Apr 06 2018

Sprinklers Under Canopies

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 12:00 am

Q: Does the Life Safety code require a sprinkler under a 4′ canopy? I find this hard to believe so I would like to know if you have a reference for this.

A: The LSC does not say how to install sprinklers, it just says that you do or you don’t need to install them. If you are required to install sprinklers (new construction, renovation, or construction type) then you must follow NFPA 13 (2010) edition on how to install them.

Section of NFPA 13 says sprinklers must be installed under exterior roofs or canopies exceeding 4 feet in width. An exception to this requirement is if canopy or roof is of noncombustible or limited combustible construction. Also, sprinklers must be installed under roofs or canopies over areas where combustibles are stored and handled. The annex portion of this standard says vehicles that are temporary parked are not considered to be in storage. And the Annex says limited combustibles such as newspaper vending machines do not constitute storage of combustibles.

So, if your canopy is 4 feet in width or less, then you are not required to install sprinklers, according to NFPA 13. Also, you need to install sprinklers where the local or state authorities tell you do so. I suggest you check with them to determine if your arrangement requires sprinklers.

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Apr 04 2018

Sprinkler System Pressure Gauges

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 12:00 am

Q: My question has to do with the pressure gauges for our fire sprinkler system. We just had some out of date pressure gauges replaced by a new sprinkler contractor. They removed the 3 1/2 inch gauges and replaced them with 2 inch gauges. Upon further inspection I noticed that the gauges had no UL or FM listing. They have on the back a CRN aka Canadian Registration Number. Can this type of gauge be used?

A: The Canadian Registration Number (CRN) is a number issued by each province or territory of Canada for the design of a boiler, pressure vessel or fitting. The CRN identifies the design has been accepted and registered for use in that province or territory. You are in Florida, so there is no requirement in the USA for a CRN. According to NFPA 13-2010, the standard on the installation of sprinkler systems, section says the pressure gauges must be listed and must have a maximum limit not less than twice the normal system working pressure at the point where installed. It is apparent that the Canadian Registration Number is not the same as a listing from an independent testing laboratory, so I would say the gauges that were installed at your facility would not be acceptable.

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Mar 13 2018

Sprinklers in Construction Areas

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 12:00 am

Q: My question is about removing ceiling tiles in a construction area, and not having adequate fire protection in a 6′ to 8′ high ceiling plenum. The suggestion had been made to turn the sprinkler heads up, but the water spray still will not reach 12 inches below the deck since the deck is very high. What would be considered an adequate solution besides erecting fire rated walls surrounding a construction area? Also, where in NFPA 13 does it mention the requirement for 12 inches below deck, and is there is a requirement to turn the existing sprinkler heads up?

A: NFPA 13-2010, section says the distance between the sprinkler deflector and the ceiling above must be based on the type of sprinkler and the type of construction. Section of the same standard says for standard pendant and upright type sprinklers, the minimum distance is 1 inch and the maximum distance is 12 inches between the sprinkler deflector and the ceiling. In your case, when the suspended grid and acoustical tile ceiling is removed for construction, the deck above now becomes the ceiling. If you have 6 feet of interstitial space above the suspended ceiling, that is more than 12 inches so the piping needs to extend upwards so the sprinkler deflector are within 12 inches of the deck. Make sure you install upright sprinklers… you cannot use pendant sprinklers in an upright position. There are exceptions and added requirements for ductwork, piping and ceiling-mounted obstructions.

The requirement to provide sprinkler fire-protection during a construction project comes from the NFPA 241-2009 standard on demolition and construction, required by of the 2012 Life Safety Code. If your construction project is not protected with sprinklers during the construction phase, then you must construct 1-hour fire-rated barriers between the construction project and the occupied areas of the facility. A fire-rated barrier that is 1-hour is typically steel studs with one layer of 5/8 gypsum board on each side with all seams taped and covered with joint compound, and any openings would have to be 45-minute fire-rated door assemblies with closer and positive latching hardware. If the construction area is protected with sprinklers, then the barrier is not required to be 1-hour fire-rated, but construction tarps and flame-retardant plastic sheeting would not be permitted. Actual non-rated walls would be required.

Also, if an area of the healthcare facility is already protected with sprinklers, and the area is undergoing construction/remodeling that requires the removal of the suspended grid and acoustical tile ceiling, then a fire watch is required to be enacted until such time the sprinklers are no longer impaired. A fire watch is now based on the CMS Final Rule published on May 4, 2016. A fire watch must be performed by a trained individual who has no other duties to continuously patrol the impaired area looking for unsafe fire conditions, and must have the ability to immediately contact the fire department if they spot a fire. Continuous means this person is in the impaired area and does not leave to use the restroom, take a break or for any other reason. This is based on NFPA 25-2011, section A.15.2(4)(b). This goes on for 24-hours a day until the sprinklers are back in service. Even if you used minimum-wage individuals that would cost the hospital $3,500 to $4,000 per week, because you would need 5 individuals. This money could be better used to either turn sprinklers up to within 12 inches of the deck, or install sprinklers at the beginning of the project.

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Jun 17 2016

Sprinklers in Electrical Closets?

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 12:00 am

Q: Does an electrical closet under 144 square inches need a sprinkler head?

A: The answer depends on your facility occupancy type and the requirements associated with that. If your facility is a hospital and the area in question was constructed prior to 1991, and there has not been any major renovation in the area, and the Construction Type does not require sprinklers, then there is no Life Safety Code condition that would require sprinklers in a small closet. However, if the Construction Type requires sprinklers (see of the 2000 LSC) then sprinklers would have to be installed. If you conducted renovation in the area of the small closet since 1991, then sprinklers would have to be installed.

If your facility is a long-term care/nursing home facility, then the closet would have to be sprinklered. CMS has issued a memo that requires all nursing homes to be 100% protected with sprinklers, and a 12 inch x 12 inch closet would be included in this requirement to be protected with sprinklers.

If your facility is an ambulatory health care occupancy or a business occupancy, then sprinklers are not mandatory.

Also, please check with your state and local authorities to see if they have specific requirements for sprinklers.


Feb 03 2016

Strange Observations – Part 3

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 12:00 am

Architectural Design Blocking Sprinkler Web 2Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen while consulting at hospitals….

This picture shows an architectural design that was mounted from the ceiling to give the hospital nursing unit a more aesthetic look. It probably was installed before the sprinkler heads as it had that “1970’s” look, and the sprinkler heads appears to be of a more recent vintage.

But if that is the case, wouldn’t the sprinkler installer realize that the placement of his sprinkler head was impaired by the architectural design?



Jan 08 2015

Shower Curtains

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 6:00 am

imagesTOY08WZHFor bathrooms and shower rooms that are protected with automatic sprinklers, do the shower curtains require the same open mesh at the top as privacy curtains used in patients rooms? This was a question that I was recently asked, and my feeble mind immediately thought why would the NFPA codes and standards require sprinkler protection in a shower? What’s going to burn in there?

But a review of NFPA 13 (1999 edition) shows there are no exceptions for sprinkler protection in showers when the building is required to be fully protected with automatic sprinklers. (There is for small bathrooms in dwelling units, but that does not apply healthcare occupancies.) And I asked an associate of mine who knows more about sprinkler installations than I, who said showers can be a place that could be used to start a fire so there is a need to provide protection (who would have thought?).

Then I remembered there was an exception concerning shower curtains and after I looked that up, I realized that exception only applied to the requirement found in section of the 2000 Life Safety Code that curtains needing to be flame resistant. So, that didn’t apply. So, after reviewing NFPA 13, I found that the answer would be… it depends. The shower curtains may need the ½ inch open mesh at the top 18 inches of the curtain if the top of the curtain is too close to the sprinkler head.

According to NFPA 13 (1999 edition), there are no exceptions for sprinkler protection in showers, so that means the showers need to have sprinkler protection. This can be achieved by having sprinklers mounted directly inside the showers, or it can be achieved by having sprinklers mounted on the outside of the showers and count on the spray pattern to cover the area of the shower. If the curtain does not have the open mesh at the top, then the top edge of the curtain needs to be a certain vertical distance below and a certain horizontal distance away from the sprinkler head, in accordance with Table 5-

So it is possible that if the top of the shower curtains are mounted far enough below the sprinkler and far enough away from the sprinkler, then the open mesh at the top of the curtain is not required. But if not, then the curtains would need to have the open mesh, as stipulated in the Appendix (Annex) section A-5-


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Oct 30 2014

Cellophane Bags on Sprinklers

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 6:00 am

imagesZ6JZWAQ6I was conducting a mock survey at a hospital and during the building tour I came to their maintenance shop. They had a spray paint booth and in the booth was a sprinkler head.  Over the sprinkler head was what looked like a plastic bag. I said you can’t cover up the sprinkler heads with plastic bags like that, even in a spray booth. The hospital facility manager told me he received permission from their state agency that it was permissible to cover the sprinkler heads to keep paint overspray from covering the heads.

I knew the state agency people so I called them and asked if they in fact said that. It turns out they did, and they referenced NFPA 25 (1998 edition) section 2-4.1.5, which says:

Sprinklers protecting spray coating areas shall be protected against overspray residue. Sprinklers subject to overspray accumulation shall be protected using plastic bags having a maximum thickness of 0.003 inches (0.076 mm) or shall be protected with small paper bags. Coverings shall be replaced when deposits or residue accumulate.”

Hmm… That just didn’t seem right to me. Plastic bags wrapped around the sprinkler heads? I understand that you do not want paint overspray on the sprinkler head, but plastic? NFPA 25 says you cannot have any foreign material on sprinkler heads, and now the same standard says you can in spray booths? Well, I had to let it go since the NFPA standard permits it.

Fast forward to the 2011 edition of NFPA 25. The technical committee at NFPA addressed this issue and they changed the standard… a little. Now, section says sprinklers subject to overspray accumulations shall be protected using cellophane bags having a thickness of 0.003 inches or less, or thin paper bags. Now NFPA 25 no longer says plastic bags, but says cellophane bags or thin paper bags must be used when protecting sprinklers from overspray. According to the commentary in the NFPA 25 handbook, here is the reason why:

“Testing has shown that lightweight cellophane or paper bags will not adversely affect the operation of the sprinkler. Sprinklers protected by the lightweight cellophane or paper bags may require more frequent inspection than the annual inspection outlined in to prevent excessive buildup on the bags. Depending on the use of the spray coating area, the inspection and subsequent replacement of the bags may need to be done daily. In prior editions, NFPA 25 allowed the use of a plastic bag, but this was changed due to concerns about the potential for a plastic bag to shrink prior to sprinkler activation and disrupt the discharge pattern.”

So… My suspicions were partly justified. A plastic bag on a sprinkler head would melt and disrupt the spray pattern of the sprinkler. I thought it could delay the sprinkler head from operating, especially if it coated the thermal sensing bulb (or solder) and act as an insulator. Anyway, once the new 2012 LSC is adopted, then it will reference the 2011 edition of NFPA 25, and the covers to protect the sprinklers from overspray due to a spray paint booth must be cellophane or paper. And, they need to be changed frequently, perhaps as much as daily, depending on the use of the spray booth.

Today, I would just recommend the hospital remove the spray booth all-together, from their building. It doesn’t seem that the risk of failure to change out the bags once they are accumulated with paint, is worth the advantage of having a spray paint booth.




Oct 02 2014

Private Fire Service Mains

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 6:00 am

imagesS9VJZMEONFPA 25 (1998 edition), section 4-3.1 has a requirement listed to test the Private Fire Service Mains once every 5 years. The standard says the test must be performed on exposed fire service mains and underground fire service mains. The handbook that accompanies the NFPA 25 standard explains this water-flow test on the private fire service mains applies to only private exposed and underground fire service mains that are outside the facility, such as piping to a private fire hydrant. The piping inside the facility is covered under a different section of the NFPA 25 standard.

The Annex section A-4-3.1 of NFPA 25 says this flow test can be performed through yard fire hydrants; a fire department connection (once the check-valve is removed); and other connections. Typically, the test is conducted at a fire hydrant that is connected to the private fire service mains due to it accessibility. The test must be able to measure flow in gallons per minute (GPM), and the results are measured against the original acceptance data. The key thing to understand at your facility is whether or not you own the fire hydrants that are close to your building, or if they are owned by the city or municipality. Surprisingly, many facility managers simply do not know. If they are privately owned, then you need to conduct the 5-year private fire service main flow test.

Nat all surveyors are asking to see this documentation during a survey, but it is becoming a more frequent request. Remember: The 2000 Life Safety Code, section 9.7.5 requires compliance with the entire NFPA 25, so everything in the standard must be followed as long as you have the equipment.

Not all accreditation organizations are consistent in reviewing this documentation, but as time progresses, you will see more and more surveyors ask to review this test report. This 5-year private fire service main water-flow test should not be confused with the annual water-flow of the private fire hydrants and the 5-year internal inspection of sprinkler piping.

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Aug 05 2014

Research for an Article

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 6:00 am

imagesJCU1DVQ4I would like to do some research for an article that I want to write about and I am addressing this appeal to those of you who have an active role in a facilities management department (or related department) in a hospital.

I am interested in learning what surveyors are looking for and finding in respect to sprinkler inspection, testing and maintenance at your facility. As you know, NFPA 25 is the primary document for inspection, testing and maintenance for water-based sprinkler systems and it appears that not all of the accreditation organizations (AO) are enforcing it the same way. Many of you are Joint Commission accredited and some of you are HFAP or DNV accredited. It would be interesting to learn if there are differences between the AOs, and if there are, what those differences may be. Also, if you recently had a CMS validation survey performed by a state agency, I would be interested in learning what they identified as well.

There is a form that you can use as a comparison tool that identifies what NFPA 25 (1998 edition) actually requires for inspection, testing and maintenance of water-based sprinkler systems. This tool is located under the “Tool” heading, and then search under the “Life Safety Document Review Session” heading. It would be interesting to find out if there is anything on the form that the surveyors decided not to ask to see documentation of compliance. Feel free to use it as a tool comparing it with your AO / state agency survey experience.

So, if you are interested in participating, please respond back to me at:   info@keyeslifesafety.com   with your comments on what the surveyors/inspectors identified on your survey deficiency report as well as what they stated unofficially, in regards to inspection, testing and maintenance of your water-based fire protection system. I will keep your comments anonymous in the article unless you grant me permission to quote you.

If possible, I would like your reply by August 18, 2014.

Thank you…..

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May 22 2014

Sprinkler Riser Main Drain Tests

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 5:00 am

sprinkler_class2pg8pic1[1]NFPA 25 (1998 edition) section 9-2.6 says main drain tests are to be conducted annually at each sprinkler system riser to determine if there has been a change in the water supply, piping or control valves. The original purpose for main drains on sprinkler risers is to drain water from the overhead piping after the system is shut off.

 But the added value of the main drains is to perform the test to determine whether there is a major reduction in water-flow to the system, such as might be caused by the an obstruction from a dropped gate on a valve, a partially closed valve, a check valve stuck on its seat, or a foreign object like a rock or a tool left in the pipe from a recent service.

 The Annex section of 9-2.6 does allow standpipe risers to have their main drain tests performed at the low point drain where the water enters the building, but that option is not permitted for the sprinkler system risers.

 A large drop in the full pressure of the main drain test when compared to previous tests normally indicates a dangerously reduced water supply. After closing the main drain test valve, a slow return to normal static pressure is confirmation of the suspicion of a major obstruction, and is just cause to investigate why the water supply is reduced. A main drain test is considered satisfactory when the pressures and time to restore to static pressure are nearly the same as previous main drain tests.

Please remember that sprinkler riser main drain tests are performed at the sprinkler riser – not at the location where the main water supply enters the building. It is not unusual that the older hospitals are not outfitted with the main drain test valve and pressure gauge on each riser, but that is what NFPA 25 requires. Since each sprinkler riser is supposed to have a main drain test conducted, that means you need to have the same number of main drain test results. Whatever number of risers you have, that’s how many main drain tests you should have documented each year.

 Main drain tests are required annually at each system riser, and downstream of any valve that is shut-off, then re-opened. The main drain tests should be coordinated to be performed just after the annual sprinkler control valve exercise. Here is the procedure to conduct a main drain test:

With the fire pump off, but the jockey pump on:

1.     Record the static pressure.

2.     Open the main drain valve slowly.

3.     After the pressure gauge has stabilized, record the residual pressure.

4.     Slowly close the main drain valve.

5.     Record the time it takes to return the residual pressure back to static pressure.

 This main drain test should provide the following findings on the test sheet:

  • Static pressure
  • Residual pressure
  • Time to restore back to static pressure

These findings should be compared to previous main drain test findings to determine if they were consistent. If they are not consistent with previous main drain tests, then an investigation should be conducted to determine if there is an obstruction in the sprinkler water supply.

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