Fire Protection FAQs
Your overall fire protection system is one of the most important things in your building. Between your fire sprinkler system, fire extinguishers, fire alarms, and exit lights, it’s vital you keep your systems in proper working order at all times.
Many people are unclear on exactly what their fire protection systems do and how they work. At Fire Pros, we want our customers to have the best information possible about their fire protection systems.
Here are some of the most common questions we get.
Fire Sprinkler FAQs
How does a quick-response fire sprinkler work?
Quick-response (QR) sprinkler heads are typical in high-density, light-hazard environments, including hospitals, assisted living facilities, office buildings, and schools. They’re also often installed in homes.
QR sprinkler heads respond faster to the flames below by activating at a lower temperature than SR sprinklers. They have 3 mm bulbs that allow the liquid inside to expand and break the glass quickly.
It’s only appropriate to install QR sprinkler heads in applications that are unlikely to have high ambient temperatures that could trigger a sprinkler head without a fire present.
How does a standard-response fire sprinkler work?
Standard-response (SR) sprinkler heads are best for commercial or industrial buildings, including factories and warehouses. They activate individually to prevent causing water damage where there’s no fire.
SR sprinklers take longer to activate than quick-response sprinklers, requiring the heat from a fire below to reach a higher temperature before the liquid inside the bulb expands, the glass breaks, and water flows through the sprinkler head.
SR sprinklers contain 5 mm glass bulbs that take longer for the expanding liquid inside to burst them. That said, these sprinkler heads still react within seconds, quickly dousing any fire.
How much does a fire sprinkler system cost?
The price of a fire sprinkler system varies based on the size and type of fire sprinklers you install.
Other Factors To Consider
Your sprinkler installation cost may vary based on:
- Pipe material: Plastic is the most affordable type. Use it wherever possible to keep costs down. In some places, such as the garage or unfinished basement, you may need more expensive copper piping, which will increase the installation cost.
- System features: Most businesses have access to the municipal water supply. But if your building gets water from a well or another private water source, your sprinkler system may need a water storage tank and booster pump. These features add to the installation cost.
- System design: Most fire sprinklers use stand-alone pipes with a dedicated water supply. Others are multipurpose, meaning they combine pipes for domestic use and the fire sprinklers. A stand-alone system usually costs more than a multipurpose one, at least when installed in new construction projects.
- Lifetime costs: As you calculate the long-term investment required to install a sprinkler system, consider that many insurance companies offer premium discounts for buildings with automatic fire sprinklers. Factor in these savings to determine the true lifetime cost of the installation.
How do fire sprinkler systems work?
Most sprinkler heads contain a small bulb with a colored liquid inside. This bulb acts as a plug to prevent water from escaping out of the sprinkler. The heat from a fire causes this liquid to quickly expand. Once the pressure in the vial gets too high, the bulb bursts and releases the water behind it.
The liquid inside the bulbs comes in a variety of colors, and each color represents the temperature required to activate the sprinkler:
- Orange: 135°F
- Red: 155°F
- Yellow: 174°F
- Green: 200°F
- Blue: 286°F
- Purple: 360°F
- Black: 440°F
Since the fire sprinklers are activated by heat, there’s no risk of accidental activation of your fire sprinkler system by smoke or dust in the air. That said, the bulbs are very fragile and any tampering could cause them to go off.
If a sprinkler head gets accidentally knocked off (by a forklift, truck, repairperson, etc.), there will be lots and lots of water flowing through that sprinkler head until the system is shut down.
Why do I need a fire sprinkler system in my building?
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), buildings with a working fire sprinkler system see an average property loss and risk of death per fire that’s 50% to 66% lower than buildings without sprinkler systems.
Broken down by industry, civilian deaths in sprinklered buildings between 1989 and 1998 were reduced by:
- 60% for manufacturing properties
- 74% for stores and offices
- 75% for nursing homes
- 91% for hotels and motels
In addition, the average property damage per hotel or motel fire was 56% less in structures with fire sprinkler systems than without. Fire sprinkler systems save money, and more importantly, save lives.
How can I maintain my sprinkler system?
The most important thing to do to keep your fire sprinkler in good shape is to have it inspected by Fire Pros once a year.
Frequent fire sprinkler inspections will help catch any problems with your system so they don’t prevent it from operating properly in the future. Plus, fire sprinkler system maintenance will usually lower insurance premiums.
Call 800-968-2871 to learn more about commercial fire sprinkler services.
Do’s & Don’ts of Fire Sprinkler Systems
When it comes to your fire sprinkler system:
- Test your fire sprinkler system monthly by opening the test valve and listening for an alarm bell.
- Know the location of the fire sprinkler system shut-off valve.
- Make sure the fire sprinkler system control valve stays open.
- Have your system reevaluated routinely for needed upgrades.
- Leave the building and contact the fire department as soon as possible after the fire sprinklers go off, even if it looks like the fire has already been put out.
- Paint the sprinklers.
- Damage sprinklers (report any damage immediately).
- Hang objects from any part of the system.
- Obstruct or cover the sprinklers.
When Should Fire Sprinkler Inspections Be Scheduled?
Commercial fire sprinkler systems should undergo annual and monthly inspections. Because of this, it’s critical that you work closely with a certified fire safety contractor who can satisfy all these needs and build a contract for testing requirements throughout the year.
At Fire Pros, we offer cost-effective and time-saving inspection contracts so can we meet all your inspection and testing needs conveniently and effectively, without you needing to track dates yourself. This keeps your business and clients safe at all times and ensures you remain compliant with NFPA 25 and local building codes.
What are the pros and cons of installing fire sprinklers?
The advantages of installing a fire sprinkler system include:
- Save lives: Fire sprinklers give evacuees more time to navigate escape routes and get to safety.
- Reduce property damage: Fires can burn down a structure in minutes. Fire sprinklers prevent fires from becoming even more destructive.
- Positive environmental impact: Because fire sprinklers can stop fires early, less water is used, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions are emitted in buildings with fire sprinkler systems.
The disadvantages are:
- Aesthetics: The small metal fixtures are immediately noticeable to customers and clients, but building occupants will appreciate your commitment to their safety.
- Maintenance: You’ll need to schedule a maintenance appointment with a professional once a year.
Will my fire sprinkler system cause water damage?
Fire sprinklers may cause water damage, but it’s minimal when compared to the damage caused by the large volumes of water that fire departments have to spray on burning buildings to extinguish a fire. A fire sprinkler system helps reduce rebuilding costs by tempering a fire as it begins.
Fire Extinguisher FAQs
How many fire extinguishers do I need in my building?
While the exact number required for each building varies based on the unique layout and hazard level, as a general rule, you should have no more than 75 ft. of space between Class A fire extinguishers and no more than 50 ft. between Class B fire extinguishers.
What do the letters and numbers by the fire extinguisher classification mean?
Every fire extinguisher has an alphanumeric rating that tells you what types and sizes of fires it can extinguish.
The letters stand for the class of fire the extinguisher can be used against:
A – ordinary combustibles (wood, paper, plastic, etc.)
B – flammable liquids (oil, gas, petroleum, etc.)
C – electrical equipment
D – metals
K – cooking oils and fats
The numbers indicate how much of the fire can be put out by the fire extinguisher. Every number before the A means it’s as effective as 1 ¼ gallons of water. For example, 2A means the fire extinguisher is as effective as 2 ½ gallons of water, and so on.
The numbers before B and C are a measure of the number of square feet the fire extinguisher can put out. For example, a 10:BC fire extinguisher can extinguish a fire over 10 sq. ft.
How do I use a fire extinguisher?
Here are some steps to follow, but these may vary based on the extinguisher at your facility. It’s always best to notify the fire department when a fire starts, so they can assist you in what should be done and send help as needed.
- Pull the pin to release the lock or seal.
- Aim the nozzle of the extinguisher low, pointing at the base of the flame.
- Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent.
- Move the nozzle from left to right covering the base of the flames until the fire dies out.
- Watch the fire to make sure it does not reignite.
How often do I need fire extinguisher inspection?
Normal fire extinguisher inspections are required once a month to make sure there’s no obvious damage to the device and the fire extinguisher pressure is adequate. You can perform this inspection on your own.
In addition to monthly extinguisher self-tests, full fire extinguisher maintenance is required once a year and a fire extinguisher hydro test is required every 12 years.
What kind of fire extinguisher do I need in my commercial kitchen?
If you own a restaurant, you already know you need a special type of fire suppression system to keep your kitchen safe from fires. But did you know you also need a special type of fire extinguisher?
Fires that commonly occur in commercial kitchens, such as grease fires, are referred to as Class K and require a special Class K fire extinguisher to knock them down and prevent reflash.
Is fire extinguisher training required?
Yes. OSHA standards require any workplace that has fire extinguishers available for employee use must also provide an educational program for employees to familiarize themselves with the basics of fire extinguisher use and the hazards associated with it.
What is the best type of fire extinguisher for sensitive electrical equipment?
If you have sensitive electronic equipment, such as in a computer room or data center, a water or dry chemical fire extinguisher can cause as much damage as a fire itself. Instead, use a clean agent fire extinguisher such as a Cleanguard FE 36 (made by Ansul) or a Halotron I (made by Amerex) fire extinguisher.
Halotron I: Halotron I discharges as a rapidly evaporating liquid that leaves no residue. It does not conduct electricity and is suitable to fight Class A, B, and C fires.
Cleanguard FE 36: The Cleanguard FE 36 is a replacement for Halon 1211. The Cleanguard extinguisher has comparable performance and efficiency to Halon 1211 but is less toxic and has zero ozone depletion potential.
How do I know if my fire extinguishers work?
You or an employee can perform a simple monthly check of your fire extinguishers by looking at the pressure gauge to see if the needle is in the green zone. However, the best way to ensure they continue working correctly is to schedule fire extinguisher inspections at least once a year.
When should I replace my fire extinguishers?
Fire extinguishers can contain a variety of extinguishing agents and are made of different materials, so they don’t have a set service life span. Scheduling a yearly inspection is key to knowing how long yours can last.
You should replace a fire extinguisher if the cylinder is corroded or gives inaccurate gauge readings.
Fire Alarm FAQs
How long will a fire alarm last?
When properly maintained, a good fire alarm will last about 10 to 12 years. After this long, you should have your fire alarms replaced, even if they seem to be working – you don’t want to compromise your building’s fire safety.
Plus, technological advancements are making fire alarms more and more effective every day, and you don’t want to be stuck with an outdated model that won’t keep you as safe as possible.
What is the difference between conventional and addressable fire alarms?
The biggest difference is customizability. Conventional fire alarms sit on the wall or ceiling and go off individually when they detect smoke or fire, making them perfect for small buildings such as individual offices or retail shops.
Addressable fire alarms provide specific information about individual detectors that’s invaluable if your office is part of a larger building or building complex. Addressable fire alarm systems can be customized so different devices have different alarm thresholds based on their locations.
Addressable fire alarm systems are typically more expensive than conventional alarms, but the extra information they provide to firefighters and building managers is invaluable.
What kinds of fire alarms are there?
There are two types of fire alarms: ionization fire alarms and photoelectric fire alarms. Ionization fire alarms detect flaming, fast-moving fires – curtain fires, trash can fires, etc.
Photoelectric fire alarms are best for smoky, smoldering fires, such as electrical fires that start behind walls. There are also dual-sensor fire alarms, which combine both types into one.
Do I need a fire alarm system if I have a fire sprinkler system installed?
Yes. Even though fire sprinkler systems are highly effective fire protection, they only kick into gear after the fire has started and the heat has risen to a certain level.
Fire alarm systems detect fire before the flames start, giving you extra time to escape the building. They can also automatically alert the fire department.
Is fire alarm monitoring worth it?
A fire alarm monitoring service will keep tabs on your building 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If one of your fire alarms goes off, the monitoring company will notify the fire department within seconds – you don’t even have to be there.
Everyone has heard horror stories of people showing up to work and seeing the charred wreckage of what was once their office (and all their equipment, data, etc.) – don’t let this happen to you.
Why does my fire alarm constantly chirp or beep?
Most smoke alarms will chirp at regular intervals to indicate their batteries are low. If your fire alarms seem to be making noises randomly, there could be several things going on:
The battery may be loose or improperly installed: Make sure the battery fits properly in the battery slot. Otherwise, the connections may not make good contact with the battery. If the battery wasn’t put into the slot properly, pop it out and put it back in.
The fire alarm cover may be dirty: Over time, dust and dead bugs can collect in the sensor chamber of your fire alarm, causing it to chirp. Keep the sensor chamber clean (the easiest way is to vacuum it out every time you change the batteries). If the room where you want to install the smoke detector is especially dusty, install an ionization fire alarm so the dust doesn’t affect it.
The fire alarm may need to be reset: Most new electronic fire alarms come with logic boards that tell the alarm to chirp when the battery gets low. Unfortunately, replacing the battery doesn’t always stop the chirping. Sometimes you need to hit the RESET button to ensure the smoke detector works properly.
Power to the fire alarm has been interrupted: A power surge could interrupt power to the fire alarm, causing it to chirp when the power is restored. Hitting the RESET button should take care of the problem.
The fire alarm may need to be replaced: If all else fails, you may need to have your fire alarm replaced. Fortunately, fire alarms are relatively inexpensive, and replacing them is no problem.
Fire Suppression FAQs
Why is Halon being phased out?
Starting in the 1960s, Halon 1301 (halogenated hydrocarbon) became the industry standard for protecting high-value assets from fire without simultaneously threatening water damage. While Halon is fast-acting, doesn’t harm delicate assets, and requires minimal storage space, it depletes the ozone at an alarming rate and is potentially harmful to humans.
That’s why the Clean Air Act of 1994 banned the production of new Halon. Existing supplies have sustained the operation of Halon fire suppression systems that were installed before 1994, which are still legal to own and operate.
However, because of the environmental problems and health hazards of Halon, you may want to remove and replace this system with a safer option.
Why does kitchen hood suppression matter?
Cooking equipment is a leading cause of fire in a variety of industries, including restaurants, healthcare facilities, schools, offices, and mercantile properties. The high cooking temperatures, open flames, flammable oils and grease, and hectic nature of commercial kitchens make exhaust hood fire suppression critical for putting out flames that might ignite here.
Should I have my fire suppression system tested?
Semiannual routine kitchen fire suppression system inspections are sufficient to ensure that your equipment complies with NFPA, ANSI, state, and local codes and is ready to protect your customers and employees in the event of a fire.
How does fire suppression work?
The purpose of automatic fire suppression is to extinguish fires with no human intervention. This requires the system to detect fires and deliver an extinguishing agent all on its own.
Heat detectors and thermo-bulbs are conventional methods of fire detection. Then, pressurized fluid stored in nearby tanks flows through a release valve, into piping, and out of nozzles to douse the fire quickly and effectively.
Many different extinguishing agents besides water are available for fire suppression systems. Therefore, this type of fire protection is ideal for libraries, museums, data centers, server rooms, medical record rooms, engine compartments, control rooms, and other areas where water damage could be detrimental.
No matter what extinguishing agent you choose, the goal is the same — to disrupt the fire triangle. This is accomplished by either smothering the flames to cool them or cutting off the fuel source from oxygen.