4 questions to ask a potential fire equipment service provider
The owners of a Denny's restaurant in Calgary was recently fined $4,600 for fire code infractions after learning they'd hired an unqualified company to inspect fire equipment.
The company, Premium Fire Protection Ltd., was convicted of 15 charges for violating Alberta Fire Safety Codes.
"Premium allowed a number of unqualified and uncertified employees to perform work on fire alarms, suppression systems and portable fire extinguishers at several commercial buildings throughout the city," said prosecutor Jenna Graham.
How to tell if a potential fire equipment service provider is qualified?
The situation with the Denny’s in Calgary emphasizes the importance of performing your due diligence when choosing a fire safety service provider.
Only qualified and certified individuals can inspect life safety systems and ensure they adhere to the fire code.
These four questions are a critical first step to determine if a potential fire equipment service provider is qualified.
Question 1: What fire protection services do you offer?
The fire products and services a company offers are a big part of deciding to work with a company or not.
Some companies only focus on servicing portable fire extinguishers. Other companies only focus on servicing fire sprinklers and alarms. If you don’t ask the prospective company what they service, you may end up spending more time and money having to find a second company to fill in the gaps.
For example, the fire protection services Levitt-Safety offers include:
- Fire suppression systems
- sprinkler systems
- clean agent
- engineered fire suppression
- pre-engineered fire suppression
- Fire equipment services
- emergency lighting and exit signs
- fire extinguisher services
- fire hoses
- fire alarms
- Vehicle fire suppression systems
Make sure the company you choose can provide service that meets your needs before you sign a contract.
Question 2: What certifications do you have?
Every province in Canada has its own requirements for certification.
For instance, to service special hazard fire suppression systems in Alberta, the fire code states:
- Only qualified persons shall install special fire suppression systems when they have acquired a certificate of training from a manufacturer.
- Only qualified persons shall test or perform maintenance on a special fire suppression system when:
- they have acquired an approved certificate of training from a public post‐secondary educational institution, or
- they have acquired a certificate of training from a manufacturer.
Your fire protection service provider should be able to provide proof that they have manufacturer training, as should the manufacturer.
If your business operates in multiple provinces, each one must meet its specific provincial codes and requirements.
Since Levitt-Safety has a national presence, we have strong knowledge of each province’s fire code requirements. We ensure that the service we provide will meet your province’s fire and building codes.
Question 3: How is your record keeping?
Digital record-keeping is commonplace in many industries. Yet many safety service providers still use paper systems for record-keeping. Your service provider should be able to email you the inspection notes or provide a secure portal to give you access when documenting inspections.
"There was no actual evidence presented about what actual audits were performed, or how they were performed," the judge wrote in the case against Premium Fire. "Indeed, the large number of reports, certificates, and other records (in evidence), which show that unqualified Premium Fire employees were conducting such work, demonstrates that the policy was, to borrow from Shakespeare, ‘full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”
When Levitt-Safety services your fire equipment, you receive documentation within 24 hours to keep on file. You can also have an optional portal with detailed service history on each piece of equipment.
Question 4: How much does your service cost?
Don't be afraid to ask a company how much their service costs.
- If a price tag is too good to be true, it probably is.
- If a price tag seems too high, find out what services are included.
Your potential fire service provider should be able to map out what their service includes and what type of service you can expect and the fire suppression products they offer.
You can also ask about value added services -- what is available, what is included in the price you're paying and what is treated as extra. This question can help understand the potential hidden value in higher prices.
Finding a trained and qualified fire safety service provider:
The big takeaway from this incident is that it’s not only the company providing the service who is liable, the customer hiring their services must do their due diligence.
Your potential fire equipment service provider should have no problem answering these four questions. They should be able to provide proof of certification and a clear understanding of your province’s fire and building codes.
Along with the fine, the Denny’s restaurant in Calgary also had to hire a new fire protection services company to reinspect all of their affected restaurants and perform fire protection services to meet the Alberta Fire Code compliance requirements.
$4,600 was considered a minimum fine because Denny’s immediately terminated their contract with the company and had their equipment reinspected.
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