Sprinkler systems are key when it comes to extinguishing fires. However, these systems are ineffective if they are nonoperational or turned off. In fact, of the instances where a sprinkler system failed to extinguish a blaze, 60% were due to the system being turned off, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
To help businesses ensure their sprinkler systems are functional, the NFPA has specific standards—NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems—related to what they call sprinkler system valve supervision. This article outlines how the NFPA defines valve supervision and considerations businesses need to keep in mind in order to ensure sprinkler systems are working when they need them most.
What Is Sprinkler System Valve Supervision?
Per the NFPA, supervision refers to the monitoring of sprinklers and involves flagging certain abnormal conditions that could impair the system (e.g., a valve is closed when it should be open).
While you may think your business’s sprinkler systems should always remain on, there are a variety of scenarios where they may be intentionally or unintentionally nonoperational. The following are some examples:
- The system had a leak, so it was shut off until it could be repaired.
- The system was shut down for maintenance and the individual performing the task forgot to turn it back on.
- The system was tampered with or disabled.
Regardless of how the system was shut down, the goal of supervision is to ensure valves are open, helping you control losses should a fire occur on your premises.
Types of Supervision
The NFPA standard requires supervision for any valves that control the flow of water to any portion of the sprinkler system. This includes valves with connections to water supplies, sectional control and isolation valves, and any other valves in supply pipes that feed to sprinklers.
Under NFPA 13, one of the following methods needs to be used to supervise sprinkler system valves:
- Electronically through a central station or remote station signaling service.
- Via a local signaling service that produces an audible alert at a constantly attended location.
- Using valves that can be physically locked in an open position.
- Using sealed valves in a fenced and controlled area.
Of the methods listed above, electronically supervising valves is one of the most common and effective strategies.
While the NFPA permits organizations to use valves that can be locked, sealed and tagged to prevent unauthorized closures, there are additional considerations to keep in mind for these methods. For instance, if your organization’s sprinkler system uses seals on its valves, they must be checked every week to ensure they are in good condition and not broken.
Furthermore, any locks on valves must be inspected monthly to confirm they have not been removed. In addition, valves should be individually locked, and businesses should limit the distribution of keys to only those directly responsible for the system.
In order to protect your business from fire hazards, it is critical to have sprinkler system valves supervised. But that’s just one component of sprinkler system safety, as frequent inspections, testing and maintenance are equally vital. To accomplish this, organizations should establish an effective impairment program that ensures critical valves in sprinkler systems are in good working order and remain opened and supervised after a repair.
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