Ariz. fire company: Being eco-friendly is business friendly

Company implements ‘green’ changes to meet customer demand
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Thursday, November 3, 2011

PHOENIX—American Fire Equipment Sales & Service, a full-service fire protection company based here, is about to install an eco-friendly fire protection system in a “green” school in its Phoenix backyard. That’s just one step in the company’s efforts to be more conscious of its environmental footprint—something that company VP and co-owner John Papuga says customers are increasingly demanding and also is “the right thing to do.”

“We’re looking to be a more environmentally-conscious and eco-conscious and more sustainable company,” said Papuga, who founded the 130-employee company nearly 20 years ago with his wife, Ann, the company president. “We’re looking at a cleaner way of providing fire protection.”

The company’s efforts over the past 18 months have included internal eco-friendly changes, including reduced energy consumption, a recycling program for everything from batteries to old sprinkler heads, and providing its technicians with laptops and thumb drives so they can fill out forms and submit reports in the field while fulfilling the company’s goal of being as paperless as possible.

Also, Papuga said, “We’ve been really studying who we buy our parts from, to make sure they’re doing the [environmentally-conscious] things they need to be doing too.”

As a way to market its eco-friendly profile, the company plans to detail such changes on a new “green” page on its web site that Papuga said he hopes to launch in December.

The Roadrunner Elementary School, for which American Fire is doing the fire system, is part of the Green Schoolhouse Series, described on its web site as a collaboration of “corporations, foundations, school districts, municipalities, communities, media outlets, and volunteers to build high-performance, environmentally sustainable, LEED-Platinum designed Green Schoolhouses at Title 1, low-income, public schools.” Groundbreaking on the Roadrunner school project is slated to take place on Dec. 1.

Papuga said American Fire will provide the school—which happens to be the same elementary school Ann Papuga attended as a child—with “the greenest type of fire protection we can provide … the type of system that has the least amount of impact on the environment and that is the most sustainable.”

He said the company will install Fire Alarm Aspiration Sensing Technology, a single detector that pulls air samples from the environment, giving early warning of fire conditions before actual combustion.

FAAST systems are known for their use in critical facilities but Papuga said they increasingly being used in other places—such as prisons, where inmates can tamper with or destroy regular smoke detectors, and in schools.

They’re more eco-friendly because they don’t need conduit and the wire of traditional smoke alarm systems so there is less material to eventually end up as waste in a landfill, Papuga said. Also, the quick response system lessens the likelihood a fire will result, releasing heat, smoke and poisonous gases into the environment, according to the Green Schoolhouse site.

For the school’s sprinkler system, Papuga said, “we’ve decided to use cpvc (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) pipe.” That type of piping lasts longer, has lower energy requirements and produces fewer greenhouse gases than traditional metal pipe, the Green Schoolhouse site says.

American Fire, which also has one branch office in Yuma, Ariz., does business in Arizona, California, Nevada and New Mexico, serving clients in healthcare and education and in industries that include power, mining and telecommunications, Papuga said.

He said clients are increasingly concerned about the environment, “so they’re asking: ‘Tell me about your company.’” Also, he said, some of his large clients are being scrutinized by those they do business with about their environmental footprint. “They’re being looked at, so they want to look at their vendors, and I’m being looked at so I want to look at my vendors,” Papuga said.