Inspecting, Testing and Maintenance of Water-based Fire Protection Systems

Submitted to High-Profile by Peter Gibbons, business manager, Local 550 Sprinkler Fitters and Apprentices

Local 550 Sprinkler Fitters and Apprentices at work in our state of the art training center.

Massachusetts has some of the best fire sprinkler laws in the country to protect its citizens from death by fire.

But like any life safety equipment, fire sprinkler systems must be inspected, tested and maintained so that they properly operate in the time of need. Unfortunately,  once installed, many building owners and operators neglect to inspect, test and maintain these lifesaving systems.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an association comprised of both national and international membership who create and maintain standards and codes for usage and adoption by local governments, has created “NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems”.

NFPA 25 is the baseline for inspection, testing and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems. Compliance helps maximize system integrity to avoid failure and to ensure fast, effective response in a fire emergency. The commonwealth of Massachusetts is one of many states that have adopted NFPA 25 in its entirety.

Main components of NFPA 25 are inspection, testing and maintenance:

1. Inspection – A fire sprinkler system inspection is defined as a visual examination of a system or portion of a system to verify that it appears to be in operating condition and is free of physical damage.

  • Weekly or Monthly: Inspect the gauges.
  • Quarterly: Inspect control valves, hydraulic nameplates, supervisory signal devices, valve supervisory alarm devices and water flow alarm devices.
  • Annually: Inspect the hanger/seismic bracing, information signage, pipes, fittings and spare sprinklers.
  • Every five years: Inspect both internal and external sprinkler piping.

2. Testing – Fire sprinkler system testing is a procedure used to determine the operational status of a component or system by conducting periodic physical checks, such as water flow, fire pump, and alarm tests, as well as a trip test of the dry pipe, deluge, or pre-action valves.

  • Quarterly: Test fire sprinkler mechanical devices.
  • Semiannually: Test pressure switch devices.
  • Annually: Test and tag the entire fire sprinkler system. This includes checking all elements of the fire sprinkler system by utilizing the water flow, fire pump, and alarm tests and the trip test of dry pipe, deluge, and pre-action valves.

3.  Maintenance – Fire sprinkler systems require routine maintenance. The need for maintenance will be determined by the result of the scheduled inspection or test.  Any issue discovered during inspection or testing must be taken seriously and any required repair be made expeditiously. Doing so will maintain the fire sprinkler system in proper working order and prevent future issues.

How may one ensure that a fire sprinkler system is in compliance with “NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems”?

  1. Inspect the date on the tag that is placed upon the fire sprinkler system and make sure the date is current with the inspection and testing schedule.
  2. Verify that a licensed fire protection contractor completes the work.
  3. Verify the license of the fitter performing the work.

Compliance with NFPA 25 is a good way to reduce the risk of a failure of the fire sprinkler system to properly operate in its time of need.