Letter from the Editor: Welcome to the June 2011 issue of Fire Protection Engineering Emerging Trends, Fire Protection Engineering magazine's eight-time-per-year e-newsletter that deploys on the off-months of the magazine. Each issue will highlight a new trend and/or innovation in the fire protection engineering industry. This issue will focus on the top ten changes in the 2011 edition of NFPA 25.
Please enjoy the June issue and thank you for your continued support!
Morgan J. Hurley, P.E., FSFPE
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The Top Ten Changes in the 2011 Edition of NFPA 25
By: Russell P. Fleming, P.E., FSFPE
The 2011 edition of NFPA 25 – Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water Based Fire Protection Systems - was issued following some healthy floor debate at the 2010 NFPA Annual Meeting and a series of appeals to the NFPA Standards Council. As in the development of previous editions, most controversial issues dealt with issues of owner's responsibilities, but some new changes aimed at improving enforceability of the document also generated discussion.
A "top ten" list of significant actions might include the following:
Monthly Electric Fire Pump Testing. In what was perhaps the biggest single change to the standard and the most contentious, the requirement that electric motor driven fire pumps be operated weekly was changed to monthly. The minimum time of operation remains 10 minutes. Diesel driven fire pumps will still require weekly operation for a minimum period of 30 minutes. These same minimum run times are now specified for the annual pump flow tests.
New Levels of System Deficiencies. New definitions of "critical deficiency" and "noncritical deficiency" were added alongside "impairment" to essentially create the potential for four different levels of system readiness. A new Annex E was added as an example of how various system problems found during inspection and testing could be categorized using these definitions.
Obstruction Inspections Renamed Internal Piping Inspections. To help eliminate some of the past confusion between an "obstruction inspection" and an "obstruction investigation," the former has been re-designated as an "internal inspection of piping." Located within Chapter 14 on "Obstruction Investigation", the 5-year internal inspection continues to involve the removal of a random sprinkler at the end of a branch line and a random cap from the end of a cross main to check for the presence of foreign organic and inorganic material. If such material is found, it serves as one additional trigger for a more thorough obstruction investigation of the system. The chapter continues to list fourteen other such triggers that might be observed during system inspection and testing.
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Occupants Not Responsible for Valve Locations. Section 4.1.7, which had required the property owner to ensure that responsible occupants be made aware of the location of shut-off valves and the procedures for shutting down the system, was revised to simply require that the "location of shutoff valves shall be identified."
No Pre-Season Check for Areas Subject to Freezing. A section that formerly required that wet pipe systems be inspected prior to the onset of freezing weather to ensure adequate heat was deleted in favor of a broader requirement in a new Section 4.1.2, which simply requires the owner to ensure that all areas of buildings with water-filled piping are maintained at a minimum 40 degrees F (4 degrees C) and protected from freezing. The old wording recommending a check of specific building areas has been converted to an accompanying annex section.
Clean But Don't Touch. A new annex Section A.184.108.40.206.2(5) indicates that, in lieu of replacing sprinklers that are loaded with a coating of dust, it is permissible to remove the dust from the sprinkler using compressed air or a vacuum, provided the equipment does not touch the sprinkler.
Sprinkler System Hazard Evaluation Form. To help differentiate between a hazard evaluation required by Sections 4.1.5 and 4.1.6 and a normal system inspection, an Annex F was added to show an example of a sprinkler system hazard evaluation form. The committee continues to define an inspection as a "visual inspection of a system or portion thereof to verify that it appears to be in operating condition and is free from physical damage." An inspection does not include an examination of the capability of the system to address the hazard of the occupancy. Section 4.1.5 and 4.1.6 continue to place an obligation on the owner to arrange for a hazard evaluation in the event of changes in occupancy, use, process, materials, water supply, construction features, storage commodity or arrangement or other condition affecting the design basis of the systems.
2011 ANNUAL MEETING: SFPE Professional Development Conference and Exposition October 23-28
Mark your calendars for the 2011 ANNUAL MEETING: SFPE Professional Development Conference and Exposition being held October 23-28 at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront in Portland, OR. Join leaders in the profession for a unique educational experience that is designed to keep you a step ahead. The two-day Engineering Technology Conference highlights presentations on advanced and cutting-edge practices in fire protection engineering. Following the conference is the Engineering Technology Exposition and eleven professional development seminars taught to leading industry experts.
For more information, visit http://www.sfpe.org/Education/2011SFPEAnnualMeeting.aspx
Owner's Section of Inspection Forms Recommended. A new annex section A.4.3.1 recommends a standard format for an "Owner's Section" within system inspection forms, asking questions that the owner or owner's representative is in the best position to answer. Such questions deal with issues such as changes in occupancy, hazard of contents and building modifications, and can signal a need for a system hazard evaluation to ensure that the fire protection system continues to be adequate for the application.
3-Year Preaction System Air Test Added. In line with the requirement for dry pipe systems added in the 2008 edition of NFPA 25, an air pressure test of preaction systems will be also be required every three years to ensure that excessive leakage is not taking place. In addition to excessive running of compressors, such leakage can lead to the build-up of moisture within systems, with resulting potential for system corrosion.
Heat Tape Inspection Required. A new Section 5.2.7 was added to require that heat tape be inspected in accordance with the manufacturer's requirements.
As always, there were numerous proposed changes that were not made. For example, there were no changes in the requirements for sample testing of various types of sprinklers after various terms of service, which continue to range from 10 years for dry sprinkler assemblies to 25 years for fast response sprinklers (including residential) to 50 years for traditional standard response sprinklers.
One of the biggest changes to the 2011 edition of NFPA 25, however, took place not during the standards revision cycle, but due to the issuance of a Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) to NFPA 25 in March of 2011. The TIA, which accompanied similar TIAs to NFPA 13, 13D and 13R, places new restrictions on the use of combustible antifreeze solutions in all types of occupancies. While existing solutions of up to 50% glycerin or 40% propylene glycol by volume are considered acceptable, new solutions will not be permitted to exceed 48% glycerin or 38% propylene glycol by volume, and all such solutions must be factory pre-mixed. Because there are numerous existing antifreeze systems that are exposed to temperatures below the protection capabilities of those solutions, efforts will be needed to propose alternate protection methods, such as adding heat, improving insulation, converting to dry pipe systems or protecting with listed heat tape. The specific wording of the new TIAs can be found at www.nfpa.org/antifreeze.
Russell Fleming is with the National Fire Sprinkler Association