What is an automatic fire sprinkler system?
An automatic fire sprinkler system is a pressurised water supply and distribution system that is designed and built according to specific fire design codes and standards, based on the applicable fire risks in the concerned area. These systems are typically found in warehouses, manufacturing industries as well as hotels and large office buildings.
The main components of a fire sprinkler system comprise water supply pipework and a network of sprinkler heads that activate in the event of a fire, releasing water from the system to extinguish the fire below. Water supplies can be in the form of a public or municipal water supply for small installations, or more reliable, independent water tanks and dedicated fire pumps for larger installations.
Where provided and properly serviced and maintained, a fire sprinkler system can save lives as well as significant damage to property.However, the systems can only function as intended if they are properly designed and installed, all key components are well maintained and tested and serviced on time to ensure its functioning and reliability.
Where fire sprinkler systems are not provided or are only partially installed, a robust risk management programme must be implemented to ensure that fire prevention is the absolute focus at a facility.
Advantages of fire sprinkler systems
Fire sprinkler systems are designed to react promptly and automatically in the event of a fire, much faster than any human, irrespective of time of day or safety concerns. Here are more benefits of a fire sprinkler system:
- Sprinkler systems are automatic and respond at all times. Fire control is therefore rapid and no human intervention is needed.
- Sprinkler systems are fitted with water flow ‘gong’ alarms and will alert occupants /guards of a developing fire.
- Significantly less heat and smoke is generated if the fire is extinguished at inception – this is what sprinklers are designed to do.
- Property damage is reduced. A well-designed system will control a fire and fire/water damage will generally be localised.
- Occupants and fire fighters are exposed to much less danger if the fire is kept in check by a sprinkler system.
- Savings on insurance premiums because sprinkler controlled fires are in the overall majority of instances less damaging than fires that are not kept in check by sprinklers.
- Sprinkler controlled fires reduces the demand for security as it minimises intrusion opportunities.
- Sprinkler systems use significantly less fire water than hydrants, hydraulic hose reels or the fire brigade.
Disadvantages of fire sprinkler systems
In addition to sizeable upfront installation costs, another major factor to consider is ongoing maintenance and repairs — and those associated costs. Irrigation systems include a fair amount of moving parts that do require periodic adjustment and replacement over time. Sprinkler heads can shift out of alignment and may require manual readjustment to ensure proper coverage of the zones they were designed to water. They may also become damaged during routine yard maintenance, such as mowing, and require complete replacement.
You should also be aware of potential underground damage to water pipes and the need to winterize the system during colder months. Pests and intrusive tree roots have been known to damage underground sections of irrigation systems resulting in costly repairs and damage to the lawn since portions will need to be dug out to access and repair cracked pipes. Irrigation systems installed in colder sections of the country that experience hard freezes will require winterizing to avoid permanent damage since residual water is stored within the underground delivery pipes. Depending on the system installed, winterizing may require more than minimal effort from a homeowner to ensure their system is properly prepared for a potential freeze, so if you’re seeking a maintenance-free experience, you should keep this factor in mind.