Fire Protection Approval Failure Risk

Today will begin what I hope to be many stories I will share of my day- to-day experiences as an inspector in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Today I was sent to a 3-story, 100 room hotel to identify why alarm indicating and low air supervisory signals were not reporting to the fire control panel properly.  Upon opening the door to the sprinkler riser room, the problem became very apparent.

Before me were two 4” Reliable Model “D” dry pipe valve systems, one assigned to protect the attic and the other assigned to protect the crawl space.  Installed were paddle-type flow indicating switches to detect the flow of water upon discharge. Assigned to monitor their action, wired in series, was a single monitoring module programmed to report as an alarm.  In addition there were two PS-10 pressure switches piped to the bottom side of the clapper valve. Assigned to them were two mini modules assumed to detect loss of air and programmed to report as low-air supervisory signals.

The hydraulic name plates on the risers were dated 2001 with inspection acceptance tags for each year afterwards as well as corresponding inspection acceptance tags in the fire control panel.

For 10 years this configuration did not operate properly and yet every contractor before, both sprinkler and fire alarm, gave this system a clean bill of health.  How in the World Can This Happen?

As you may know, the use of a paddle-type water-flow indicating switch installed on the discharge side of a dry pipe system went the way of the Mastodon and the Dallas Cowboys ever winning another Super Bowl.  I was able to confirm that the use of a paddle-type flow switch in a dry, pre-action or deluge system has been forbidden by National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) since the 1960s.

NFPA 13, 1999 edition “Paddle-type water-flow alarm indicators shall be installed in wet systems only” was the standard in force at time of installation.

Also, the trim pipe attached to the dry valve below the clapper (also known as the alarm line piping) monitors water activity.  Manufacturers of these products go to great effort and expense to provide detailed installation instructions. I think Oprah may be right, we Americans don’t read enough.

So I have to ask; why would a sprinkler contractor install both a water-flow alarm indicating switch and a water-flow alarm indicating pressure switch in the same dry pipe suppression system?  Had a functional test of the system been performed, the sprinkler contractor and the fire alarm contractor would have realized the signals would not report as programmed. And where was the Authority Having Jurisdiction in all of this? How could this system be accepted by the AHJ?

With some piping and switch changes to the risers and a total rewire of the circuitry, the systems were re- tested and operated as required.

The simple truth is; education is the path to a more reliable system.

As I stated, this is the first of many stories I hope to bring to you – DFW metro is a big place.

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