AUTHOR: Jonathan Hart

Modifications To Existing Sprinkler Systems

With many businesses rethinking how their office spaces will be utilized post-pandemic, a significant number will likely undergo renovations or redesigns. Add this to regular tenant fit outs, including shell space in newly constructed buildings, and there are sure to be thousands of existing sprinkler systems  requiring modifications to adequately protect redesigned spaces. This often raises the question as to what extent the sprinkler system must be brought up to date with the latest standard, whether the system needs to be recalculated, and how extensive the testing of the modified system must be. Fortunately, the 2019 edition of NFPA 13 dedicated a chapter to the requirements for these instances for the first time and that information will carry over to the soon-to-be-issued 2022 edition. Change of use/occupancy For the purpose of this discussion, we will focus on situations where the use or occupancy classification of the space is not being changed. Where that is the case a more complex analysis is likely required to determine the impact of changes to design densities, areas of operation, and several other possible changes. NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems places responsibility on the owner for ensuring an evaluation be conducted in these instances, many of which go beyond the reconfiguration of office space where the space protected is likely to remain a light hazard occupancy. General When a building is undergoing a renovation or a remodel of its space the removal or addition of walls, partitions, and ceilings can negatively impact the effectiveness of the originally designed sprinkler system. In these instances, numerous sprinklers must often be relocated or added in order to appropriately protect the reconfigured space. This does not necessarily mean that the entire system must be reevaluated to ensure complete compliance with the latest edition of the standards. In fact, portions of the existing system that are not subject to the modifications can be considered previously approved under the retroactivity clause of NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems and do not need to be evaluated. Whenever additions or modifications are made to an existing system, enough of the existing system must be indicated on the plans to make all conditions clear for the AHJ to evaluate. This means that one of the first steps taken in these instances should be to gather as much of the existing plans and calculations, as is available. A more complex analysis might be required for the entire system if the original design basis cannot be confirmed. Hydraulic calculations While some have argued that minor modifications should not impact the system demand significantly enough to require calculations, NFPA 13 does require calculations be provided to verify that the system design flow rate will be achieved. Previous editions of the standard included an annex note indicating that it was not the intent to require a full hydraulic analysis of the existing sprinkler system, in addition to the new sprinkler layout. This note has been removed in recent editions. This still does not necessarily require a full set of hydraulic calculations particularly if the modifications are made in a part of the system that is not the most hydraulically demanding. In this case the modified portion of the system can be hydraulically calculated back to the branch line or riser to the point where original calculations are used to show that the design flow rate can be met.  This is not entirely clear in reading the standard especially without the previous annex note to point to so it is certainly worth checking with the local AHJ to determine what they will accept for these instances. Hydrostatic testing Newly installed sprinkler systems must be hydrostatically tested to check for leaks at a pressure of at least 200 psi (14 bar) for a period of at least 2 hours. When existing systems are modified such that the work affects less than 20 sprinklers, the system only requires testing at the system working pressure. Where the modification affects more than 20 sprinklers, that portion of the system must be isolated and tested at 200 psi (14 bar) for 2 hours. If the new work cannot be isolated, the testing can be done at system working pressure even if the modifications involved more than 20 sprinklers. In general, existing portions of the system do not need to be subjected to a new hydrostatic test. Striking a balance  Many buildings are routinely undergoing changes that can impact the fire sprinkler system and require modification of the system to adequately protect the space as it evolves. The provisions for existing system modifications in NFPA 13 are intended to ensure that the space has adequate coverage, the system demand can still be met, and the workmanship ofthe job has been completed well enough. This is meant to strike the appropriate balance between ensuring that the changes are not simply ignored, not throwing the entire latest standard out, and saying everything must be brought up to those requirements.
elevators

When are Sprinklers Required in Elevator Shafts and Machine Rooms?

Elevators are found in almost all new buildings that are greater than one story. While they certainly provide a convenient and accessible means for traveling up and down through a building they also create vertical openings in a building, increasing the potential for the spread of fire and smoke. There are many fire and life safety code provisions that mitigate this risk and permit elevators to be used without increasing the risk to occupants. This blog will focus on one aspect of this fire protection; whether or not fire sprinklers are required.  NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems is based on the general principle that sprinklers must be installed throughout a premises. This contributes to the standard’s purpose of providing a reasonable degree of protection for both life and property. However, there are certain concealed spaces and special situations, such as elevator hoistways and machine rooms where sprinkler protection can be omitted. The need for sprinklers is addressed for three different locations; at the bottom of the pit, at the top of the hoistway, and in the elevator machine room, machinery space, or control room. The images below demonstrate hydraulic elevators and traction elevators and show the different locations where the need for sprinklers must be evaluated. Note that sprinklers are shown in the pit and machine room of the hydraulic elevators as those are always required but the top of the hoistway for hydraulic elevators and the pit, top of hoistway, and machine room for traction elevators can also require sprinklers. Elevator Pit  Sidewall spray sprinklers are required to be installed at the bottom of each elevator hoistway at a maximum of 2 ft (600 mm) above the floor of the pit. The exemption to this is for hoistways that are enclosed, noncombustible, and do not contain combustible hydraulic fluid. This means that the majority of hydraulic type elevators will require this and traction type elevators need it only where the construction of the shaft is of combustible or limited-combustible material.     Top of Shaft  Sprinklers are permitted to be omitted from the top of the shaft where the hoistway is noncombustible or limited-combustible and the car enclosure materials meet the requirements of ASME A17.1, Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators. Any hoistway not meeting those requirements must have an upright, pendent, or sidewall spray sprinkler installed at the top.   Additionally, where elevators utilize combustible suspension means such as noncircular elastomeric-coated or polyurethane-coated steel belts, sprinklers must be provided unless the suspension means provide not less than an FT-1 rating when tested to a vertical burn test of UL 2556 and specific criteria are met.     Elevator Machine Room, Machinery Space, Control room, Control space  The machine rooms for hydraulic type elevators are required to be provided with sprinkler protection. For traction type elevators there are a number of provisions that can all be met in order to omit sprinklers from these spaces. These include the installation being in accordance with NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code® or the applicable building code as well as the space being dedicated to elevator equipment only, protection by smoke detectors or other automatic fire detection, separation from the rest of the building by construction with fire ratings specified by the applicable building code, and no materials unrelated to elevator equipment being stored in the space.     Other Consideration  While the provisions highlighted here from NFPA 13 are relatively straightforward there is added complexity of elevator codes as well as local amendments in many jurisdictions. ASME A17.1 does not permit water discharge in elevator shafts until electrical power to the elevator cab has been shut down. This situation necessitates some special arrangement, such as a shunt trip or a preaction system, to make sure that water does not flow in the elevator shaft until power shutdown has occurred.   Some jurisdictions will have special provisions that modify power shut down provision or they will not permit sprinklers at all out of concerns for first responders utilizing the elevator during a fire. It is also important to note that the discussion above is for buildings that require sprinkler protection per NFPA 13. If the building code does not require sprinkler protection based on occupancy, constructions type, size, or height then the elevator is also not required to be protected.    
A hallway in a hospital

Basics of Suites in Health Care Occupancies

The use of suites in health care occupancies can provide significant flexibility in the design, construction, and functional daily use of a space. The term suites can be heard frequently when speaking with health care professionals and often very casually being tossed around. “Is it a suite? Can it be a suite? Have you designated it as a suite?” All of this is with great intentions but can certainly be overwhelming for someone just getting into their field or simply without experience in some more advanced life safety concepts. In terms of the Life Safety Code, a suite must meet very specific criteria. A quick google search for healthcare suite or hospital suite returns images of patient rooms that are much nicer than any hotel I’ve ever stayed in; not quite what we’re talking about here.  This blog discusses the definition of suites, the different types of suites, the benefits of a suite, and the requirements for their application.  What is a suite? For some life safety and fire protection topics a quick reference to a definition can give a user a good idea of what a code is talking about. This is not quite the case with suites. While there is a definition in NFPA 101 and it has been recently tweaked for the 2021 edition it’s not truly painting a full picture of all that encompasses a suite. Health Care Suite: A room or rooms sharing a means of egress separated from the remainder of the building by walls, doors, floors, and ceilings. (NFPA 101, 2021) While this gives an indication of what the concept is, it leaves a lot for a user to figure out beyond the simple definition. Instead of jumping directly to the requirements for suites, we need to first start by looking at the context that exists around their use. Without suites, what does the code require? The primary requirement to consider is that every habitable room in a health care occupancy is required to have an exit access door leading directly to an exit access corridor. This is demonstrated by the sleeping rooms in the bottom left of the image below. In providing life safety, corridors are protected spaces that come with their own set of requirements including a minimum width of 8 ft (2440 mm) in new health care occupancies, door operational requirements, and limited amounts of projections (more on these below). One exception to this rule for rooms opening directly to the corridor is for rooms within suites.   A common description of a suite that is often used is “rooms within a room.” This is because instead of requiring every room to open directly into an exit access the main door(s) from the corridor into or out of the suite is considered the exit access door(s) for that ‘room.’ Even if the suite is subdivided into more rooms, those are then permitted to open into a passageway within the suite. A further benefit of the suite provisions is that the passageway within the suite is not required to meet the requirements for a corridor, such as the minimum width requirements. Key Point: Suites allow larger areas to be treated as a single room permitting a single exit access door leading to an exit access corridor even if that space is subdivided into more rooms. Key Point: Suites are not easily described by a simple definition. Understanding the context in which they play a role in life safety is key to understanding what they are. What are the benefits of suites? In framing the context of suites within NFPA 101 one of the main benefits of utilizing the suite provisions has already been mentioned. The fact that there are no corridors within a suite provides multiple benefits. The first of these being added flexibility of the use of the space in between rooms that looks and feels like a corridor but is not subject to those requirements and should be referred to as “circulating space,” “passages” “halls” or some similar term to avoid confusion on life safety drawings. Where a corridor in new health care occupancies must have a minimum width 8 ft (2440 mm) and can only have a very limited amount of projections or wheeled equipment in them, the halls within a suite are only subject to minimum widths of exit access which is 36 in (915 mm) per NFPA 101, although it should be sized to be able to readily evacuate or relocate patients in the event of a fire and plans should be in place for prompt removal of any equipment reducing widths. Another benefit to not being considered a corridor is that patient rooms inside the suite can be open to the space and/or use a variety of different doors. If located directly off a corridor the requirements for the patient room door are much more prescriptive and include requirements for maximum clearances, and latching, among others. The doors, or lack thereof in some cases, that can be used in suites have the potential to improve clinical staff efficiency and patient care. Within suites there is no limit on the number of intervening rooms permitted provided minimum travel distances are met. In patient rooms not located within a suite exit access is permitted only through a single intervening room and only where the room has no more than eight patient beds.  Key Point: The space within a suite is not considered a corridor. This allows more flexibility with patient care equipment permitted outside of the rooms, permitting rooms open to the space, and opportunity to use different door types. What are the different types of suites? There are three subcategories of health care suites. Non-patient care suite - A health care suite that is not intended for patient sleeping or care.  Patient care non-sleeping suite - A health care suite providing care for one or more patients not intended for overnight patient sleeping. Patient care sleeping suite - A health care suite containing one or more beds intended for overnight patient sleeping. Key Point: Suites are designated by whether or not patient care is intended for the space and whether or not it is intended for overnight patient sleeping. Construction Considerations In order to take advantage of the benefits that suites offer they must meet a number of requirements including separation from the remainder of the building, size limitations, construction materials for internal walls, and adequate levels of staff supervision. Separation - Separated from the remainder of the building and from other suites by walls and doors meeting the requirements for those of corridor separation. Maximum Size Varies by suite type and some variables: Non-patient-care suite: in accordance with primary use/occupancy Patient care non-sleeping suite: 10,000 ft2, 12,500 ft2, or 15,000 ft2 (930 m2, 1160 m2, or 1394 m2) Patient care sleeping suite: 7500 ft2 or 10,000 ft2 (700 m2 or 930 m2) Internal walls - The subdivision of suites must be by means of noncombustible or limited-combustible partitions or partitions constructed with fire-retardant-treated wood enclosed with noncombustible or limited-combustible materials. The partitions are not required to be fire rated. Staff supervision - Patient care sleeping suites only must be provided with constant staff supervision within the suite.  Direct supervision of patient sleeping rooms is required if smoke detection is not provided in individual rooms or throughout the suite with total (complete) coverage automatic smoke detection. Key Point: Suites must be separated from the remainder of the building and from other suites by walls and doors meeting the requirements for those of corridor separation. Egress Considerations In addition to the requirements listed above there are a number of requirements that must be met in relation to the means of egress for a suite to be compliant. All patient care suites, whether sleeping or non-sleeping, must have at least one exit access to a corridor or to a horizontal exit directly from the suite. This allows for horizontal evacuation from the suite if needed. A second exit access door is required for patient care sleeping suites more than 1000 ft2 (93 m2) gross floor area and for patient care nonsleeping suites of more than 2500 ft2 (230 m2) gross floor area.  Exit Access - All patient care suites require exit access directly to a corridor or to a horizontal exit directly from the suites Additional Exit Access - An additional remotely located exit access door must be provided for patient sleeping suites more than 1000 ft2 (93 m2) and patient care nonsleeping suites more than 2500 ft2 (230 m2). Second exit access doors are permitted to be to one of the following: An exit stair An exit passageway An exit door to the exterior Another suite provided separation between suites is equivalent to corridor Travel distance - Not to exceed 100 ft (30 m) to an exit access door or horizontal exit door from any point in a patient care suite Not to exceed 200 ft (61 m) between any point in patient care suite and an exit [150 (46 m) in existing construction not protected throughout by approved electrically supervised sprinkler system.  Key Point: All suites must have at least one exit access directly to a corridor or a horizontal exit from within the suite. Larger suites require at least a second exit access door. Second exit access doors can be to a larger variety of exits/exit access. Key Point: The maximum travel distance to an exit access door or horizontal exit door is 100 ft. The maximum overall travel distance to an exit is 200 ft for sprinklered buildings and 150 ft for those without complete sprinkler coverage. Suites get a lot of attention in the life safety approach to health care occupancies for good reasons. While not a requirement, these provide a useful design option. They offer an approach that has appeals to architects and designers as well as health care engineers and clinicians. Understanding the context of suites within the overall fire protection and life safety scheme for a facility helps to ensure that the appropriate precautions are applied to ensure that the increased flexibility provided by their use is supported with compliance to the code provisions in place to make sure the environment remains safe.

Restaurant Fire Protection Basics

As we emerge from the shutdowns and limitations due to COVID-19, many of us are likely looking forward to the day when our favorite restaurant will be able to operate at full capacity. Full tables, a packed bar area, people sitting in a waiting area, and a ton of activity in the kitchen will be good for local businesses and for people’s need for more in-person social interaction. As we look forward to those days, this blog offers an introduction to some of the basic concepts that are used for the protection of customers, employees, and the building itself.  For the purpose of this blog, we’ll be talking about dine-in restaurants with full kitchen capabilities that are assembly occupancies (defined as having an occupant load of 50 or more persons). NFPA statistics show that for eating and drinking establishments, the majority of fires occur in the kitchen and specifically involve cooking equipment. With that in mind, this blog will center around kitchen safety, but first let’s address some of the general fire safety provision that also apply to dining areas. General Requirements Egress The ability for patrons to evacuate the restaurant in the event of a fire must be adequately provided and maintained. For restaurants with an occupant load of 50 or more, which would classify them as an assembly occupancy, the main entrance must be sized to be able to accommodate at least one half of the total occupant load. Other exits must be provided to handle the additional capacity with the total number being based on layout and maintaining acceptable travel distances. Some common areas of concern regarding safe egress include the arrangement of chairs and tables cutting down on the available aisle accessways as well secondary exits being locked, blocked, or obstructed by storage. Fire Alarm Whether or not a fire alarm system is required can come down to many variables but if it is a standalone building it is only required to be provided with a fire alarm system where the occupant load is greater than 300. Where  required, the system will need to be initiated by one of or a combination of manual operation (pull stations), automatic detection, or sprinkler system waterflow.  Notification of the occupants is required to be a voice announcement and include visible signals. Sprinkler Protection Sprinklers have not traditionally been required for all restaurants. Beginning with the 2021 edition of NFPA 101 Life Safety Code®, restaurants that are assembly occupancies of new construction will require sprinkler protection. Like fire alarms, a lot of variables can play into the need for sprinkler protection, including construction type, height, other uses of the building, and more. Where considering a standalone building used only as a restaurant its classification as an assembly occupancy does not require sprinkler protection for any existing construction unless it can also be considered a nightclub, dance hall, or discotheque in which case they are required for occupant loads over 100. Kitchen Fire Protection Wet-chemical extinguishing system As referenced earlier, the majority of fires in restaurants are caused by cooking equipment. For this reason, any cooking equipment used in processes that produce grease-laden vapors must be provided with ventilation and a fire extinguishing system. The fire extinguishing systems must be listed to UL 300 or equivalent standards which is currently only achieved by wet chemical extinguishing systems. The wet chemical is able to separate the oil and air for a sufficient amount of time to allow complete cooling. These systems are most commonly activated automatically through the use of fusible links that are in the exhaust airflow and have a manual release that can also be used by staff in the area. The manual release should be located in the path of egress from the space to allow for safe use.  Some common issues with the fixed extinguishing systems include the caps on discharge nozzles being taken off for day-to-day use. These caps prevent grease from getting into and clogging the nozzles and are designed to blow off when the system activates. The rearrangement or replacement of cooking equipment can also be problematic as the systems are specifically designed for the original equipment, changing these out without analyzing the system could result in a failure to extinguish a fire. Class-K Fire Extinguisher While the fixed extinguishing system is intended to be the primary means of extinguishment, at least one portable fire extinguisher is also required to be provided in the kitchen area. Extinguishers in kitchens need to be Class K to be appropriate for use on the cooking medium. Signage is required at the extinguisher in the form of a placard that is conspicuously placed near each Class K extinguisher that states that the fire protection system must be activated prior to using the fire extinguisher. Inspection and Maintenance Routine inspection and maintenance of cooking equipment, the hood and exhaust systems, and fire extinguishing equipment (including fire extinguishers) are vital to ensuring that protection is maintained consistently for the restaurant. In addition, instructions need to be provided to new employees on hiring and to all employees annually on the use of portable fire extinguishers and the manual actuation of the fire-extinguishing system. Hoods need to be inspected for grease buildup at a frequency that is typically semi-annually for most restaurants but can be more or less frequent, depending on the type and volume of cooking. When that inspection finds grease buildup the hood and exhaust system must be cleaned. NFPA 96 Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations, 2021 2021 The fire extinguishing systems must be maintained at least every 6 months and all actuation and control components, including remote manual pull stations, mechanical and electrical devices, detectors, and actuators, must be tested for proper operation. Fusible links of the metal alloy type and automatic sprinklers of the metal alloy type must also be replaced at this interval. Summary This is meant to be a high level overview of some of the major fire protection and life concepts for restaurants. There are many more details on each of the items covered in this blog and there are others that were not included here but still must be provided for a full compliant arrangement. NFPA 96 Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations, is a great place to start to find more information. NFPA 10 Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers, NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code®, NFPA 101, and the locally adopted building code should all be referenced for a full understanding of the requirements. I hope this was helpful as an overview. If you have any questions or would like to see a more in-depth discussion on any of the items covered, please let me know in the comments.

Room Integrity for Gaseous Fire Suppression Systems

Gaseous fire suppression systems are effective options for protecting valuable assets by extinguishing fires without damaging equipment in the space. In many applications however the best designed system might not be fully effective if the integrity of the room with the protected equipment itself is not adequately considered, provided, or maintained. Here we’ll review how gaseous suppression agents work, why the integrity of the room matters, how that is tested, and finally controls that can be set in place to ensure the integrity of the room is maintained. How do gaseous suppression agents work? Gaseous fire suppression agents work fundamentally the way any fire suppression media works; by removing one of the components of what was traditionally referred to as the fire triangle and now more appropriately, the fire tetrahedron.   Unlike water, which primarily works by removing heat, most gaseous suppression systems suppress fire primarily by reducing the available oxygen for combustion with some secondarily inhibiting the chemical chain reaction required for combustion. A minority of the agents do have a primary mechanism of heat absorption. Protection can be provided in a “total flooding” or “local application” approach. Local application design focuses discharge on a specific process or piece of equipment while the total flooding approach fills an entire space, typically a room defined by 4 walls, a floor, and a ceiling. Here we will be focusing on total flooding applications.   In order to reduce the available oxygen below the threshold which combustion can be supported, the gaseous agent must be introduced into the space and mix with the air in that space at a concentration that is specific to the particular gas chosen. Design concentrations can vary based on the agent as well as the fuel class being protected. Specifics of this can be found in NFPA 2001, Standard on Clean Agent Fire Extinguishing Systems, for clean agents and inert gases while NFPA 12 Standard on Carbon Dioxide Extinguishing Systems, can be referenced for carbon dioxide. One of the most important concepts to understand within this discussion is because the properties of these extinguishing agents do not significantly reduce heat, the concentrations must be held for a minimum period of time. This minimum period of time is typically no less than 10 minutes or a sufficient amount of time for trained personnel to respond. If the concentration of the gaseous agent disperses from the space then oxygen levels could once again increase to levels high enough to support combustion and with the heat and fuel still present, the fire could reignite. This is why room integrity becomes important. The room must be air-tight enough to maintain concentrations for the minimum hold times. Room Integrity – Pressure While not the focus of this discussion it should be noted that the initial discharge of gaseous suppression systems can cause significant pressure changes- both negative and positive- and the structural integrity of the enclosure should be evaluated to determine whether venting is required. Room Integrity – Leakage All rooms will have leakage when positively pressurized. Openings such as doors, windows, as well as those for HVAC ductwork or electrical cabling are a necessity but will also never be sealed perfectly. It is not the intent to make sure that they are either. Rather, the intent is to ensure that minimum design concentrations can be maintained within the space for the minimum amount of time. As a general rule, all openings, notably doors and ventilation fans and/or openings, must be secured prior to discharge in conjunction with the detection and alarm system. In the case of clean agents this is specified by NFPA 2001 as a minimum concentration of 85 percent of the adjusted minimum design concentration held at the highest height of protected content within the enclosure for a period of 10 minutes or for a time period sufficient to allow for response by trained personnel. The design of the system plus the air-tightness of the room must combine to meet this requirement. Testing for room integrity The ability of a compartment to maintain adequate agent concentration is a function of the leakage of the compartment. Annex C of NFPA 2001 describes a complete procedure for evaluating agent hold time as a function of compartment leakage measured by the door fan pressurization method. This method is called a room integrity fan test or, more commonly, a door fan test. This procedure specified in Annex C of NFPA 2001 determines the leakage of the entire enclosure envelope. It is determined by measuring the enclosure leakage under both positive and negative pressures and averaging the absolute values of the readings. While it seems rather complex, most of the readings from the test can be input into computer programs that will perform the calculations and provide the results. This method evaluates a worst-case leakage for the enclosure and actual performance can be expected to show much less leakage than the results of the door fan test. Maintaining room integrity Even if the system was designed correctly and initial integrity tests show that sufficient concentrations can be maintained, modifications to the space can have the potential to drastically change this   condition. In order to ensure the integrity of the room is maintained, annual inspection of the enclosure is required, or the enclosure must be monitored by a documented administrative program for changes in barrier integrity or enclosure dimensions. Additionally, any penetrations made through the enclosure need to be sealed immediately. If there is any question as to the impacts any changes might have on the ability for design concentration to be held, integrity testing should be performed again. Conclusion Gaseous fire suppression systems are significant investments in protecting valuable equipment and assets. Part of ensuring their effectiveness goes beyond the system itself and must also focus on the room so that any fire can be suppressed and limit the chances for reignition.
City snowy street

NFPA 25 provides guidance on maximizing fire safety during sprinkler systems restoration process

Over the past couple of weeks, one of the common themes among news stories and social media posts addressing the recent winter storms has been the impact of plunging temperatures on pipes. Numerous videos and images have shown frozen leaks extruding from systems and burst pipes allowing continuous flow of water from plumbing systems, which included all portions of automatic fire sprinkler systems. NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, contains provisions that require protection of sprinkler system from freezing where exposure to low temperatures can be expected. Options for this protection, which have been addressed in previous blogs, include listed antifreeze solutions, the use of dry sprinklers or dry sprinkler systems, and heat tracing. While these are effective solutions when done properly and maintained in accordance with NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, these solutions are not typically provided in conditioned spaces where the heating system is expected to maintain temperatures above freezing. In the situation where utility outages and rolling blackouts disable the heating system, the water filled pipe in those heated areas can then be subject to extreme temperatures, causing the water to freeze and subsequent failures within the system. This is a situation beyond what the standard normally anticipates. Unfortunately, as those videos and images showed last week, many systems were subjected to record cold temperatures and suffered failures. At that point, the building contains a compromised sprinkler system and is no longer protected at the level that is expected while the system is in service. In NFPA 25, the term for a system that is out of order is an impairment. In fact, one of the specifically identified ‘emergency impairments’ is frozen or ruptured piping. Impairments need to be addressed and resolved as quickly as possible in order to provide the expected level of protection for life and property. If the impairment is prolonged, additional measures need to be taken in consideration of life and property protection. Impairment Program In the time before the restoration of service, NFPA 25 provides details on impairment programs and what they should cover: Determination of the extent and expected duration of the impairment Determination of the area or buildings involved are inspected and increased risks Submittal of recommendations to mitigate any increased risks Notification of the fire department Notification of the insurance carrier, alarm company, property owner, and other authorities having jurisdiction Notification of supervisors in the areas affected Implementation of a Tag impairment system Prolonged Impairments In addition to these steps, what may be the most important or impactful provision is arranging for one or more of the following measures when the fire protection system is out of service for more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period: Evacuation of the building or portion of the building affected by the system out of service Implementation of an approved fire watch program Establishment of a temporary water supply Establishment and implementation of an approved program to eliminate potential ignition sources and limit the amount of fuel available to a fire Restoring Systems to Service When repair work has been completed and the system is restored to service, the following items need to be confirmed: Any necessary inspections and tests have been conducted Supervisors have been advised that protection is restored The fire department has been advised that protection is restored The insurance carrier, alarm company, property owner, and other authorities having jurisdiction are notified that protection is restored The impairment tag is removed The impacts of the recent weather events will be seen for a while, and as weather patterns throughout the U.S. become more extreme, these kinds of incidents will likely become more common. Taking the proper precautions and establishing a plan for handling these types of scenarios well ahead of time can make a tremendous difference in mitigating the impacts of extreme weather on sprinkler systems. NFPA offers a series of online trainings that can help ensure the effectiveness of sprinkler systems in multiple environments, including the upcoming NFPA 13 (2019) Live Virtual Training, which will held on March 8-12, 2021, and theNFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems (2019) Online Learning Course.  
3

Latest Articles