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One Size Sprinkler System Does Not Fit All

May 9, 2016

by Robert Lacy

A company’s storage design (what they’re storing and how they’re storing it) determines the sprinkler system for a building. The amount of combustibles stored based on height, storage arrangements and materials all affect how fast a fire grows and thus the amount of water needed.

We have all had the experience of drinking from a water fountain and having someone use the one next to you at the same time. The resulting difference in water pressure for both fountains also applies to sprinkler systems as more sprinkler heads open to control a fire. Sprinkler system designers must take all the above mentioned information into consideration to effectively determine the proper size pipes and type of sprinkler heads.

The best time to determine the correct sprinkler system is when a building is new because the business owner can more accurately give a clear idea of what they will be doing. Over time, it’s common for usage to change; a successful manufacturing business may need more supplies on hand, increasing the height of storage, or a totally new business could move in, bringing plastic goods with them which burn very hot.

An insurance or fire inspector will compare the design of the sprinkler system to the current occupancy conditions. If the automatic fire sprinkler system is no longer able to protect the building, the insurance rating credit may be pulled, the business may be required to limit and/or change their storage configuration or the building owner may be required to upgrade their sprinkler system.

Automatic fire sprinkler systems are designed to control a fire by throwing water directly on the fire to cool it as well as surrounding areas of the fire making it harder for the fire to spread. Sprinklers are activated by the heat let off from a fire below the sprinkler head which then opens and water is discharged. As a fire grows, more sprinkler heads activate and more water is delivered. Many don’t realize the goal of most systems is to slow the fire to give time for the fire department to show up and fully extinguish the fire. Something to look out for are new systems with extra-large heads designed to completely extinguish the fire.

As mentioned above, as tenants change typically so do the materials they store. We recommend you order a new report every time this happens to ensure the right coverage. Reports are free for WSRB Subscribers. For more information about how to subscribe, contact Tracy Skinner. For more information about sprinklers, contact Robert Lacy.

St. Petersburg Russia - November 21 2008: Forklift palletiser carrying palletising on the territory of the warehouse with pallet storage rack system. The interior of a large goods warehouse with shelves of pallet rack system storage.

An example of a building requiring a more robust automatic sprinkler system to account for the large amount of contents and their height.

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