Topic: Fire Protection Systems

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.  
Leaking pipes

Frozen and burst/compromised pipes prompt concern around electrical safety for homes and other occupancies in the aftermath of Texas storm

Last week’s winter storm in Texas left millions of people contending with loss of power and heat, and in many cases, frozen pipes. For residents whose pipes burst, understanding the potential hazards posed by electrical wires and electrical equipment that come in contact with water is critical to safety.  Power should remain off until a professional electrician has inspected the entire home and all appliances, as water can damage the internal components in refrigerators, washing machines and dryers, causing shock and fire hazards. A qualified electrician can help determine what electrical equipment should be replaced and what can be repaired. In addition, people should always be directed to a qualified electrician if they have any questions or concerns around their home's electrical system.  The impacts of the Texas storm have reached far beyond homes, however, with many industrial and commercial facilities also facing concerns about their building's electrical systems. For building owners and managers working to assess water damage, critical decisions need to be made about whether the electrical equipment can be salvaged or not. NFPA offers a checklist to help highlight and simplify key aspects of this decision-making process. The checklist builds off recommendations in chapter 32 of NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance (2019 edition), which includes: A list of disaster scenarios, which can inflict damage of varying degrees to facilities Steps for assessing equipment A priority assessment table Steps to help identify factors for replacement or repair  While the choice between repair and replace is not always an easy one, following these simple suggestions can help turn what can feel like an impossible task into an informed decision.  In addition, NFPA offers its free “Natural Disaster Electrical Equipment Checklist” which serves as a valuable resource to community officials being asked for electrical information and assistance in the aftermath of a storm or other weather-related event.    Last but not least, a Facility Executive article written by NFPA’s Derek Vigstol talks about how facility managers can prepare for, respond, and recover from a disaster. Vigstol says that it all starts with prep work leading up to an event, which includes creating a site-specific disaster plan. This helps ensure the least amount of down time and a speedy recovery. Additional disaster-related resources for specialists tasked with protecting people and property from fire, electrical, and other emergencies, can be found on NFPA's disaster webpage, including bulletins, related code information, articles, and more.
Maryland Fire Marshal

Maryland, one of two states that require residential fire sprinklers, reports record-low fire deaths in 2020

The Office of the State Fire Marshal of Maryland released preliminary data from 2020 which showed 51 people died due to injuries sustained in fires last year, a record-low for the state. The previous low was 54 in 2012, and last year’s statistic represents a 22 percent decrease from the 65 deaths in 2019. “Residential sprinklers are in place here in Maryland; they aren’t going anywhere,” State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci said to The Garrett County Republican. “We’re saving lives, and they’re clearly making a difference.” Maryland requires a residential fire sprinkler in all new one- or two-family homes across the state. Despite the provision for sprinklers included in all building codes, Maryland and California are the only two states in the US that require residential fire sprinklers, along with Washington, DC and hundreds of local communities. The Maryland law was passed in 2012, and was recently strengthened by the passing of House Bill 823 and Senate Bill 746, which gave the Fire Marshal the ability to enforce the requirements. Maryland law also prohibits local governments from weakening the sprinkler requirement in their jurisdiction’s building codes. According to reports, another key factor in the decrease of the state’s fire deaths is a 2013 law that required replacing 10-year-old battery-only smoke alarms with alarms powered by a 10-year sealed battery. Most people are unaware that smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. By using long life battery smoke alarms, you greatly reduce missing or dead battery issues. Over the last 25 years, the average annual fire death total in the state was 71. Over the last 10 years, it has dropped to 64. Out of the 51 total fire deaths, 33 occurred in residential properties, a significant decrease from the 52 residential deaths in 2019. This is very good news for the state and another reminder of the life-saving capabilities of residential fire sprinklers and the positive impact they have for citizens and first responders. To learn more about home fire sprinklers and how to get them in your community, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

New web version and quarterly print schedule for NFPA Journal

NFPA Journal®, the magazine of the National Fire Protection Association, has launched a new web version and moved to a quarterly print publication schedule as part of a larger plan to expand the magazine’s online presence, extend the association’s global reach, and provide convenient access to a range of content generated by the award-winning NFPA Journal team and the magazine’s many contributors. The new NFPA Journal online site will feature highlighted pieces from the print magazine, as well as breaking news coverage, thought leadership content, a daily feed of national fire service news, and the latest installments of the popular NFPA Podcast and Learn Something New video series. Readers can also view the current issue of the magazine in digital flipbook format and access NFPA Journal en Espanol. Until recently the print edition of NFPA Journal was published on a bimonthly basis. Now, NFPA Journal will be distributed exclusively to NFPA members in February, May, August, and November. The magazine will continue to provide in-depth coverage of emerging trends, codes and standards development, and education and advocacy initiatives to NFPA members. “These changes mark an exciting point in the evolution of NFPA Journal and represent an important part of NFPA’s growing international influence,” said Scott Sutherland, executive editor of NFPA Journal. “Our new and expanded web identity, combined with our new print schedule, will help us reach more audiences around the world with a wider variety of stories on emerging fire and life safety issues.” Visit and bookmark nfpa.org/journal to access fire, electrical, building and life safety news or download the NFPA Journal app for IOSor >Android today.
Home fire sprinkler side-by-side demo

Fire Protection Research Foundation Board of Trustees Welcomes Two New Members

The Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA, has appointed two new members to its Board of Trustees. Effective January 1, 2021, Lou Gritzo of FM Global and Peg Paul of Peg Paul Associates will serve three-year terms. The Research Foundation also announced that Rodger Reiswig from Johnson Controls and Thomas Gell from Brandforsk Sweden will serve a second round of three-year terms on the Board of Trustees. Dr. Lou Gritzo is currently the vice president and manager of research with FM Global and is charged with overseeing a division of scientists who specialize in fire, explosions, natural hazards (windstorms, floods, earthquakes), equipment, risk and reliability and cyber hazards. Given FM Global’s interest in understanding property hazards and identifying scientifically proven solutions to prevent property and business interruption loss, Gritzo is a strong fit for the Research Foundation leadership role. Gritzo has served on NFPA’s Research Advisory Committee, as well. A graduate of Texas Tech University with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and a minor in applied mathematics, Gritzo has served as chair of both the Board of Directors of the Innovation Research Interchange (formerly the Industrial Research Institute) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Heat Transfer Division Executive Committee. He has also served on the Governing Board of the Global Earthquake Model, the ABET Industrial Advisory Committee, and spent time on the Research Foundation’s Research Advisory Committee as well as committees for several universities. Peg Paul is currently the president of Peg Paul & Associates (PPA), a marketing communications agency founded in 2000 that specializes in developing and implementing multi-integrated information and education campaigns. PPA supports a wide range of client needs but has especially established a niche in public safety promotion and has been retained for this purpose by some of the leading national safety advocacy groups, trade associations and industries. Paul has been the communications manager for the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition since 1997, where she oversees the development and implementation of educational programs for consumers, members of the fire service, the home building industry, real estate and insurance agents, water purveyors and other targeted groups. She also serves on the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Fire and Life Safety Section, and was an invaluable member of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors Board of Directors for ten years. Paul was also recognized as the 2014 Fire Sprinkler Advocate of the Year by the American Fire Sprinkler Association. We welcome and thank Dr. Gritzo and Peg Paul.
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