Fire sprinkler systems are installed in commercial and industrial (C&I) facilities to protect occupants, property structures, and contents. These systems contain fires and help save lives.
Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) indicate that the civilian death rate from fires is 87% lower in buildings with sprinklers, compared to properties without fire sprinkler systems. But not all fire sprinkler systems are alike.
There are four main types of sprinkler systems:
Some types of fire sprinkler systems can withstand freezing temperatures. Other system designs focus on flooding a space with an extinguishing agent.
Regarding wet-pipe systems, the pipes supplying fire sprinklers have water in them at all times. When the fire sprinkler activates, the water discharges immediately. Sprinkler heads in this type of system do not all discharge simultaneously.
Other systems—particularly, the dry-pipe fire sprinkler systems—perform better in facilities subjected to subzero weather. The NFPA recommends the use of dry-pipe systems only in facilities that cannot maintain a minimum temperature of 40°F.
Notably, fire sprinkler systems can fail at any time. The main causes of failure are corrosion, freezing, improper installation, and inadequate parts and materials. Shut-offs and plumbing can be outside or non-insulated, making them more prone to freezing. These failures cause major damage to C&I properties.
How to keep your buildings safe
Your best solution to avoiding all these problems is regular inspections and preventative maintenance for your fire suppression systems.
Set up regular inspections to confirm the control valves are open, the gauges are functioning correctly, and there is nothing blocking the sprinkler heads. Technicians should also check for visible signs of damage or possible corrosion.
Make sure to bring in an accredited sprinkler inspector to perform annual inspections.
During an annual inspection, the inspector checks the entire system, including:
Calibrating the gauges Making sure the water supply is unobstructed Identifying damaged sprinkler heads and rusted pipes Checking for any parts needing replacement
Keep records of the results of these inspections in your facility maintenance software system. Missing, incomplete, or outdated records make it more difficult to maintain the system properly. They vary by location, but there are also likely compliance requirements, and good records make it much easier to prove your department carried out the right checks and tests.