Fire Protection in Power Plants: Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Fire Protection Systems at Electric Generating Plants

Dominique Dieken, P.E., CFPS, HSB Professional Loss Control

Fires in electric power generating plants can have costly and even fatal consequences. Yet, the owners and operators of many plants have paid little if any attention to fire suppression systems since they were installed 10 or even 20 years ago. In about one-third of the cases in which fire suppression systems fail to operate as expected, the cause is inadequate inspection, testing and maintenance.Every year, fire suppression systems fail to operate satisfactorily in fire situations. In about one-third of these cases, the cause is inadequate inspection, testing and maintenance. An Edison Electrical Institute (EEI) study found that 49 percent of gaseous suppression systems in combustion turbine units failed to operate satisfactorily in a 20-year period, with a total property damage of $15.9 million. An example of a fire with a tragic consequence involved lube oil at a cogeneration plant on Christmas Day in 1992, which resulted in the death of three plant operators. Automatic sprinkler protection was provided for most of the plant, including lube oil hazards, but the systems had been turned off! Had the system been operational, the fire may have been controlled.Incidents like the one described above can be prevented with a good documented inspection, testing and maintenance program, which will result in achieving maximum reliability of the fire suppression equipment. This article is addressed specifically to electric generating plants because of the wide range of fire protection systems found at these plants. Below is a list of systems typically found at electric generating stations:Fire pumps Hydrants Sprinkler/water spray systems Hose houses Halon systems Dry chemical systems Halon-alternative systems Carbon dioxide systems Detection/alarm systems Portable fire extinguishers »more

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