Sprinkler 101

19 June 2024

In the world of fire safety, prevention is key. But, if a fire does occur, it’s important to have measures in place to mitigate the sometimes devastating effects of a blaze. Sprinklers are a key part of any fire safety arsenal: suppressing flames and buying key extra time for first responders. Whether you’re a homeowner, business owner, or property manager, understanding the fundamentals of sprinklers can significantly enhance your fire safety measures. So, this blog will cover everything you need to know about these important systems.

How do Sprinklers Work?

Most sprinkler systems are heat-activated, using a glass ampoule and plug to stop water while not in use. The ampoule is filled with a liquid (usually made with glycerin) that expands under intense heat. As the liquid expands, the glass breaks and the plug can fall away. A deflector plate is fixed below where the water is released. This plate has grooves around the edge to equally disperse water across the surface below. 

Types of Sprinkler Systems

Sprinklers are useful in all types of buildings. However, since their invention, more types of systems have been developed to meet different needs. 

Wet & Dry Pipe Systems

The wet pipe system is the most common. This system involves pipes constantly holding water, ready to release when needed. However, for colder places where pipes freeze regularly, this isn’t ideal. For this reason, dry pipe systems are another solution. Their pipes are filled with pressurised air or gas which is expelled before the water.

Pre-Action Systems

Both wet and dry pipe systems can face accidental discharges, where sprinklers are activated without the presence of a fire. But, there are buildings where this cannot be allowed to happen, like data centres or museums housing one-of-a-kind artefacts. These systems are activated digitally, using an external fire detection system.

Deluge Systems

Reserved for high-hazard areas like chemical plants, the heads of these systems are constantly open. When a fire is detected, water is released through all of the heads simultaneously for a fast response.

Benefits of a Sprinkler System

A sprinkler system can be expensive, depending on the size and scope of your property. However, they can be extremely useful in the event of a fire. By controlling flames and smoke, they are proven to reduce injury. They can also protect property damage, reducing restoration costs. 

Without a fire even happening, sprinklers can reduce the cost of your insurance. This is because insurers can see you are implementing measures to reduce the chance of a devastating emergency.

In some cases, sprinklers are also required by law. In the UK, if your business premises are open plan and span over 20,000 square metres, you must have a sprinkler system in place.

Maintenance

Like all fire safety measures, sprinklers can become less effective or obsolete without regular maintenance and repairs. Monthly checks are recommended, to ensure control valves, gauges and ampoules are in good condition. Quarterly, the water flow alarms, connections to external systems and pressure switches should be inspected. Then, on an annual basis, a more thorough check should be conducted with a professional. 

Conclusion

Sprinkler systems are a vital component of any comprehensive fire safety plan. They offer unparalleled protection for both people and property, making them an essential investment. If you want to invest in raising your standards of fire safety, consider a partnership with Total Fire Group. To learn more, contact our experienced team.

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