Updated on September 26, 2018. Originally published on June 30, 2017.
Contributor: Gavin Hansen, F.E. Moran Fire Protection Service & Inspection Manager
Writer: Sarah Block, The Moran group Marketing Director
For Midwest’s commercial facilities, fire sprinkler code and inspection requirements are somewhat elusive. An inspection that takes place every five years is even more misunderstood. To clarify, fire sprinklers should be inspected regularly. There are important weekly, monthly, and annual inspections that need to take place to ensure that fire sprinklers are working optimally. However, there are also three year and five year inspections that are important to remember. By continually completing the annual, three year, and five year inspection, your facility will be safe and, as a bonus, can qualify for property insurance discounts (find more information on discounts and other benefits here). While all three inspections are important, the five year inspection is the only one that inspects internally, ensuring there is no fire sprinkler blockages in the event of an activation.
Why do I need a 5-year fire sprinkler inspection?
Property managers keep their fire sprinkler systems working optimally in the long term because of NFPA 25’s 5-year inspection requirement. This inspection goes beyond the systems, valves, and piping and goes internal. At random points in the fire sprinkler system, samples are taken to check for MIC and other organic or inorganic foreign matter.
This inspection is especially important because, although a fire sprinkler system failure is rare, when it does occur, it is often associated with a blockage in the system. Materials blocking the fire sprinkler piping can cause either no water or insufficient water when a fire sprinkler activates during a fire.
The 5-year inspection is the only inspection that ensures there are no blockages in the system, so water flows with the correct pressure.
What does the 5-year fire sprinkler inspection include?
When a five-year fire sprinkler inspection takes place, a fire protection inspector will verify the operation and condition of check valves and internally inspect pipe. Internal examination is performed at the following minimum four points: system valve, riser, cross main, and branch line. Inspectors look for corrosion obstructions - either organic or inorganic foreign matter.
During the inspection, valves will be inspected to ensure proper operation. Pipes will be drained and checked for foreign matter. Additionally, all internal components are cleaned, repaired, or replaced as necessary, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Internal pipe examinations for “at-risk” systems take the inspection a step further. At-risk systems are over fifty years old and need to be monitored and inspected closer than newer systems. At-risk systems are also examined at system valve, riser, cross main, and branch lines.
After completion of the 5-year inspection, a report will be completed and submitted to the owner.
What do I do if the inspection finds corrosion?
If foreign material is found in any system in a building, all systems are then assessed. An Obstruction Investigation will follow. If foreign matter is found, it is called a trigger point; this requires complete flushing of the systems which will remove any obstruction.
Corrosion in fire sprinklers is a major issue. It could make a fire go from an inconvenience - if the fire sprinklers activated correctly - to a devastation with loss of life, property, and production if the fire sprinkler water source was blocked. By following fire sprinkler inspection requirements, Illinois commercial property owners have the peace of mind in knowing that their facility and people are safe.