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An Ounce of Prevention

There’s a new rule regulating the decals and tags that serve as proof of the periodic inspection, cleaning, and servicing of fire extinguishers. According to the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) website, the new rule, which went into effect on June 1, is intended to crack down on fraudulent inspections. The decals and tags will be issued by the FDNY and will include security measures to prevent counterfeiting.

But co-op and condo boards may also want to consider an electronic monitoring system to ensure that their extinguishers are functioning between inspections. En-Gauge, a Massachusetts-based company, has designed an electronic monitoring gauge that is added to the extinguisher and reports on “whether the equipment is overcharged or undercharged, whether it has has been tampered with, or is missing from its mount, or has something in front of it, blocking it,” says Craig Dever, vice president of sales and marketing at Colorado-based Inovonics, which manufactures the transmitters for En-Gauge’s sensors.

Dever adds that electronic monitoring can save lives. He points to cases in which an extinguisher malfunctioned during a fire because the seal had been damaged and it hadn’t been noticed because the damage occurred between monthly inspections. “Once you’ve broken the seal, the equipment loses pressure,” he says. “There’s no way to know unless you take it off the wall and monitor the gauge.”

Although digital monitoring could eliminate the monthly inspection, the building still has to perform an annual test. Missing, damaged, or malfunctioning fire extinguishers can lead to fines for code violations, expenses to replace the devices, and even death. “With electronic monitoring,” says Dever, “you have a more complete job.”

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