Once a properly designed and installed sprinkler system is in place in your building the most important single thing you can do to ensure reliable operability in the event of a fire is to inspect, test and maintain the system. National Fire Protection Association Standard 25, Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, identifies the component inspection and test methods required for all devices and piping in the system. Your local jurisdiction may require different frequencies than the ones that are noted below.
A qualified contractor will perform a thorough system inspection including examining the condition of sprinkler heads. This needs to be done on an annual basis and the technician will be looking for signs of leakage, corrosion, loading of dust or dirt, paint or missing trim and cover plates. They will also be looking to make sure that sprinkler installations are in their correct orientation (upright or pendant) and that there is sufficient clearance for the sprinkler to operate properly. Sprinkler pipe, fittings and pipe hangers must be inspected (from the floor level) on an annual basis.
Sprinkler components associated with the head end control equipment have varying inspection and testing requirements. Annual testing is required for system control valves and alarm valves. Valve tamper switches (devices that send a signal to the fire alarm panel when the valve is closed, monitoring unauthorized activity), are required to be tested semi-annually. Annual main drain valve and inspectors test connection flow testing (a valve located and the most remote point of the sprinkler system, simulating the flow of one sprinkler) are extremely important activities. They ensure that the system is capable of good water flow. System gauges must be calibrated or replaced at 5 year intervals.
Waterflow alarm devices detect the flow of water through the sprinkler piping. There are different types of waterflow devices with different testing frequencies. Mechanical waterflow devices, also known as a “water motor gong”, are required to be tested quarterly. They do not send a signal to the fire alarm panel and provide a backup in the event of a failure of the fire alarm system. Electro-mechanical waterflow devices, more commonly known as “waterflow switches”, are activated by water flowing through the piping and send a signal to the fire alarm system. They are required to be tested semi-annually.
One of the more topical issues with sprinkler testing is internal pipe corrosion and obstruction, a serious issue. To combat this, NFPA 25 now requires an internal investigation of the system at 5 year intervals. This investigation looks for the presence of foreign organic and inorganic material that could clog the system and impair water flow. Discovery of foreign material triggers an obstruction investigation, which is a more thorough internal examination of the system at designated points.
There are also additional requirements for pre-action, dry pipe, deluge, foam, anti-freeze and water spray systems, as well as standpipe systems, fire hydrants and fire pumps. The testing methods are more extensive and frequent. If you have a fire pump or any of these systems, Fireline can help you negotiate through the maze of inspection and testing requirements so that you will be fire code compliant and your system will be ready to perform if you need it.