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Fire_Sprinkler_Systems by huanghengdong


                                                                                                   A TECHNICAL PUBLICATION OF ASSE’S
                                                                                                   FIRE PROTECTION PRACTICE SPECIALTY

                        VOLUME 1 • NUMBER 1

                                                                                                                           PAGE 2
                                                                                                                           Fire Protec-
                                                                                                                           tion Practice
                                                                                                            D              Specialty

                                                                                                                           PAGE 4
                                                                                                                           Sofa Super
                                                                                                                           Store Fire,
                                                                                                            D              Part 2

                                                                                                                           PAGE 14
                                                                                                            D              Three Classes

Fire Sprinkler Systems                                                                                                     PAGE 18
Inspection, testing and maintenance of sprinkler                                                                           Newly
systems are critical to fire safety and a focus                                                             D              Approved
on many elements.        BY WALTER S. BEATTIE, CSP, CFPS, CSHM

              his is the first in a series                          matic sprinkler protection. Country-
              of articles on the inspec-                            wide, many municipalities also                  See page 3
              tion, testing and mainte-                             require certain occupancies to be             for a complete
                                              Many large cor-
              nance of water-based fire      porations require      sprinkler-protected. The municipality       Table of Contents.
              protection systems. This        that all of their     in which I live requires that all new
article, which focuses on wet pipe              facilities have     residential construction have auto-
                                             automatic sprin-
sprinkler systems, provides a practi-         kler protection.      matic sprinkler protection. Today,
cal review of what should be includ-         Many municipali-       many more people than in the past
ed in a typical program. Your pro-            ties also require     work or live in buildings protected
                                             certain occupan-
gram should be customized to meet             cies to be sprin-     with automatic sprinklers.
your specific needs.                           kler-protected.         Building owners rely on these
    Many large corporations require                                 systems to protect the facilities,
that all of their facilities have auto-                                             continued on page 9

                         FROM THE COVER

Fire Sprinkler Systems                   standpipe and hose, fixed water
continued from page 1                    spray and foam water protection sys-
processes and people. As with any        tems. It covers these systems’ com-
emergency system, the time to test       ponents, such as private fire service
its readiness is not during a fire. The mains and appurtenances, fire pumps
presence of sprinkler heads should       and water storage tanks, and valves
never lull anyone into a false sense     that control system flow. It does not
of security. The best way to know        cover residential installations for
that the systems are ready is through one- and two-family dwellings and
a documented inspection, testing and manufactured homes.
maintenance program.                         NFPA 25 also addresses proper
    The primary standard in use in       impairment handling and reporting
most companies and municipalities        for instances when the system or a
is NFPA 25, Standard for the             portion of it is out of service (which
Inspection, Testing and Maintenance was discussed in the Winter 2008
of Water-Based Fire Protection           Fireline article, “Handling
Systems. NFPA 25 establishes the         Impairments to Fire Protection
minimum requirements for the peri- Systems”). It is important to follow            review. Ultimately, it is the
odic inspection, testing and mainte-     an impairment procedure that              property owner’s responsi-
nance of water-based fire protection includes the notification of depart-          bility to ensure that the
systems. It is not an optimum stan-      ment heads, the fire department,          systems are properly serv-
dard. Rather, it is the minimum, and alarm company and insurance com-              iced. Tenants may also
the level of action NFPA 25 requires pany, if applicable.                          want to ensure that the
is the base from which you should            Hazardous operations, such as         work is completed satisfac-
start and improve upon to meet your      welding and cutting, should be pro-       torily. Management should
facility’s needs.                        hibited during times of impaired pro-     review completed reports
    Many facilities I visit do not have  tection. A hidden impairment is one       and correct deficiencies.                  (Top): Wall-mount-
an adequately documented inspection, about which no one is aware. This             An inspection and testing program is       ed, post-indication
maintenance and testing program in       could be a shut valve that was not        of limited value if identified system      control valve with
                                         opened after a prior repair or a mal-                                                wrench, lock and
accordance with NFPA 25. Some do                                                   deficiencies are never corrected.          valve tamper alarm
not keep written records of inspec-      function of a system component.                                                      supervision.
tions, while others conduct no testing. Hidden impairments should be                RECORDS, PLANS & CALCULATIONS             (Bottom): Post-indi-
A facility without a documented pro- addressed quickly, and a follow-up               It is important to maintain the orig-   cation control valve
                                                                                                                              with wrench, lock
gram is not meeting NFPA 25’s            study should be conducted to prevent      inal as-built installation drawings,       and valve tamper
intent. The program must include         a recurrence.                             hydraulic calculations, original accept-   alarm supervision.
documentation. If it is not document-        A comprehensive program in-           ance test records, component device
ed, most authorities having jurisdic-    cludes the following elements:            manufacturer’s data sheets and letters
tion (AHJs) will be skeptical that the       •Inspection. A visual examination     regarding system review and accept-
activities have been completed.          of a system to verify that it appears     ance. These documents are a valuable
    A program that meets the mini-       to be in operating condition and is       source of information when perform-
mums stated in NFPA 25 is an ongo- free of physical damage.                        ing process of change reviews, devel-
ing program, which typically                 •Testing. A physical trying or        oping emergency plans or changing
requires weekly interaction with the     operation of a system or part of a sys-   the occupancy. Your insurer will most
systems. It should not be a program      tem to ensure or prove that it is func-   likely request this documentation to
that is solely carried out by a sprin-   tioning properly, as intended or to an    assist in its review of the facility.
kler contractor. You are ultimately      acceptable standard of operation.            NFPA 25 identifies the minimum
responsible for your systems, have           •Maintenance. The work per-           requirements for the routine inspec-
staff familiar with your facility’s sys- formed to repair and/or maintain          tion, testing and maintenance of the
tems and know what actions to take       equipment in operable condition.          various systems that may be present
in the event of an emergency. It is          The service may be performed by       in water-based fire protection sys-
unlikely that the sprinkler contractor   trained in-house staff or a qualified     tems. The following chapters in
will be on site at the time of a fire or contractor. As with any inspection,       NFPA 25 identify actions to take:
other emergency that involves the        maintenance and testing program,             •Chapter 5—Sprinkler Systems
fire protection systems.                 good recordkeeping is important.             •Chapter 6—Standpipe and Hose
                                         Written logs should be maintained,        Systems
  SYSTEMS INCLUDED IN NFPA 25            and relevant results should be               •Chapter 7—Private Fire Service
    NFPA 25 addresses sprinkler,         retained for future reference or AHJ      Mains

    Sprinkler riser                                                                 system at your         may use a similar format to develop a
  with inside but-
     terfly control
                                                                                    facility as they are   table with site-specific frequencies.
valve. The indica-                                                                  with other build-
   tor in line with                                                                 ing systems.                     SPRINKLER SYSTEMS
the pipe indicates                                                                                             Chapter 5 of NFPA 25 outlines
 open. If the indi-
                                                                                        If a sprinkler
  cator is aligned                                                                  contractor per-        the minimum requirements for sprin-
  across the pipe,                                                                  forms system test-     kler system inspection, testing and
       the valve is                                                                                        maintenance. In practice, many peo-
                                                                                    ing and mainte-
                                                                                    nance, you should      ple think of their sprinkler system as
                                                                                    also make it a         the overall system, including the
                                                                                    practice to per-       yard mains, fire pumps, water stor-
                                                                                    form in-house          age tanks and all associated valves.
                                                                                    inspections as         While the entire system acts togeth-
                                                                                    well. Weekly           er, each chapter in NFPA 25 covers a
                                                                                    visual checks can      different component. The sprinkler
                                                                                    familiarize            system can be thought of as the por-
                                                                                    employees with         tion of the sprinkler system, which is
                                                                                    the equipment,         above the floor in the building.
                                                                                    increase their             A typical sprinkler system will be
                                                                                    confidence in          comprised of the riser, alarm check
                                                                                    using it and pro-      valve, riser appurtenances, alarm
                                                                                    vide a better          devices, fire department connection,
                                                                                    understanding of       pipes and fittings to hold the pipes
                                                                                    how the system         together and to provide a fitting for
                                                                                    works. Should a        the sprinkler heads, and hangers. Each
                                                                                    fire or emergency      component should be tested and list-
                          •Chapter 8—Fire Pumps               occur, they will know the location of        ed/approved by a recognized laborato-
                          •Chapter 9—Water Storage Tanks      control valves and can verify that the       ry such as Underwriters Laboratories
                          •Chapter 10—Water Spray Fixed       valves are open at the time of a fire.       (UL-listed) or Factory Mutual
                       Systems                                   For sprinkler systems, create a           Approvals LLC (FM-approved).
                          •Chapter 11—Foam-Water              table or chart that lists valves, activity       Chapter 5 also contains a summary
                       Sprinkler Systems                      and frequency. Figure 1 shows a sam-         of items and activity for sprinkler sys-
                          •Chapter 12—Water Mist              ple format used in many facilities. You      tems (in Table 5.1, Summary of
                       Systems                                                                                   Sprinkler System Inspection,
                          •Chapter 13—Valves, Valve                                                              Testing and Maintenance). It also
                       Components and Trim                                                                       includes a reminder to notify the
                          •Chapter 14—Obstruction                                                                alarm supervisory service. If an
                       Investigation                                                                             alarm service monitors your fire
                          •Chapter 15—Impairments                                                                protection system, a notification
                                                                                                                 can help avoid false alarms and
                         SETTING UP AN INSPECTION                                                                unnecessary fire department
                                   PROGRAM                                                                       response. The alarm service
                          The inspection program                                                                 should be called before conduct-
                       should be written and docu-                                                               ing any test or procedure that
                       mented. Some companies pre-                                                               could activate an alarm.
                       fer to subcontract a portion of                                                              Likewise, after testing is
                       the inspection, maintenance and                                                           completed, the alarm service
                       testing to a sprinkler contractor.                                                        should be called to verify that it
                       This is a good option for many,                                                           received all alarms tripped and
                       especially those without an                                                               to place the alarm system back
                       established maintenance depart-                                                           in service. Many alarm compa-
                       ment. A sprinkler contractor                                                              nies will take the system out of
                       may also identify missed items.                                                           service for a predetermined
                       However, it is still your respon-                                                        Note the damage to the alarm
                       sibility to maintain the system.                                                         equipment at the base of the post
                                                                                                                indicator valve. Also note the
                       Your employees should be as                                                              missing cap on the fire department
                       familiar with the fire and alarm                                                         connection.

                                                                                                                                Fire safety
block of time (e.g., 2 or 4 hours). If     has a relief port to atmosphere that          Fire department connections
you do not contact the company by          discharges excess water resulting         should be inspected. Any missing
the specified time, any alarms             from supply system fluctuations. If       caps should be replaced immediately.
received after that time will be han-      the seats inside the unit leak, you           However, before doing so, inter-
dled as an actual alarm, and the fire      may experience continuous leakage         nally inspect the piping to verify that
department will be dispatched. After       through the relief. Many times, the       there is no debris in it. Many items
two or three false alarms, many fire       discharge is dumped on the floor of       can fit into a fire department connec-
departments charge a service fee           the utility closet or room. Continuous    tion, such as candy wrappers, ciga-
starting at approximately $500 and         flow could create water damage.           rette butts, stones, marbles, golf
increasing in value for each subse-                                                  balls, tennis balls and soda cans.
quent alarm.                                          MONTHLY CHECKS                 Anything left inside the piping will
                                              Valves locked in the open position     be flushed into sprinkler piping when
            WEEKLY CHECKS                  or supervised with an alarm service       the fire depart-
    NFPA 25 recommends weekly              may be inspected monthly. While           ment pressurizes
checks of all sprinkler control valves.    NFPA 25 permits the frequency to be       the system at the NFPA 25 establishes
The inspection should verify that the      expanded to monthly, depending on         next preplan or
valves are in the normal open or           your circumstances, you may decide        fire alarm. Debris the minimum
closed position. They should be            to continue weekly valve checks.          can plug pipes
properly sealed, locked or supervised      Many corporate policies require each      and sprinkler
                                                                                                           requirements for
to prevent tampering. All sprinkler        facility to maintain a weekly visual      heads. Removing the periodic inspec-
valves should be readily accessible.       check as good practice. If your facili-   debris from a
Risers should not be blocked with          ty has public access or is in an area     sprinkler system tion, testing and
pallets of stock, equipment or other       noted for vandalism, weekly checks        is an expensive       maintenance of
goods, and outside valves should be        may also be warranted.                    and time-consum-
accessible and not blocked by yard            Gauges should be checked month-        ing process.          water-based fire
storage or snow banks. If the valve        ly and repaired or replaced as need-          If you cannot
needs a wrench, one should be avail-       ed. Damaged gauges and those not          see from the head
                                                                                                           protection systems.
able. No leaks or corrosion should be      accurate to within 3% of the full         to the check valve
visible, and the valve should be iden-     scale should be recalibrated or           by line of sight or with mirrors, a
tified with a label or other suitable      replaced. Otherwise, gauges require       pipe camera should be employed, or
identification. If a facility has multi-   5-year replacement or testing.            the head and as much piping as
ple risers on a common manifold,           (Sprinkler systems that are not wet       needed should be removed so you
labeling is indispensable when the         pipe systems will have additional         can verify that no debris is present.
fire department needs to shut the          checks not discussed here.)
proper valve.                                                                            SEMIANNUAL CHECKS, VALVE
    Control valves control the flow of                QUARTERLY CHECKS                     TAMPERS & WATERFLOWS
water to water-based fire protection           Mechanical waterflow devices,             Valve tamper supervisory switch-
systems. These valves are used to          such as water motor gongs, should be      es should be tested semiannually.
shut off water to main systems such        tested quarterly. Alarm devices should    The switch should actuate when the
as sprinkler systems, fire pumps and       be inspected quarterly to verify that     valve is moved from its normal posi-
fire mains. For the purpose of the         they are free of physical damage. To      tion during the first two revolutions
standard, control valves do not            clarify, testing is performed semiannu-   of a hand wheel or when the stem of
include hose valves, inspector’s test      ally. On a quarterly basis, you should    the valve has moved one-fifth of the
valves, drain valves, trim valves for      examine the devices to ensure that no     distance from its normal position. On
dry pipe, preaction and deluge             physical damage is present, that cov-     valves where the tamper rod (finger)
valves, check valves or relief valves.     ers are in place and appear to be in      is exposed, moving the rod by hand
    If a facility has backflow preven-     proper working condition.                 does not count as a valid test.
ters of reduced pressure assemblies            Inspect the hydraulic nameplate       Moving the rod by hand may prove
(RPAs) or reduced pressure detector        installed on all hydraulically            that the alarm circuit is active, but it
assemblies (RPDAs), they should be         designed systems. Ensure that it is       does not prove that valve operation
visually inspected weekly to ensure        securely attached to the sprinkler        will produce a signal through the
that the differential-sensing valve        riser and is legible. Keep this infor-    valve tamper switch.
relief port is not continuously dis-       mation in the facility’s emergency            Vane-type and pressure switch-
charging. Some of these valves have        plan. If the placard is lost, destroyed   type waterflow devices should be
two independent spring-loaded valves       or missing, it can be an expensive        tested not less than semiannually. I
separated by a differential-sensing        ordeal to obtain the design informa-      suggest that waterflow alarm tests be
valve. The differential-sensing valve      tion to replace it.                       conducted from the system inspec-

tor’s test connection located at the
end of the sprinkler system when-                                    Figure 1
ever one is provided. The inspec-
tor’s test connection at the end of
the system should have an orifice of
the same size as the smallest sprin-
kler head used in the system. This
proves that a single operating sprin-
kler head will properly activate the
waterflow alarm.
   Most contractors insert a sprin-
kler into the end fitting of the
inspector’s test connection, break
out the fusible link and cut the
frame for the sprinkler head off
beyond the orifice. If your system
has a 1-in. pipe or pipe elbow fit-
ting with no restricted orifice, you
are flowing the amount of water
that would flow through several
heads. In the event one head oper-
ates in the middle of the night or
over an unoccupied weekend,
waterflow activation may be de-
layed. This could result in increased
water damage to a facility. If the
alarm system requires repair on a
regular basis, if it is old, or if it is
protecting high-value items or criti-
cal operations, consider testing
more frequently.                           Pressure-sensing waterflow            system deficiencies. Many building
                                       devices are sometimes used, and they      owners will have a sprinkler contrac-
  CONDUCTING A WATERFLOW TEST are installed above or downstream of               tor perform the annual testing even
    To conduct a waterflow test from the retard chamber. To test the alarm,      when the weekly, monthly, quarterly
the inspector’s test connection, first I suggest that the end of the system      and semiannual checks are complet-
verify that nothing is in the line of  inspector’s test connection be used       ed with in-house employees. It is a
the water stream from the orifice.     rather than the waterflow alarm test      good learning experience for one or
Then you only need to open the         line located near the rear of the alarm   two employees to accompany the
valve fully. This will flow water from check valve.                              sprinkler service technician. The
the most remote portion of the sprin-      I have experienced waterflow alarm    annual inspection is a thorough
kler system. Within 90 seconds, the    failures when opening the inspector’s     walkthrough of the facility.
fire alarm should activate. If the     test connection because a portion of          Sprinklers are inspected from the
waterflow alarm does not activate      the alarm line between the alarm          floor level. Storage heights are
within 90 seconds of opening the       check valve and the retard chamber        reviewed to verify that storage is not
inspector’s test connection valve, a   was plugged with rust and scale. The      too close to the sprinkler heads and
qualified person should adjust the     person testing the alarms had done so     that the minimum needed clearance
waterflow device.                      by only opening the alarm test valve.     is provided. Sprinkler piping and fit-
    Some contractors install a device Using this valve bypasses a portion of     tings are carefully inspected from
that serves as both the main drain     pipe between the alarm check valve        floor level. Hangers and seismic
and the inspector’s test connection.   and the retard chamber. This portion      bracing are inspected. Spare sprin-
These devices should have the proper of pipe is usually a ½-in. pipe, which      klers are examined to verify they are
orifice already installed and should   can plug easily. When this occurs, the    in good condition and an adequate
be UL-listed and/or FM-approved for alarm may not activate upon operation        number is available.
this application. These devices are    of a sprinkler head.                          Each control valve is operated
installed in high-rise buildings                                                 through its full range and returned to
because it is impractical to flow                  ANNUAL CHECKS                 its normal position. Post-indicator
water to the outside at each floor.        Annual inspections help identify      valves are opened until spring or tor-

sion is felt in the rod, indicating that    water to run for 1 to 2 minutes until      from one or more sample areas
the rod has not become detached             the water runs clear.                      should be tested, and the test proce-
from the valve. A main drain test is           3) Slowly close the valve. This         dures should be repeated at 10-year
conducted at the system riser after         will help prevent a water hammer,          intervals. When sprinklers are 75
the valve is operated. A main drain         which can cause damage such as             years old or older, the test procedures
test should be conducted every time         broken or stressed fittings that may       should be repeated at 5-year inter-
a control valve is closed and re-           leak or let go. Then note the static       vals. Sprinklers manufactured using
opened, even if it is not time for the      pressure; it should be the same as the     fast-response elements that have
annual test.                                previous reading.                          been in service for 20 years should
    Annually, before the onset of freez-       4) When testing is complete, make       also be tested and retested at 10-year
ing weather, buildings with wet pipe        sure that valves are open and locked       intervals.
systems should be inspected to verify       and that the alarms are placed back in        Sprinklers manufactured prior to
that they are tight and adequately          service with the alarm company.            1920 should be replaced. There is no
heated. A minimum of 40 °F (4.4 °C)            Main drain test results should be       testing option for heads this old.
is needed to prevent freezing.              recorded so they can be used in the        Solder used prior to 1920 is not of
                                            future to compare results. Key items       the same composition as today’s
 CONDUCTING A MAIN DRAIN TEST               to note are static pressure, residual      sprinklers and has been known to
    The main drain test is an impor-        pressure and the difference between        malfunction.
tant sprinkler test. It should be con-      the two. Slight changes in pressures          Internal piping inspections should
ducted annually and after each time a       from time to time or during different      be conducted whenever foreign
sprinkler control valve is operated.        seasons may be noted and are usual-        materials are known to be or
Before conducting this test, verify         ly not a concern.                          believed to be in the pipes. This can
that the fire alarms are in test mode          Your specific area may have large       occur through the fire department
with the monitoring agency.                 differences in pressures from day to       connection. It can also occur if care
Sometimes the waterflow alarm will          night or from summer to winter. If in      was not used in the performance of
activate and send a waterflow alarm         doubt, contact the fire sprinkler con-     work on site or in the public water
signal to the alarm panel. Check the        tractor or water authority engineer.       mains. Also, if you have a non-
main drain discharge to ensure that         There are no correct or incorrect          potable water supply taking suction
no people are in the area, no automo-       main drain pressures. Each sprinkler       from a pond, river or ocean, internal
biles are parked in front of the outlet     riser has its own results, and even        inspections should be conducted.
and no other circumstances are pres-        risers in the same facility may not
ent that could cause damage.                have the same reading due to many                        CONCLUSION
Sprinkler water is not always clear         factors. It is important that consistent      An effective maintenance program
and may have a slight odor.                 readings create a benchmark against        includes many items. Typically, fewer
    1) Record the static pressure.          which to compare all subsequent            hidden impairments are found in prop-
Sometimes no alarm check valve is           readings. Pressure changes that are        erly inspected and well maintained
installed in the riser. If this is the      not within a reasonable range of           systems. Wet pipe sprinkler systems
case, there is usually one gauge that       prior tests (usually within about 5        are by far the most common sprinkler
you will use for your readings. If an       psi) should be investigated. They          systems installed today. Future articles
alarm check valve is installed, there       may indicate a deteriorating water         will examine other systems, such as
are usually two gauges, one above           supply, obstructions in the piping or      dry pipe, deluge and preaction sys-
and one below the alarm check valve.        a partially shut valve.                    tems, underground piping, valves,
Note the static pressure on the supply         NFPA 25 lists the main drain test       hydrants, fire pumps and tanks.
side of the alarm check valve. The          as an annual test; however, many
upper gauge may have a higher pres-         insurance carriers recommend that          Walter S. Beattie, CSP, CFPS, CSHM,
sure. Use this gauge because pressure       this test be conducted quarterly or        joined the volunteer fire service in 1969 and
may be trapped above the check              semiannually. Much can happen over         remains involved in fire suppression and
valve from nightly higher pressures         the course of a year, and more fre-        protection. He has worked in the highly
caused by lower water usage or water        quent drain tests may be a good idea.      protected risk insurance field since 1979 in
                                                                                       various capacities, including senior loss
utility supply pumps used for filling                                                  control specialist, HPR technical manager,
reservoirs in the city system.                     LESS FREQUENT CHECKS                underwriting special agent and account
    2) Slowly open the main drain                & TESTING OLDER SYSTEMS               engineer. Beattie is currently senior consult-
valve. Allow the water to run until             When sprinklers have been in           ing engineer, insurance service, with Matrix
the pressure reading on the gauge           service for 50 years or more, they         Risk Consultants Inc., Miamisburg, OH. He
                                                                                       was named 2007-08 Safety Professional of
stabilizes. Record the pressure read-       should be replaced or tested by a rec-     the Year by ASSE’s Fire Protection Branch
ing. This is the residual pressure. If it   ognized testing laboratory acceptable      (now Practice Specialty), which he current-
will not create problems, allow the         to the AHJ. Representative samples         ly serves as Assistant Administrator.


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