Fire protection is a crucial consideration for every building. Fire sprinkler inspections are important to detect any problems before they become serious, preventing dangerous and potentially deadly situations for your business.
Your commercial fire sprinklers require inspection in line with the NFPA 25 standards. Businesses need to maintain inspection records to present them when requested, but keeping fire sprinkler inspection records from previous years also helps in the event that your business transitions from one fire suppression system provider to another.
Every system has different needs when it comes to inspection, testing, and maintenance. Older records help new technicians determine the kind of inspection and services needed as well as inform them on whether there were any areas identified as potential hazards or watch areas. This gives your building greater continuity and safety in fire protection.
WHAT IS A 5-YEAR FIRE SPRINKLER INSPECTION?
The NFPA mandates an inspection to examine the inside of the piping for your commercial fire sprinklers at least once every 5 years.
The inspection ensures that the piping is free of blockages that would impede free flow of water in the event of a fire. During the fire sprinkler inspection, internal problems developing within the piping will be cataloged, including MIC (microbiologically influenced corrosion), slime, rust, and foreign materials.
WHY IS MIC HARMFUL?
MIC in piping is a major problem that creates risks for commercial fire sprinklers. MIC leads to leaks that spread through an entire system.
MIC is a process involving bacteria that accelerates corrosion in wet and dry-pipe fire sprinkler systems. Any environment with oxygen, water, and metal experiencing extended contact is at risk for corrosion or rust, and MIC speeds up this process. Leaks and obstructions are clear potential indicators of MIC, but discolored or polluted water can also indicate corrosion activity.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING A 5-YEAR FIRE SPRINKLER INSPECTION?
The fire inspection starts with an initial assessment. The flushing connection at one of the main ends will be opened and the sprinkler tower from one end of a branch line will be removed. If foreign material is obstructing the pipes or sprinklers, a more comprehensive investigation will be done.
All alarm valves will be examined during the 5-year inspection. The clapper and valve seat must be in working condition, and the inspector will check for corrosion and obstructions. The inspector will also make sure the system isn’t over or underpressurized by looking at the stress lowering, stress aid, and fire hose valves.
Obstruction investigation happens at four parts of the commercial fire sprinkler system:
- System valve
- Cross main
- Branch line
If foreign matter is found obstructing the system, it is called a trigger point. The systems will need to be completely flushed to remove the obstructions.
HOW IS THE 5-YEAR INSPECTION DIFFERENT FROM AN ANNUAL INSPECTION?
The annual inspection maintains a safe environment by physically checking the sprinkler system and focusing on visible hardware for everyday functionality. The person doing the annual inspection would start with sprinkler heads, pipes, braces, and fittings and make sure that spare sprinkler heads are available on site. Then, valves will be tested through their full range, followed by testing of deluges and pre-action valves.
To see if the water supply piping has changed, a main water drain test will be done after the entire system is checked.
The 5-year fire sprinkler inspection includes everything that is done in an annual inspection but also includes internal inspection at random points in the system. For sprinkler systems that are older than 50 years, more thorough “at-risk testing” is performed.
Gauges must also be compared to calibrated gauges so they can be recalibrated or replaced if not working properly. These devices show water supply pressure and static pressure. Pressure gauges will generally last 10 to 15 years and need to be regularly tested because many commercial fire sprinkler tests and inspections rely on their accuracy. Gauges that are not accurate to within 3% of maximum full-scale gauge readings will be recalibrated or replaced at the 5-year inspection.
Hydrostatic and flow tests are another requirement of the 5-year inspection. These check the fire department connections that attach to the sprinkler systems and building standpipes. The Fire Department uses these connections to provide additional water pressure through the system, and it is not uncommon that the connections will have debris or litter. In the back flush, the system is disassembled and valves reversed so water will flow in the opposite direction and flush out the pipes. The system will then be reverted to normal and reconnected.
When the 5-year inspection is complete, a report will be submitted to the owner.
WHY DO I NEED FIRE SPRINKLER INSPECTIONS?
When you own or manage a building with a fire suppression system, you hope you’ll never need it to work. But in the event that a fire occurs, you want your fire sprinklers to be working properly. If your commercial fire sprinklers have not been cared for and maintained, they may not function well or at all.
Even newer commercial fire sprinklers in a new building can build up sludge surprisingly quickly.
These obstructions hinder or prevent the flow of water through your pipes, which can prevent your sprinklers from saving lives and/or property. Keeping your fire sprinklers up to code with 5-year fire sprinkler inspections ensures that you, your property, employees, and customers will be safe.
Since 5-year inspections happen less frequently, a not-so-regular inspection can be forgotten. But in the long run, having these inspections can even help your business save money. A commitment to safety demonstrates responsibility in risk management and is attractive for insurance companies and underwriters. This can result in lower insurance rates for your property, allowing you to lower costs while ensuring safety.
YOUR FIRE SPRINKLERS
Are your commercial fire sprinklers due for their 5-year inspections?
Complete Fire Protection has a proven track record and has been serving customers since 1992. Whether your fire suppression system needs assessment or repairs, Complete Fire Protection will give you the best service for your peace of mind.