Many safety professionals do not re-evaluate the fire sprinkler systems at their facilities on a frequent basis. If there is a major change in operations, the sprinkler systems may be evaluated to verify that they are adequate for the new occupancy. However, they are seldom evaluated to ensure they are still adequate for the existing occupancy. Sometimes, changes creep into the facility and no consideration is given to the fire sprinkler systems, which may have been installed many years ago.
Identifying sprinkler system inadequacy seems to be a backwards concept. Unfortunately, facility hazard analysis reviews that incorporate fire protection adequacy reviews are not updated on a regular basis, if they exist at all. Hazard analysis reviews should be performed on a regular basis, but, unfortunately, many times they are not. Fire sprinkler systems are many times considered just another building system that is designed and installed when the building is built and not evaluated on an ongoing basis. This paper will help the safety professional to spot red flags that should make them take a more detailed look at the adequacy of the fire sprinkler system. The items identified in the paper should not be considered an all-encompassing list, but a starting point. The items identified in this paper may help identify conditions that should be further investigated. The presence of a red flag item does not necessarily mean the system is inadequate. It should be used by the safety professional as an investigative tool.
This paper will specifically address potential sprinkler system inadequacy. Sprinkler system inadequacy may be as a result of physical issues with the sprinkler system or its appurtenances, misapplication, occupancy beyond the capability of the system, or special hazard(s) being introduced which are beyond the capabilities of the system design.
It is important to make the distinction between fire prevention and fire protection. Fire prevention is eliminating the possibility of a fire being started. This may be accomplished by preventing heat sources, maintaining good housekeeping, following good recommended practices, and ensuring standards and codes are upheld, and maintaining an active and vigilant self-inspection program.