Experienced Personnel Should Maintain Your Fire Protection System

Executive summary

While surveying an industrial plant, a Hartford Steam Boiler engineer noted that the pre-action sprinkler system valve had been turned off. The valve was protecting a fairly large building of wood construction. When the engineer asked the facility’s safety officer about the valve, he said he would check with another employee who was a retired firefighter.
The former firefighter responded that the impaired sprinkler system was “legal.” The valve was turned off because plant personnel were worried about inadvertent sprinkler discharge. Someone would open the system valve, he said, in case of a fire. The valve, of course, would be located in the area of the fire, placing that person and perhaps the entire facility and its occupants at risk.

The full article

Experienced Personnel Should Maintain Your Fire Protection System

Mistakes Can Be Costly — and Dangerous

It’s a common misconception that firefighters know all about sprinklers and other fire protection systems. Had the retired firefighter been familiar with fire suppression systems, he would have known that pre-action sprinkler systems are virtually unsusceptible to inadvertent discharge. In any event, the valve should not have been turned off.
How common is the problem? According to a survey by the National Fire Protection Association, approximately one-third of unsuccessful sprinkler system performance is attributed to a shut system control valve. Many commercial and industrial buildings have been severely damaged because sprinkler systems have been rendered inoperable. In some cases, shut valves have contributed to injuries and deaths.

Lessons Learned

Firefighters are trained to deal with fire fighting tactics and rescue. Their training and knowledge on fixed fire protection systems is usually limited. Likewise, those assigned to review fire protection plans for fire department or building codes often lack adequate engineering background or specific knowledge.
Fire protection systems are engineered mechanical, electrical and structural systems whose evaluation should be left to fire protection engineers and their care to experienced contractors. Don’t leave these important tasks for less qualified individuals, who although well intentioned, could leave your facility at serious risk.
Disclaimer statement:

All recommendations are general guidelines and are not intended to be exhaustive or complete, nor are they designed to replace information or instructions from the manufacturer of your equipment. Contact your equipment service representative or manufacturer with specific questions.

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