Introduction to Fire Protection Systems

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A fire at your business, event center, commercial property, or apartment building can happen at any time with no warning. A faulty wire, overloaded circuits, or an accident in a kitchen can quickly turn into a deadly disaster. Having a fire protection system in place is the law and necessary to complying with state building codes, but more than that, they can save lives. From alarms to sprinkler systems, we’re walking you through the types of fire protection systems available, what kind may be best for your property and what you need to do to maintain them.

Using a Sprinkler System for Fire Protection

A sprinkler system is a type of fire protection system designed to turn on and disperse water or a wet or dry chemical solution in order to extinguish a fire.

Water Sprinkler Systems

These are the most common sprinkler networks, quickly dousing flames to end the danger. The sprinkler heads are connected to high-pressure pipes that release water when fire is detected through temperatures or smoke.

In North Carolina, water sprinkler systems are legally required in most public and commercial buildings, including:

  • Multi-living and dwelling units, including apartment buildings, condominiums, dormitories, and hotels.
  • Healthcare buildings, including respite and hospice care
  • Schools
  • Event centers
  • Retail stores

Dry Sprinkler Systems

In some settings where a fire can break out, but the pipes are exposed to freezing temperatures, a dry sprinkler can be installed. Instead of water, the pipes are filled with nitrogen gas to extinguish the fire effectively, without worry that the lines may be frozen. Additionally, this is ideal for water-sensitive storage, like libraries and records’ facilities to prevent damage to documents.

Dry sprinkler systems are best used for:

  • Garages
  • Loading areas
  • Unheated warehouses
  • Cooler storage
  • Outdoor enclosures
  • Museums
  • Records storage

Chemical Suppression Systems

In cases where water or nitrogen isn’t ideal for extinguishing a fire, a chemical suppression system can be installed. Like sprinkler systems, there are two types of chemical suppression, wet and dry. Primarily, these are required in locations like restaurants, due to the heat and grease vapors, as well as steel mills, chemical plants, printing presses, and industrial settings

Wet Chemical Fire Suppression

A wet chemical fire suppression system is primarily used in restaurants whee grease fires can occur. When triggered, a liquid chemical sprays onto the flames, and when it touches oils and grease, a reaction occurs, turning the liquid into a foam. The foam cools and smothers the flames, effectively extinguishing the fire.

Dry Chemical Fire Suppression

In industrial settings, a dry chemical fire suppression system either uses sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) or monoammonium phosphate. Monoammonium phosphate is used more often in fire extinguishers as well as in larger suppression systems.

Fire Alarm Systems

Fire alarm systems are necessary to let people in the building know there is danger of smoke and fire and to exit the building. In any public space considered “assembly occupancy” or “mercantile occupancy,” fire alarm installation is mandatory. There are manual “pull handle” fire alarm systems that are accepted when paired with an automatic sprinkler and duct smoke detectors that are connected to the alarm.

Locations considered “assembly occupancy” include:

  • Churches
  • Restaurants
  • Event Centers
  • Office buildings
  • Industrial centers
  • Airports
  • Amusement parks
  • Nightclubs
  • Theaters

Mercantile occupancy primarily refers to retail centers and shopping malls.

Fire Alarm Monitoring

While it’s not a legal requirement, if you have an alarm system for your building, you should also have a fire alarm monitoring system set up with a local company. This way if a fire happens during “off-business hours” or overnight, you can be made aware of the situation immediately.

Maintaining Your Fire Protection System

Your sprinkler needs regular maintenance to ensure your building and its occupants are safe. What you can do includes:

  • Weekly Maintenance: Checking gauges on dry systems to make sure they are showing normal levels and that control valves are properly sealed, locked, and in the open position. Valves should also have proper signage identifying the part of the sprinkler connected.
  • Monthly Maintenance: Check gauges and valves externally on water sprinkler systems.
  • Quarterly Inspection: Check the alarms to make sure they aren’t damaged and that there is a hydraulic nameplate secured to the sprinkler riser.

Once a year, the NFPA requries a fire protection system inspection. This includes any sprinklers, alarms, or suppression systems, such as fire extinguishers, inspected and tested by a licensed company, such as Strategic Connections.

Contact Us for Fire Protection System Assistance

You need to protect your property and its occupants from the hazards of fire. If you’re not sure what you need for your buildings, reach out to us today for a consultation. Our experienced technicians have been working with building owners and managers, providing fire alarm system design as well as fire protection system installation, maintenance, and inspections. To learn more, reach out to us today at [phone] or fill out our contact form below to get started.

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