Rohen's Burning Issues Blog

Fire Sprinkler Safety: Good Maintenance is your Best Defense

Posted by Wesley Jasper on Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 09:45 AM

6 Do's & Don'ts for Fire Sprinkler Safety

As a property manager or business owner, you already know the importance of having a fire sprinkler system installed in your facility. You understand that fire sprinkler safety is critical to the protection of your property and the people who live or work there. You may even be aware that sprinkler systems are credited with reducing deaths and loss of property by up to 65%.

But once your sprinkler system is installed, are you and your staff doing everything possible to ensure that the operation of these sprinkler systems isn't impeded or interfered with? 

Here are six fire sprinkler safety Do's and Don’ts that you and your staff should be aware of to maximize the fire protection your system provides:

fire sprinkler safety

Do….make sure sprinkler heads are visible and accessible
When moving things around the workplace, make sure that sprinkler heads are always in sight and easy to access. If boxes in storage rooms or warehouses are stacked too high, a sprinkler head can inadvertently be covered up. Newly built partitions can also act as an obstruction and hinder accessibility to sprinkler heads by your fire protection service professional.

Do…stay on top of repairs
There are generally two types of sprinkler systems: dry and wet. A dry sprinkler system contains pressurized air or nitrogen inside the piping. This keeps a dry valve closed, and water out of the system. Dry systems are used in areas where water-filled piping could freeze, such as unheated warehouses, freezers or unheated buildings. This system requires specific maintenance as per NFPA guidelines.

In contrast, a wet sprinkler system contains pressurized water in the system at all times. Quite often, facilities such as offices, apartments and hospitals have wet systems throughout. Because these systems continually have water in them, they are susceptible to rust. If left in disrepair, a rusted system can reduce the effectiveness of the sprinkler system.  If your employees see signs of rust or a leaking pipe, encourage them to report it, so that the problem can be fixed.

Don't….treat your sprinkler system like hooks and rods
Sprinkler heads and piping are all important components of your sprinkler system. But quite often people overlook their importance in fire sprinkler safety, and absent-mindedly hang or hook things on them. As crazy as it seems, sprinkler heads and piping have been used as a convenient place to hang a coat, a tie, or even a party-streamer. Some guests at wedding banquet halls - after an extra libation or two and the ensuing bad judgment - have actually hung gowns or dresses on sprinkler heads.  However, if the glass bulb of the sprinkler head is broken, water can very easily discharge, putting a real damper on the party.  Even the sprinkler system piping, should not be used as a means to hang or hook something. Excess strain on the pipes can damage the connections, which leads to leaks and degrades the effectiveness of your sprinkler system.

Do…give staff a heads up on the location of sprinklers
Often, in an industrial or commercial facility, it is easy to inadvertently knock into or dislodge a sprinkler head.  These mishaps can occur in situations such as hoisting ladders or installing a heat-producing piece of equipment. To avoid this, ask your staff to become familiar with the location of the sprinkler heads and encourage them to always be aware of their surroundings.

Do….keep heat sources clear of heads
High temperatures activate sprinkler heads. Before installing any new equipment that may have a significant heat source, ensure that your staff is aware of the location of the sprinkler heads. And, keep in mind that heat sources come in many forms. In some residential or home care facilities, when bed bug extermination is called for, even the excessive heat used in the extermination process can serve to activate sprinkler heads. So, regardless of the type of heat source, heat and sprinkler heads are a mix that should be avoided.

Do…..arm your staff with information
In the event your sprinkler system accidentally discharges, it’s important for your staff to know where and how to shut off the system. All systems should have a clearly marked control valve. This valve is usually located in a mechanical room or may be accessible outside. Ensure employees know where the valve is so they can respond quickly.

Does your staff have all the necessary information to ensure your sprinkler system works effectively? 

If you are auditing your fire safety system, be sure to take advantage of Rohen's Fire Inspection Checklist here:

Rohen Fire Inspection Assessment

Tags: Fire Sprinklers

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