Fire Protection Equipment Inspection, Testing and Maintenance (USA and Canada)
Sprinkler systems are important to help protect life and valuable property. Like any other piece of equipment or machinery, they require attention to ensure they operate properly when they are needed.
The following information outlines Travelers’ guidelines for inspecting, testing and maintaining fire protection equipment. Our guidelines may vary from other insurance companies and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). When conflicts exist between these and other guidelines, the more stringent should be chosen. Also, any applicable state and municipal codes should be followed.
All testing and inspections should be documented and kept on file for periodic review. If your sprinkler system is unique or has features not reviewed in this document, your Travelers Risk Control consultant can assist you with developing a guide to meet the requirements of your specific system.
Note: Inspection, testing and maintenance provided by a central station alarm monitoring company is not a substitute for this inspection, testing and maintenance schedule. Central station companies may only inspect, test and maintain their own alarm equipment; thus, owners are not relieved of their responsibilities to inspect, test and maintain all sprinkler system components, or have a reliable outside firm complete this work.
According to statistics published by NFPA, nearly 60% of sprinkler system failures from 2010-2014 were due to shut valves.1 Automatic sprinkler system control valve(s) must be in the open position for the system to perform as designed.
All control valves should be secured in the open position with a padlock or padlock-chain arrangement. The key should be entrusted to a reliable and readily accessible person who will shut down the system only when necessary and will return it to service as soon as possible. Regular valve checks, a valve seal program and electronic valve supervision can reinforce the valve securing/locking measures.
When the automatic sprinkler system control valves must be closed for repairs or alterations to the system, the amount of time the valve(s) are closed should be minimized. When repairs or additions are completed, the impairment coordinator should double-check the valves and witness a main drain test to confirm they are fully restored to the open position.
The following inspections should be conducted to verify that valves are open and the sprinkler system is active:
- Inspect and/or test any control valves that are not electronically monitored or locked.
- Inspect all locked sprinkler control valves.
- Inspect all sprinkler control valves equipped with electronic tamper switches.
- Test electronic tamper switches on control valves. This test verifies the supervisory devices for the valves will operate properly and helps verify the sprinkler systems remain active.
- Operate all post indicator valves, curb box valves and sprinkler control valves through the full cycle. Each valve should be closed fully and then reopened. This test helps to verify the valves can be closed if needed. The valves should be lubricated at this time.
A sprinkler system should be inspected, tested and maintained on a regular schedule to help identify problems and ensure readiness when needed. Testing on a sprinkler system should determine the operational status of the mechanical devices, such as the alarms or the dry-pipe valves. The test should also verify the reliability of the water supply and alarm systems.
- Inspect sprinkler riser air (or nitrogen) pressure gauges where pressure supervision is not connected to a constantly attended location. Record the readings and compare with prior results to verify that normal pressure is being maintained.
- Inspect gauges where air pressure supervision is connected to a constantly attended location.
- Inspect gauges monitoring water pressure. The gauge inspections verify that proper pressures are being maintained.
- Inspect fire department connections. The fire department connections should not be obstructed with trash, nests, etc., and missing caps should be replaced.
- Conduct at least one main drain test when the sole water supply is fed through a backflow preventer or a pressure reducing valve. This test is intended to show whether or not the normal water pressure is available on the system and to indicate the possible presence of closed valves or other obstructions in the supply pipe.
- Test priming water level on dry pipe valves. This test can help verify that the proper priming water level is maintained in the dry pipe system.
- Test waterflow alarms on sprinkler systems. This test is to help ensure alarm activation in the event of waterflow through the sprinkler system. It should be accomplished by opening the inspector’s test connection on wet pipe systems and the alarm bypass on dry pipe systems, which simulates the flow of one sprinkler head.
- Conduct main drain tests on all sprinkler system lead-ins. This test is intended to show whether or not the normal water pressure is available on the system and to indicate the possible presence of closed valves or other obstructions in the supply pipe.
- Test low air pressure devices on dry pipe sprinkler systems. This test is for dry pipe sprinkler systems only. This is accomplished by turning the lever type bleeder valve located ahead of the pressure switch one quarter turn. Closing this valve (moving the valve handle perpendicular to the 1/2" pipeline) shuts off the water or air from the supply and opens a small orifice (pin-hole) to exhaust the pressure between the valve and the pressure device. This should provide a low-pressure actuation of the pressure device, testing its operation. If this valve is not provided, it should be.
- Trip test dry pipe valves. Each dry pipe valve should be trip tested at least once each year and immediately if the system is altered. This test should verify the systems will be able to operate automatically if needed. All low point drains will need to be drained immediately and two weeks after the trip test.
- Drain low point drains on dry pipe systems. This maintenance is intended to remove any water buildup in the sprinkler lines and should be performed before the likelihood of any freezing temperatures.
- Inspect hose and hose stations. This inspection verifies that the hose is in place, accessible and in good condition.
Water Supply Systems
- Run test of booster/fire pump. This test is for both diesel and electric booster/fire pumps. It can be accomplished by opening the small test valve on the pressure sensing line that goes to the fire pump controller.
Opening this small test connection simulates a pressure drop in the system which causes the pump to operate. Once the pump is running it should operate at rated speed with recordings made of suction and discharge pressures.
For diesel engines or any other type of internal combustion engine-driven pumps, the engine should be operated weekly at rated speed for at least 30 minutes. Electric motor driven pumps that 1) serve fire protection systems in buildings that are beyond the pumping capacity of the fire department 2) have limited service controllers 3) are vertical turbine fire pumps or 4) take suction from ground level tanks or a water source that does not provide sufficient pressure to be of material value without the pump should also be run weekly for at least 10 minutes. Electric motor driven pumps not included in the list above should be run monthly for at least 10 minutes. The pump should be monitored by a responsible employee for the duration of the test to verify there is not excessive vibration, unusual noise or excessive heat, and to detect any problems that might surface. Flowing water is not required in this test. Refer to Travelers “Fire Pump Testing – Periodic Operational Test” document and checklists for further information.
- Inspect booster/fire pump. The pump controller should remain in the automatic starting position and the pump area should be accessible at all times. The available power supply for electric pumps and the fuel supply for diesel pumps (should be at least ¾-full at all times) should be inspected. The pump house should be kept clean, dry and warm. Diesel engines should be maintained at a minimum temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius).
- Inspect the water level and exterior of gravity tanks, pressure tanks and/or suction tanks. This inspection verifies that the tank is in good condition and supplied with a sufficient amount of water (must be heated during freezing temperatures).
- Inspect hydrants. This inspection will verify that hydrants have not been damaged and appear operational.
- Flow test booster/fire pumps. This test should be conducted to ensure that neither the pump nor the suction pipe is obstructed and that the pump is operating properly per the manufacturer’s ratings. It is accomplished by flowing water through the pump and out of the test header valves. Refer to Travelers “Fire Pump Testing – Annual Flow Test” document and checklist for further information.
- Test hydrants. Flow each hydrant to remove debris and verify the hydrant is operating properly. Also, verify that the hydrants drain properly after the flow test.
1 Sprinkler Performance – How are we doing? How can NFPA 13 and 25 help?, National Fire Protection Association website. Accessed 11/2/20.
The information provided in this document is intended for use as a guideline and is not intended as, nor does it constitute, legal or professional advice. Travelers does not warrant that adherence to, or compliance with, any recommendations, best practices, checklists, or guidelines will result in a particular outcome. In no event will Travelers, or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates, be liable in tort or in contract to anyone who has access to or uses this information for any purpose. Travelers does not warrant that the information in this document constitutes a complete and finite list of each and every item or procedure related to the topics or issues referenced herein. Furthermore, federal, state, provincial, municipal or local laws, regulations, standards or codes, as is applicable, may change from time to time and the user should always refer to the most current requirements. This material does not amend, or otherwise affect, the provisions or coverages of any insurance policy or bond issued by Travelers, nor is it a representation that coverage does or does not exist for any particular claim or loss under any such policy or bond. Coverage depends on the facts and circumstances involved in the claim or loss, all applicable policy or bond provisions, and any applicable law.
The information provided in this document is intended for use as a guideline and is not intended as, nor does it constitute, legal or professional advice. Travelers does not warrant that adherence to, or compliance with, any recommendations, best practices, checklists, or guidelines will result in a particular outcome. In no event will Travelers, or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates, be liable in tort or in contract to anyone who has access to or uses this information for any purpose. Travelers does not warrant that the information in this document constitutes a complete and finite list of each and every item or procedure related to the topics or issues referenced herein. Furthermore, federal, state, provincial, municipal or local laws, regulations, standards or codes, as is applicable, may change from time to time and the user should always refer to the most current requirements. This material does not amend, or otherwise affect, the provisions or coverages of any insurance policy or bond issued by Travelers, nor is it a representation that coverage does or does not exist for any particular claim or loss under any such policy or bond. Coverage depends on the facts and circumstances involved in the claim or loss, all applicable policy or bond provisions, and any applicable law. (255)