Sprinkler Systems Are Required In Limited Water Supply Areas
A unique concept in fire sprinkler systems is being required in the waterdeficient areas within the jurisdiction of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
Developers desiring to build a commercial or industrial structure where no public water system exists, or where a water moratorium is in effect, must install an approved automatic sprinkler system if the structure exceeds 5000 square feet.
This requirement of the County Fire Department fire protection division is based upon its interpretation of the intent of Article 13 in the 1976 Uniform Fire Code. Other general powers bestowed on the fire chief by the code also are used as justification. In addition to the local fire code, the fire department has the ability to impose conditions on land development during the county approval process.
In the light of low on-duty manning of companies and increasing building construction, the fire department has found it necessary to pass along some fire protection costs to the person changing the environment—the developer. This, of course, is one of the major concepts and philosophies in community master planning for fire protection.
Automatic sprinkler systems reduce the required fire flow. A 5000-squarefoot, one-story, wood frame or metal structure, unsprinklered, basically requires 2000 gpm fire flow by ISO standards. If sprinklered, it requires 1000 gpm minimum. Using three men to operate a 250-gpm hand line, we find that it takes 24 men to control a fire if a 2000-gpm risk is not sprinklered. If it is sprinklered, the manpower requirement drops to 12 men.
The Santa Barbara County Fire Department averages about 10 men on the first alarm. Mustering second-alarm forces becomes difficult due to long distances between stations, and possible simultaneous fires, Therefore, we must depend on the first-alarm assignment for control.
Tank and pump required
The water supply requirement for a structure between 5000 and 10,000 square feet is a 10,000-gallon tank. This supplies a UL-listed fire pump (usually electric driven) rated to supply the sprinkler system. Pump size is determined by the sprinkler system contractor in concert with NFPA standards.
A fire department connection is included in the system and on the tank, so that if failure occurs, the pump can be bypassed.
Obviously, with the tank as the only water supply, the only application of water on the fire is through the sprinkler system. This, of course, is not going to he 1000 gpm, hut national statistics allow us to feel that the system is going to control almost all the fires in the incipient phase at the low end of the required gpm curve. Sprinklers are obviously vastly superior to trying to deliver any kind of decent fire flow with a tank or cistern as a pumper supply unless tanks of tremendous size are used.
A local alarm hell is also installed on the system.
If the building exceeds 10,000 square feet or 30 feet in height, then the system is required to be supervised. The water storage is then computed directly from NFPA Standard 13 (tables 2-2.1 a or h) according to the use and occupancy.
The supply may have to be as large as 51,000 gallons. ISO will allow full credit for the amount of water storage if the tables in NFPA 13 are followed. If the applicant does not wish ISO storage credit, then, with the fire department’s permission, the storage can be reduced to pump size x 30 minutes.
The pump for a building exceeding 10,000 square feet must lie diesel-driven with a battery starting backup for tetter reliability. ISO requires two pumps for redundancy for full sprinkler credit. The applicant is always advised to contact his insurance carrier for advice.
Water moratorium areas
In a water moratorium area, where mains exist hut no connection is allowed, another requirement is imposed. The sprinkler system piping must be stubbed out to the public main. Within six months after the end of the moratorium, the system must be connected to the public water system.
If a building in a moratorium area requires built-in fire protection regardless of square footage, then the following would apply: The Uniform Fire Code requires that any portion of any structure more than 150 feet from a public way shall have on-site fire protection. This requirement is met by installing an automatic sprinkler system protecting the entire structure. When the moratorium is over and the sprinkler system is connected to the public water main, the fire pump and tank may be removed.
Because of our requirements, the vast majority of new buildings in the Santa Barbara County Fire Department’s protection area are sprinklered. Therefore, the fire protection division feels that despite moratorium drawbacks, the community is gaining a higher level of protected structures than if the building code was the only criteria for sprinkler requirements. Building codes have not realized the value of sprinkler systems except in very large structures.
The fire department has the power to become involved in shaping and protecting the future of a community and its tax base. This must he done on the drawing board and during the approval process.
The Santa Barbara County Fire Department is developing a sprinkler ordinance written by the author of this article. The ordinance will require that any structure be sprinklered if it exceeds 10,000 square feet or 30 feet in height. This ordinance is designed to reflect the fire fighting ability of the first-alarm response. Lack of ladder companies in the county makes it almost impossible to get to roofs of structures over 30 feet.
A 10,000-square-foot, one-story, fire-resistive building requires a flow of 1000 gpm. We have determined that this is the maximum flow a first-alarm assignment can apply with hand lines. Therefore, any building larger than this must be sprinklered.
Aggressive approach urged
This ordinance may seem radical, but it’s time the fire service took an aggressive approach to the fire problem. The crux of the problem is the application of water between ignition and the arrival of fire companies—the application of a small flow of water while the required gpm curve remains manageable.
Your legitimate power will not be realized until it is exercised. Begin now to reasonably exercise that power during the building development approval stage. This is done through the adoption of good local ordinances and codes. It is also done through intense fire department involvement in the land development approval process. Relationships between the fire department’s development experts and other local government departments and political bodies helps bring these ordinances to adoption. These relationships must be of a positive and professional nature to gain respect for the fire department from other agencies.
It’s time to aggressively protect our fire fighters and preserve the community tax base by effective fire protection which goes beyond wall thicknesses, fire doors and fire extinguisher placement. Protection embraces the modern, proven concept of detection and suppression of a contents fire in the incipient stage.