Risk Control Bulletin Inspection, Testing & Maintenance (ITM) of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems

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1 Risk Control Bulletin Inspection, Testing & Maintenance (ITM) of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems Introduction Fire protection systems are provided in or at a building to safeguard the lives of building occupants and to protect the owner(s) of the building and its contents from loss due to fire. The responsibility for properly maintaining these fire protection systems rests with the owner of the property. Where the owner of the building is not the occupant, this responsibility may be transferred, by written agreement, lease or contract, to a tenant or property manager. This bulletin is addressed to those individuals who are responsible for ensuring that water-based fire protection systems are properly maintained. Meeting Your Inspection, Testing & Maintenance (ITM) Responsibilities In order to properly maintain a fire protection system, periodic inspection (I) and testing (T) is needed to determine when and where maintenance (M) is needed. Thus, we refer to meeting your ITM responsibilities. You may be one of a relatively small number who possess all the know-how, equipment and other resources to meet all of your ITM responsibilities in-house, using your own maintenance staff. On the other hand, you may contract with a fire protection contractor or fire equipment service company to handle 100% of your maintenance needs, thinking that all inspection, testing and maintenance of fire systems is beyond the capabilities of you and your employees. For most of our customers, CNA suggests a two-pronged approach to fire protection ITM. The first prong is to utilize a fire protection professional at least once a year - to perform comprehensive system inspections, especially for complex fire protection systems; to conduct annual tests needing specialized equipment or requiring partial dismantling of the fire system; and to complete repairs or maintenance arising from these inspections and tests. The second prong is to perform in-house most inspections and tests that are generally needed more frequently than once a year, but that require little specialized knowledge or equipment. This approach has the benefit of reducing costs related to hiring outside vendors, while increasing your staff s knowledge of the fire protection systems on the property. The latter could come in handy in an emergency. What follows is a summary of inspection, testing and maintenance requirements for the more common types of water-based fire protection systems and components, identifying what is best left to professionals and describing simple procedures to follow when performing in-house ITM. It should not be forgotten that before any system testing is performed, organizations that monitor alarm and supervisory signals for the protection system should be notified of plans to conduct the testing. Building occupants should also be notified in advance of any testing that will cause audible or visual signals to be initiated on the premises. Control Valves Control valves include all valves controlling the flow of water from sources of supply (mains, tanks and pumps) and to fire protection systems (sprinklers, standpipes and hydrants). All control valves should be electrically supervised by means of a tamper switch and/or locked in the normal position, and should be inspected monthly. Valve inspections should verify that each valve is in the following condition: In the normal open or closed position. Properly supervised and/or locked. Accessible. Provided with wrench, as needed. Free from external leaks. Provided with appropriate identification. Each control valve should be tested annually by operating the valve through its full range and returning it to its normal position (e.g., fully closing and re-opening the valve). Outside screw and yoke (OS&Y) valves should have op-

2 2 erating stems lubricated before this test. In addition, the tamper switches on electrically supervised valves should be tested semi-annually. Each valve should be operated to ensure that a distinctive signal is transmitted when the valve is moved to an off-normal position, and that the signal is restored only when the valve is returned to its normal position. Control valve ITM should be recorded on a valve inspection and testing form. handwheel stem yoke Indicating Control Valves position indicator that is parallel to the pipe when open and perpendicular to the pipe when closed. The post indicator valve and wall PIV have targets that read OPEN or SHUT to indicate the position of the valve. Automatic Sprinkler Systems The following is limited to the more common types of water-based extinguishing systems. While much of what follows also pertains to Water Spray, Water Mist and Foam- Water Sprinkler Systems, no attempt has been made to cover ITM of these systems fully. Refer to National Fire Protection Standard 25 for more information on care for these specialized systems. handwheel Outside Stem & Yoke (OS&Y) Valve Butterfly Valve (BFV) wrench OPEN target handwheel Figure 2 ground Post Indicator Valve (PIV) Wall Post Indicator Valve (WPIV) Control valves for fire protection systems are known as indicating valves, because you can tell if they are open or closed just by looking at them (see Figure 1). An OS&Y valve has its stem fully extended beyond the operating handwheel when fully open, and the stem fully retracted when closed. A butterfly valve has an indicator on the top OPEN target wall Figure 1 Where loss of a single heating appliance could expose water-filled pipe to freezing temperatures, the temperature should be electrically supervised to maintain a minimum temperature of 40 F. and such spaces should be inspected weekly. If temperature supervision is not provided, daily inspections are needed. These spaces could include heated valve enclosures in otherwise unheated areas and vacant/unoccupied buildings or portions of buildings with wet-pipe sprinkler systems. Sprinkler system risers should be visually inspected monthly. Water and air pressure gauges should be inspected to verify that gauges are in good condition and pressures are within normal ranges. If air pressures are not electrically supervised, inspection frequency should be increased to weekly. External inspections of system valves, including Alarm Valves on wet-pipe systems, Dry 2

3 3 Pipe Valves - DPVs (see Figure 2), Preaction Valves and Deluge Valves, should verify the following: Valves are free of physical damage. Any electrical components are in service. All trim valves are in the appropriate open or closed position (tags on all trim valves indicating function and normal position are highly recommended to facilitate this). No leakage is noted from Alarm Valve drains, DPV intermediate chambers or valve seats of Preaction or Deluge Valves. Quarterly, sprinkler system inspection and testing should include the following: Inspection of all water flow devices (flow switches, water motor gongs, electric bells, etc.) and supervisory signaling devices (air pressure switches, temperature switches, water level switches, etc.) for physical damage. Inspection of each fire department connection (FDC), verifying that: Connection is visible and accessible. Hose couplings are undamaged and turn freely. Plugs/caps and gaskets are in place and in good condition. FDC clapper is in place and operating properly. Identification signs are in place. Check valve on system side of FDC is not leaking. Automatic drain valve between check valve and FDC is working. Performance of a main drain test on at least one sprinkler system downstream of any backflow preventer or pressure reducing valve. A main drain test is conducted as follows: 1. Notify all interested parties (fire department, alarm monitoring company, building occupants, etc.) prior to any testing. 2. Check the main drain discharge point and ensure that water damage will not result from testing. 3. Before flowing water, check and record the static water pressure on the gauge adjacent to the main drain on the sprinkler system. 4. Open the main drain valve fully while watching the water pressure gauge as the pressure drops. When the pressure stabilizes, record the flowing residual pressure. 5. Close the main drain valve, and after the flow of water has stopped, check and record the static water pressure again. 6. Notify all parties when all testing has been completed. 7. A 10% drop in residual pressure from previous test results is cause for further investigation. Call your CNA representative for assistance. Performance of a priming water level test on any dry-pipe, preaction or deluge valve using priming water to help create a seal above the valve clapper. This test is conducted as follows: 1. Crack open the priming level test valve. 2. Close the valve immediately if any air is discharged. A spitting discharge (mix of air and water) is indicative of the correct priming level. 3. If water flows, drain it. 4. If dry air discharges when the valve is opened, the priming water level could be too low. To add priming water, refer to the manufacturer s instructions. Performance of a low air pressure alarm test on dry-pipe and preaction systems that are so equipped. The test should be conducted per manufacturer s instructions. Performance of a test on any quick-opening device (QOD) installed on any dry-pipe system. The test is conducted as follows: 1. Close the sprinkler system control valve. 2. Open the sprinkler system main drain valve, and keep it in the open position. 3. Verify the QOD control valve is open. 4. Bleed off air pressure anywhere on the air side of the DPV. A burst of air from the QOD indicates that it has tripped. 3

4 4 5. Close the QOD control valve. 6. Reset the QOD per manufacturer s instructions, and return the sprinkler system to service. Semiannually, sprinkler system inspection and testing should include the testing of water flow alarms. Water flow alarm tests are conducted as follows: 1. Notify all interested parties (fire department, alarm monitoring company, building occupants, etc.) prior to any testing. 2. For each sprinkler system, decide how the water flow alarm is to be initiated. a. For wet-pipe systems with a single alarm valve or flow switch, it is best to use the inspector s test connection which is usually (but not always) piped off sprinkler piping which is the highest and most remote from the system riser. Use of the inspector s test connection will simulate the operation of a single sprinkler. b. An alarm valve on a wet-pipe system has trim that includes an alarm test valve that can be used if the inspector s test connection can t be used due to freezing weather or other reason. However, it may be better to postpone the test, since use of this alarm test valve does not simulate operation of a single sprinkler. c. Modern multi-story buildings often have water flow switches on each floor, usually in a stairwell. They often have a multiposition valve just downstream of the flow switch that is used both as a drain valve and an alarm test valve. These valves also simulate a single sprinkler flowing if turned to the correct (test) position. d. Dry-pipe valves, preaction valves and deluge valves have trim that includes a by-pass alarm test valve. Opening this test valve allows water to flow from below the system valve to whatever alarm initiating device is provided on the system. 3. Determine where the water flowed during the test will discharge and check to ensure that the water discharged will not cause water damage or create a hazardous situation. 4. Open the water flow test valve you are using and allow water to flow for a full 2 minutes. Note whether a local alarm signal is initiated. Remember that even if the local alarm sounds within the 2 minutes, this does not mean that an alarm signal has been transmitted to or received by a remote monitoring station. 5. At the end of the 2 minutes, close the alarm test valve. 6. Notify all parties when all testing has been completed. Verify that all water flow signals were received at any remote monitoring station. Annual sprinkler system ITM can be quite demanding and should include all of the following: A comprehensive inspection of all sprinkler system components. Ice plug inspections for systems in cold storage warehouses. Main drain tests on all systems (after completion of operational testing of all control valves). Testing of backflow preventers. Testing of the concentration of antifreeze solu- Figure 3 4

5 5 tion in antifreeze sprinkler systems (see Figure 3). Trip testing, internal inspection/cleaning and re-setting of all dry-pipe valves, preaction valves and deluge valves, including a check of low-point drains. CNA recommends that you use the services of a fire protection professional to perform annual sprinkler system inspection, testing and maintenance. Finally, a good sprinkler maintenance program should include tracking of when low frequency inspection and testing was last performed, and including these items in the annual ITM when they become due. These items (and their frequency) are as follows: Internal inspection of sprinkler piping for obstructions (every 5 years). Replacement or testing of gauges for accuracy (every 5 years). Sprinklers should be replaced or samples tested after being in service for a certain time, then re-tested at specified intervals thereafter if not replaced: All sprinklers at 50 years of service (then at 10-year intervals). All sprinklers at 75 years of service (then at 5-year intervals). Sprinklers with fast-response elements at 20 years of service (then at 10-year intervals). Solder-type sprinklers with temperature classification at or above 325 F. at 5 years of service (then at 5-year intervals). Dry sprinklers at 10 years of service (then at 10-year intervals). Sprinklers subject to a harsh environment (e.g., corrosive atmosphere) at 5 years of service (then at 5-year intervals). Internal inspection/cleaning of strainers, filters and orifices (every 5 years). Internal inspection of alarm valves and check valves (every 5 years). Full flow dry-pipe valve trip test (every 3 years). Testing of pressure reducing valves on sprinkler systems (every 5 years). Results of in-house sprinkler system ITM should be recorded on a suitable inspection and testing form. Fire Department Standpipe Systems The following is limited to standpipe systems for fire department use, and does not address systems intended only for occupant use, including small (1½ ) hose stations. The latter would not be used by fire department personnel, and CNA does not recommend that building occupants attempt to use these small hoses to fight a fire unless thoroughly trained and certified in the use of same. As a result, ITM of fire hose in not covered; refer to National Fire Protection Association Standard 1962 for information on this topic. Standpipe system ITM should include the following: Semi-annually, test water flow alarm devices (see Sprinkler System ITM for procedure). Annually, inspect system piping, hose connections and other system components: Damaged or leaking valves/piping. Missing or damaged pipe supporting devices. Broken or missing hose valve handwheels on hose connections. Damaged hose valve outlet threads. Missing reducer and/or cap on hose connections. Broken gauges. Fire Department Connection problems (see Sprinkler System ITM for specifics). Annually, conduct a main drain test (see Sprinkler System ITM for procedure). Every 5 years, conduct the following tests (use of a fire protection service professional is recommended): A Hydrostatic Test to ensure system integrity when subjected to pressures that would be expected under fire conditions. A Flow Test to ensure that water can be delivered to the top of the standpipe at the required flow rate and pressure. 5

6 6 Operational tests of any pressure regulating valves on the system. Use a suitable form to record all inspection, testing and maintenance that is done on standpipe systems. Private Fire Service Mains & Hydrants Unless responsibility for ITM of fire mains and hydrants on the property has been accepted by the municipality or some other entity, the property owner needs to ensure that this equipment receives periodic attention. Annually, the following needs to be performed: Figure 4 Each private fire hydrant should be flushed, as follows (after ensuring that flowing the hydrant will not cause water damage): 1. Remove outlet caps. 2. Fully open hydrant using operating wrench. 3. Allow water to flow for 1 minute or until water runs clear (whichever is longer). 4. Slowly close hydrant using operating wrench. 5. Check to ensure that hydrant barrel drains fully within 1 minute. 6. Replace outlet caps. Any maintenance needs identified during the inspection and flushing should be performed. Every 5 years, one or more flow tests should be performed on the system. Underground fire service mains can t be readily inspected, but periodic flow tests can provide information on the condition of the mains. Flow tests are conducted by measuring the static (non-flowing) and residual (flowing) pressures at one or more points on the system, while flowing water from one or more hydrants and measuring the flow rates. CNA Risk Control Representatives can assist you in performing these tests and evaluating the results. Fire Pumps Each private fire hydrant (see Figure 4) should be inspected to verify the following: The hydrant is visible/well-marked, and access has not been blocked. The hydrant is protected from vehicle damage where needed. The hydrant does not need painting. The hydrant is not leaking or cracked. Outlet caps are not missing. Outlet threads and operating stem are adequately lubricated. Outlet threads and operating nut are not worn. Operating wrench is available. Dry-barrel and wall hydrants drain properly after use. Figure 5 6

7 7 Where fire pumps have been installed, it almost always means that they are needed to deliver water to protection systems under sufficient pressure to be effective in controlling a fire. Loss of the pressure created by these pumps can be a disaster in the event of a fire. Therefore, the care of these pumps is critical. The ITM for fire pumps should include weekly inspection and testing, which usually can be accomplished in-house with the aid of checklist-type inspection and testing forms that are available for this purpose: Weekly inspections should include the following observations: Pump room is adequately heated (minimum 40 F, or 70 F for diesel pumps without engine heaters). Ventilation louvers operate freely. Piping is free of leaks. Suction and discharge pressure gauges are reading within acceptable range Wet pit suction screens are unobstructed and in place. Also, for electric pumps: Controller pilot light (power on) and, if provided, transfer switch normal pilot light are illuminated. Isolating switch is closed for standby (emergency) power source. Reverse phase alarm pilot light is off, or normal phase rotation pilot light is on. For vertical motor, oil level in sight glass is within acceptable range. Also, for diesel pumps (see Figure 5): Fuel tank is 2/3 full. Controller selector switch is in automatic position. All alarm pilot lights are off. Engine running time meter is reading. Batteries voltage and charging current readings are acceptable. Oil levels, cooling water level and battery electrolyte levels are acceptable. Battery terminals are free from corrosion. Water-jacket heater is operating. Weekly churn (no flow) testing should be performed, using the following procedure: 1. Start the pump automatically by opening a drain valve and gradually lowering the water pressure downstream of the fire pump until the pump starts. Record starting pressure. 2. Close the drain valve used to start the pump. 3. Allow the pump to run for a minimum of: a. 10 minutes for electric pump. b. 30 minutes for diesel pump. 4. Record observations made while the pump is running. 5. If pump is still running after the required time, manually stop the pump using the stop button. Observations made while the pump is running during weekly testing should include the following: Record the pump starting pressure Record the suction and discharge pressure readings. Check the pump packing glands for normal slight discharge of water (2-3 drips/ second), and adjust gland nuts if necessary. Check for unusual noise, vibration or overheating. Also, for electric pumps: Note any abnormality in pump starting. For automatic stop controllers, note that the pump runs for the length of time dictated by the run period timer (usually set for 10 minutes). Check that water is discharging from the circulation relief valve. Also, for diesel pumps: Note any abnormality in pump starting. Check that engine oil pressure, speed (RPM), and water and oil temperatures are normal. 7

8 8 Observe that cooling water is flowing from the heat exchanger drain. Once a year, more comprehensive testing of the entire fire pump installation should be conducted. This includes flow testing of the fire pump at flow rates up to 150% of its rated capacity in gallons per minute. Test equipment that is usually required includes hoses and nozzles, equipment and gauges for accurately measuring flow rates and pressures, a tachometer and a meter for taking electrical readings. Use of a fire protection service professional is recommended for this annual testing. The water level in the tank should be checked and recorded. All water level, water temperature and air pressure supervisory devices should be tested. The exterior of the tank, including the foundation, supporting structure and other appurtenances should be checked for: Water Tanks for Fire Protection The scope of this section is limited to above-ground steel gravity, suction and pressure tanks used for fire protection water supplies. Gravity tanks are tanks that are elevated on a tower so that water flows from the tank to the fire protection system by gravity when needed. Suction tanks are used to supply some fire pumps. This type of tank is installed on the ground, in close proximity to the suction side of the pump that it supplies. Pressure tanks (see Figure 6) are best used to provide water to fire protection systems that do not require a significant quantity of water. These tanks are most often installed indoors in a penthouse at or above the roof. A pressure tank contains water in the bottom portion of the tank and air under pressure in the top part of the tank. When needed, the pressurized air forces the water out of the tank to the fire protection system it serves. Perhaps the biggest ITM concern in areas subject to cold weather is the prevention of freezing of the water in a tank, resulting in impairment of fire protection and damage to equipment. For all tanks subject to freezing temperatures, the water temperature in the tank (or the temperature of the room holding a pressure tank) should be electronically supervised to transmit a supervisory signal in the event that the temperature drops below 40 F. In addition, the tank (or room) heating system should be inspected weekly and the water temperature checked and recorded monthly during the heating season. Otherwise, all water tanks should be inspected and tested quarterly. (This frequency is based on electronically supervising the water level in tanks and the air pressure in pressure tanks.) The quarterly inspection and testing should include the following: Figure 6 Leaks. Obvious signs of damage or weakening. Ice build-up. Nearby combustibles that pose a fire hazard. Nearly materials that could promote accelerated corrosion. Deterioration of painted, coated or insulated surfaces. Finally, all steel water tanks need periodic internal ITM to check for corrosion or other deterioration, inspect internal heating system components, testing or maintenance of internal coatings, removal of silt accumulations, etc. Use of a professional tank contractor is recommended for this internal work. Frequency of internal ITM is 3 years for steel tanks without corrosion protection and 5 years otherwise. Assistance Contact your CNA Risk Control Representative to assist you in developing an inspection, testing and maintenance program for your water-based fire protection systems, and in providing the forms needed to document the ITM performed. The information, examples and suggestions presented in this material have been developed from sources believed to be reliable, but they should not be construed as legal or other professional advice. CNA accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of this material and recommends the consultation with competent legal counsel and/or other professional advisors before applying this material in any particular factual situations. This material is for illustrative purposes and is not intended to constitute a contract. Please remember that only the relevant insurance policy can provide the actual terms, coverages, amounts, conditions and exclusions for an insured. All products and services may not be available in all states and may be subject to change without notice. CNA is a registered trademark of CNA Financial Corporation. Copyright 2010 CNA. All rights reserved. 8

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