Learn what property managers need to know about the five-year fire sprinkler inspection on commercial and residential properties.
Mall fire protection is complex. Each store has its own fire hazards, and it takes a real pro to know how to protect it correctly (plus, keep that protection maintained). The stories below show case malls that not only adequately protected their property and maintained their fire sprinkler and alarm systems, but inadvertently tested the systems with real life fires.
Installing fire sprinkler systems is only the first step to protecting malls. You need to inspect them and maintain them as well. F.E. Moran Fire Protection has a VIP program for malls. Malls get FREE inspections, and F.E. Moran Fire Protection does all the maintenance. Simple solution to malls' fire protection needs.
Fire crews found a fire in a restaurant storage closet at Eastridge Mall.
Before firefighters arrived, a single fire sprinkler head in the building activated. This sprinkler controlled the fire until firefighters could arrive and extinguish it completely.
In an official statement, the fire department said that the fire was contained to that small storage area and the damage was minimal. The exact cost of the damage has not yet been determined. In addition, no one was injured.
"The presence of the system in this case limited spread of the fire to other areas of the structure. What could have been a well-developed and growing fire was controlled in the area of origin until arrival of firefighters. These systems represent an important life safety and property protection component of modern structures," said Casper Fire-EMS.
A fire was reported at 9:17pm at an electronic store at Irving Mall. Heavy smoke was reported; however, when firefighters arrived, the mall's fire sprinkler had already activated. By 10:20pm, the fire was under control.
The fire was contained in the room it originated. There was heavy smoke, but firefighters used fans to vent the smoke out of the building.
A fire at Concord Mills started at 9:15am in the bathroom of an FYE store. Concord Fire Chief Ray Allen reported that the sprinkler system kicked on and helped put out the fire. The stores were able to re-open within two hours of the fire.
Fairfax County fire investigators said that an exhaust fan started a 2-alarm fire at the Tysons Corner Center mall. When firefighters arrived, they reported smoke coming from the roof, and they were quickly able to put out the fire.
The fire was started by an overheated exhaust fan motor that came in contact with paper towel rolls. The fire was in the storage closet of a kiosk. A fire sprinkler ignited and contained the fire until firefighters arrived to extinguish it.
In total, there was about $30,000 in damages and no injuries.
Fire crews responded to a fire in the kitchen of a restaurant at Mill Woods Mall. The fire was contained by an activated fire sprinkler until firefighters could extinguish it.
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NFSA's Illinois Chapter and Illinois Fire Inspectors Association is inviting AHJ's Code Officials, NFSA Contractors, and Property Managers to a FREE seminar.
Inspection, Testing, & Maintenance for Building Owners & Managers
Speaker: Ron Ritchey, NFSA
The seminar will take place on Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 8am to noon at Medinah Banquets.
Did you know?
- The building owner is the single most important individual in the inspection, testing, and maintenance of fire protection systems.
- NFPA 25, Standard of Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of water-based fire protection systems contains numerous detailed requirements that are the responsibility of the building owner, yet many building owners are not familiar with these requirements or with the fire sprinkler system in their building.
- This half-day seminar will provide an overview to fire sprinkler systems and the owner's requirements and limits when it comes to inspection, testing, and maintenance.
- The seminar will help building owners/managers better understand your local inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) requirements for their fire sprinkler systems.
Interested? Register by emailing Tinucci@nfsa.org
Read more about Fire Sprinkler Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance
Not too long ago, we had to take care of a completely preventable emergency. What could have been the cost of a $5 door sweep cost $50,000.
The building was designed to have the fire pump room next to the drive through that went to resident parking. The fire sprinkler contractor basically said, bad idea. However, the builder moved forward with his plan. He placed a door in the fire pump room that went to this outdoor area. The door had a 1 inch gap.
Can you see where I’m going with this?
One day, there was an unexpected cold spell. The heat wasn’t on. The fire pump room was set off, away from the rest of the building. No one was aware of a problem until water started leaking through the door.
The cold air was coming in through the 1 inch gap in the door. Everything froze. All of the pipe in the fire pump room. The 6 inch pipe was frozen solid. The control valve could not be closed until the pipe thawed, so the water just kept flowing.
In the end, the backflow, fire pump, dry valve, and everything else needed to be replaced.
Not wanting to spend $5 or listen to the fire protection contractor led to a $50,000 bill.
What are 3 things you can do this month to protect your fire protection system?
1) Inspect your gauges, control valves, dry pipe valves, and exterior pre-action valves.
Valves must be accessible, open and close properly, be free of leaks and damage, and labeled. Gauges need to be inspected to ensure they’re in good condition and that water pressure is maintained.
2) Test electric motor-driven fire pumps.
Complete a 10 minute run & flow test.
3) Inspect your pump systems
Inspect fire pumps to ensure they are working properly.
Check out a more detailed description of inspection needs at Hanover Insurance.
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Contributor: Chiara Lima, Business Development Manager at F.E. Moran Fire Protection
Writer: Sarah Block, Marketing Director at The Moran Group
"The phrase we tend to use is that we are deafened by silence - the silence in our house because we had a really busy house with three two year olds," said Martin Weekes, the father of triplets who perished in the Qatar mall fire that took the lives of nineteen people, including thirteen toddlers. The Qatar mall is being investigated over complaints that fire sprinklers and alarms were not working at the time of the fire. Any mall, shopping center, or retail outlet that does not fix discrepancies found in an inspection or fails to inspect according to the NFPA schedule could cause the same devastation.
Fire Risks in the Retail Market
Retail centers, shops, and malls have unique fire protection issues. The property is packed with merchandise and flammable display materials, making conflagration a definite possibility. On top of the flammable materials, synthetic partition walls and high shelving impedes firefighting efforts and eases the spread of fire. However, working fire sprinklers installed in a retail center will confine fires to the point of origin 94% of the time, greatly reducing damage.
There are 105,000 shopping centers in the United States with an average of 105 stores per mall. If a fire devastated the mall, the local economy could crumble with people out of work and businesses forced out of town. In addition to the possibility of economic strife, an unprotected shopping center is a risk to employees and shoppers. 97 million people frequent malls monthly; protect them by ensuring fire protection systems are in working condition.
The Importance of Regular Inspections
Fire protection systems require active ownership. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) collected data that showed that 4-8% of fires were caused by hazards that would have been found and corrected during an inspection. NFPA 25, the code for water-based sprinkler systems, necessitates weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly inspections. A facility's fire protection inspection schedule may vary depending on the type of fire protection equipment in the building, their insurance company's requirements, and the local fire departments requirements. Many of the weekly and monthly inspections can be performed by trained in-house personnel. However, quarterly and yearly inspections, should be completed by a certified fire protection professional, to ensure that the property's fire sprinkler system is ready to act in the event of a fire
Of the jurisdictions with inspection programs, those that used fire protection and suppression companies for their inspections had lower fire rates than facilities using dedicated fire inspectors exclusively. In fact, a study showed that properties that used inspectors from fire suppression companies had a significant drop in fires due to carelessness or mechanical failure. The study reasoned that the drop in fires could be from the overall attitude of fire safety and fire prevention in the community due to the visibility of fire inspectors.
Fix Violations to Protect People, Property, and Production
It is one thing for a facility to have their fire protection inspected according to NFPA, but it is another to fix violations. With budget cuts, fire departments are running on less manpower, and in turn, don't have the resources to actively enforce inspection violations. With enforcement becoming scarce, facilities sometimes choose to ignore violations in an attempt to save money. However, with a total of $648 million in property damage and 13 civilian deaths from 2004 to 2008 in the retail market from fire (NFPA report); the money saved by ignoring a violation is charged tenfold when a fire occurs.
The most common violation is having storage too close to the sprinkler head, facilities need to have at least an 18 inch clearance below each sprinkler head, if not, it can block the sprinkler spray from the fire. Other common violations are gauges over five years old, painted or corroded sprinkler heads, and buildings not completing their five year obstruction tests and internal check valve investigations.
By getting regular fire protection inspections and addressing all violations, malls, shopping centers, and retail stores can do their part in protecting their shoppers, employees, property, and merchandise.
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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.