Importance of Inspection Testing and Maintenance of Fire Protection Systems

Sprinkler systems are exceptionally reliable, such that the chance of dying in a fire is reduced by one-half to three-fourths when sprinklers are installed in a building. Statistics also show that property damage is reduced by half to two-thirds when sprinklers are present. All of this is true, of course, only if the system has been designed, installed, and maintained properly. It has been seen that in 59% of incidents in which sprinklers failed to operate, the system had been shut off. This is a reason why the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance (ITM) of water-based fire protection systems is so crucial.

NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems is the baseline for inspection, testing, and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems. The purpose of NFPA 25 is to provide requirements that ensure a reasonable degree of protection for life and property from fire through minimum inspection, testing, and maintenance methods for water-based fire protection systems.

Care and maintenance include more than the inspection and testing of system components. For effective protection, an evaluation of the factors that affect system performance should be made. These factors include such items as the following:

  • Occupancy changes
  • Process or material changes
  • Building modifications such as relocated partitions or ceilings or the addition of mezzanines
  • Modifications to the heating system exposing systems to potential freezing

To maintain the proper level of protection for a water-based extinguishing system, there are four areas of concern:

  1. Adherence to a regular inspection schedule as determined by the needs of the system
  2. Execution of any special investigations or tests that can assess the performance of the devices and equipment
  3. Exercise of due diligence in the repair of devices and equipment
  4. Assurance that all personnel involved in maintenance are properly trained to correctly execute the procedures for inspection, testing, and maintenance of equipment

There are many new technologies and advancements in the field of fire protection system ITM that are being utilized to ensure that these systems remain operational.

Automated inspection and testing

Automated inspection and testing is being utilized more often with advancements in technology. The overall concept behind these inspections and testing methods is that they mimic the formerly manual process and produce the same outcome. For example, a sensor on a fire pump housing that records the temperature during testing can replicate the same outcome as a person measuring the temperature manually. However, some inspections and tests require the presence of a qualified person and cannot be performed automatically.

Data analysis

The increased use of data collection and analysis that can be completed on fire protection systems is being used to determine if there can be a change in the required inspection, test, and maintenance frequencies as well as determining if the monitoring of such equipment in real time can be used to detect an upcoming failure of the system.

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Shawn Mahoney
Technical Services Engineer with a masters degree and PE in fire protection supporting subjects throughout the association

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