The Portal:
A New Dimension in Service

Posted on March 1, 2017 4:11 pm : Blog

A woman at a desk uses the ABCO Fire Customer Portal to view Fire Inspection documents.

Have you signed up for ABCO’s Customer Portal? If not, you’re missing out on one of the best parts of being an ABCO customer. The Portal allows you to access your fire protection profile in an instant, making it easy to see upcoming services, past inspection reports, and important deficiency information whenever needed.

ABCO boasts a customer retention rate of well over 90%, so many of you will remember when we teamed up with ServiceTrade a few years ago. Their software helped us revolutionize the way we interact with our customers, from digital inspection reports, to rapid deficiency alerts and timelier invoicing. Since making the move to digital we’ve been keeping track of customer inspection reports on the cloud, allowing our team to access those reports from literally anywhere with an internet connection. Now the Portal puts the same power in your hands.

At the top of this page, you’ll find a link to the “Customer Portal Login.” Clicking on it will take you to our Customer Portal landing page, where you’ll be invited to create an account. When you fill in the account creation form, be sure to use your business email where you typically receive our inspection reports and other documents. This will ensure you are given access to the proper records in our system. Once our customer service team approves your account, you will be notified and can begin accessing the Portal whenever you’d like.

What if you are responsible for multiple sites? Not a problem—in fact, you’re the customer who benefits most from this new feature. Our inspection reports are filed by Company and Location, which is kind of like the “Bill To” and the “Ship To” when you order something from Amazon. If you’re a contact for a Company (aka a “Bill To”) you’ll have access to all of the Locations (aka “Ship To”) that are connected to that company from one single Portal account. The Portal Dashboard offers several ways to sort through the locations, fire equipment, and jobs, allowing you as much or as little visibility as you’d like.

Customer Portal Multi Locations

Once in the Portal, you have access to all of your ABCO Fire service records for the past 90 days. Inspection reports, photographs, deficiency notifications, and voice memos about critical issues are all available. You’ll even be able to see a photograph and the name of the ABCO technician who performed the service. While invoices are not currently visible in the Portal, they are scheduled to become available to authorized contacts later this year.

Service Link Homepage

In the life safety industry, deficiency identification and correction are of critical importance. In the Customer Portal, jobs with deficiencies are identified with an alert icon on your Dashboard. This allows you to see at a glance which locations and fire protection assets require repairs. Clicking any of these job numbers will bring you to the ServiceLink page, which shows the deficiency in more detail under the “Alert” tab. Like invoices, deficiency repair quotes are scheduled to become available through the Portal in the near future.

Sign up for Portal access today, and feel free to contact our support team if you run into any issues. The Customer Portal is just one more way ABCO ensures we’re doing the most we can for our customers. After all, the award-winning service experience we provide is part of the reason so many have placed Trust In Our Tag for so long.

Ending the Hood Cleaning Cycle

Posted on January 25, 2017 7:01 pm : Blog

ROOFTOP FAN CLEAN 3The resource- and labor-intensive process of restaurant hood cleaning has been a fire safety necessity, but innovation promises a better way.

On the evening of March 31, 1999, a police officer noticed flames shooting into the air above a four-story rooftop several blocks away. The roof belonged to the Tropicana Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the flames were erupting from its restaurant exhaust fan. Fortunately no one was seriously injured, but the fire caused over $350,000 in damage and several weeks of down-time while extensive repairs were made to the building. The causes? An unattended cooking appliance, heavy grease accumulation in the exhaust duct, and the use of improper filters in the restaurant hood. (Click to read the full case study in Fire Engineering Magazine)

A man in a yellow tyvek suit holds a pressure washing wand on a rooftop.Incidents like this occur regularly to this day—in fact, 7,640 of them occur annually according to the National Fire Protection Association.Those fires in eating and drinking establishments result in an annual average of 2 deaths, 115 injuries, and over $245 million in total property loss. Naturally, the majority of these fires start in cooking equipment and grease-coated exhaust hoods and ducts. While safety measures like fire suppression systems and fire extinguishers are required by code, grease accumulation can substantially hamper the effectiveness of these devices. In the case of the Tropicana Casino, the fire spread so quickly through accumulated grease in the exhaust duct that the flames passed by the heat detectors of the kitchen fire system without setting it off.

These facts lead commercial kitchen operators to participate in an unending battle against grease accumulation in their exhaust systems. Commercial hood cleaners are the ones on the front lines of that battle, working odd hours, wearing stifling protective gear, handling caustic chemicals, and scaling grease-coated rooftops in all kinds of weather. The cleaners are a tough breed who take pride in their work, but they realize it’s only a temporary fix. As soon as cooking begins again, grease will begin accumulating in the hood until it is removed.

A man in protective gear cleaning a commercial kitchen hood.

ABCO hood cleaner Brandon Kuenzer sprays down the interior of a restaurant exhaust hood.

“Every hood is a time bomb,” Allen Walker explains colorfully. The hood cleaning manager at ABCO Fire Protection, Allen doesn’t sugarcoat the threat grease poses to commercial kitchens. “When we perform a hood and duct cleaning we reset the timer, and if we don’t reset it, it’s not a question of if but when it’s going to go off.”

Seeing hood cleaners do their job results in the same sentiment by many: there’s got to be a better way. When the environmental impact of hood cleaning is taken into account, many realize there needs to be a better way.The average restaurant hood cleaning service uses approximately 15 gallons of de-greasing chemical and several hundred gallons of water. In some cities the resulting slurry of chemicals, grease, and water is allowed to be disposed of directly into sanitary sewers. In other areas it must first be collected and treated with an agent to neutralize its pH before being disposed of. In any case, hood cleaning is a labor- and resource-intensive process that does nothing to prevent grease from accumulating in hoods and ducts as soon as cooking starts again.

The interior of a large garbage pail containing dark liquid.

The product of hood cleaning: a slurry of chemicals, grease, creosote, and water.

The ideal solution to the problems associated with kitchen hood cleaning would be a method to extract the grease from cooking exhaust before it ever enters the actual exhaust system—and the folks at Shepherd Filters are working on it. In its current form, their woolen filter product prevents up to 98% of grease-laden vapors from ever entering a restaurant exhaust system. Small amounts of grease can still get through, so the hood will still need to be cleaned occasionally. However, a simple inspection is often all that is required to remain compliant with NFPA codes.

Shepherd Filters has also kept sustainability in mind in the development of their product. Their filters are made of 100% wool, which is both biodegradable and naturally flame-retardant. The baffles that hold the woolen sheets in place are made of high quality stainless steel, allowing them to withstand years of use without needing to be replaced. Sustainable wool also helps the product fit within the tight profit margins of the restaurant business—each filter sheet only costs a few cents. ABCO’s real-world trials with the product have provided restaurant owners with substantial savings versus the cost of regular kitchen exhaust cleaning.

A commercial vent hood with wool filters installed.

A recent Shepherd Filters installation at a Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse in Ohio.

While restaurants fires are still a daily occurrence, innovation promises a future brightened by safer, greener, and more efficient commercial kitchens. At the forefront of this progress are Shepherd Filters, offering a realistic alternative to the traditional cycle of grease accumulation and hood cleaning. This product puts commercial kitchen fire safety in the hands of the kitchen operator, and the result is a safer facility, more economical operation, and reduced environmental impact.

As part of our commitment to delivering the best fire protection solutions the industry has to offer, ABCO Fire has recently begun distributing Shepherd Filters. After several case studies with some of our trusted long-term restaurant customers, we are now proud to make this product available to commercial kitchens across the United States. Visit our Shepherd Filters landing page to learn more, and contact us when you’re ready to put them to work in your kitchen.

Gallery: Enriching Our Communities

Posted on December 21, 2016 3:29 pm : Blog

Members of the ABCO team and IAFF Local 93 pose with some of the recipients of Operation Warm coats.

Members of the ABCO team and IAFF Local 93 pose with some of the recipients of Operation Warm coats.

 “At ABCO, we exist to enrich the communities that we live and work in.”

– Our Mission Statement

The ABCO Fire gift basket donated to Chive charities to auction off.

The ABCO Fire gift basket donated to Chive charities to auction off.

The fire protection business is about serving communities by playing our role in keeping them safe. At ABCO, we take that notion of service one step further by making it our mission to enrich those communities as well. Our team takes this mission to heart, and the last few months of 2016 offered a snapshot of what that means.

In October, our Cincinnati branch got together with Chive charities to help a young girl with a rare disease. They assembled this fire-safety-themed gift basket that included a fire extinguisher lamp made by one of our team members. The basket went on to fetch more than any other item auctioned off at the event!

In November, our Bowling Green (KY) team supported the Alzheimer’s Association by sponsoring and participating in the Checkered Flag Chase 5K. This event was coordinated by the Bowling Green Area Lodging Association, and raised a total of approximately $3500 for Alzheimer’s awareness and research.

Our Bowling Green (KY) Checkered Flag Chase 5K team.

Our Bowling Green (KY) Checkered Flag Chase 5K team.

December was a big month for community enrichment at ABCO, with our Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, Port Clinton, and Toledo branches participating in two extremely successful events. Our Cleveland and Akron teams helped Cleveland Firefighters Local 93 with their Operation Warm campaign. Through employee donations with a company match, ABCO’s Cleveland and Akron teams were able to raise enough funds to purchase 40 of the new American-made coats that went to underprivileged kids in the Cleveland area. A couple of our team members were able to help deliver the coats to those kids and witness first-hand how appreciated they were.

ABCO's Toledo team with the students of Vanguard Tech Center before donating their stuffed animals at the Toledo Children's Hospital.

ABCO’s Toledo team with the students of Vanguard Tech Center before donating their stuffed animals at the Toledo Children’s Hospital.

Also in December, our Toledo, Port Clinton, and Columbus branches brought smiles to the kids at Toledo Children’s Hospital. The Vanguard Tech Center in Fremont, OH, held a campaign called Stuffed with Love that brought a new stuffed animal to every child in the hospital during the holiday season. Through employee donations with a company match, ABCO was able to donate a full day’s worth of stuffed animals. We even raised a bit more than needed and were able to make a donation to Ronald McDonald House.

We played our part, but the real stars of these events were the organizations that put them together. Our deepest thanks goes out to those who planned these campaigns for embodying our mission and giving us a chance to give back locally. We hope you’ll join us in enriching our communities in 2017 and beyond.

Worth Our Salt

Posted on November 18, 2016 3:30 pm : Blog

2,000 feet below Lake Erie, ABCO protects safe winter driving.

Two miners and a red bulldozer inside the mine.

Salt is so common, so easy to obtain, and so inexpensive that we have forgotten that from the beginning of civilization until about 100 years ago, salt was one of the most sought-after commodities in human history.

Mark Kurlansky, Salt: A World History

While true for most of us, a few members of ABCO’s team know better: salt is not easy to obtain. Two thousand feet below Lake Erie, they inspect fire protection equipment throughout miles of caverns that belong to a familiar name—Morton Salt. While Morton is best known for filling small ceramic pilgrims on Thanksgiving dinner tables, the salt from this mine isn’t destined to add flavor to mashed potatoes. This is working salt: it’s as tough as the environment it comes from, and as hard as the hands that pull it from the ground. This is road salt.

A dark mine tunnel lit at the end by the lights of a vehicle.

Click any image for higher resolution.

At 6:00 am Charlie Seigler is riding a double-decker elevator down a mine shaft in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, with 13 miners and one co-worker by his side. Charlie is a special hazards suppression technician for ABCO Fire, and is on his way to service one of the vehicle fire suppression systems in the mine. With him today is another special hazards technician, Gabe Perme. The elevator sways a bit—a normal part of its operation—causing Gabe to quickly glance at the faces of the miners, looking for reassurance that the movement wasn’t cause for alarm.

“It’s an interesting place to work, I’ve never been in any other place like it and probably never will,” says Perme. “I always get a bit nervous on my way down, but the way I figure it, if these seasoned guys are unfazed I know I’m good.”

Perme and Seigler both had to attend a week’s worth of safety training to work down here, and the entire facility is held to rigorous safety standards. That’s part of the reason the team is here today: while most businesses have their portable extinguishers inspected annually, Morton has them inspected monthly. Periodic maintenance of the fire suppression systems is spread out a bit more based on mine safety code requirements, and they also take longer to inspect.

“When the systems are due for maintenance, it takes three of us three weeks to inspect them all,” says Seigler. “When Morton first hired us, we worked with the customer’s schedule to get all fire suppression system maintenance on the same cycle,” he continued, “life is much easier for both ABCO and Morton as a result.”

Rob Meadwell, Underground Maintenance General Foreman at Morton Salt’s Fairport Harbor mine, echoed that sentiment.

“ABCO’s guys are on-point with scheduling and follow-up,” says Meadwell. “They understand the challenges of our business, and the production demands we’re under—especially this time of year. We used to do our own monthly extinguisher inspections, but these guys adhere to the schedule and we never have to worry about it.”

a variety of equipment in a large underground cavern.

Click any image for higher resolution.

Four and a half minutes after beginning their elevator ride, the technicians and miners exit into the caverns below the lake. Seigler is here today to recharge a dry chemical vehicle system that went off accidentally.

“Everything gets coated in salt down here, and that salt is cleaned off regularly,” says Seigler, “that can cause even the toughest components to corrode, and every once in a while that can result in a false discharge.”

Vehicle fire suppression systems are designed to protect the areas of a vehicle that are most likely to suffer a blaze, such as the engine, hydraulic lines, and occasionally battery compartment. The systems are exposed to constant vibration and environmental hazards, and are ruggedly built to overcome these challenges. Seigler approaches a front-end loader that has been taken out of service, and points to the fire system cylinder mounted atop one of the machine’s fenders. The installation of these systems is half mechanics, half art.

“The system installers have to make the most of the limited space they can work with,” says Seigler. “Sometimes the system tank winds up being exposed just because there’s no place else to put it.”

While Seigler gets to work on the system, Perme begins pacing through the mine stopping to check extinguishers mounted on posts and pieces of equipment. He points out the suppression systems as he passes them.

“That conveyor has a system on it, so does that machine over there,” he says pointing to a squat yellow vehicle. “Except for the small loaders and people movers, pretty much everything has a fire system on it.”

A yellow bulldozer climbing a large mound of blue salt beneath blue skies.

Click any image for higher resolution.

Up on the surface, more equipment is protected by ABCO. Front-end loaders, industrial equipment, and a handful of flammable storage buildings dot a landscape dominated by mountains of blue-dyed salt. In all, more than 60 industrial fire suppression systems can be found throughout the site, each protecting a vehicle or portion of the facility with dry chemical or carbon dioxide. The mountains of salt drift and change shape throughout the year as the mineral is pulled from the ground or hauled off in dump trucks. Every time the salt moves, the people and machines that move it are protected by ABCO.

“The relationship we’ve developed really works well for both parties,” says Meadwell, referring to the level of service ABCO has brought to Morton Salt over the past several years. “ABCO’s guys bring a positive attitude and professionalism that we really appreciate.”

Once the snow starts to fly and ice coats roadways across much of ABCO’s territory, the salt is loaded into plows to help make winter driving safer. Shimmying in a hopper on the back of a snow plow waiting to melt the glaze off a slick roadway, the salt is moved one last time—and the plow driver likely has an ABCO extinguisher within reach.

For more information about vehicle fire suppression systems or other industrial fire suppression options, contact our offices at 800-875-7200.

Photos by Ricky Rhodes.

From Fireteams to Fire Sprinklers

Posted on November 10, 2016 5:15 pm : Blog

ABCO’s Veterans Explain Why Our Industry is a Perfect Fit.

For decades marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen have found ABCO to be a great fit for them after leaving the service. It’s no secret that veterans make great employees (just Google “why hire veterans”), and we regularly find that many of those who contribute the most to our mission have a military background. For that reason we’re passionate about recruiting those who have served, and our current workforce consists of veterans of Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a variety of peacetime operations.

So why does fire protection seem to be such a good fit for military veterans?

Purpose & Teamwork

Black & white newspaper photo of a US Marine. According to Brian Hoffman, it’s about having a sense of purpose and a common goal. Before becoming a special hazards suppression salesman out of ABCO’s Cambridge (OH) office, Corporal Hoffman served in the US Marine Corps between 1990 and 1994. He received a Certificate of Commendation for his actions during the Gulf War.

“Similar to serving in the military, at ABCO we work as a team to protect lives each day,” says Hoffman, “and a team with the same goals will be successful.”

A male soldier in uniform in the desert during 2004-2011 war.

Sgt. Chris McDaniel

Chris McDaniel backed him up on the sentiment. Now a sprinkler fitter out of ABCO’s Cleveland headquarters, Sergeant McDaniel served in the US Marine Corps from 2004 until the end of 2011. A fireteam squad leader during the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, few are more qualified to talk about the importance of teamwork.

“Small team cohesion is important here,” says McDaniel, referring to the small, dynamic crews he works with when installing fire sprinkler systems. “Each individual has a role to play in order to get the job done.”

Merrick Murphy echoed this, based on his experience in Vietnam.

“Similar to the fire protection industry, you learned to work with others in order to accomplish a common goal,” said Murphy of his time in the service. First Lieutenant Murphy was a fire direction officer with a US Army artillery unit who served actively from 1965 until 1967, and on reserve until 1971. He now works closely with Hoffman in special hazards suppression sales.


Focus & Preparation

Two men in US Navy uniforms shaking hands and smiling.

ABH Len Sabo’s promotion to E-4.

Adding a different perspective was Leonard Sabo, an accounts payable specialist at ABCO’s corporate office. While serving in the US Navy from 1996 until 1999, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Sabo was stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He assisted in DEA operations and played a role in ensuring the base was always prepared for attack, both of which he says help him in his career at ABCO.

Headshot of an American sailor in uniform, early 1990s.

EN3 Ron Burton

“My time in the service helped me establish the attention to detail necessary to complete my tasks at work,” says Sabo. “Plus, ABCO puts such a heavy focus on training, which was also a big part of being in the service,” he added, “here and in the Navy, properly trained personnel are keys in making sure that jobs are accomplished safely, on-time, and utilizing correct procedures.”

Ron Burton, who also served in the US Navy, put a different spin on the importance of preparation.

“In the Navy I learned how important fire protection and prevention is, and also learned a thing or two about being prepared,” says Burton. “When you’re on a ship out at sea you need to learn to work with what you have,” he continues, “that idea is important when you’re heading out to job sites and need to make sure you’re prepared so you can finish your job.” Burton is a suppression system installer and inspector at ABCO’s Cincinnati branch, and served aboard the tank landing ship USS Tuscaloosa as an Engineman 3rd Class, 1989-1993.

So, why do former military members answer the call when ABCO is hiring?

“Once out of the service, a career in fire protection is just a natural next step for veterans. It’s a great fit for a veteran’s lifestyle,” says Ron Burton.

We’re glad so many think so, and we thank current and former US and allied military personnel for their service—especially those at ABCO.

If you’re a veteran who would like to join ABCO’s team, visit the “Join Our Team” page of our website.

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