp. goes one better in integrating guard tour systems into fire prevention equipment maintenance. It integrates its guard tour equipment with digital video recording. The Deggy approach uses a pen-like reader and touch memory buttons. In addition, a supervisor’s portable unit can connect to a vehicle cigarette lighter adapter for pen downloads on a remote facility site.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology also plays a role in guard tour systems being integrated into fire prevention missions.
ProxiPen from Detex Corp. of New Braunfels, Tex., senses and reads tags whenever the acquisition unit comes in read-range contact with tags. The RFID tags can be concealed behind nonmetallic surfaces.
SIDEBAR 1: Electronically Monitored ExtinguisherForget walking around to check fire extinguishers.
Mija of Rockland, Mass., has technology that uses solid-state technology housed in a standard spiral-wound Bourdon tube pressure gauge to actively monitor portable fire extinguishers. The approach signals an alert when a portable fire extinguisher falls below a safe pressure level. It also signals an alert when an extinguisher is removed from its designated location, when access to an extinguisher is obstructed or even when the system’s battery power falls below an acceptable level.
Called EN-Gauge for electronic notifying pressure gauge, the system is battery-powered to reduce cost on new or retrofit installations and can be interfaced to other systems via wires or wirelessly.
For extinguisher pressure, the system tests every 15 hours. It is a higher safety standard when compared to the NFPA-10 physical inspection requirement.
For obstruction, the system uses sonar, sending out a pulse of sound. If it bounces back, the sensor within the system design determines that there is an obstruction around the extinguisher.
For presence, the fire extinguisher is connected via an electronic tether, which simply disconnects when the extinguisher is removed from its mounting bracket or hanger.
SIDEBAR 2: Video-based Fire DetectionAs advances in machine vision seep into the life safety and security arena, new applications evolve.
One unique one that integrates fire and security comes from AxonX of Baltimore, Maryland. Its SigniFire system uses security video and machine vision to detect fire and smoke and alert to those conditions.
Machine vision, also called image processing, is a technology that combines video imaging and computerized pattern recognition. By using standard video cameras and a computer, the system becomes a volume sensor that looks for the fire condition.