Don’t Get Hosed: Refresh Your Suppression Systems and Standards Knowledge

Familiarize yourself with various types of fire suppression systems and where installation standards can be found.

Don’t Get Hosed: Refresh Your Suppression Systems and Standards Knowledge

Greetings from Las Vegas, where things are heating up not only due to June’s triple-digit temperatures but also courtesy of the presence of this year’s National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Conference and Expo for which I’m in town.

While a number of the vendors showing products on the Expo floor are dedicated to fire suppression, a good chunk of what was highlighted are suppression systems with the majority of these being sprinkler systems.

While I am entrenched in the detection side of the fire protection industry, I do keep up with the suppression side as well.

As I’ve mentioned in previous Fire Side Chats, a firm that provides detection also needs to be aware of the types of suppression systems that are installed in new construction, as well as those that are installed and operating in existing buildings.

While the present model codes do not require detection and alarm systems in a number of occupancy classifications, they do require suppression systems to be installed in most occupancies.

Once these systems are installed, in most cases, they are required to be supervised, and depending on the occupancy type or number of occupants that will be within, notification appliances to alert the occupants of the alarm are required.

NFPA 13 & 13R Have Sprinklers Covered

The most common sprinkler suppression system is the wet pipe, which typically has an alarm check valve, plus one or more control valves.

Detection of a flow of water is either through a vane flow switch or a pressure switch. The control valves, such as a butterfly or a post indicator valve (or PIV) will also be part of the system, which require supervision.

There also may be a double check valve, which will have outside screw and yoke (you’ll find shortened to OS&Y) valves on either side of the check valves. These also require supervision.

Depending on the location of the building, or what is being protected within, the suppression system may be either a dry pipe system, pre-action system or deluge system.

These require additional valves and pressures to be supervised, as well as for detection to be part of the overall system in the case of pre-action types.

The fire alarm contractor needs to be familiar with these systems, and especially their requirements. In addition to having copies of NFPA 70, “National Electrical Code” and NFPA 72, “National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code,” the fire alarm contractor should also maintain copies of NFPA 13, “Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems” and NFPA 13R, “Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Low-Rise Residential Occupancies” in his or her arsenal.

These will provide valuable information as to the requirements for valves, water and air pressure supervision, pre-action and deluge systems and other aspects of sprinkler systems that are not covered in NFPA 72.

The alarm contractor also needs to be aware of the requirements for fire pumps, which can be driven by either an electric motor or a diesel engine.

There are various valves that must be supervised within the pump room, as well as the operation of the power for the pump.

Some of the valves that are part of the pump piping system are to be supervised in the closed position, such as those for the pump test loop or to the pump test header.

The pump running output from the pump controller should also be a supervisory signal as opposed to an alarm signal. There are requirements that a pump be tested weekly, so one does not generally wish to go into an alarm condition during this test.

When working within a pump controller, the safety requirements that are found within NFPA 70E, “Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace” should be followed as well.

Hood Suppression, Clean Agent Systems

Sprinkler systems are not, however, the only suppression systems that may be found within a building. The most common other type of system you’ll encounter is the hood suppression system, which is found in commercial and institutional kitchens.

Depending on the occupancy, these too may require supervision by the building alarm system. The occupancy may also have a clean agent suppression system, a water spray or water mist system or larger dry chemical suppression systems.

The sprinkler system may also be interfaced with a foam suppression system. It’s important that as a fire alarm contractor that you are aware of these systems types, how they operate and their supervision and actuation requirements.

There have been cases in which a fire alarm contractor will inadvertently trip one of these systems — which can be very expensive to resolve.

One final note, as someone who works with these systems the alarm contractor should also become familiar with NFPA 4, “Standard for Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing.”

In the end, most if not all of these suppression systems come back to a fire alarm system for either supervision and/or actuation.

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About the Author


Shane Clary, Ph.D., is Security Sales & Integration’s “Fire Side Chat” columnist. He has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is vice president of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pancheco, Calif.-based Bay Alarm Co.

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