Multifamily Housing Trend: Centralization of Fire Protection
Multifamily Housing Trend: Centralization of Fire Protection

By Tom Parrish |

4 minute read

Fire safety system centralization can be used to reduce risk and ensure compliance.

Although most owners and property managers are not fire safety experts, they are nevertheless tasked with keeping their residents and communities safe. To reduce the chance of incidents, maintain proper compliance with fire regulations and keep costs under control, many owners and operators are turning to the centralization of fire safety systems’ inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) activities to consolidate recordkeeping and streamline processes.

Greater Visibility and Tracking of ITM Activities

Many of the adopted fire protection codes have provisions that make the building owner responsible for the proper maintenance, testing and inspections of their onsite fire protection systems. When owners and managers operate multiple communities across many states, this can become a daunting task. 

In the past, many properties have used a “single unit” or “single site” mentality. Using this method, each community is responsible for the proper maintenance of its own fire protection systems, as well as the maintenance of the correct, required documentation of these services. (Some use a modified regional model, performing the same functions within a predetermined region or state.) 

When there is an issue with the fire safety system, or if the site experiences a fire loss event, building owners or a company’s main office may not have immediate access to important ITM records on dates of inspection, testing performed or maintenance needs cited. Additionally, if all records are located onsite, and that site experiences a fire loss, there may be no records left to review unless duplicates can be obtained from the fire protection supplier. 

Utilizing a centralized system, all records are retained by the provider in one location, typically a customer portal which all stakeholders can access. This instant access can speed up reporting and may alleviate issues with the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) requesting records. 

Cost Control Considerations

Centralizing the management and documentation of the fire protection systems maintenance can not only help alleviate common issues and provide the owner or corporate office with greater access but also can help control factors relating to cost. For example, a centralized repository of information allows the main office to stay apprised of when and which services are needed by location, keeping budgets in check. This system may also allow the services to be adjusted, so that revenue and expenses can be balanced throughout the year. 

When controlling multiple sites, either in one geographical area or spread over many, a centrally based system allows for leverage when negotiating with service providers. The quantity of locations can factor in heavily when selecting a provider, as well as offer a substantial quantity discount.

Streamlined Functioning and Consistency

With a centralized fire and life safety reporting system, property managers enjoy the ability to utilize just one phone number for all fire protection services, regardless of location across the country. Because regional managers maintain responsibility for multiple communities, a “one call for service” option allows a seamless transition for onsite managers, because each location doesn’t use a different service provider. 

Also, potential reporting data variation is eliminated using a centralized system. As fire and life safety providers vary across the country, so do reporting methods. This inconsistent quality, thoroughness and documentation of the inspection process between multiple branch offices can generate exposure and litigation risk for the customer in the aftermath of a fire or life safety emergency. 

Centralizing is a Win-Win for Stakeholders and Residents Alike

While abandoning the single property or single apartment mentality may require a change for owners and managers, the benefits far outweigh any initial growing pains. Stakeholders can take advantage of economies of scale, keeping rising costs at bay, while ensuring, with the most accurate, up-to-the-minute reporting, that their residents and properties remain safe and secure.

Tom Parrish is the Vice President of Telgian Fire Safety and the newly elected President of the national Automatic Fire Alarm Association (AFAA), as well as a retired firefighter and the retired Fire Marshal for Putnam Township, Mich. He can be reached at [email protected].



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