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By Todd Smith
Fire Safety/Protection Article Use Policy
Throughout a facility’s life, it may undergo changes that affect the water-based fire suppression systems. Changes in occupancy type, hazard type, building additions or renovations, and aging can impact fire water demand, while infrastructure alterations and age can influence the fire water supply. Additionally, changes in prevailing codes and standards can always be expected. Facility owners typically apply either NFPA-25 or FM Global data sheets when establishing their inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) routine. Both sources provide guidance on the frequency of ITM-related tasks in great detail.
As a facility or its mission changes, it is possible to recognize basic types of changes that might cause a water-based fire suppression system to fail routine testing, even if the system was properly designed to suit the original facility and is well maintained. Changes to facilities that alter the occupancy group, hazard classification, building footprint or building height are cause for a complete re-evaluation. Below are some examples.
The risk of fire water demand exceeding supply is that a fire suppression system will not perform when it needs to. The risk of failing routine inspections or tests can be the same, but if inspection and testing is truly routine, then problems will be recognized and addressed.
The effects of facility changes may not be immediately evident, particularly when changes are made to municipal infrastructure (supply) by the municipality, or when building renovations are self-performed (such as small projects in hospitals). When engaged, registered design professionals should be able to recognize the types of changes that affect the existing fire suppression systems and modify them to meet changing requirements.
ITM of water-based fire suppression systems is a vital part of facility ownership. By conducting routine ITM, an owner may be able to recognize operational issues as they develop by comparing fire suppression system performance test results over time.
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