Like any mechanical/electrical system with many devices and components, life safety systems require regular maintenance, inspection, and testing to ensure performance and adherence to acceptable standards. Running effective life safety management program can be daunting – if done right.
But what is a life safety system, exactly?
In general, life safety systems refer to any interior building system that is designed to protect and evacuate the building during emergencies such as fires, earthquakes, and even non-life-threatening events like power failures. The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Life Safety Code 101 outlines the minimum building design, construction, operation, and maintenance guidelines necessary for limiting the danger to life brought on by fire, smoke, heat and toxic fumes.
Okay, so what is needed for a life safety management program?
Well that depends. A reactive life safety management program needs very little because it only addresses problems after there is an issue. This kind of program puts your business at risk for being cited for compliance issues and endangers the safety of your people and property because your life safety systems are not being properly inspected and maintained. To avoid this risk, you need a proper life safety management program, which requires:
- Inspection, Testing, & Maintenance
Each of your life safety systems require different maintenance schedules. They can be monthly, semi-annual, annual, 2-year, 5-year or even 12-year. Part of your life safety management program is creating a calendar for all your systems and staying up to date on required maintenance for these systems. Additionally, any inspections, testing and maintenance must be conducted and reported by a certified life safety professional. You must find and vet a third-party certified life safety professional – this is not something you can have an internal employee do.
- Deficiency Management
Deficiencies are identified during regular inspections when the devices and components do not meet acceptable standards. As part of your life safety management program, you will need to implement processes to resolve any deficiencies identified by certified life safety professionals during any inspection, testing and maintenance.
- Repair & Service
Repair and service is necessary to resolve deficiencies found and to keep your systems within compliance when things break. You will need to establish a process for identifying needed repairs and service and then either repair these systems yourself or have a third-party perform these repairs and service. Most likely you will need an outside expert to help you.
- Reporting & Compliance
Documented detailed inspection reports, service records, improvements and test results are critical to managing compliance standards and communicating with fire marshals, insurance companies and managing your overall life safety management program. You will need to create a way of tracking these reports for each of your systems across your locations so you can produce them when required. Depending on your location, you may also need to send these into your local authority and insurance company every time there is an inspection of one of your systems.
Some life safety systems require the ability to alert first responders and require 24/7 monitoring. Maintaining an open line of communication and a solution that can be responsive is critical to your overall life safety system. You will need to monitor systems that require this ability to make sure they are always working properly or to get them repaired if they encounter a problem.
- Comprehensive Management
All life safety programs require comprehensive management. This includes easy access to inspection reports and service records across your locations. Additionally, you need visibility into upcoming and past appointments so you can stay on top of maintenance schedules and repairs. This management should include an overview of any deficiencies found along with recommended solutions and your action plan for resolving these deficiencies to keep your facility up to code. With so much required, you need a dedicated life safety manager who can manage the day-to-day and annually review your life safety systems so they can budget for any services and upgrades needed for the upcoming year.
That's a lot. How many vendors do I need if I have them manage my life safety management program?
Zero. You do, however, need one partner.
Did you know that most businesses today have an average of up to five vendors managing their various life safety systems? One for fire alarms, another for fire extinguishers, yet another to maintain their backflow systems, still another for fire suppression systems, and so on. It’s overwhelming and confusing. It’s necessary to have a third-party certified life safety company inspect and test your life safety systems, but juggling multiple vendors and all the related scheduling, maintenance, paperwork and follow-up leads to lost time, lost efficiency, and critical pieces slipping through the cracks.
But when you have one life safety partner, they manage all these complexities for you. Instead of losing time to managing vendors, you gain peace of mind and confidence from your partner so you can focus on your core business.
Sounds great! But how do I know who is a good life safety partner?
It’s true that not all life safety companies are equal. When vetting potential partners, there are a few criteria you should keep in mind.
- Expertise in Your Systems
Some life safety companies only have experience in one or two life safety systems. When looking for a good life safety partner, make sure they have the expertise and experience in all your fire and life safety systems. If your life safety partner doesn't have the proper certifications and training, then they won’t have the fire code and programming expertise to keep your people and property safe and compliant. If you are in a more heavily regulated industry – such as healthcare – you should also make sure your life safety partner is knowledgeable of your unique regulations and requirements.
- Proactive Communication
Your life safety partner should never leave you hanging when it comes to communication. If you find yourself struggling to get ahold of your life safety company, find another partner. You deserve better. Your life safety partner should not only be responsive when you reach out, but should also proactively communicate any updates to you. This proactive communication should also include guidance for annual planning and budgeting so that you are never caught off guard by an unexpected, large expense.
- Easy-to-use Customer Portal
In today’s digital world, you should expect your life safety partner to provide an intuitive, easy-to-use customer portal where you can have 24/7 access to your entire account. This portal should provide access to inspection reports, multi-location reporting, deficiencies, quotes, invoices, service history, scheduled jobs, and requests for service. You shouldn’t have to dig through files and paperwork. With a good life safety partner, all the information you need will be just a click away.
- Education & Training
A good life safety partner will invest in education and training for their people and for you. They will give you the knowledge and support needed to run your business safely and confidently. That way you’re not left to navigate the complicated process of managing your life safety systems on your own.
At CertaSite, we surround our clients with complete fire protection and life safety systems and a streamlined program offering confidence, time back in your day and peace of mind that you’re beyond mere compliance. Make your job easier (and safer) by building a robust life safety management program with a trusted partner. Interested in getting started? Simply fill out the form below or call us at 734-977-0437 to start the conversation.