Saturday, December 27, 2014

Local Fire Marshal is right. Hoarding is becoming a bigger problem.

 A recent news article and fatal fire here in Penn Hills brought chilling words from the Fire Marshal Chuck Miller of the growing problem of people Hoarding

I will never forget getting the call from my customer on the  chilly morning of  March 16th, 2001  I got a call from my customer Brian Barcic his Fieldbrook Apartment building was on fire.
as we stood out back as Mt Lebanon firefighters put out the fire and secured the scene on the 2nd floor . It was then that we started seeing firefighters throwing pile after pile after pile of newspapers and magazines out of the 2nd floor apartment window  which had caught fire,4859367

The problem the women was a hoarder and had the apartment filled with newspapers to 4 ft high with only place to sit down was small place in kitchen and bathroom. Even thou alarms activated and she tried to escape her junk filled apartment and Mt Lebanon Firefighters  and medics did there best to save her life  She would pass away from smoke damage to her lungs.

Yes hoarding is becoming a major problem and only getting worse I saw it all the time when I served as a firefighter. and it is these cluttered junked up homes  and apartments which are becoming fire traps, and frequently become death traps when a fire does start as owners and tenants can not escape.

One of the worst cases of hoarding  involved a set of brothers in New York City who ended up dying in the death trap they created  .

I have a neighbor whose brother lives down the street and his home is a fire trap the parents are dead and he lives by himself in a pig sty ,as you can see in the pictures above . 
Often mental health issues come into play and those who hoard often become hermits who disappear from society and simply want left alone. 
I have spent many hours cleaning up these types of places after the owners have passed and its disgusting and you must take hazmat precautions. 
How can any one live like this ? who knows .What can you do if you suspect hoarding? not much you can contact Code Enforcement Officials.who can make them clean up and if they are seniors local area on aging office or similar senior advocate who may be able to help.
But unless agency's are willing to get involved or until the time the person is considered a harm to them selves or the community not much can be done. You will just keep hearing more and more about these cases. The  earlier you can find out a relative or friend is doing it, the easier it is to get the help and treatment they need.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Honeywell Stood Up and did the right thing for customer stuck with non remote hardwired Tuxedo Keypads

Honeywell Security  came thru when there sales representative did not and gave me nothing but promises.

The problem there where 2 versions of Tuxedo Automation Touch Pads sold a hard wired version and a WiFi version.

When first released the local rep  Jim G. promised that they would be remote control capable in about a year and flash upgradeable
I sold the Tuxedos  based on this promise of remote control capability  and that both would be able to do this and about 16 months later  the WiFi remote capable tuxedos could be remote controlled all you had to do was upgrade the firmware . However Honeywell choose not to do this for the hard wired tuxedos so my  3 customers spent $400.00 for nothing while my customers who bought the WiFi version where enjoying the new things they could control . As many of my customers know each other as I built my business on word of mouth you can imagine how upset my customers stuck with the hard wired tuxedos felt.
I contacted Jim G. numerous times over this issue and for over a year he has been stone walling me. Well Finally a very nice gentleman named Eric  Oh. got hold of me after reading my blog and sent me 3 of the WiFi touch units for my 3 customers stuck with the hard wired tuxedos.
they are now like little kids using the keypads and now that the voice feature is coming out cant wait to try this feature as well.

Thank you Eric Oh and Thank You Honeywell for taking care of my customers who are loyal to your product as many have been using it since the Ademco Days.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Renewable Fuses a ticking time bomb hiding in many commercail and industrial buildings when not properly applied

Renewable Fuses have been around for many years  at one time they where a very handy overload unit to have on site. If you blew a fuse you simply opened up the fuse end slid out the blown fuse link and inserted a new link or 2 links if it was a time delay fuse and away you went.

But thats where the problem started. These fuse where only meant to be used on circuits with 10,000 or less interrupting amps  like light  circuits and transformers but as usual they got misapplicated and ended up in industrial and commercial applications where there can be 50,000 or more interrupting amps  are available allowing for a very dangerous overload condition which can result in a arc flash and explosion. In the picture below on the left you see a renewable fuse which end caps can be removed and link replaced next to a modern slo-blow one time fuse made to handle 100,000 interrupting amps  but as you can see its easy to just replace one with the other.

Renewable fuse on left modern one time fuse on right

 renewable fuse apart showing replaceable link
 The other problem of course is if end caps are not properly tightened and then you had maintenance people trying to put more than 2 links in a fuse which will cause a much further than allowable time for fuse to operate. 
 When installing new equipment these renewable fuses should not be used only modern one time fuses. But it happens a fuse blows and only one available in shop is a renewable fuse and in it goes to get a machine back on line and then a problem happens.

Luckily the availability of the links is getting fewer and further apart as many manufactuers want nothing to do with them due to liability issues but they can still be found  and when i find them I remove them and replace them with proper one time fuses. 

But like anything these hazardous units where never recalled and just allowed to go away quietly 
by them selves and never issue a warning about them and most rookie electricians have never seen one let alone know there dangers. but thats NFPA and UL for you. they never ever fail to disappoint me.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Why do some Apartment Buildings in Pennsylvania. have Fire alarms and or Sprinklers and similar buildings do not? its a very long convoluted story

An Engineer  friend of mine is looking to move and as a child he had a very bad experience with a fire where he lived. So he is always looking when he decides to find a new place to move into a fire safe apartment as his job takes him around Pa. to various long term job sites. He often wonders why some apartment buildings are well prepared safety wise with Fire Alarm and or sprinklers, yet similar size and types of apartment buildings of the same age have no safety features at all.
Well we got into this discussion one evening and I explained to him a very convoluted story as to how Pennsylvania. Building Codes  have evolved and why the disparity.
it starts in 1985 when  the Pa. Fire & Panic act was passed which required all apartment buildings to install Fire Alarm systems.

 But there is a catch like my community of Penn Hills had.

When Jack Mason now retired became Fire Marshal in Penn hills in the late 70's  He told me how  Penn Hills  basically was still following state codes from the 1920's he observed these metal buckets in hallways  in some apartment buildings which where rounded on the bottom and filled with sand in some buildings. which in 1920's was all that was required for fire protection a bucket of sand. why the round bottom this was done so it had to be hung up and not set on floor and forgotten or blocked in or used for something else.

   You can imagine his shock when he realized codes in the town had not been updated since the 1920's the only apartment buildings under that code at the time which required fire alarms where over 3 story's and then it was only pull stations and bells.Like Wellington Arms  in Penn Hills which I retrofitted with full  smoke detection systems in  late 1980's

So Jack got the council to push thru and enforce the BOCA Code which stands for Building Officials Codes Administration.   Now known as ICC /IBC Which was a good thing Penn Hills now had a unified code where structures would be safely built. But  still only apartment buildings over 3 story's had to have fire systems but now they had to have firewalls and proper fire rated doors etc. and such to improve fire safety and fire systems  when required had to meet NFPA72 regulations .

But this is where the catch came in when the new Pa.  Fire & Panic Act came into being community's which where following the BOCA code did not have to follow the new state code  or they could enforce both codes.  While Monroeville and Mt Lebanon chose to do both community's like Pittsburgh and Penn Hills chose to stay with BOCA only  and did not want to put the extra burden on apartment owners which meant those apartment buildings where grandfathered and did not have to have fire alarms installed. Which is why even today with the new Uniform Construction Code you still find Apartment Buildings with no or very old  fire alarm system.
How ever when buildings are sold now and new owners take over they must be upgraded or if there is major additions or reconstruction. So it will be decades before you see some buildings retrofitted with fire systems. While all new apartment  construction requires a system of some type depending on number of units dictates what must be used which can include sprinklers.
 But even thou the Fire & Panic Act came into being and was enforced in many community's it was still a mix match of systems and products. Yes back then it was legal to use a Burglar Alarm panel with a Fire Loop  in it to provide fire protection to a small apartment building as the Fire & Panic Act
was not state enforced and approved.  The state instead  gave the power to review plans and  enforce the code  to local community's to enforce and if the official felt a Burglar Alarm panel was good enough to protect a property so be it as NFPA72 which sets standards for how fire system must be installed  was not adopted as part of the Fire & Panic Act.  I found and changed out many such system in apartment buildings and business over the years but the thinking back then was it was better to have a couple smokes tied off a burglar panel than have nothing at all.So you find all kind of systems Pre UCC codes of 2005 if the community was also not enforcing BOCA Codes so you never know what you are going to find as back then if AHJ said it was legal it was legal which caused problems when I was quoting systems to NFPA72 standards and others where not and where half the price I was putting in. These cheaper systems where far inferior systems but it was legal in non BOCA Community's.
Then when it came to buildings requiring sprinklers this also was where many compromises where done. Some community's like Penn hills said instead of having to retrofit buildings and put in sprinklers when occupancy changed  that if you put in a full fire system and then added limited sprinklers off the domestic water supply in storage rooms and basements you did not have to fully sprinkler a building.
 So of course you find all kinds of deviations to these property's as well.

So thankfully we now do have a fully enforced even code state wide all new construction must follow and as structures are knocked down and new ones built they all must follow the new codes. But it will be decades before it has all evened out and even now there are community's not enforcing the new state codes and even Pa.UCC code is a mix and match of ICC and IBC as the whole code was not adopted by Pa.  and so it goes.