Sprinkler Supervision: What Does it Mean?

Automatic Sprinklers have proven to be highly effective over the years. Recent statistics show that sprinklers operated 92% of the time in fires that were considered large enough to activate sprinklers. The leading cause of sprinklers failing to operate is because the sprinkler system had been shut off. In fact, that is the reason cited in three out of every five incidents where sprinklers failed to operate according to the U.S. Experience with Sprinklers Report. One way to prevent shut-off of sprinkler systems is through sprinkler supervision. What is sprinkler supervision and why is it necessary? A sprinkler system has a number of control and isolation valves which allow portions of the system to be shut down for things like maintenance, testing, or rehabilitation work. These valves allow for the rest of the system to remain operational while the necessary work is completed in a specific area. It isn’t uncommon to see a main control valve which controls water to the entire system as well as a floor control valve on every floor. This way, if rehabilitation work is happening on the second floor, the isolation valve on the second floor can be closed and that portion of the system can be worked on. The system would remain operational on the remaining floors. While the benefit of being able to isolate certain parts of the system is obvious, there can be risks associated with it. Valves can remain shut after the work is complete, or, valves can be accidentally, or intentionally, shut thus rendering portions of the system useless. This is where sprinkler supervision is important. Sprinkler supervision is intended to ensure the overall integrity of the piping system by providing a method to verify all control and isolation valves are fully open. What does supervision mean in NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems? NFPA 13 provides the designer with options of how to monitor the isolation and control valves. The options are: Electrical supervision that reports to either Central station, proprietary, or remote station signaling service Local signaling service that will cause the sounding of an audible signal at a constantly attended point Valves locked in the correct position Valves located within fenced enclosures under the control of the owner, sealed in the open position, and inspected weekly as part of an approved procedure If you want to learn more about NFPA 13 and sprinkler supervision, check out this article. Any of the above means of supervision is acceptable per NFPA 13 for all valves except floor control valves in high-rise buildings and valves controlling flow to sprinklers in circulating closed loop systems. In those two special cases, NFPA 13 requires that those valves be electrically supervised. What does supervision mean in NFPA 101, Life Safety Code and NFPA 1, Fire Code? The Life Safety Code does not provide the designer the same options for supervision that NFPA 13 does. Instead, the Life Safety Code requires that all supervised sprinkler systems be electrically supervised. The supervisory signal must be reported either at a location within the protected building that is constantly attended by qualified personnel or at an approved, remotely located receiving facility. It is important to note, that there are instances where the Life Safety Code does not require electrical supervision and instead permits supervision in accordance with NFPA 13. In these cases, such as what is seen in the extinguishment requirements for existing mercantile occupancies, the Life Safety Code requires an “approved automatic sprinkler system” in specified locations. Since the word “supervised” is not included, the electrical supervision requirements specific to the Life Safety Code do not apply, and the sprinkler system is permitted to be supervised in accordance with NFPA 13. Since the Fire Code extracts the automatic sprinkler system provisions from the Life Safety Code, the same requirements for electrical supervision apply to any sprinkler system that is required to be supervised by the Fire Code. Why is there a difference? Not all Codes require electrical supervision like the Life Safety Code and Fire Code do. For instance, NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, only requires electrical supervision when specifically called for, otherwise any form of supervision permitted by NFPA 13 is acceptable. The electrical supervision required by the Life Safety Code is a vital component. In many cases, by providing a supervised automatic sprinkler system, other modifications to building design are permitted. For example, in most occupancies, a sprinklered building is permitted to have a longer travel distance and a longer common path of travel when electrically supervised. Other trade-offs include different allowable construction types or reduced fire resistance rating of fire barriers. NFPA 13 also recognizes the improved reliability of electrically supervised sprinkler systems through trade-offs like the Life Safety Code does. One example is that, when determining the water supply duration requirements for hydraulically calculated systems, the lower duration values are permitted to be used where the waterflow alarm devices and supervisory devices are electrically supervised. This means that for an ordinary hazard occupancy, the water supply duration for an electrically supervised system would be permitted to be 60 minutes instead of 90 minutes. These types of allowances found in NFPA 13 and the Life Safety Code, are based on the assumption that the automatic sprinkler system is going to perform as expected. To increase the probability of this occurring, electrical supervision is required so that any time a valve is closed, somebody, either a qualified person on site or an approved remotely located receiving facility is made aware of the system impairment.
Reconditioned equipment

Three Key Questions Facility Managers Need to Address to Help Assess Whether Electrical Equipment Should be Reconditioned or Replaced

Electrical equipment has been a staple of U.S. manufacturing since the early days of the industrial revolution. Along with the early adoption of electric light and power in America came the early adoption of fixing broken equipment. We have all heard the quote that the only two guarantees in life are death and taxes, right? Well, that quote might have been made a little too early in our country’s history. I think we can agree that a third guarantee is that inevitably, electrical equipment will break down at some point. Whether we are talking about a motor with lots of moving parts or a busway that just carries electrons from point A to point B, electrical equipment eventually wears out. So, what do we do when this truth eventually comes to pass? Well, we can certainly tear out the old equipment, bring in the latest and greatest shiny new contraption that engineers have built and be back up and running in a jiffy, with all new state of the art electrical equipment that has us meeting production once again. New replacement is certainly an option to consider but the first question to ask ourselves is, is it the best option? I can’t answer that with certainty, but I do know I follow up the question with, “Is new equipment the only option?” The answer I hear is most often a resounding “No!” One option that has been the subject of a lot of discussion lately is the option to have broken or worn equipment sent out to an outfit that specializes in restoring equipment to its original “new” condition. This option is what has been referred to as “reconditioned equipment.” Now, I put the word “new” in quotation marks because it isn’t actually a new piece of equipment. Here is the definition from Article 100 of NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®) that helps us understand what “reconditioned” really means: Electromechanical systems, equipment, apparatus, or components that are restored to operating conditions. This process differs from normal servicing of equipment that remains within a facility, or replacement of listed equipment on a one-to-one basis. (CMP-10) Informational Note: The term reconditioned is frequently referred to as rebuilt, refurbished, or remanufactured. So, the concept is, the equipment, which has either become non-operational or is about to break down, is sent off to a vendor who will go through it and essentially bring everything back to as close to original as possible. This is a different process that another option, which would be to contract a company to come into your facility and find out why the equipment no longer works, what parts are broken or worn, replace those parts, and turn it back on. That option would be more of a normal servicing of the equipment that fixes it in place. The second question we need to ask is, “When would a facility choose reconditioned equipment as the answer?” In true NEC fashion, the answer is, it depends! There are a lot of variables that go into deciding if reconditioned equipment is the best route to go or even if it is permitted to be installed. A facility might choose to install reconditioned equipment for a multitude of reasons, such as: the existing equipment is no longer available as new the existing equipment is a part of the aesthetics of the building the reconditioned option is more cost effective to the project These are just a few examples of why someone might choose reconditioned equipment. There are certainly many, many more reasons out there to pick from should you ever find yourself in that position. The third question a facility must ask is, does the NEC permit a reconditioned version of whatever your broken equipment is to be installed? This was the focus of much of the discussion around the 2020 NEC revision cycle. In fact, I had a chance recently talk to a great friend and CMP-6 member, Christel Hunter, who was on the front lines of the reconditioned discussions, about what the revisions to the 2020 NEC mean to the electrical world, and the revisions centered around what can and cannot be installed as reconditioned equipment. Watch the video on our NEC Facebook page.      For facilities, this helps provide some insight to what types of equipment will be allowed for installation, which then helps them decide whether to replace what they have with new equipment, used equipment, reconditioned equipment, or some other option. The last thing to take into consideration here is the understanding that we are no longer dealing with a new piece of equipment once it has been reconditioned. Because it is no longer new, the NEC is going to require that a label or marking is affixed to the equipment that identifies the outfit that performed the reconditioning, and if the original equipment carried the mark of a third-party listing agency, that mark must be removed. This then opens the discussion around whether a field evaluation is now required. In many cases, the AHJ is going to require that if the original equipment was required to be listed, the reconditioned equipment be evaluated as well. This also points to the importance of using credible reconditioning companies. The field evaluation body is also going to want to know that the equipment was rebuilt by a company with the qualification to do such work. It is inevitable that legacy equipment will fail at some point and the owner of this equipment might be faced with an issue where they can no longer procure parts to fix the problem. It is important that these facility owners fully understand the ins and outs of what is required for safety when it comes to utilizing reconditioned equipment. The safety of their employees, business, and bottom line might just depend on it. The good news here is that there are many resources out there to help in this process. In addition to NFPA, organizations such as UL and the Professional Electrical Apparatus Reconditioning League (PEARL) have resources at the ready to help guide this decision-making process. To follow this evolving conversation, subscribe to our newsletter and select the “electrical” topic as an area of interest. You’ll get all the latest NFPA news related to electrical safety, which in turn will help you stay connected to safety. After all, it’s a big world, let’s protect it together!

“Team” Features Highlighted in Final Installment of NFPA LiNK Digital Platform Video Series

This fall, NFPA introduced the launch of a video blog series highlighting the key functions and features of NFPA LiNK™, the newest digital platform for building, electrical, and life safety professionals and practitioners. We discussed the dashboard and publications features, bookmarks and MyLiNK functionalities, as well as the search and share functions. In this, our last video in the series, we’re putting the spotlight on the “team access” feature that can assist you and your staff on the job. We all know in the workplace you are often working with a team of people. Maybe you’re in the engineering department designing systems and equipment or mapping out plans for a new hospital. Perhaps you’re in the field installing equipment in a new school. Regardless of your role, it is likely you are collaborating and working with others to complete your tasks. This is where NFPA LiNK can help play a part. With a teams or enterprise subscription, users have the ability to create collections and share notes. So as the supervisor you can now flag key areas to prepare your team for their next project. You can group together common questions and provide clarifications with your personal notes so your team has access to the information they need to be the very best at their job. Another great feature for managers includes the ability to put together collections on important topics to assist with training new hires or updating teams on the latest changes. Team members can also create their own team notes and collections to share peer to peer, as well. As your team grows or changes you can easily add and remove users by simply updating their email address in the administrator’s team management section. Invite a team member and they will receive an emailed invitation to join your team. A few clicks later they will able to take advantage of all the features available to them through NFPA LiNK. Learn more about team and enterprise subscriptions in the video below:     There’s so much about NFPA LiNK you don’t want to miss. Whether you’re a manager or team member, there are so many functions and features within NFPA LiNK that will keep you connected and informed with everyone you work with. Learn more about how NFPA LiNK can elevate your work and help you accomplish your goals. Purchase or try NFPA LiNK today by visiting the website.  Find more information about the platform, a timeline of additional codes and standards that will be coming to NFPA LiNK, and a product introduction video at nfpa.org/LiNK. 

Research: Tell Us What You Need!

If you are a firefighter, have you ever wondered how the industry is attacking the increased rates of cancer among firefighters or how to safely extinguish an electric vehicle fire? As a fire sprinkler designer, do you ever wonder how the tables in the storage chapters of NFPA 13 are continuously evolving to push the limits to protect more diverse commodities and taller storage arrangements? Or how “they” figure out whether I need to install a sprinkler above my cloud ceiling? As a building owner, or someone who works in the electrical word, what are the appropriate fire mitigation solutions for photovoltaic systems installed on building roofs? These examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the challenging problems the fire protection community faces daily. Fortunately, many issues are often analyzed with resolution through the NFPA research affiliate, the Fire Protection Research Foundation. So how is the Fire Protection Research Foundation aware of fire protection industry concerns?  Each year the Foundation reviews project ideas that are submitted by YOU and others who share in interest in protecting people and property! Research requests do not need to be tied to a specific code or standard. In fact, here are a few examples of requests and affiliated reports that are not directly related to a code or standard: Literature Review on Spaceport Fire Safety Wildfire Risk Reduction: Engaging Local Officials Hazard Assessment of Lithium Ion Batteries used in Energy Storage Systems (ESS) Bear in mind, no project is too small (literature reviews, code comparisons, loss summaries) or too large (full scale fire testing). We take on large and limited projects - and anything in between! Not sure what research needs to be done, but you feel something must be done. Maybe a workshop (research planning meeting) can help? So please, if you have any research needs to thread the needle or solve a problem, simply submit a project idea form here by December 31, 2020!
Fire truck racing down the street

Firefighter safety the spotlight of latest video interview for Faces of Fire electrical hazard awareness campaign

This fall, NFPA and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors announced the launch of a new campaign series, Faces of Fire/Electrical, which features personal stories of people impacted by electrical incidents, demonstrating the need for continued education and awareness about electrical hazards in the workplace and at home. Over the course of the campaign we are highlighting a new video interview every few weeks. This week, we introduce Luis Nevarez, a division chief in the City of Tulare Fire Department in California. While responding to a call as a firefighter in 2002, Luis accidentally touched a hidden 12,000-volt line while breaking a limb off a smoldering tree. The incident caused severe burn injuries, which resulted in the amputation of his left forearm. Luis spent 35 days in the hospital following his accident, and months recovering from his injuries.  According to the latest U.S. Firefighter Injury Report from NFPA, an estimated 58,250 firefighter injuries occurred in the line of duty in 2018, and while the majority of firefighter injuries are minor, a significant number are often debilitating and career ending. When it comes to electrical dangers, many believe they exist only at vehicle accidents or structure fires, but the truth is, electrical lines can present safety risks in nearly every fire and emergency situation. The warning signs, however, are not always visible to allow firefighters to recognize the dangers. Luis’ story is powerful and today he continues to advocate for a safe work environment for members of the fire service. Systemic change, including training and education about the electrical hazards firefighters face while on call is essential. If firefighters and first responders are better equipped to identify the warnings early, they can reduce their risk of injuries from electricity, including treating all electrical lines and components as live until they are deemed safe. We are grateful to Luis for sharing his story with us. You can view all of the videos, including the latest interview with Amy Acton, Chief Executive Officer of the Phoenix Society, and the first two videos of our series featuring Dave Schury and Sam Matagi, on our dedicated campaign webpage. There you will also find free resources to download and share, including fact sheets, tip sheets, infographics and more, in addition to information about electrical safety in both the home and in the workplace. See Luis’ video and read more about his work by visiting the Faces of Fire/Electrical website at nfpa.org/facesoffire

CRR in Action: 3 Questions with Lieutenant Chris Collins of Saint Albans Fire Department

Community Risk Reduction (CRR) is a process to identify and prioritize local risks, followed by the integrated and strategic investment of resources to reduce their occurrence and impact. This process has been gaining traction in fire departments around the world as a tool to enhance efforts to increase the safety of residents, visitors, and first responders. But what does it look like in action? As a member of the Community Risk Reduction team at NFPA, I am fortunate to work with passionate, proactive fire professionals who have real world perspective about CRR and its merits. It is a pleasure to share their stories in this blog series. My first interview is with Lt. Chris Collins, a Fire Inspector and CRR champion at the Saint Albans Fire Department in West Virginia. Karen: Lt. Collins, we have had a chance to work together on a couple of projects. It is clear you are a prevention-minded firefighter. Can you share a little bit about why prevention and risk reduction are important to you? Chris: A few years ago, our chief asked me to take an NFPA Certified Fire Inspector class. I grudgingly accepted, but made it clear to him that I became a firefighter to put out fires and rescue people, not to inspect buildings. While studying the course and reviewing the codes, I was amazed at the thought and care that goes into making occupancies safer. As I read about the history of NFPA and studying historical fires, a specific line in the text stood out to me: “Every code represents past victims.” That was an “aha” moment for me. I realized I could save many more people with proactive preventive measures than being reactive and waiting until an emergency happens. Not long after, we attended the Remembering When™ Conference and learned more aspects about how to influence our community with proactive prevention measures for elderly residents. These experiences fueled my enthusiasm to work in this space. Karen: As a member of the NFPA CRA Pilot Project, you’ve had a chance to use a digital dashboard customized to your community to get a good view of the local risks and capacities. How has the CRA dashboard impacted your work and the work of other members of your fire department? Chris: The dashboard centralizes data needed to conduct our Community Risk Assessment (CRA) into one place. This saved us tons of time and frustration. The CRA process is a long-term, data driven, fluid process and the dashboard helps us to slow down and capture the short-term gains while we also plan for long-term results. For example, we were able to quickly adapt our safety programs to match our interventions to the needs in unique neighborhoods while working on our CRA in the background. This tool has also helped us write grants, work with local news outlets to bring awareness to our CRR efforts and activate the public. I am incorporating the dashboard into our recruit academy in the upcoming weeks so we can cultivate a new culture on the operations side that emphasizes the importance of CRR and its progression within our department. Karen: On that note, we know that some fire department operations crews are supportive of CRR efforts but don’t see their own work as a critical component. How do you feel about that? What are the vital contributions line firefighters make to the CRR process in your community? There is a culture in the fire service to poke fun whenever possible and some of the crews find some amusement at the expense of the prevention team. However, I know that most of the staff recognize the critical importance of preventative methods and sincerely promote the programs designed to help residents. As an example, I routinely get calls at all hours from crews sharing information about smoke alarm installations in homes that had none, of overcrowding in our homeless shelter, about building deficiencies, identifying at-risk geriatric patients and many other red flag issues. They do this because they see the results of these programs and feel valued when they are a part of them. Of course, we still have a few operations staff who may never value CRR. I find it most rewarding to focus more of my efforts on the recruits and young staff who will carry CRR forward in our department long after I am gone.  This blog series is intended to provide a peek into some commendable CRR initiatives and inspire those interested in CRR to jump in and join the momentum. Throughout the series, we’ll share a brief interview with a CRR professional about the unique efforts taking place at the local level. NFPA is currently seeking new fire department to join the CRA pilot project. Want to learn more about the NFPA CRA pilot project in which Lt. Collins’ community participates? Go to nfpa.org/CRR for more information and apply before December 16, 2020. Reach out to crr@nfpa.org with questions.
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