Second to manually shutting down the system before a fire, the NFPA ranks improper maintenance as the most common reason for sprinkler system failure. Furthermore, the National Fire Sprinkler Association lists corrosion and freezing as two of the major causes of sprinkler system failure. Considering the magnitude of responsibility associated with this system, implementing a Predictive Maintenance program for your fire sprinkler system and addressing issues BEFORE they arise are critical to keeping this important system operating as designed.
You may be thinking if you don’t see a problem, your system is okay. This may not be further from the truth. Corrosion is often undetectable by external visual inspection. While the dangers of a dripping/bursting pipe are fairly obvious, with water damaging sensitive equipment or data, the internal corrosion can be much more devastating. In the unfortunate event of a fire, corrosion can have three very negative effects on your fire system.
- The inner diameter of the pipe can be significantly reduced in size by things like corrosion nodules, tubercles, or rust, consequently reducing the amount of water that can flow through this engineered system. The constricted pipe cannot flow enough water to handle the needs of the zone, so the sprinkler heads cannot effectively control the fire in that area, allowing it to grow and spread to other parts of your facility.
- Debris inside the pipe, such rust, slime, MIL loss, corrosion nodules, etc. can flow with the water to the sprinkler head, clogging the small orifices in the head that create the spray pattern, either forcing an uneven pattern or clogging the head entirely.
- Dry system pipe that has been weakened from wall thinning may burst when the system is activated, preventing much needed water from flowing through the system as designed, and allowing the fire to rage out of control.
While draining the system and looking inside the pipe has remained an industry staple for conducting internal assessments, it is not the only recognized approach. For facilities that are sensitive to downtime or the potential for water damage, such as hospitals, data centers, and production facilities, alternative assessment methods such as ultrasonic testing may be a better fit and tell a more complete picture for the facility manager. Some of the benefits of ultrasonic testing are:
- No shutdown or drainage required
- No interference to building operations
- Highly cost-effective in comparison to cutting out samples
- Results based upon multiple test locations rather than a few isolated areas
- Identify trends in corrosion rate within any piping system
- Non-destructive, non-intrusive, safe procedure
- Improve overall system reliability and extend pipe life
Geyer Fire can conduct internal pipe inspections to keep your facility in compliance with code and reduce liability by catching early signs and characteristics of corrosion. We offer ultrasonic testing, which will provide full wet and dry fire sprinkler pipe scans to examine entire systems, corrosion and pipe thickness. Testing can usually be accomplished during normal working hours. Contact us to set up a time for a free consultation.