BUILDINGS Magazine: An FM’s Guide to Fire Protection System Inspections
The following is an excerpt from the September issue of BUILDINGS. To read the full article by Justin Feit, click the link below.
Whether you are enlisting the help of a service provider or doing most of the work yourself, it is important for you to know the basics of fire safety system inspection. Staying code compliant and protecting your building and occupants is a vitally important responsibility. What do you need to do to properly inspect your fire safety systems?
When to Inspect Sprinklers
Besides the obvious reasons for maintaining fire sprinkler systems on a tight schedule, regularly scheduled checks can save your organization money in the long run. Sticking to a clear schedule for inspections will allow you to keep your system up to date and ready for use in the case of an emergency.
“There are a lot of buildings that have been neglected for years, and all of a sudden, the city comes in and says you need your sprinkler system checked,” says Joe Guerra of the Dallas-based sprinkler inspection service provider American Fire Protection Group. Those buildings that don’t keep up pay much more in the long run.
Providing regular inspections and maintenance for sprinkler systems can cost roughly $1,000-5,000 a year depending on the size and needs of a building. But disregarding this important practice can come back to bite you, with some buildings needing upwards of $20,000 to overcome past inattention, explains Guerra.
Inspection for fire sprinklers is an ongoing process requiring different actions over time. Some tasks will be easy for your facilities staff to do on their own. Other modes of inspection will be more involved, often requiring the use of a fire safety service provider to deliver a greater overview of the sprinkler system.
FMs can take care of their sprinklers during weekly and monthly inspections, explains Guerra. Weekly inspections will involve quick checks like making sure control valves are open, the heating works properly to prevent freezing and gauges are functioning correctly. Each month, you should also check parts of the sprinkler system that are electrically supervised, as well as the basic functionality of accessible and visible components.
Average Failure Rate by Device Type
BuildingReports, a fire and life safety compliance reporting technology firm, has listed in its annual Fire and Life Safety Benchmarking Report a compilation of data on inspections and device failure of fire safety systems in a variety of building types.
Based on the names of the inspection software they sell, the various types of devices covered in the report are grouped into five categories that address similar functionality. These equipment types are listed as the following:
- SafetyScan: portable fire extinguishers, lighting, personal protective and safety equipment in any facility
- SprinklerScan: sprinkler systems and water-based fire protection systems
- SecurityScan: burglar and security systems, access control, CCTV and nurse call stations
- SuppressionScan: clean agent, gas detection and kitchen hood systems
- FireScan: control equipment, auxiliary functions, monitoring equipment and notification appliances
In the accompanying graph, safety equipment including fire extinguishers are most prone to failure, followed by sprinklers and water-based protection systems. Notification systems were among the least defective device types listed in the report.
SOURCE: BUILDINGS Magazine, Justin Feit, September 2017.