Looking for signs
NFPA Journal®, March/April 2007
As the 2007 edition of NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems, was being prepared, some referred to it as “the year of the placard.” There are several new rules within the installation standard intended to improve the identification of systems and components:
A “general information sign” is required at each system control riser, antifreeze loop, and auxiliary system control valve to provide information relevant to the inspection, testing, and maintenance requirements of NFPA 25, Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems (24.6):
Name and location of facility; presence of high-piled and/or rack storage; maximum height of storage planned; aisle width planned; commodity classification; encapsulation of pallet loads; presence of solid shelving; flow test data; name of installing contractor or designer; and indication of presence and location of antifreeze or other auxiliary systems
An Annex section clarifies that while the information on the general information sign might be useful during a system inspection, such use should not be considered a hazard assessment. In substantiating the new sign, the Technical Committee stated the intent was to “provide critical information for municipal inspectors, designers, and insurers when reviewing system criteria for changes in occupancy or storage array. While this information is required to be included on shop drawings, time has proven that building plans are often unavailable or difficult to find in a timely manner.” The standard requires signs to be permanently marked weatherproof metal or rigid plastic signs, secured with corrosion-resistant wire, chain, or other approved means.
The 2008 edition of NFPA 25 will be presented for adoption at the NFPA World Safety Conference and Exposition® in June, and it contains new signage requirements. An information sign will be required at the riser of each dry, preaction, and antifreeze system, and at each auxiliary system control valve to indicate the area served by the system, the location of auxiliary drains and low point drains, and the presence and location of antifreeze or other auxiliary systems. The Technical Committee has acknowledged that retroactive installation of these signs will be necessary for the proper maintenance of systems.
Very often, the companies that inspect and maintain fire protection system are not the companies that originally installed the systems. Many sprinklered buildings have complex architecture that leads to sectional drains and small areas subject to freezing. Signage is the key to proper identification of system capabilities and is essential to the prevention of system freeze-ups.
Russ Fleming is the Executive Vice President of the National Fire Sprinkler Association and a member of both the NFPA Technical Correlating Committee on Automatic Sprinklers and the NFPA Technical Committee on Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems.