7 Tips to Ensure Your Building Sprinkler System Will Protect You

If your building caught on fire today, would your sprinkler system activate and control the fire? Ninety-five percent of the time your sprinkler system will do what it is supposed to do, but there are several things that YOU can do to increase your chances even more. Below are seven tips a building owner can act on to ensure their investment doesn’t go up in flames.

Sprinkler System Design and Maintenance

  • If you are a landlord, contact your sprinkler contractor any time there is a switch in tenants. The sprinkler contractor can evaluate your system to make sure it is adequately designed to meet the needs of your new tenant. Sprinkler systems are not designed for all types of tenants. For example, a building may have originally been built as office space. If a plastic injection molding company takes over the space, and the sprinkler system was not designed for that kind of material (plastic) to be used and stored in that location, the sprinkler system will not provide adequate protection if there is a fire.
  • Annually, sprinkler systems need to be inspected by a qualified contractor. This annual process includes inspection and maintenance of the sprinkler heads, riser pipe, valves, fire pump (if you have one), as well as a main drain test. If your sprinkler system includes an anti-freeze loop or dry pipe valve, then these also need to be checked annually.
  • Every five years, an internal assessment needs to be done by a qualified contractor. This is to ensure there are no foreign materials in your sprinkler system piping or system blockages that would prevent the system from functioning when needed. Items that could prevent your sprinkler from activating include rust, sludge, and rocks.
  • Maintain a minimum of 18 inches of clearance below all sprinkler heads. This will allow the water being discharged to reach the fire and keep it in check until the fire department arrives.
  • Contact your sprinkler contractor any time a sprinkler head is damaged. Damaged sprinklers have a tendency to not activate when they need to, or activate at an improper time, which can cause a large amount of water damage.
  • Check quarterly to make sure the caps are on the water intake connections, called the Fire Department Connections, on the outside of your building. During a fire, this is where the fire department will hook into your building to assist your sprinkler system and supply water to your standpipe system (if you have one). Also make sure the area around the Fire Department Connection is visible, clear of debris, and able to be accessed easily. Over time the caps may fall off, break, or be stolen. Missing caps can lead to organic or inorganic materials entering your sprinkler system. They can even be vandalized with debris purposely placed inside the connection.
  • This is a basic checklist. Your building’s occupancy and sprinkler system design specifications may require more detailed checks and frequent inspections, such as the monthly churn test for fire pumps. Work with your sprinkler system contractor to identify the limitations and inspection requirements of your system

Building sprinkler system with active fire

Fires can occur for many different reasons – some of which may be out of your control.  But, a properly maintained and designed sprinkler system is almost certain to contain the fire if the need arises.

Standards covering the design, installation and servicing of building sprinkler systems can be found on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) website. NFPA 25, “Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems”, specifically addresses the points covered in this blog.

You can find additional information in the Society Insurance Risk Control Library or in our “Fire Prevention” blog series.

-Brian Anderson

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9 thoughts on “7 Tips to Ensure Your Building Sprinkler System Will Protect You

  1. Deb Pearl

    That is good to know that sprinkler systems need to be inspected annually by a qualified contractor. The business I work for just moved buildings and we were wondering if we should get the system inspected! It is great to know that we should probably get it inspected! Thank you for the information!

  2. Martin King

    Thank you for the great fire and safety tips. It is really so important to make sure the fire sprinklers are installed and maintained properly.

    There are a number of statistical incidents, in which case the insufficient sprinkler heads or failure during emergency made the condition more worst.

    Its the duty of every employer to provide and maintain adequate fire protection systems.

  3. Jeremy Thompson

    I was just thinking about having some fire sprinkler system installed in our newest home as it could help ensure that our place would be safe from any potential fire hazards. Knowing that our potential fire sprinkler system would need an annual inspection from professionals to ensure that it would be running properly is a great reminder to keep as I would have never known of this otherwise. I’ll be sure to seek qualified contractors as soon as our fire sprinkler system is installed so that we can call them and have the annual inspection scheduled early on. Thanks!

  4. Fire Services

    Great information! Sprinkler systems save lives and property. I must say it is the first thing to have in your home. So, I believe that after reading this post people can re-estimate its’ importance.

  5. Kristofer Van Wagner

    My wife and I were thinking of installing a fire sprinkler system for our new home. I appreciate that this post pointed out that there should be a specific distance between the sprinkler and the person walking beneath it. As I am aware of this requirement, I will definitely hire a professional team to have it installed.

  6. Bob

    Fire sprinklers are great when properly designed and maintained to the latest codes. You have to keep in mind the systems installed and the present occupancy. Things can change quickly in a plant (occupancy, rack storage, Dunnage, etc.) and you have to make sure water supply, and present system (s) keep up with these changes. NFPA codes change every 3 years and many service contractors do not keep up with their present inspection forms per NFPA – 25 (ITM).

    You can’t expect to meet the challenges of today with yesterday’s tools and expect to be in business tomorrow. Author Unknown.

  7. irrigation installation leander

    If you need a reliable sprinkler system installation service, the Leander Sprinklers are the best. They have a great team who did a great job of installing our new sprinkler system in our lawn. The price was really affordable and we are very happy with the results.

  8. David Williamson

    Yet another fantastic value based article based on research, and I think all the tips are the result of learning through experience, that’s why they are so much valuable for the readers. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us and it is really informative article.


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