Why Does California Require Inspection and Testing of Fire Sprinkler Systems and What Does it Consist Of?

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According to California State Fire Marshall, 2,500 deaths occur every year that could be prevented with fire sprinkler systems that actually work when required. California requires fire sprinkler inspections in order to prevent loss of life and property.

An inspection is a visual examination of a water-based fire protection system, or portion thereof to verify that it appears to be in operating condition and is free of physical damage. A test is a procedure used to determine the status of a system as intended by conducting periodic physical checks such as waterflow tests, fire pump tests, alarm tests, and trip tests of dry-pipe valves.

To refine fire sprinkler evaluation methods and frequency the Office of the State Fire Marshall has made major amendments to the automatic fire extinguishing systems maintenance protocol found in Title 19, Division 1, of California Code Regulations to incorporate, by reference, the National Fire Protection Association Standard for the Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of fire protection.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, (NFPA 25, Chapter 5 as amended by CCR, Title 19) the sprinkler inspection, test, certification and/or maintenance procedures shall consist of the following:

Quarterly Inspection:

    A lot can happen to a Fire Sprinkler System in the matter of three months that could prohibit it from working correctly in the case of an emergency. A Quarterly Fire Sprinkler Inspection is a visual inspection that looks for any issues the system may have that need to be corrected immediately.

  •     Control Valves - To verify the valves are in normal open or closed position, are properly sealed, locked, or supervised, are provided with appropriate wrenches and identification, free from external leaks, and accessible.
  •     Dry/Preaction/Deluge/wet system Gauges - To ensure normal air and water pressures, and in wet pipe systems, to ensure normal water supply pressure is maintained.
  •     Alarm Devices - To verify that they are free of physical damage.
  •     Sprinklers - Sprinklers shall be inspected from floor level to verify that there are no signs of leakage, corrosion, foreign material, damage, and in the improper orientation. Glass bulbs shall be replaced if necessary.
  •     Fire Department Connection - To verify the couplings/swivels are not damaged and rotate smoothly, plugs, caps and gaskets are in place and in good condition, identification signs are secure, check valve is not leaking, automatic drain valve is in place and operating properly, and any FDC connection clappers are in place and operating properly.
  •     Alarm Devices - Exterior inspection to verify that gauges indicate normal supply water pressure is being maintained, valve is free of physical damage, in the appropriate open or closed position, and retarding chamber or alarm drains are not leaking.
  •     Backflow Preventers - The double check assembly and the double check detector assembly valves shall be inspected to ensure that the OS&Y isolation valves are in the normal open position.

Annual Inspection and Testing:

    An Annual Fire Sprinkler System Inspection and Test incorporates all the visual components of the Quarterly Inspection and introduces Alarm Device testing, Control Valve testing, and a Main Drain test to insure your system is operating properly.

  •     Sprinkler pipe and Hangers - Sprinkler Pipe Hangers and Seismic Braces installed under an exposed ceiling shall be inspected from floor level.
  •     Alarm Devices - Water motor gongs, pressure switch type, & vane-type shall be tested. Wet pipe systems shall be tested by opening the inspector’s test connection, (except in freezing conditions where the bypass connection shall be used.) Testing dry pipe/preaction/deluge systems shall be accomplished by using the bypass connection.
  •     Main Drain Test - Shall be conducted at each water-based FP System Riser to determine a change in condition of the water supply piping and control valves. Systems where the sole water supply is through a backflow preventer or pressure reducing valves, the main drain test of at least one system downstream of the device shall be conducted.
  •     Control Valves - For accurate position and operation through its full range and then returned to normal position.
  •     Backflow Preventer Assemblies - A forward flow test shall be conducted at the system demand, including hose stream demand, where hydrants or inside hose stations are located downstream. A backflow test shall be conducted at the completion of the forward flow test.

5 Year Testing and Inspection:

    The 5 Year Test and Inspection incorporates both the Annual and Quarterly and introduces the Check Valve inspection and Fire Department Flush. These are performed to flush out any impurities in the system and to make sure that nothing is going to impede the system when there is an emergency.

  •     Hangers, Seismic Bracing, Pipes and Fittings, and Sprinklers - Shall be evaluated which are installed in accessible concealed spaces such as above suspended ceilings.
  •     Preaction/Deluge/Dry Pipe Valves - The interior shall be inspected when a trip test is conducted.
  •     Check Valves - Interior inspection to verify that all components operate correctly and are in good condition.
  •     Gauges - Shall be tested every 5 years by comparison with a calibrated gauge. Gauges not accurate to within 3 percent of the full scale shall be recalibrated or replaced. Pressure Reducing Valve—a full flow test shall be conducted on each valve and compared to previous test results.
  •     Fire Department Connection - Shall be back flushed at full flow.
  •     Sprinklers - Sprinklers that are subject to harsh environments, including corrosive atmospheres and corrosive water supplies shall be replaced or representative sprinkler samples shall be tested. Dry Sprinklers that have been in service for 10 years shall be tested and/or replaced. Sprinklers using Fast Response elements that have been in service for 20 years shall be tested and retested at 10 year intervals. Sprinklers that have been in service for 50 years shall be replaced or representative samples from one or more areas shall be tested, and retested at 10 year intervals. Sprinklers that have been in service for 75 years shall be replaced or sent to a recognized testing lab acceptable to the AHJ for field service testing, with retesting at 5yr intervals. Sprinklers manufactured prior to 1920 shall be replaced.

Fire sprinklers have been used for over a century and have saved lives due to their fast response time. Aura Fire Safety Inc. experienced professionals know exactly which details to inspect on the system. With our reliable and timely services, our team of specialists will make sure that all your fire sprinkler needs are met from preventative inspection tests to any required repairs. Your safety is our priority.

Aura Fire Safety is here to help. You can reach them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/aura.fire.safey, Twitter at https://twitter.com/aurafiresafety1, and Google+ at https://plus.google.com/113063571529899263023. To learn more about Aura Fire Safety, visit their website at http://aurafiresafety.com/ or call them at (415) 881-4402.

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