Mark Murray, Executive Vice President, Commercial Fire
On January 29, 2021, five patients died after a fire broke out at a COVID-19 hospital in Romania's capital, Bucharest. In less than three months, this was the second deadly hospital fire in the country. Even though health authorities acknowledged fire safety “irregularities” across multiple healthcare facilities, including one that took place in November 2020, killing ten patients and injuring a doctor, no formal actions have been taken—at least reality would suggest.
Given that patient health and safety have always been the top priority for healthcare institutions, such incidents bring an essential question to attention: are the places we go to seek medical help really safe? Sadly, there is no clear-cut answer. Unfortunately, fires in healthcare facilities continue to take place worldwide.
In 2017, nearly 80 patients were evacuated after a fire caused a small explosion at a Puerto Rican hospital. A fire safety study on Indian hospitals revealed more than 33 major fire incidents from January 2010 to December 2019. And a fire broke out at a hospital in Burnaby, Canada, which contributed to the spread of COVID-19. Topping the charts, in many ways, would be the United States, with an estimated 6,719 incidents of fires reported in healthcare, detention, and correction facilities, from 2014 to 2018, despite stringent fire safety codes. Ignoring these codes is also against the law in the United States, and any facility doing so would be held liable.
These examples paint a cautionary picture of how safe our healthcare facilities are. Though rendering patient-centric medical services take center stage in ensuring patient care, their safety can only be complete by implementing strict Fire and Safety protocols and the right kind of safety equipment. While doctors, nurses, and caregivers focus on positive patient outcomes, facility managers and administrators must leave no stone unturned to ensure safety. There is no room for error. While this is old news, musing over why such incidents still occur reveals the healthcare system's gaping hole. Hospitals, medical centers, doctor's offices, and nursing homes, among others, partner with the local Fire and Life safety companies for their service needs. Due to multiple locations, healthcare organizations often have to deal with various regional Fire and Life safety vendors and different authorities having jurisdiction, making compliance and adequate fire protection a daunting endeavor. Instead, what is needed is a consolidated vendor program to accomplish all work related to Fire and Life safety.
Protecting people and property from fire is “an art as well as science.” While the work at the ground level is a science, things become a bit more complicated when it comes to multi-site locations. At scale, it requires a high level of organization and communication, and that is where Commercial Fire comes in. “As Fire and Life safety is code-driven and can vary by state and local jurisdiction, a national partner like Commercial Fire can help clients with today's uncertain regulatory environment and ensure compliance. From coast to coast, we provide a single point of contact, eliminating the need to coordinate with multiple service providers,” says Mark Murray, Executive Vice President, Commercial Fire.
With over thirty years of expertise in Fire and Life safety, Commercial Fire is leading a paradigm shift with a consolidated nationwide turnkey program covering all 50 U.S. states, Canada, and the Caribbean.
Our seamless technology infrastructure connects practice administrators with what's happening on the ground at their facilities
The company is a one-stop-shop and a singular point of communication for facility managers in the healthcare industry to manage everything related to Fire and Life Safety in a building. This includes, but is not limited to, fire extinguishers, fire sprinkler and backflow devices, fire alarm systems, kitchen fire suppressions systems, emergency and exit lights, fire hose and standpipes, special hazard fire, and kitchen exhaust cleaning. “At Commercial Fire, our goal is simple. We want to ensure your patients and staff safety while also ensuring your facility is up to Fire and Life safety codes and regulations,” asserts Murray. The company does this by offering a full line of Fire and Life safety services, with nationwide coverage and the industry's most reliable affiliate partner network.
Evolving into a National Leader
Since its inception, Commercial Fire has served various industries, addressing their customer's diverse requirements. Commercial Fire's roots date back to 1988, in Jacksonville, FL. The company began offering Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning (KEC) service statewide and, eventually, throughout the Southeast. By 1996, they were the first nationwide KEC service provider in all 50 states. During the early 2000s, Commercial Fire entered into the fire protection services market at the urging of their existing customer base, focusing on two specific industry verticals—restaurants and retail.
“These chain businesses realized early on the need to go to a consolidated-vendor-type program. So we came in, offering a single point of contact to manage all their needs, regardless of where their facilities were located or the service they needed. Commercial Fire is fully equipped to organize, maintain, and service all of their Fire and Life safety needs,” says Murray.
Over the next decade, the company expanded its fire protection services across the country, providing KEC or Fire and Life safety service in over 100,000 commercial buildings and healthcare practices. As the company’s footprint grew, so did its demographic. They began catering to various sectors, including banking, convenience stores, education, entertainment, and healthcare. “Our services and national presence, augmented by industry experts, trained and certified within their respective fields, ensure overall fire protection and life safety compliance at both the corporate and local levels,” says Murray. “Our Fire and Life safety services are provided through a nationwide affiliate partner network, comprising thousands of companies – each insured, certified, and licensed to serve multiple states equally.
Over the last few years, Commercial Fire has focused its efforts on bringing to light the importance of Fire and Life safety within healthcare facilities. Their strides hold immense value during the pandemic, given the surge in patient admission and the ever-growing need to be compliant. “While Fire and Life safety has always been important for healthcare institutions, COVID-19 has compelled them to shift their priorities. The Department of Homeland Security classified Fire and Life Safety as an "essential" business at the beginning of the shutdown because of the danger of ignoring facility safety. So we maintained our 24/7/365 monitoring, despite the pandemic because of our professional responsibility to do so. We've used multiple conferencing platforms to stay in constant touch with our employees, including a mobile app for iOS and Android devices. And, as there was no option to meet clients personally, Commercial Fire even began rendering services online,” says Murray. “Our goal was to make sure that everybody in our industry understood that Fire and Life safety needed to stay open.”
“From coast to coast, we provide you a single point of contact, eliminating the need to coordinate multiple service providers for Fire and Life safety equipment, maintenance, and service"
Be it virtually or face-to-face; the Commercial Fire team built a program that gives healthcare companies, with multiple sites, a singular point of contact to ensure their Fire and Life Safety requirements are met. The company delivers an IT solution that can be integrated with a practice administrator’s information system to issue work orders or direct work, if any, enabling them to track all of their Fire and Life safety projects seamlessly across all locations. Medical offices with numerous locations lack critical information on the type, age, and spend of Fire and Life safety equipment in each of their buildings.
To that end, Commercial Fire has built a mobile app whereby their technicians capture all this information during the inspection of the sites and update it periodically. They can take pictures of repairs needed and upload them to their customer database and client's information systems. “Our seamless technology infrastructure connects facility administrators with what's happening on the ground at their facilities,” says Murray. This goes a long way in helping companies plan annual budgets, forecast costs for the next year, and ascertain what equipment needs to be replaced or upgraded. They can also be informed of the inspections carried out at every facility and receive a confirmation when all the buildings are compliant. As Fire and Life safety is code-driven and can vary by state and local jurisdiction, a national partner, like Commercial Fire, can help multi-site healthcare practices navigate changing laws and regulations and ensure compliance for the safety of their practice, staff, and patients.