Why Do We Want to Know Where Our Quick Response Sprinklers are Located?

Frequently, I am asked why do healthcare organizations need to know where their quick response (QR) sprinkler heads are located? If you facility is similar to most, then you likely have a mixture of QR sprinkler heads and standard response (SR) sprinkler heads.

When conducting a Fire Safety Evaluation System (FSES) equivalency request, there is a question in the worksheet that inquires what level of protection does the healthcare facility have in regards to smoke detection. Very few hospitals install smoke detectors in all occupiable spaces. If you look at Safety Parameter #12 (Smoke Detection and Alarm) on the FSES worksheet 4.7.6, the value for ‘None’ is 0, and ‘Corridor Only’ is 2. According to the footnote, those values can be increased to 3 if the zone is protected with QR sprinklers. So, if that entire smoke compartment or zone is protected with QR sprinklers, then you can get extra points, which may prove to be handy.

Another reason to know where your QR sprinklers, is the 20-year maintenance requirement. 20 years after installation, QR sprinklers have to be tested (10% removed and sent to a testing lab) to make sure they are still operable, then they have to be tested every 10 years thereafter. Most organizations find it more cost effective to just remove all the QR sprinklers and replace them with new ones every 20 years. QR sprinklers became very popular in the early 1990’s in the healthcare industry, so many of them may already be beyond their 20-year maintenance requirement.

QR sprinklers and SR sprinklers are not allowed to be installed within the same four walls (room, area, hallway). You cannot ‘mix’ QR with SR sprinklers, because they will not respond the same in the event of a fire. The QR sprinklers may discharge quicker than the SR sprinklers, which may actually prevent the SR sprinklers from actuating at all. Surprisingly, I find this problem frequently. By identifying where the QR heads are located, this will help identify if they are mixed with any SR heads.

The top picture is a pendent QR sprinkler with a glass bulb filled with a secrete liquid. I don’t know if the liquid is actually a trade secrete, but I don’t know what it is, so it is a secrete to me. The diameter of the glass bulb will tell you if it is QR or SR: A QR head will have a 3 mm bulb, while the SR head will have a 5 mm bulb.

But there are QR sprinklers that do not have glass bulbs, like the second picture, which is a concealed head. In situations like this, the letters ‘QR’ will be printed (embossed) on the deflector and if you get close enough to the head you will be able to read the ‘QR’ letters. You can also review the contractors certification test records to see if they identified QR heads were installed, but sometimes the contractors fail to accurately identify what heads were installed, so a visual examination is usually the best method.