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FIRE FIGHTING SYSTEMS

A fire fighting system is probably the most important of the building services, as its aim is to protect human life and property, strictly in that order.

It consists of three basic parts:

a large store of water in tanks, either underground or on top of the

building, called fire storage tanks a specialised pumping system,

a large network of pipes ending in either hydrants or sprinklers (nearly

all buildings require both of these systems)

A fire hydrant is a vertical steel pipe with an outlet, close to which two fire hoses are stored (A fire hydrant is called a standpipe in America). During a fire, firefighters will go to the outlet, break open the hoses, attach one to the outlet, and manually open it so that water rushes out of the nozzle of the hose. The quantity and speed of the water is so great that it can knock over the firefighter holding the hose if he is not standing in the correct way. As soon as the fire fighter opens the hydrant, water will gush out, and sensors will detect a drop in pressure in the system. This drop in pressure will trigger the fire pumps to turn on and start pumping water at a tremendous flowrate.

A sprinkler is a nozzle attached to a network of pipes, and installed just below the ceiling of a room. Every sprinkler has a small glass bulb with a liquid in it. This bulb normally blocks the flow of water. In a fire, the liquid in the bulb will become hot. It will then expand, and shatter the glass bulb, removing the obstacle and causing water to spray from the sprinkler. The main difference between a hydrant and a sprinkler is that a sprinkler will come on

automatically in a fire. A fire hydrant has to be operated manually by trained

firefighters - it cannot be operated by laymen. A sprinkler will usually be activated very quickly in a fire - possibly before the fire station has been informed of the fire - and therefore

is very effective at putting out a fire in the early stages, before it grows into a large fire. For this reason, a sprinkler system is considered very good at putting out fires before they spread and become unmanageable. According to the NFPA of America, hotels with sprinklers suffered 78% less property damage from fire than hotels without in a study in the

mid-1980s.

FIRE STORAGE TANKS

The amount of water in the fire storage tanks is determined by the hazard level of the project under consideration. Most building codes have at least three levels, namely, Light Hazard (such as schools, residential buildings and offices), Ordinary Hazard (such as most factories and warehouses), and High Hazard (places which store or use flammable materials

like foam factories, aircraft hangars, paint factories, fireworks factories).

The relevant

building code lists which type of structure falls in each category. The quantity of water to be

stored is usually given in hours of pumping capacity. In system with a capacity of one hour,

the tanks are made large enough to supply the fire with water for a period of one hour when the fire pumps are switched on. For example, building codes may require light hazard

systems to have one hour’s capacity and high hazard 3 or 4 hours capacity.

The water is usually stored in concrete underground tanks. It is essential to ensure that this store of water always remains full, so it must have no outlets apart from the ones that lead to the fire pumps. These tanks are separate from the tanks used to supply water to occupants, which are usually calleddomestic water tanks. Designers will also try and ensure that the water in the fire tanks does not get stagnant and develop algae, which could clog the pipes and pumps, rendering the system useless in a fire.

FIRE PUMPING SYSTEM

Fire pumps are usually housed in a pump room very close to the fire tanks. The key thing is that the pumps should be located at a level just below the bottom of the fire tank, so that all the water in the tanks can flow into the pumps by gravity.

Like all important systems, there must be backup pumps in case the main pump fails. There is a main pump that is electric, a backup pump that is electric, and a second backup pump that is diesel-powered, in case the electricity fails, which is common. Each of these pumps is capable of pumping the required amount of water individually - they are identical in capacity.

There is also a fourth type of pump called a jockey pump. This is a small pump attached to the system that continually switches on to maintain the correct pressure in the distribution systems, which is normally 7 Kg/cm2 or 100 psi. If there is a small leakage somewhere in the system, the jockey pump will switch on to compensate for it. Each jockey pump will also have a backup.

The pumps are controlled by pressure sensors. When a fire fighter opens a hydrant, or when a sprinkler comes on, water gushes out of the system and the pressure drops. The pressure sensors will detect this drop and switch the fire pumps on. But the only way to switch off a fire pump is for a fire fighter to do this manually in the pump room. This is an international code of practice that is designed to avoid the pumps switching off due to any malfunction in the control system.

The capacity of the pumps is decided by considering a number of factors, some of which are:

the area covered by hydrants / standpipes and sprinklers

the number of hydrants and sprinklers

the assumed area of operation of the sprinklers

the type and layout of the building

THE DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM

The distribution system consists of steel or galvanised steel pipes that are painted red. These can be welded together to make secure joints, or attached with special clamps. When running underground, they are wrapped with a special coating that prevents corrosion and protects the pipe.

There are basically two types of distribution systems

Automatic Wet systems are networks of pipes filled with water connected to the pumps and storage tanks, as described so far.

Automatic Dry systems are networks of pipes filled with pressurized air instead of water. When a fire fighter opens a hydrant, the pressurized air will first rush out. The pressure sensors in the pump room will detect a drop in pressure, and start the water pumps, which will pump water to the system, reaching the hydrant that the fire fighter is holding after a gap of some seconds. This is done wherever there is a risk of the fire pipes freezing if filled with water, which would make them useless in a fire.

Some building codes also allow manual distribution systems that are not connected to fire pumps and fire tanks. These systems have an inlet for fire engines to pump water into the system. Once the fire engines are pumping water into the distribution system, fire fighters can then open hydrants at the right locations and start to direct water to the fire. The inlet that allows water from the fire engine into the distribution system is called a siamese connection.

In high-rise buildings it is mandatory that each staircase have a wet riser, a vertical fire fighting pipe with a hydrant at every floor. It is important that the distribution system be designed with a ring main, a primary loop that is connected to the pumps so that there are two routes for water to flow in case one side gets blocked.

In more complex and dangerous installations, high and medium velocity water-spray systems and foam systems (for hazardous chemicals) are used. The foam acts like an insulating blanket over the top of a burning liquid, cutting off its oxygen. Special areas such as server rooms, the contents of which would be damaged by water, usegas suppression systems. In these an inert gas is pumped into the room to cut off the oxygen supply of the fire.

When you design a fire fighting system, remember the following:

Underground tanks: water must flow from the municipal supply first to the firefighting

tanks and then to the domestic water tanks. This is to prevent stagnation in the water. The overflow from the firefighting to the domestic tanks must be at the top, so that the firefighting tanks remain full at all times. Normally, the firefighting water should be segregated into two tanks, so that if one is cleaned there is some water in the other tank should a fire occur. It is also possible to have a system in which the firefighting and the domestic water are in a common tank. In this case, the outlets to the fire pumps are located at the bottom of the tank and the outlets to the domestic pumps must be located at a sufficient height from the tank floor to ensure that the full quantity of water required for fireghting purposes is never drained away by the domestic pumps. The connection between the two tanks is through the suction header, a large diameter pipe that connects the all the fire pumps in the pump room. Therefore there is no need to provide any sleeve in the common wall between the two firefighting tanks.

The connection from each tank to the suction header should be placed in a sump; if

the connection is placed say 300mm above the tank bottom without a sump, then a 300mm high pool of water will remain in the tank, meaning that the entire volume of the tank water will not be useable, to which the Fire Officer will object. Ideally the bottom of the firefighting pump room should be about 1m below the

bottom of the tank. This arrangement ensures positive suction for the pumps, meaning that they will always have some water in them. All pump rooms should without fail have an arrangement for floor drainage; pumps

always leak. The best way to do this is to slope the floor towards a sump, and install a de-watering pump if the water cannot flow out by gravity. In cases where there is an extreme shortage of space, one may use submersible

pumps for firefighting. This will eliminate the need for a firefighting pump room. Create a special shaft for wet risers next to each staircase. About 800 x 1500 mm should suffice. It is better to provide this on the main landing rather than the mid landing, as the hoses will reach further onto the floor.

UNDERSTAND FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS

A fire alarm system is distinct from a firefighting system in that it has no connection to the firefighting system; its purpose is to inform all humans in the building that there is a fire via an audible alarm, so that they may evacuate the building. To phrase this differently, the firefighting system is not switched on by the fire alarm system; the two are independent. It is mandatory for every building other than small residences to have a firefighting system; a fire alarm system is required only in important and public buildings (as per Indian Codes in 2008). However it is better to provide it.

A fire alarm system consists of fire sensors, such as smoke and heat detectors, located throughout the building, connected to a main alarm panel by special cables. The panel is in turn connected to a set of hooters or speakers that give an audible alarm throughout the building and its surrounding areas.

In most areas smoke detectors are used to sense fires; they cannot be used in areas like kitchens where smoke is usually present. In such areas heat detectors (which actually detect a sudden increase in heat) are used. Devices such as a manual call point (a small button placed near exits that can be pressed by anyone who realizes that there is a fire) and a response indicator (a small red light that is placed outside a door; this lights if the smoke detector inside has been activated in order to tell the firefighters the location of the fire) are also used.

The main alarm panel should ideally be placed in a 24-hour control room or security room. The panel will indicate the location of the fire to the persons manning it so that they can coordinate the evacuation process. In case the main panel is kept elsewhere, a repeater panel can be placed in a security room.

What is an automatic fire sprinkler system?

The automatic fire sprinkler system is the most widely used fire protection system today. The whole philosophy of sprinklers is based upon the premise of applying the right

amount of water (as little as possible) in the right place (the seat of the fire) at the right

time (as quickly as possible). Many ordinary hazard systems used to be fed directly from the town's mains, but increasingly a water tank and pumps are being installed to guarantee adequate water flow and pressure.

Types of fire sprinkler systems:

WET

DRY

PRE-ACTION

DELUGE

What is a WET fire sprinkler system?

The fire sprinkler system is constantly charged with water under pressure, which holds the fire sprinkler valve in the closed position. When a fire sprinkler head is activated water instantly flows on to the fire.

A wet fire sprinkler system is commonly installed in areas where the ambient

temperature is above 32 degrees F.

What is a DRY fire sprinkler system?

Used where a frost risk may arise, the dry fire sprinkler system is constantly charged with compressed air, which holds the fire sprinkler valve in closed position. When a fire sprinkler head is activated, the air pressure is lost, the valve opens and water flows into the system and on to the fire.

A dry fire sprinkler system is commonly installed in areas where the ambient

temperature is at or below 32 degrees F.

What is a PRE-ACTION fire sprinkler system?

A combination of an electrical/mechanical detection system, charged with compressed air, sprinkler pipes are only filled with water upon electrical detection to avoid accidental water damage.

A pre-action fire sprinkler system is commonly installed in high-risk areas such as data

processing facilities or cold storage warehouses.

 

What is a DELUGE fire sprinkler system?

A combination of an electrical/mechanical detection system, fire sprinkler heads are open and the pipe is not pressurized. When the detection system is activated water discharges through all of the sprinkler heads in the system.

A deluge fire sprinkler system is commonly installed in high-risk areas such as power

plants, aircraft hangars, and chemical storage or processing facilities.

 

How are fire sprinkler heads rated?

Each fire sprinkler head is rated for certain degree, depending on its application. For example if a fire sprinkler head is rated for 155 degrees, as soon as the surrounding temperature reaches 155 degrees the bulb will burst and thus engage the fire sprinkler

system.

How do I know my fire sprinkler system will work?

The laws set forth by your local fire department and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) protect you by making sure that all fire related systems are tested at

regular intervals to insure proper operation of that system.

Does the fire sprinkler system need to be certified?

YES. In most jurisdictions automated sprinkler systems should be certified annually. Check with Basic Fire Protection, Inc. or your local Fire Department.

 

Should I have my fire sprinkler system tested?

YES. Your local fire department will notify you as to when and how often this should be done. The minimum testing would be annually and the maximum would be quarterly. Check with Basic Fire Protection, Inc. or your local Fire Department.

 

Who can test my fire sprinkler system?

Only a certified technician can test and certify your fire sprinkler system. Check with Basic Fire Protection, Inc.

Should I have my backflow services on my fire sprinkler system tested?

YES. The backflow services need to be tested annually. Your local Fire Department will notify you.

Fire Sprinkler Facts

The chances of a fire sprinkler accidentally going off are extremely remote.

Fire sprinkler heads are heat-activated. Smoke does not activate the fire sprinkler head.

Each fire sprinkler head is rated for a certain degree depending on its application.

Each fire sprinkler discharges individually, all fire sprinklers do not diffuse at once.

Residential fires are usually controlled with one fire sprinkler head.

90% of all fires are controlled with six or fewer heads.

Quick response fire sprinklers release 8-24 gallons of water per minute compared to 50- 125 gallons per minute released by a fire hose.

Property losses are 85% less in residences with fire sprinklers compared to those without sprinklers.

Water damage from a home fire sprinkler system will be much less severe than the damage caused by water from fire-fighting hose lines or smoke and fire damage if the fire goes unabated.

Installation of fire sprinklers can provide discounts on insurance premiums.

FM200 Gas

FM200 Fire Suppression is a suitable agent for normally occupied spaces. FM200 fire suppression systems are commonly used in :-

DATA Centres

 

Comms Rooms.

Telecommunication facilities

UPS Rooms

Medical facilities

   

What is FM200 Fire Suppression

FM200 fire suppression is also known as HFC227ea. FM200 is a waterless fire protection system, it is discharged into the risk within 10 seconds and suppresses the fire immediately.

How safe is FM200

FM200 fire suppression is found as an active compound as a propellant in medical inhalers. This is goes without saying that FM200 gas is extremely safe for occupied spaces with the correct fire suppression design.

How does FM200 work

There is a common misconception that FM200 gas reduces oxygen this is not true! FM200 is a synthetic/chemical fire suppression gas and extinguishes a fire by removing the free radicals or heat elements from the fire triangle. (Oxygen, Heat and Fuel)

The typical concentration of an FM200 system is normally between 7.9% to 8.5%. This concentration is determined by the risk that is being protected and by the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and the ISO14520 standards for fire suppression systems.

What are the advantages of an FM200 fire suppression system

The main advantage of FM200 fire suppression, is the small amount of agent required to suppress a fire. This means fewer cylinders, therefore less wasted space for storage of FM200 cylinders.

FM200 systems reach extinguishing levels in 10 seconds or less, stopping ordinary combustible, electrical, and flammable liquid fires before they cause significant damage. FM200 extinguishes the fire quickly, which means less damage, lower repair costs. Like any other fire suppression system, FM200 systems are designed with an extra margin of safety for people. Refilling FM200 is simple and cost effective, therefore, it also means less downtime and disruption to your business.

FM200 is classed as a clean agent which means that it is safe to use within occupied spaces. The safety of FM200 fire suppression environments is proven in over a decade of real-world experience and validated by extensive scientific studies. FM200 systems take up less storage space than most other fire suppressants.

In addition to the fire protection benefits of using FM200, the environment will benefit as well. FM200 fire suppressant

 

does not deplete stratospheric ozone, and has minimal impact on the environment relative to the impact a catastrophic fire would have. FM200 fire suppression is a solution that is already working in more than 100 thousand applications, in

more than 70 nations around the world.

 

How Do Sprinkler Heads Work?

Did you ever notice that a common gag for TV sitcoms is to have the automatic fire protection sprinklers go off? It's always the same, some smoke happens and all these sprinkler heads soak the hapless suckers standing there. Since almost none of us ever experience a sprinkler head discharge, the TV show experience seems true to many people. Please understand that it's completely false.

Smoke sets off smoke alarms, not sprinkler heads. Only heat makes sprinkler heads flow water. A typical sprinkler head has a thermal fuse of 174 °F that must melt to release water flow. The head next to it won't go off unless it too melts. So intense heat sets off sprinkler heads, and only the actual heads that experience the intense heat.

Sprinkler heads have either a glass bulb heat sensitive mechanism or a metal fusible link. With this type of activation, only the sprinkler heads directly above the fire tend to flow water. Therefore, the maximum amount of water douses the hottest fire location.

Different temperature sprinkler heads are used for various situations. The table below shows common options.

Color of liquid inside bulb

Temp in °F

Temp in °C

Orange

 
  • 135 57

Red

 
  • 155 68

Yellow

 
  • 174 79

Green

 
  • 200 93

Blue

 
  • 286 141

Mauve

 
  • 360 182

Black

 
  • 440 227

You can find much more information on sprinkler heads at Tyco Fire and Building Products or at Reliable Sprinkler.

How Do Sprinkler Heads Work? Did you ever notice that a common gag for TV sitcomsTyco Fire and Building Products or at Reliable Sprinkler . What Should I Know About Sprinkler Systems? A wet sprinkler system has a series of water distribution pipes and sprinkler heads throughout every space in a facility. The sprinkler heads are typically located between 10' and 15' on center in both directions. The pipes are full of water, so if heat from a fire raises the temperature, the fusible link or glass bulb will break and allow water to flow onto the fire. The amount of water may be in the 15 to 40 gallons per minute range, which is much less than a fire hose that may flow 250 to 1000 gallons per minute. In theory, the sprinkler system will control the fire with much less water damage to the facility. Generally systems have control valves for maintenance and repairs that must be monitored with anti-tamper switches. Flow controls also are typically monitored so any flow in the system, especially during non-occu p ied times, g ets re p orted q uickl y . If y ou want a much more detailed explanation of sprinkler systems, go to the Stanford University Intro to Automatic Fire Protection Systems . " id="pdf-obj-7-80" src="pdf-obj-7-80.jpg">

What Should I Know About Sprinkler Systems?

A wet sprinkler system has a series of water distribution pipes and sprinkler heads throughout every space in a facility. The sprinkler heads are typically located between 10' and 15' on center in both directions. The pipes are full of water, so if heat from a fire raises the temperature, the fusible link or glass bulb will break and allow water to flow onto the fire. The amount of water may be in the 15 to 40 gallons per minute range, which is much less than a fire hose that may flow 250 to 1000 gallons per minute. In theory, the sprinkler system will control the fire with much less water damage to the facility.

Generally systems have control valves for maintenance and repairs that must be monitored with anti-tamper switches. Flow controls also are typically monitored so any flow in the system, especially during non-occupied times, gets reported quickly. If you want a much more detailed explanation of sprinkler systems, go to the Stanford University Intro to Automatic Fire Protection Systems.

While sprinklers aren't required in all buildings, the current US building codes (IBC and UBC) provide many design advantages for buildings that include sprinklers. Egress requirements, building construction type, fire separation requirements and many more design items have relaxed requirements in sprinklered buildings. Hence many Design Professionals specify sprinklers and consider it an overall cost savings.

Where water may freeze in the pipes, a dry sprinkler system can be used. An air compressor must provide air at a pressure higher than the water pressure in the sprinkler system so the dry system remains full of compressed air. When a sprinkler head activates, the air rushes out and the water soon (less than one minute) follows. Dry systems have several complications not found with wet systems, so only get used where pipe freezing is a concern.

Deluge systems don't use sprinkler heads to control the water flow. The piping is open at the point of water discharge and the water flow is controlled by a valve connected to the fire alarm system. A deluge system will have water flowing from all discharge points simultaneously, as soon as the fire alarm calls for flow. Only in special occupancies in which rapid fire spread is a major concern do deluge systems get installed.

Pre-action sprinkler systems provide another layer of safety from accidental sprinkler discharge. You can imagine a museum or a library could sustain tremendous losses from water damage, so they want to assure that sprinkler heads don't discharge by mistake. Though system types vary, generally an action (the flowing of water at a head location) must be proceeded by a pre-action (a smoke or heat alarm confirming that a fire is likely in progress). So a Pre-Action sprinkler system has a double check prior to water flowing.

While sprinklers aren't required in all buildings, the current US building codes (IBC and UBC) provide

What Piping Configurations are Common?

The sketch below shows various common piping configurations.

While sprinklers aren't required in all buildings, the current US building codes (IBC and UBC) provide

The other component of the sprinkler piping is the control valving. While requirements vary based on local rules, the following US Department of Defense sketch shows a typical layout.

What are the Basics of Sprinkler System Design? It's a good idea to understand sprinkler system
What are the Basics of Sprinkler System Design? It's a good idea to understand sprinkler system

What are the Basics of Sprinkler System Design?

It's a good idea to understand sprinkler system design (the basics aren't too complicated). The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) sets the design standards in the publication NFPA-13. The following few steps show the process.

  • 1. Determine the level of fire hazard for the building.

    • 1. Light Hazard (offices, churches, hospitals, nursing homes, gyms, schools, theaters, residential, etc.)

    • 2. Ordinary Hazard Group 1 (bakeries, dairy plants, electronic plants, glass manufacturing, parking garages, etc.)

    • 3. Ordinary Hazard Group 2 (chemical plants, mercantile, paper mills, repair garages, woodworking shops, etc.)

    • 4. Extra Hazard Group 1 (aircraft hangars, plywood manufacturing, printing, textile plants, etc.)

    • 5. Extra Hazard Group 2 (asphalt saturating, flammable liquid spraying, manufactured home plants, plastics processing, etc.)

  • 2. Find the Design Area and Density

  • 0. Design Area = the worst case area in a building where a fire could burn

    • 1. Design Density = the gallons per minute of water per square foot that should flow onto the Design Area

  • 3. Sprinkler Head locations and piping design

  • An example always helps. An office building has a light hazard classification, the Design Area is the most remote 1,500 sf and the Design Density is 0.1 gallons per minute/sf. Therefore this system requires 1,500 sf x 0.1 gpm/sf = 150 gallons per minute to be discharged over that most remote 1,500 sf area. If we look instead to a manufacturing facility, the Design Density changes to 0.2 gpm/sf. Therefore, we'd need 300 gpm to be spray over the most remote 1,500 sf area.

    The table below from the US Department of Defense provides some of the design basics. To really understand the design work, you need a copy of NFPA-13, but this table shows the basic concept.

    What Public Domain Documents are Available for Further Study? The Dept of Defense has created aFire Protection Engineering for Facilities which is an excellent introduction to sprinkler systems. This 129 page handbook is officially called UFC 3-600-01 (September 2006). Sprinkler heads act independently, only discharging water when the temperature at that head exceeds the allowable range. 1. A sprinkler head flows about 40 gpm, while a fire hose flows in excess of 250 gpm. 2. Pre-Action sprinkler systems provide a double check prior to water flowing. " id="pdf-obj-10-2" src="pdf-obj-10-2.jpg">
    What Public Domain Documents are Available for Further Study? The Dept of Defense has created aFire Protection Engineering for Facilities which is an excellent introduction to sprinkler systems. This 129 page handbook is officially called UFC 3-600-01 (September 2006). Sprinkler heads act independently, only discharging water when the temperature at that head exceeds the allowable range. 1. A sprinkler head flows about 40 gpm, while a fire hose flows in excess of 250 gpm. 2. Pre-Action sprinkler systems provide a double check prior to water flowing. " id="pdf-obj-10-4" src="pdf-obj-10-4.jpg">

    What Public Domain Documents are Available for Further Study?

    The Dept of Defense has created a manual for Fire Protection Engineering for Facilities which is an excellent introduction to sprinkler systems. This 129 page handbook is officially called UFC 3-600-01 (September 2006).

    Sprinkler heads act independently, only discharging water when the temperature at that head exceeds the allowable range.

    • 1. A sprinkler head flows about 40 gpm, while a fire hose flows in excess of 250 gpm.

    • 2. Pre-Action sprinkler systems provide a double check prior to water flowing.