Electronic fire extinguisher monitoring inches closer to replacing 30-day physical inspections

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Saturday, May 1, 2004

ROCKLAND, Mass. - On April 9, Utah became the first state to allow electronic monitoring of fire extinguishers in lieu of traditional 30-day physical inspections required by other states.

This is good news for Mija Inc., based here, which manufactures EN-Gauge, an apparatus that allows users to monitor the placement, pressure and potential obstruction of fire extinguishers. The company has led the charge to allow for these code changes, which it said are aimed at making sure fire extinguishers are actually being inspected.

“Fire equipment industry studies show that 90 percent of the 30-day physical inspections simply do not happen,” said John McShef-frey, Mija’s vice president of business development. “By implementing 24/7 electronic monitoring, safety is increased and liability is reduced.”

McSheffrey said state fire marshals in Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire and New Jersey have given the go-ahead for the installation of EN-Gauge as a 30-day inspection equivalent while necessary code changes are in progress. There are also a number of other states that are in various stages of considering the technology, but McSheffrey said he couldn’t talk about those states at press time.

In addition to working with state fire marshals on code changes, McSheffrey said

Mija is working with other groups to amend their respective codes.

“We’re looking at this from all three angles - NFPA, IFC (International Fire Code) and a state-to-state level,” he said.

At press time, the IFC code was scheduled for review in May. Language for a proposed amendment to NFPA 10, which mentions electronic monitoring but doesn’t allow for the sole use of that method for inspections, is due June 25, McSheffrey said. That code language, which has been endorsed by the National Association of State Fire Marshals, does not mandate the use of electronically monitored fire extinguishers.

While McSheffrey said he doesn’t want to “count any chickens before they hatch,” he said there is precedent for allowing technology to take the place of physical inspections.

“NFPA 72 allows for the use of an intelligent smoke detector/control unit arrangement as an acceptable means to comply with code-mandated smoke detector sensitivity checks,” McSheffrey said.

In addition to being the first state to adopt electronic monitoring, Utah is also the home of the first installation of EN-Gauge. Last fall, the University of Utah in Salt Lake City installed two of its freshman residence halls with EN-Gauge-enabled extinguishers. Since then, McSheffrey said, those are the only two halls on campus that have not had any incidents of vandalism or tampering.

Mija is also in the process of having its residential version of EN-Gauge UL listed.