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Water damage from fire sprinklers: Reduce your risk

February 10, 2016

Help reduce unexpected water damage from fire sprinklers. Inspection, testing and maintenance of fire sprinkler systems can help reduce the risk of future water damage.

Adam Hurley

Head of Real Estate Zurich North America

Adam Hurley is Head of the Real Estate customer industry segment for Zurich North America. He is... About this expert

An automatic fire sprinkler system is one of the most important fire protection features in a building. However — if not properly maintained or afforded adequate heat — fire protection systems may fail. A failure could result in disaster if a fire occurred, or tremendous water damage from fire sprinklers if water is unexpectedly released.

In fact, 25% of all property claims are due to water loss, and water causes over billion annually in property losses. Help minimize unexpected water damage from your fire sprinkler system. Inspection, testing and maintenance of fire sprinkler systems can help reduce the risk of future water damage.

Which fire sprinkler best meets your needs?

Installing the appropriate fire sprinkler system for your building and usage can help alleviate potential water damage.

  • Wet pipe system: (Most commonly used) Pipes are filled with water. Heat from a fire opens the sprinklers closest to the fire. Usually only one or two sprinklers open.
  • Dry pipe system: (For areas subject to freezing temperatures) Pipes are filled with pressurized air or gas used to hold water back in a heated space. Heat from a fire opens the sprinklers closest to the fire, air escapes and the dry pipe valve opens to allow water flow.
  • Deluge system: (For high-hazard environments that could have fast-spreading fires) Pipes are not filled with water or gas as all sprinklers are open. A signal from a fire detection device opens the deluge valve. Water will flow from all sprinklers.
  • Pre-action system: (For areas where concerns of water damage to property or equipment are high) Pipes are filled with pressurized air or gas. Loss of air or gas pressure summons maintenance. A signal from a fire detection device opens the pre-action valve, filling the pipes with water. Because sprinkler heads are closed, heat from a fire opens the sprinklers closest to the fire. Usually only one or two sprinklers open (similar to a wet pipe system). However, "double "interlock" pre-action systems use more air or gas pressure in the pipes, delaying the water delivery and allowing more sprinklers to open at a time (similar to dry pipe systems).

What causes water to escape?

  • Freezing of water-filled pipes
  • Mechanical damage
  • Installation defects
  • Deliberate sabotage
  • Overheating from excessive temperature near sprinklers
  • Corrosion of sprinklers, fittings and other components
  • Stress cracking of plastic sprinkler pipe and fittings
  • Manufacturing defects, including recalled sprinklers

Water damage from fire sprinkler considerations

  • Maintain fire sprinklers in accordance with recognized standards.
  • Ensure installations are completed by experienced and licensed contractors.
  • Take action to reduce the chance of fire sprinkler system freeze-ups.

 

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