Choosing A Service Provider

A fire extinguisher is an appliance, just like a coffee maker. The only difference between them is if the coffee maker doesn’t work, you just skip your coffee or go to Starbucks. On the other hand, if your fire extinguisher doesn’t work the one time that you need it, it could be catastrophic. Your service provider is the most important variable in making sure your equipment will work. Are you choosing your service company solely on price? This is not a safe strategy when lives and property are at stake. Liability should be your main focus, not whether he is the cheapest or nicest guy. The CA State Fire Marshal will allow a minimum level of insurance of $1,000,000. That amount may be sufficient for a small dog bite, but is nowhere near what you’ll need in the event of a real fire. Your service company should have general liability in the millions along with workman’s compensation and automotive coverage. Many fire extinguisher service companies use independent contractors which gets them off the hook for having to provide auto and workers comp. Good for them – bad for you. In this scenario, you are liable to pick up the tab for an accident on your site.

Another item of great importance is making sure that your service company is the manufacturer’s representative for your fire extinguishers. This gives you the additional umbrella of insurance commonly known as “deep pockets”. If an extinguisher doesn’t work and lawsuits follow, several million dollars of insurance is good, but may not be good enough. You want the manufacturer of the unit involved too. Is your service provider a manufacturer’s representative or just a jobber that buys from a distributor? Use Dell computers as an example. Would you buy a locally-built computer that would probably function just as well as a major computer maker and probably cost less? You probably wouldn't because the real focus is what will happen when they don’t work! With a reliable vendor, backed by the factory they represent, you can rely on being taken care of should the worst occur. A fire extinguisher service company without a manufacturer behind them and high levels of insurance is asking for trouble.

How do you protect yourself? Easy. Just call your service provider and request the following: 1. A fax of their certificate of insurance showing how much and what kind of coverage they carry (should be at least $1 million for general liability and the same for automotive) 2. Proof of employment for the service technician who will be visiting your property and proof of workers comp, 3. Look at the brand of your extinguishers, call the manufacturer(s) and ask for a list of representatives authorized by them to sell and maintain their extinguishers in your area.
Hiring a service provider who meets the above criteria may cost a little more to use, but even if it does, it's money well spent for the peace of mind it will buy you.