Fire Sprinklers Control More Than You Know

Structural fires in office properties between 2007 and 2011 caused damages totaling $112 million. In 90% of those properties, wet pipe sprinklers were effective in controlling 88% of those fires. However, along with fire and smoke damage, water damage occurs when sprinklers are used. To reduce the extent of injuries and damages caused by water from fire sprinklers, several mechanical systems within the structure are controlled by fire and life safety systems. If you own an office property, you'll want to be sure these fire sprinkler systems do the following:

Flip Circuit Breakers Off

Electricity and water do not mix and can cause electrical shock. An integrated system will flip the circuit breakers off to reduce the risks of electrical shock to anyone within the building. However, the fire sprinkler system does require electricity to function due to the pumps that are used to direct the water to the nozzles. The fire alarms and sprinkler systems should be on separate circuits. The main processor for the fire and life safety systems control these various circuits automatically when sprinklers turn on after fires are detected by the smoke detectors and heat sensors that are located throughout the building.

Turn On Emergency Lighting

Emergency lighting is required by the fire safety administration in most areas. Emergency lighting can be on the same circuitry as the fire and life safety systems. Sometimes, however, buildings use backup generators when there is a power outage. If the emergency lights are not incorporated into the fire and life safety systems, they should still automatically turn on when the main circuit breaker is flipped off by the system. Be sure to know how your electrician or mechanical engineer wired the emergency lighting. If the lights are controlled by a backup generator, be sure to include the generator in the regular maintenance and safety checks for your fire and life safety systems.  

Shut Down Elevators

Sprinklers may turn on inside elevators and elevator shafts depending on where the system determines a fire is located. Water can cause problems with the mechanical functions of elevators. For example, some of the moving parts at the bottom of the shaft need to be lubricated by oil, which the water from sprinklers may wash away. This can cause the elevator to stop functioning, and potentially trap people inside. To reduce this risk, elevators will automatically be recalled to the ground level and shut down by the fire and life safety system.

Turn Off Water Pressure Limiter

A water pressure limiter is sometimes installed in buildings to control the flow of water at sinks and faucets for water conservation and in case there are any sudden increases in pressure from the water main that may cause damage to the plumbing. These pressure limiters should turn off automatically so they don't hinder the ability of the sprinklers to extinguish and/or control the fire.

Turn Off Automatic Water Shut-Off Valve

Automatic water shut-off valves prevent abnormal water flow, such as when a pipe bursts. When these valves sense too much water is being used, they automatically close to prevent water damage. In the event of a fire, the sensor that tells the valve to close is turned off when the sprinklers are turned on. This prevents the main water valve from shutting off during a fire due to the abnormally high amount of water flow the sprinklers require.

These are just a few mechanical issues controlled by fire and life safety systems to prevent injuries and water damage when sprinklers are turned on. Since all of these mechanical components are integrated into the systems, it is important to hire a professional service to install them. 

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