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There’s a lot more to preventing fire than just making sure burners are turned off after cooking food, because ensuring the effectiveness of most fire prevention technologies requires regular maintenance.

“(People) should be testing their smoke detectors or smoke alarms in their houses,” said Ryan Doherty, General Manager of Fire Prevention Services Ltd. “There is a date on those detectors, and they’ll show the end of life date on them.”

The prevention services company, one of a small number of its kind in Yellowknife, has been working with government, corporate and residential clients all over the NWT and Nunavut since 1999.

Dave K. Welch, manager of the sprinkler division with Fire Prevention Services Ltd, tests a fire pump at the Diavik Diamond Mine.
photo courtesy of Fire Prevention Services Ltd

The operation’s focus is on the installation, service and maintenance of fire alarms, sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers for land and marine vehicles, server rooms and kitchens, among others.

“We’re on an on-call basis too, so if a fire alarm system goes down or a sprinkler system goes down somewhere in Nunavut, we get on a plane and we’re up there getting things back on track,” Doherty said.

Business is “always booming,” he added, because fire safety codes require that company sites, even closed mines under care, keep their fire prevention measures updated monthly and annually.

Clients in the mining industry, including active, remediation and exploration sites, have been the company’s biggest customers in terms of revenue return.

“We do everything across the board and we’re a one-stop shop in Yellowknife. We don’t need to sub (contract) or send anything south,” Doherty said.

The company also helps homeowners and apartment buildings keep up with fire extinguisher maintenance.

“In the residential sector, it’s usually just extinguishers. They should be serviced annually. It’s kind of hard to get across. I like Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 4-10), it kind of drives it to the forefront.

“(Extinguishers) sit for a long time, and they could lose pressure. Over time, the powder inside the extinguisher packs down. In some instances, it can get rock hard, so you go to use the extinguisher and it won’t work. If they find that any of these things aren’t working, they should be giving us a call.”

A safety risk that Doherty finds many people overlook is carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas released from burning fuels, wood or charcoal.

“That is the silent killer, the odourless killer. A lot of people don’t have carbon monoxide detectors in their houses. I’d really love to (encourage) people to buy and install carbon monoxide detectors. We sell the combo units now where it’s one detector with two sensors built in for smoke and carbon monoxide.

“It tells you in French and in English whether it’s smoke or if it’s carbon monoxide.”

The Covid-19 pandemic slowed down the company’s activities in the first few weeks after the virus arrived in the NWT due to customers in the fire extinguisher sector taking some time to manage their approach to social distancing.

Other sectors experienced a boost in activity when clients who had sent staff home had empty premises where Doherty’s workers could maintain fire alarms and sprinklers without worrying about coming into contact with customers.

With clients in Nunavut, Doherty said the company was able to meet open demand when southern contractors couldn’t complete jobs because it was uneconomical to self-isolate for two weeks before they could work.

“We were either getting subcontracted by southern contractors, or customers in town were using us because they didn’t want to pay for the two-week isolation,” he said.

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Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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