One of the most widely used fire protection systems is the sprinkler system. Having a building completely protected by a fire sprinkler system is one of the best ways to avoid losses due to fires.
To ensure the system will operate properly when needed, a program of regular inspections, testing, and maintenance is required. A variety of national, state, and local codes applies, depending on the type of facility, occupancy, and hazard classification.
The following National Fire Protection Association publication serves as the basis for detailing minimum requirements.
NFPA 25 –Standard for inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water Based Fire Protection (1998 Edition)
The 3 basic requirements for compliance are:
- Inspection of the System and Components
- Testing and Maintenance at Prescribed Intervals
Inspection of the System and Components
A facility owner is required to inspect the system and its components visually to have reasonable assurance that the system is ready for use and operable. Elements of the inspection are completed weekly, monthly, and/or quarterly depending on the components being used. An inspection should include the following:
- Gauges and control valves
- Alarm devices
- Sprinkler heads, including spare supply
- Fire-department connections
- Hydraulic nameplate
- Main drain
Testing and Maintenance
All systems must be tested and maintained per code and manufactures. Specific requirements are detailed in NFPA 25, but typically they must be done either quarterly or annually.
- Wet systems are required annually
- Dry stems are required annually
- Wet and dry systems are required quarterly
- Anti-freeze systems are required annually
Major areas of testing include:
- Testing the back-flow preventer
- Checking the condition of all sprinkler heads, including the clearance between the sprinkler head deflector and top of storage
- Verifying temperature ratings of sprinkler heads for their location
- Inspecting fire-department connections
- Performing a main-drain flow test
- Testing supervisory and water-flow alarms
- Verifying that all valves are working and in proper position
- Inspecting the facility for changes that could negatively impact performance of the system
In addition to system inspections, private fire service hydrants and fire pumps also need to be inspected annually.
NFPA 25 also requires certain items to be maintained every 5 years. Typical items include replacement of high-temperature sprinklers, check-valve maintenance, alarm check-valve maintenance, flushing private hydrants and underground mains, and gauge calibration or replacement.
Records of inspections, tests, and maintenance of the system and its components must be retained for 2 years. Records should indicate work performed, servicing company, results, and date of service. All records must be made available to the authority having jurisdiction upon request.
Major areas of annual testing include:
- Control panel function
- Checking batteries for charge and corrosion
- Testing all manual stations for operation
- Testing all detectors for operation, including sensitivity testing for all smoke detectors
- Testing all audiovisual devices for operation
- Testing central station or fire department monitoring connections
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