EHS & Waste Management

University Fire Safety – COVID-19 Effects

By July 31, 2020 No Comments

University Fire Safety

The world is currently dealing with the crisis of the century with Coronavirus COVID19. There is virtually no aspect of life that hasn’t been affected. The Campus Fire Safety world has never been faced with the challenges we’re navigating through currently; Limited access to campus and working remotely from home, managing construction progress during the crisis, maintaining or altering frequency of fire protection systems testing and inspections, maintaining a fire protection emphasis during active research occurring on campus during the crisis, accommodating the use of campus facilities by other entities, and lastly planning on restoration of campus operations once students and staff are “hopefully”, permitted to return the fall.

The abruptness of campus closures, suspension and eventually postponement of on-campus activities was unexpected. Many campuses, depending upon their location and virus occurrence numbers, were able to keep skeleton crews/staffing on campus to respond to emergencies, perform building walkthroughs and support campus operations in other ways. Some Universities instructed the fire protection staff to work from home, with members alternating for responding to campus emergencies or other needs throughout the week. Standard operating procedures had to be updated and campus fire training presentations moved to online. The term “social distancing” will soon be the norm for campuses and teleconference meetings, a likely result of those preventative measures. In many states, construction work has been classified as “essential” with work on campus projects ongoing. Some campuses are allowing only new construction work that’s occurring outside an existing building envelope to continue, while suspending internal renovations to prevent virus exposure inside the buildings that will re-open and may not need extensive “deep cleaning”.

Of course buildings undergoing renovation/construction are most vulnerable to fire. A challenge, is to still maintain a level of fire prevention oversite, while at the same time be on the lookout for proper fire stopping of wall/ceiling penetrations and sprinkler protection coverage. More and more photos taken in the field and 360 degree virtual video programs are used more frequently to offset the inability to be on site live. It’s always a risk of not seeing conditions first-hand, some conditions not readily identified could be concealed and unknown if not picked up during progress and hydro-test inspections. Let’s hope that’s the exception and not the norm. Just as the construction trades being classified as “essential work”, most fire protection inspection companies are also sharing the classification and performing work. Unlike many of the fire protection vendor’s clients, college and university campuses are like small cities, and the risk of exposure contamination of closed buildings are decisions that were or are being made to keep up the frequency of fire protection systems and fire extinguisher inspections.

NFPA have published guidelines for dealing with the coronavirus. Their recommendation is to keep fire protection system inspections current as it is critical not to fall behind and place buildings at risk. The large number of fire protection systems and allowing them to fall out of frequency will cause spikes in future frequencies, unless the frequencies are adjusted to return to normal, even if the work was performed 30, 60, or 90 days after the due date. It appears that most that have paused the testing and inspections, still have a campus presence touring buildings with visual surveys of control valves and control panels; some oversight is better than nothing. Many University campuses are contributing to research for coronavirus vaccination development, advanced testing, and PPE development. Some campuses also have ongoing research that needs to be allowed to continue. Lack of a fire protection presence on campus is a a substantial risk. During the absence of fire protection staff, collaboration efforts with the research community is necessary to keep their level of fire safety awareness high and experiments safe. Some University campuses have stopped all non-essential research which helps to reduce the risk of lab fire incidents, while reducing risk of exposure contamination by occupants who may frequent the buildings. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, suspension of fire protection system inspections, especially in laboratory and research buildings, raises the risk of fire and is concerning.

Some University campuses have become the site for COVID-19 operations by the federal, state or local government, or local hospitals. Facilities may be converted to other uses. Dormitories and arenas may become health care or storage occupancy. This can be challenging because of the different fire and life safety requirements for different occupancy types. It may require planning with other government jurisdictions. Due to the extraordinary circumstances, all code requirements may not be able to be met making critical judgement decisions necessary, Pre-engineered temporary medical facilities placed in parking lots or other open areas may be designed specifically for the purpose and may not require extensive inspections or plan review.

Fire Extinguisher Barcode Inspection Software

On returning to campus fire protection staff will be faced with many challenges. Everything from restoring fire protection systems to  fire extinguisher inspections. Universities who use Fire Extinguisher Barcode Inspection Software to automate the inspection process will see increases in the efficiency of the inspection process, the removal of paperwork and an aid to compliance.

IMEC Technologies provides Safety Management Software to increase worker safety and aid compliance. IMEC’s Safety Management Software will manage inspections and audits, provides hazard identificationincident reporting, management of corrective and preventative actions from generation to closure and Manage Lockout Tagout Procedures, their Review and Execution using the Mobile App. The Mobile Inspection App allow users to perform inspections and audits, for example the system can be used as a Fire Extinguisher Barcode Inspection Software system to manage monthly fire extinguisher inspections and general fire safety inspections and also to record safety observations and manage corrective actions, anywhere and anytime. The solution can be used as a fire extinguisher barcode inspection software system or life safety inspection system to aid compliance in Higher Education, Healthcare, Industrial and Commercial Organizations. The Incident Reporting App allows users to easily and quickly report incidents, hazards and near-misses, these are then sent to the appropriate people for action and are managed to closure.  Web Apps provide features such as, setup, management, scheduling tools, analysis, reporting and dashboards etc with the ability to report incidents to government bodies such as OSHA and RIDDORHazMat T&T is a hazardous waste management software solution designed for Environmental Service Companies and companies who generate a large quantity of hazardous waste. The solution tracks hazardous waste from cradle to grave aiding compliance, providing accurate waste inventory, increasing waste handling efficiency, reducing risk and also helps manage waste costs. For more information visit our website www.imectechnologies.com