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Facility managers might be surprised to learn that even faithfully testing fire safety systems according to established standards might not ensure a properly operating system. Issues beyond the scope of the testing parameters might hamper actual operation in an emergency, according to an article in Facility Maintenance Decisions.
As an example, NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, will test if valves open and shut, see if the pipes have corrosion and verify that sprinkler heads aren't painted over. It will in short verify the components of the system are in good working order. However, it will not account for issues such as the pitch of an exterior pipe in a dry-pipe system, which happens to be improperly pitched, allowing pooling condensation to freeze and burst the pipe.
Other design issues that might affect proper sprinkler system operation include uninsulated pipes in attic spaces or even exposed piping within reach of students who can decide to use it as playground equipment, potentially damaging the pipe.
When spaces change use, they sometimes don't change their fire sprinkler system design, creating a gap in fire protection if, for example, a system that was designed to protect a break room is now protecting a storage room, which carries a different hazard level.
Collaborating with a fire protection engineer on a regular basis to review the fire protection system is one way to catch problems that lie beyond code compliance, before a fire emergency makes them tragically obvious.
Read the article here.