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Company on call for area owners.

Late one Sunday night in February, an eight-alarm fire broke out on three floors of the Bankers Trust skyscraper at 280 Park Avenue. Instantaneously, a signal was received somewhere in the Garment District by AFA Protective Systems, and the Fire Department was summoned.

AFA is the watchful eyes and ears for the owners of 5,000 commercial buildings who must comply with an array of life safety laws while making their properties safe from intruders.

AFA installs and maintains both fire and burglar systems. Signals from an array of devices, including motion detectors, smoke alarms, manual pulls, direct connects, duct detectors -- that detect smoke in air vents -- and water flow devices -- that monitor sprinklers -- are automatically transmitted by a variety of phone and radio signals to the AFA local command station.

"Every system is uniquely designed for its purpose," said Nicholas M. Chiarchiaro, Sr. co-branch manager of the Manhattan Garment Center office with Bob Schulz.

Local Law


All New York City high-rise buildings are required to have a fire command station connected to an off-site central station. These central stations must be licensed and are inspected by the Fire Department. Additionally, all fire monitoring employees are state licensed.

As a signal is received at the central station, it is automatically prioritized by computer. Lines are checked by the computers to ensure signals can be transmitted and received and the computer bank is constantly blinking with red and green test lights as signals go back and forth over the lines. If there is a problem with a line, a human monitor is notified.

When a fire signal device is tripped, a certified operator is immediately alerted and must call the Fire Department within two minutes. A building command station in a Class E building -- those buildings 100 feet or more in height -- can usually determine what device was tripped.

Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Richard Kleinman notes that AFA Protective Systems also received the signal for another recent high rise office building fire at 26 Broadway.

"We are not permitted to verify that it is a fire and not a false alarm," explains Kleinman. "We must call the Fire Department."

City rule No. 1706 also requires that Class E smoke alarms be tested and calibrated once a year and cleaned twice a year -- a service that can be provided by AFA through its maintenance contracts. Some other buildings are inspected on a quarterly or monthly basis, depending upon the building, Chiarchiaro explains.

Even in the late-1800's factory owners recognized that the installation of sprinklers could save buildings from devastation. Today, buildings with sprinklers enjoy a 50 percent insurance premium savings.

In 1973, New York City passed Local Law 5. It was the first high-rise code that dealt with both life safety and the occupation of buildings. The life safety systems required under Local Law 5, however, do not replace sprinklers or the sprinkler alarm service that is required by the insurance company.

AFA installers are trained on a wall of test equipment, which represents 50-plus years in the history of fire relay equipment. Even the oldest systems are maintained easily with off-the-shelf parts from major manufacturers.

Chiarchiaro notes that by relying on major manufacturers to conduct the research and development, AFA can keep costs down and not have to work with shoddy or inferior equipment. It means they can also wait until the newest highly computerized equipment is "debugged."

While all installers are licensed and fingerprinted, Kleinman warns about other companies, "that doesn't mean they are installing the system right." They are often called by building owners to service or repair inferior systems, particularly in cases where the original installers have walked away from the system.

Kleinman cautions that each building needs its own life safety system plan developed prior to installation and approved by the Fire Department. While electricians will often blindly follow installation instructions, if the plans are developed from another building's life safety system, they will notwork properly in your building.

AFA works with owners to develop the correct life safety installation guidelines and files the necessary documentation with the Fire Department.

Founded in Boston in 1873, the company became controlled by the Kleinman family after a 1968 anti-trust ruling. Kleinman's father, founder Philip, is chairman and president; brother Robert is executive vice president and general counsel while Nicholas J. Chiarchiaro Jr. is a sales representative.

AFA's client base includes the Empire State Building, Trump Tower, the Port Authority piers and all three major airports. AFA has protected Tiffany & Co. since 1875, and Macy's since 1911. The company maintains a corporate office and satellite connected central station in Syosset, Long Island, as well as branch offices in Boston and New Jersey. Its Garment Center central station is convenient for the New York City-based technicians who gather each morning to review new regulations, receive assignments and pick up parts and supplies for system maintenance.

AFA installs a variety of theft detection and intrusion devices such as motion and heat detectors, holdup alarms, fence sensors and wireless devices. Access controls can be customized to restrict or limit entry to certain areas while its uniquedisplays can even be programmed in certain foreign languages.

"If we are doing a job for a Spanish consulate we can program their premises display in their language," says Chiarchiaro. "We bend over backwards to accommodate our customers."
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Title Annotation:AFA Protective Systems Inc. installs and maintains fire and burglar security systems
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:May 5, 1993
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