Sunday, July 9, 2017

What are these crazy looking multi valve outlets you see on the outside of some buildings ? They are for Fire Pump Testing

You have probably walked by them and not noticed them but other times you may have with any where from 2 to 6 or more  little individual hand valves on them depending on the size and volume pump puts out

They serve an important purpose they are used to test the Fire Pump which boosts the pressure to sprinkler system which protect buildings. Since water can not be run thru the sprinkler piping while testing the pump this bypass valve arrangement is installed  and hoses attached to allow the water to flow towards a street drain.  the valves can be individually open and closed to allow pressure against the pump while being tested  . Got to see a test at a large storage facility once and was very impressive .

Check out this Youtube Video of a test being performed by a contractor

So now you know what those weird valves are for. 

Unyielding and Strict Code Interpretations often leads to them being violated and major code issues being entirely missed.

Yes unfortunately I run across Inspectors who are so attentive to absolute strict compliance of code they often end up causing code issues and often times because they are so attentive they miss major issues .

Take the case of a recent wedding venue I attended that just opened in an upscale community .
This particular inspector insists pull stations no more then 5 ft NFPA 72mandates how ever not taking into consideration the buildings design and ADA rules yes you guessed it every one of them are blocked .

As you can see in the picture the chair blocks the pull station . Had the inspector let the pull station be put on the side wall near corridor it would be free and clear and easy to operate but thats too far. But remember the inspector has the right to allow local judgement especially when it comes to something like this . Its called common sense and these inspectors do not have it and will not use it.

In the mean time while they where doing all of the inspections and their obsessions with tape measures  to make sure everything is correct they totally missed the fact the raised platform where participants sit is of same material's main floor and has no safety edge to warn you are stepping down the result the night of wedding a 80 yr old women participant fell and severely bruised both knee's which more than likely is not going to end well.

Never fails I see this all the time over obsessed with compliance instead of using common sense to avoid issues  it is just a matter of time this community is going to be hit with a major lawsuit because its inspectors have failed to protect the community by missing and or contributing to a major code violation where there is a loss of life. The clock is ticking .

Thursday, May 4, 2017

UL and NFPA mandate not allowing Ground Fault Function to be bypassed on Fire Panels is putting lives in danger because other faults get missed

Yes the idiots at UL and NFPA in their quest to build a better fire panel have actually caused panels to be less safe. How?

By not allowing a problem that frequently happens on fire panels a Ground fault.

A ground fault indicates that a wire on one of the circuits has been pinched and is touching earth ground some where in the system  typically occurs as buildings get older and expand and contract and while  a ground fault can interfere with a panels operation its a very rare occurrence. I have never seen one do it in 40 years of fire work on all kind of systems big small new and old  and all kinds of buildings .

In older panels you could temporarily bypass the feature so you could find it which some times takes months to find especially when its a floater where wire only touches on hot days when the building is expanding . Bypassing the feature allowed time to find it and fix it with out the trouble sounder constantly coming on and driving people nuts  .
tape placed over sounder to muffle it 

But no the Morons at NFPA and UL decided alarm techs can not be trusted they will find and fix this ground fault so not more bypassing.

The result the trouble sounder coming on several times a day to point individuals damage or otherwise make the piezo unit which makes the sound be muffled.

So now especially if you have a local only system which does not report  which there are many of these type of systems  or  a system which reports just a simple trouble  to central station which there are many out there ,  when a real dangerous problem comes in like a circuit to the horn strobes is broken or circuit to smoke detectors is broken it gets ignored everyone thinks its the dam ground fault.  and then when firefighters need to use the remote stations they can not they have been damaged.


Because UL and NFPA never ever thinks a problem or issue thru before issuing a mandate .
and then has to keep changing rules and codes and panel features.

Yes that time bomb clock keeps ticking and guarantee some where a building is having a ground fault the trouble sounders have been broken or cut off and their is a serious issue with panel no one knows is going on and there will be a fire and system will fail to operate .

Thank You UL ad NFPA for once again putting lives in danger

Like I always say  NFPA really stands for Not For Practical Application 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Very dangerous designed safety rail on Sissor Lifts how was this even allowed on the market

In 40 plus years of working on various lifts and hoists I encountered one of the most dangerous designs I have ever seen on a Optimum 1930 Sissor lift made by Haulotte
These are typically rented thru home improvement stores which is why OSHA probably has not gotten them off the market.

The units have a solid steel bar which goes across where other lifts use a piece of chain it sildes up and down on rollers and can get stuck in up posistion and then thats when its dangerous when I went to get on lift not realizing flimsy way the bar was staying up it came down and struck me on the head.
Bar Lowered

roller mechanisim
As you can see bar is pushed up and down but can easily catch and the fall  in picture below
Bar now in up stuck position bump it it comes down hard .

To make matters worse because this bar is such a pain in the ass to get under and on to lift it is often tied up with tape or zip ties and now the safety is bypassed. Who ever cam up with such a poorly designed safety feature need fired and not allowed to design another piece of equipment.
I contacted manufacture but never got a reply back which is typical . when some one gets seriously hurt and they get sued then maybe they will recall these units and put safety chain on them. 

I will be notifying CPSC as this is rented to consumers

You can not make a 4 wire smoke detector work on a 2 wire Fire Alarm loop but that did not stop this installer from doing it and leaving half an apartment building with out proper fire protection for over 30 years

In 1984 the Pa. fire and Panic Act was passed and it required the vast majority of apartment buildings to install Fire Alarm Systems unless you where in a community using the BOCA Code  but some followed both like Monroeville  a very good ideal that unfortunately was never properly enforced by the state  and has lead to hundreds if not thousands of inadequate and improper systems to be installed in apartment buildings all over the state.

One such building I encountered in the  south Hills of Pittsburgh is just such a case the system was installed but never inspected and passed by any fire official and up until it was purchased by my customer this past year and I rebuilt it never properly worked in fact half of the smoke alarms and pull stations never functioned since the day they where installed  .

So how could something like this happen ? Unfortunately it still goes on to this very day.
Back then community's who did not have a local Fire Marshal or Official to inspect left it up to the state to do it. In too many cases the state approved the drawings and got the required completion paper work the system was installed but never verified the systems or inspected them.
This lead to a host of violations from non approved burglar alarm equipment being used to pull stations mounted at 6 ft .

In this 22 unit 3 story apartment they installed an ESL 1500 Fire Panel but then never field installed the resistors which supervise the wiring on the end of the circuits this resulted in the south end of stair tower with smokes and pull stations to fail to operate when a wire fell off a heat detector in basement
so it never worked for god only knows how long .
Then to make matter worse they tried installing 4 wire detectors on 2 wire loops.
yes it can be done but you must install 2 extra wires to provide power to the units they did not which means they never worked. Despite how they tried to make the wiring work.

By jumping 2 wires over to power side of detector sorry that does not work so these detectors never worked.
Now to make matters worse this system up till 96 was regularly inspected by a big famous 3 initial fire company whose inspectors passed it every year and never found any of these issues in effect they where committing fraud signing the reports and ripping off the building owner and more importantly
they where putting lives at risk all for the almighty buck. Of course so much time has passed the people who installed the system are long out of business and dead and the people inspecting it are probably long gone and probably dead as well so who you going to go after.

I rebuilt the system installing a new Silent Knight 5208 Panel  all new system sensor  smoke and heat detectors plus carbon monoxide detectors and supervising as much of the wiring as I could and installed a Cellular Sole Path Communicator to notify fire dept and this time had it inspected by the towns new chief who is now going back over and rechecking all the property's in the town for proper compliance .
Good for Him and he has implemented The Compliance Engine to help keep track of things. Of course your still going to have the raggers and taggers but all the tracking helps to catch them. 
But finnaly the good people of this community will have proper fire protection.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

You learn alot when you grow up in Pittsburgh and your an Eagle Scout Biggest thing not to mention it? If you want a Job in Construction or the Trades or have a Jewish sounding last name

Yes The Eagle Scout Award is the highest Honor a Boy scout can earn in Boy Scouting I earned mine in 1976 and was so proud to get it.  but My Scout Master the late Frank Russel also sat me down and explained how I would forever have a target on my back by those who resent those who strive to be a better individual in life .
Was Mr. Russel ever right.
I found this out from the fall of 1976 and all thru the 1980's when trying to find a good paying full time job with benefits in the construction and trades field. Not being able to secure suitable employment I decided to run my company full time  starting in 1981.

It seems back then that employers in these areas did not care to hire any one who put eagle scout  on their application and they did not want to hire somebody with a Jewish sounding last name sad but true. I am not Jewish my family last name should be spelled ICZ on the end we are Ukrainian but when my grandfather came thru Ellis island and was able to write his name on entry papers instead f making his mark like others they assumed he was an educated jew. and immigration officials spelled his name to sound Jewish. I often thought about changing my name like many of my friends have done but also like some of my friends wanted to honor my grandfather and his wishes and did not change it

I put in 100's of applications all over. One day I walked from Neville Island all the way to downtown Pittsburgh a total of 10 miles putting in applications never got one call.
The company's who where very good company's to go to work for back then where not hiring and the mills where going down. so I was low man on the totem pole and I was not going to kiss some ones ass to get a job like many I know did and be beholding to some one I keep my job.When you came out of school in 70's you had 2 choices college or military I qualified for neither Even thou I had good grades dyslexia was always in the way and back then they had no understanding of it like they do now.And Physical problems kept me out of the military 

I can proudly say any job I got was on my own merits even if it was a shit hole of a job but I did what I had to survive till I got my business going .

The realization of having a Jewish sounding last name and trying to get a job  came very clear in 81 when a friend recommend me for a job at a large industrial facility looking for maintenance people
The interview went well I thought but never got a follow up call would run into my friend couple weeks later on bus trip home from town and he told me all about him being told they don't hire Jews after he asked why they passed me over.  Well that company is out of business when the rest of the mills went down.Thats also when I started spelling my name different with ICZ on end  and started getting more offers  so that just showed how racist these company's where.   I had a similar experience where I applied after friend told me about an opening and he told me not to mention I was an eagle scout they don't like people with that kind of integrity. and Im thinking why would I even want to apply but needed work so why not if it held me thru times . So I put in an application  did not mention the eagle scout get called for an interview and during interview they asked had I achieved anything in life mentioned the eagle scout and interview went down hill from there.Eagle scouts carry the stigma of being goodie goodies
some employers don't like high achievers as well. they want a  do this do dat and shut up say nothing and know nothing.

Knowing this I would have never worked for them anyways you don't want to hire some one becsue they have integrity like an eagle scout or have a Jewish sounding name I want nothing to do with you and tells me everything I need to know about you.
I have heard blacks refer to Pittsburgh as Mississippi Pittsburgh  and asked them why and they said its because Pittsburgh is an extremely racists city and the reference is to Pittsburgh being the most southern northern city. its a shame but its true the Pittsburgh area and state in general has a very large proliferation of hate groups from the KKK to Skin heads and extreme segregationists

Unfortunately I hear the N word  and the K word being used all too frequently while I work
when I hear it from people I avoid them and if its an actual customer I drop them I do not need these type of customers.

Had a realty customer ask me one time how I could be living in Penn Hills and let my wife shop at local grocery store because blacks shop there also?
Tells me thats why he moved out of Penn hills  he did not want wife shopping with blacks because they can not be trusted. Needless to say I no longer work for him.

Thats where I have to give many of my customers credit for not allowing racism and hate speech to go on in their places of employment they hear it or see it that employee is warned and then fired if it keeps up.

I also rarely mention I am an Eagle Scout because there are too many employers who do not hire eagles seeing them as goodie goodies especially when they are running a business where questionable practices are condoned.

Then again same situation you do not want to hire an eagle I do not want to work for you if you are not going to run a legitimate company and take care of your customers and employees and allow shady practices.  See too many of these type of company's in Pittsburgh which explains why so many last a few years and are gone. Actually getting a good company to work for with good pay is hard these jobs are few and far and the less than reputable company's  know this and take advantage of their employees and get away with their shady practices.If you have no skills at all and just a high school degree your really screwed in this city 
Call it under- employment which has been a big issue in this town ever since the mills went down.
I know plenty of hard working people who deserve to be paid and have a descent job but do not have one because they are so hard to find especially if your not skilled.

This is why I preach to our young people  you need to stay and keep educated and always be looking for that next great thing because jobs and technology change so fast

One of the reasons I have been successful with my business is I was always willing to travel out to jobs and further away from the big city's  the better I find the quality of people I work for sad but true.  What ever it is that causes such racism and bigotry in Pittsburgh I will never  understand  there is no excuse for it. But sadly it goes on everyday.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

NFPA gets it wrong and confuses public and fire officials when they say replace smoke alarms after 10 years.

Yes it never cease to amaze me how UL and NFPA screws with the public and fire officials. take the
whole ideal you must replace smoke alarm / detectors after 10 years ..

I had a corporate customer call me other day all worried he had to change everyone of his 154 smoke detectors in his complex  he was relieved to know he did not have to after I explained to him the differences between smoke alarm and smoke detector 

Smoke detectors must be changed after 10 years
This is 100% false statement what you should be replacing is Smoke Alarms  not Smoke Detectors so whats the difference?

A Smoke Alarm is a single or multi connected unit either using Ionization or Photo Electric  or both technologies  which has a built in sounder and is powered by 120 vac or 9 volt battery or both .
these are found primarily in residential settings  and only units utilizing ionization need replaced if it is straight photo electric and passes tests it is still safe to use

 Kidde Battery powered smoke alarm
as you can see from date smoke alarm is past 10 years old needs replaced

A Smoke Detector is a unit which is connected to a Fire Alarm or combination Burglar/Fire Alarm
some times has a built in sounder and  is powered and supervised by  the panel .
These units only need replaced when they no longer pass sensitivity tests I have customers with smoke detectors going on 30 years and they still work as good as day they where installed but I highly recommend they change them when they are that old and most do few at a time when annual testing is done.  thou these units where at one time sold with ionization features they have not been made by manufacturers in many years  still same rule if they pass testing they do not need replaced only smoke alarms after 10 years.
 commercial hardwired smoke detector with optional sounder

So should you be concerned if a smoke detector or smoke alarm needs replaced after 10 years absolutely if they are smoke alarms of ionization type and a smoke detector which fails sensitivity testing.

This is why Fire Alarm systems require annual testing of detectors to make sure they are working
and records should be avalable upon request of the building owners representative .

You should also know you could have both types of units particularly in apartment buildings . Generally the units in hall ways are smoke detectors  tied to a system but not always some smaller buildings use daisy chained smoke alarms which need changed after 10 years  if they are ionization and usually inside the individual apartment you will find a smoke alarm which needs replaced  after 10 but again not always as some units inside the apartment are actually smoke detectors which have a local sounder in apartment  which sounds and heat which activates main fire  panel this help prevents false alarms while cooking  etc.
 So yes it can be very confusing and uninformed fire officials on the matter does not help.
It also does not help that unscrupulous alarm dealers are telling customers they need to replace there combo fire/ burg systems  smokes after 10 years when they only need tested.

Unsure what you have protecting your home or apartment building ask a professional  alarm technician or fire official..

Below is 2 examples of correct and incorrect wording of Public Service Announcement PSA adds 

Example of PSA with wrong incorrect  wording 

PSA with correct wording 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Home Fire Sprinklers a good Idea . The question is will they even work when you need them 20-30 years from now ? Is this whole home sprinkler thing nothing more than a panacea ?

Lets face facts . Yes home sprinklers do save lives.

Lets also face the fact that sprinkler systems require proper maintenance if not they do notwork properly

Yes the NFPA banters about the fact there has never been a multi fatality in a proper maintained building with sprinklers the main words being proper maintained.

Well In the 40+ years I have been working in buildings which have sprinklers systems I have seen both well maintained and poorly maintained systems and even in buildings properly maintained the amount of corrosion and mold  in pipes even plastic pipes is amazing .

I have seen systems put in 15 years ago where they went to add heads to a system and watched them open up piping and the water comes out like maple syrup to point the sprinkler installer  has to use a coat hanger to clear the pipe.
and these are systems well maintained and corrosion checked .I just worked in a building with 3 year old piping and you should already see the corrosion starting in that system.

The problem is the hard water we have in the Tri-state area. To add to the problem systems where pressure or storage tanks are used which is many of them also have significant mold and slime  issues in the tanks if additives are not put into the tanks.

So if we see these issues in commercial systems you will see them in plastic or copper piping used in residential systems as well.

Lets face it even thou today's lighter construction does not hold up as well in a fire like older construction today's homes from a fire safety stand point are safer than ever .

Codes mandate Daisy chained smoke alarms and Arc Fault Breakers AFCI and Ground Fault Circuit  Interrupters GFCI and solid 2 point grounding systems so electrical fires are greatly reduced. walls are foamed or insulated and there is blockage in the walls to stop fire spread unlike old homes which are balloon constructed.

So chances of having a fire are greatly reduced but what about 20 to 30 or more years down the road when you may have a real need for that sprinkler system will it work ?

See thats the problem all this lets put in sprinklers for saving lives and not telling you all the issues of having sprinkler systems in your homes and the responsibility to make sure they stay operational.

Believe me I have seen 20 year old plastic piping and what it looks like inside when water is sitting in it and not moving from all the years of work I have done around swimming pools and in the oil industry and working on water wells. .

In commercial buildings  piping can be easily removed and replaced for the most part but a home that means tearing open walls   if the piping can not be properly flushed and cleaned.

Now yes we can filter and treat water before putting it in the system or add nitrogen etc to get PH up or down but that adds to the cost  and that also means testing system to make sure water is still treated.

You see its real easy to say put in sprinklers but no one wants to talk about the downfalls of it and complications lets talk about it.

In some cases putting in sprinklers your insurance goes up due to the water damage potential and while some states have passed laws to keep this from happening some have not .

You may be required to put in a separate metered line to house this can cost thousands

You may have to add a storage pressure tank which needs to be kept heated  this means in the basement and mold prevented and monitored for pressure loss  all of a sudden the myth that sprinklers cost no more than good carpet just exploded.

The cost of some one annually coming and testing your system if you want to make sure its working any where from $150-300  each time.

Having to keep your house above 40 degrees  at all times to keep sprinklers from freezing even when your away for extended periods and now having to worry pipes do not burst

Having to have either a small stand alone fire panel or combo burglar panel to monitor your system and  monthly monitoring fees $30-60 a month

Plus eventually you need to replace the heads after so many years they loose sensitivity just like heat detectors on a fire system  also which how many places i go in they have not been changed on 30 or more years.

Yes sprinklers are a great idea if your willing to take on the responsibility to maintain them if not they are just as useless as the smoke with out a battery. All these model community's with sprinkler rules lets see what they look like in 20-30 wont that be interesting