There are many criteria and parameters to consider on this topic. Although each topic could be dissected into many pages, I would consider the following risk assessment items:
- Performance of agent. Make sure you are confident in what you choose.
- Safety. Feel comfortable with the safety features of both the system and the agent itself.
- Availability. Agent recharge is frequently a major concern. Make sure you are comfortable with the number of contractors who support the agent you choose.
- System options. Many times the application is complex and requires very customized solutions. Ensure you understand the capabilities and benefits of not only the agent itself, but the way the agent is delivered to the space... the system. There are differences amongst manufacturers.
- Service. There are many contractors out there that will tell you, 'we can do that'. In reality it is prudent to ensure you work directly with (or as closely as you can) to a respected fire protection contractor, who is authorized by the manufacturer of the system you choose.
- Cost. This will always come into play. However, rather than evaluating just the proposal by the local contractor, consider all the intangible elements of cost that might go into your choice. The cheapest option is not always the best. A colleague of mine used to say, "The bitter taste of poor quality, lingers long after the sweetness of low bid is forgotten".
Bottom line here: this is a very complex question. For a more indepth discussion on any or each topic, feel free to E-mail me directly.
This was first published in June 2006