5 Reasons Building Fire Sprinkler Systems Fail

A sprinkler system is an integral part of any structure’s safety strategy, but for the most part, it is something that rarely comes to mind other than when it is called for. For this reason, it can be easy for a building manager to forget about their sprinkler system and its maintenance needs when they already have so many other responsibilities on their plate.

The problem with this, of course, is that by being complacent when it comes to your fire protection system, you are opening yourself up to sprinkler system failure and should this happen, loss of property or life can occur. While sprinklers remain one of the most highly effective and consistently reliable fire protection measures, the truth is that they are not 100% fail-proof. In fact, no system is.

As with everything, the more you know, the better you can prepare. Here are the five most common reasons why building fire sprinkler systems fail.

#1: The System is Shut Off for Maintenance or Other Reasons

Sprinkler systems are designed to be always at the ready, so they can engage immediately when triggered. But there can be times when a system is turned off, such as when a part of the building is under construction or repairs to the system are being made. If system operation isn’t restored upon completion of all inspection, testing and/or maintenance activities, then this isn’t just a breach of NFPA 25 requirements, but it also places your building at risk of suffering a fire with no active protective measures in place. This accounts for about 64% of all system failures.

#2: Manual Intervention

Manual intervention accounts for 17% of all sprinkler system failures and it can include anything from occupants unintentionally or intentionally blocking the sprinkler heads to firefighters turning the system off because they believe the fire has been extinguished or they are attempting to prevent water damage from occurring in a part of the building.

#3: Damage to the Sprinkler System

Sprinkler systems are extremely durable and can remain in good working order for years when they’re installed properly. But even minor damage to the system can cause it to fail when it’s needed most. In such cases, damage mainly consists of fires where sprinkler equipment was damaged by explosions or by the collapse of a ceiling, roof, or entire building. Damage to the system accounts for 7% of all failures.

#4: Failing to Maintenance the System

Despite their reliability and durability, sprinkler systems need to be inspected, tested, and maintained regularly. If you don’t adhere to NFPA 4, the Standard for Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing, then you dramatically increase your risk of having a sprinkler system failure. Lack of maintenance accounts for 6% of all failures.

#5: The System is Inappropriate for the Hazard

Fire protection systems are specifically designed for handling certain hazards. In some cases, when the hazard isn’t taken into consideration by the system’s installer or the building’s use or occupancy type changes, the structure could wind up with a system that is inappropriate for the hazard. This renders the system ineffective, so it fails to do its job. This accounts for 5% of all failures.

Reduce Your Risk of System Failure – Get Your Sprinkler System Tested Today!

You have a sprinkler system for a reason – to protect your investment and the lives of those who work or reside in your building. But it can only provide protection if it works. Contact Metro Fire Inspections today to schedule an inspection of your system, so you can be confident in your system’s operation.

Metro Fire Inspections is partially owned by one of the largest and most experienced sprinkler installation contractors in New York City, Metro Fire Protection, Inc. We are licensed in all five boroughs of NYC, Westchester County, Nassau County and Suffolk County, and provide consultative, design, installation, maintenance, inspection, and violation remediation services.