Proper Planning Can Prevent Sprinkler Shutdowns

Proper Planning Can Prevent Sprinkler Shutdowns

Industrial Fire Safety

In our last two columns, we discussed the need to insure the efficient operation of automatic sprinkler systems and the importance of maintaining underground supply mains so that they will always handle their full flow capacity. If sprinkler piping is blocked, it is quite simple to replace lengths of pipe after first shutting off the local system control valve.

However, if a section of pipe or a valve in an underground main has to be replaced for any reason, there is an excellent possibility that a plant’s entire fire protection system could be out of service until the repairs are completed. This could be an extensive period, which creates a problem in providing the uninterrupted fire protection required to minimize the possibility of a loss, comply with fire insurance policy requirements and maintain fire insurance rates.

In all situations of this type, prevention is practical and economically feasible. Prevention steps should be taken during the construction of a plant, and these installations should be maintained so that the emergency connection problem, with its tremendous cost each time, is solved by eliminating it.

Location of mains: Two sources of water should be provided for every risk— both for reliability and temporary water connection facilities. Water mains must be laid away from buildings. They should never be placed under floors because their replacement then often means an interruption of production in an entire plant.

Water distribution maps showing all yard mains, lead-ins and public supply connections to private systems are vital. They must be on file and readily available in an emergency. This is important because of personnel changes and the need to make repairs quickly. All systems should be equipped with divisional valves so that yard mains may be controlled on a sectional basis.

Pipe used in an installation must be of the proper class for the pressures to be handled. The type of pipe is also important as asbestos-cement pipe may not be able to withstand surface pressures from trucks, trains, etc. Cast iron or cementlined pipe is preferable in all cases. Depth of the main below ground must be compatible with local weather conditions and any special conditions at a plant. Mains must be buried in proper clean sand fill, with cinders or other similar materials prohibited. Cinders in fill can cause shorter life for iron pipe and early replacement of a main.

Ingenuity required: Making temporary connections will take a degree of ingenuity in relation to the difficulty of a particular situation. It must also be remembered that these connections are very temporary and cannot be considered to be capable of supplying the same amount of fire protection water as the original connecting mains. So here are a few proven methods to consider:

  1. Hose lines (2 1/2-inch) laid from a hydrant on a main not involved in the shutdown. One line is connected to each drain of the sprinkler systems for partial protection.
  2. Supplying one system from a system not affected by means of hose lines or temporary piping run along floors.
  3. Temporary connection to a potable water system, if cross connections can be avoided in compliance with health regulations.
  4. The water company can lay temporary piping on top of the ground and supply it from unaffected city mains.
  5. If yard mains are useless, the local fire department may be willing to run lines from public hydrants to sprinkler system drains through a pumper and provide reasonable temporary supplies.

Have written plan: As we have mentioned in other articles, but it bears repeating, a set procedure is required in any impairment incident so that all employees will know what to do and how to do it. These written procedures must be designed as local conditions dictate. Items to be included are:

  1. Notify the fire department of the problem.
  2. Assign additional watchmen during the emergency.
  3. Complete the work in one shift or day, even if work crews must run into overtime.
  4. Test and seal all systems upon completion of the work.
  5. Notify your insurance company, agent or broker in all cases.

Your insurance people will be able to assist you in your problem. Their notification is also required to meet fire insurance policy conditions in most cases, so do not endanger your insurance coverage.

In closing, be safe, be sure, be careful and be prompt in maintaining your water supplies. All it takes is promptness and efficiency, and wc know you have both.

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