What are sprinklers?
A fire sprinkler is a device that helps to curb fire at its origin. Fire sprinklers supply water instantly when there is fire and stops it at its source.
We know that fires can happen anywhere and anytime. Let’s assume, you are a business owner with a department store. If the store catches fire in the middle of the night due to an electrical short-circuit, it is enough to bring the whole shop to ashes by the next morning. An unexpected fire could cause a huge loss to your business. This situation can happen anywhere, it could be an apartment, a commercial complex, a mall or a workplace too.
Fire sprinklers are mandatory for certain types of buildings in India as prescribed by the National Building Code (NBC) of India. The number of sprinklers that need to be installed in a building depends upon the type of the building. The guidelines vary for different types of buildings. In any case, each sprinkler is designed and calibrated to go off only when it senses a significant heat change.
Where are the sprinklers commonly used in India?
We hardly use sprinklers at homes in India except for some high rises. But, sprinklers could be more commonly seen in malls, high-rise buildings, commercial complexes, large organizations, etc.
What are the uses of fire sprinklers? What are the facts about fire sprinklers? Learn from the infographic
5 Common Problems Associated With Fire Sprinklers Not Working
1) No water supply – Valves Closed
A fire sprinkler can serve the purpose only if it has water supply 24X7. If the sprinkler valve is closed, the water supply would be shut off. It may remain shut even when there is a fire. So, it is important to keep the valves open always.
How to know if the sprinkler has the water supply?
As already mentioned, water supply is essential for sprinklers to spray water when there is a fire. The value should always be open, which ensures 24X7 water supply to fire sprinklers.
The picture below shows the valve in open position.
2) Poor Maintenance
Another major reason a fire sprinkler could fail is poor maintenance. In a building, fires may or may not happen at all. But, there is always a risk of fire. Owing to the complexity in maintenance or the costs involved, the maintenance of the sprinkler system may not be given priority over the other aspects. Over a period of time, due to poor maintenance, the device may malfunction due to wear and tear. The fire sprinklers and the fire safety system of the building needs to be audited by inspection either by the fire department or the management of the building to ensure it is fire safe at all time.
3) Inappropriate type of fire
Fire sprinklers spray water when there is a fire. Water can be a fire extinguisher for certain classes of fire. It may not be useful for certain classes of fire.
4) Blocked sprinklers
Sprinklers could be blocked by stacking of materials up to the ceiling. This may prevent them from functioning efficiently in case of fires.
This is another major reason for sprinklers not working during emergencies. Fire pumps should be in “Auto-Start” mode so that as soon as a sprinkler opens or hydrant opens for firefighting the pump should kick in and let water flow immediately. If it is in manual mode, it is impossible for someone to go inside a burning building to turn it on. The fire pump is in manual mode in the below picture
5) Fire pumps in manual mode
This is another major reason for sprinklers not working during emergencies. Fire pumps should be in “Auto-Start” mode so that as soon as a sprinkler opens or hydrant opens for firefighting the pump should kick in and let water flow immediately. If it is in manual mode, it is impossible for someone to go inside a burning building to turn it on. Refer the pictures below, which shows the fire pump in manual or auto mode.
Fire sprinklers play a crucial role in curbing fire before it could go uncontrollable. It is our responsibility to ensure it works. If you live in a high-rise building or visit a mall, check if the fire sprinklers valves are open. This can take a few minutes of your routine, but it could save lives!