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Automatic Sprinkler Testing – Internal Piping Condition and Obstruction Investigation

May 20, 2014

Sprinkler pipingA Confidence Test is the common name of the annual inspection, testing, and maintenance of the sprinkler system. Some tests are commonly done once a year as part of the Confidence Test (such as the main drain or local alarm test). Others are performed less frequently but are just as important (such as a trip test using the inspector’s test outlet for a dry system or an internal pipe inspection). When operated, properly maintained sprinkler systems are effective 96% of the time, according to the NFPA.

Among the required automatic sprinkler tests WSRB requires are:

  • Recent confidence test. This is an annual inspection, testing, and maintenance of the sprinkler system.
  • Trip tests. These are required on dry systems only.
  • Local alarm test.
  • Internal pipe inspection.

The NFPA 25 sets the standards for the inspection, testing, and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems (which, coincidentally, is also the long title for NFPA 25!).

Through a series of blog posts, beginning with Internal Piping Condition and Obstruction Investigation (also known as internal pipe inspection here at WSRB), we will discuss each of these tests, what’s required, and how the test is performed.

Internal Piping Condition and Obstruction Investigation

What is an internal pipe inspection? Sometimes called a 5-year internal obstruction test, this is a relatively new requirement by the NFPA and is performed literally as it sounds: a certified fire sprinkler contractor will visually inspect the inside of sprinkler system piping.

A contractor will drain the sprinkler system so no water is in the pipes and will then remove parts of the branch lines in the system to visually inspect them. Sprinkler contractors can also use cameras on the end of a pipe snake to view deeper into the piping. When a sprinkler system is activated in movies, the water always appears clean and potable, but this isn’t actually the case. Over time, corrosion, including slime, tubercules, MIC and other foreign substances, build up in sprinkler pipes and can restrict the amount of water in the pipe and slow the pressure of the water flowing out of the system once it’s activated. If the gunk builds up long enough, it could even clog the sprinkler head.

sprinklerNFPA recommends this test is conducted every five years for sprinkler systems with metal piping, and that is the same standard by which WSRB follows. If an internal pipe inspection does find corrosion or other substances in the pipe, it must be tested for MIC and the contractor will consult with the building owner and determine the best person to flush the system (usually a sprinkler contractor is qualified to perform this). If, in a building with multiple sprinkler systems, any one system in the building is found to have foreign material in the piping, all of the systems must then be tested. When obstructions are found during a routine testing of the system, NFPA 25 also requires that the contractor then conduct an obstruction investigation for the system or yard main piping.

While this test is becoming more and more common, it is not always done in all jurisdictions. Due to this, WSRB will work with building owners or tenants who have not had this test done within the past five years.

To see pictures of obstructed sprinkler piping, check out this blog about MIC and water investigation by Viking Sprinklers!

Article by: Kristen Skinner

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