Connected Fire Sprinkler Systems Can Minimize Building Shutdowns

A connected solution monitors your fire sprinkler system’s health and helps keep your campus running.

Connected Fire Sprinkler Systems Can Minimize Building Shutdowns

Photo via Adobe, by Владислав Легір

What does it cost your campus in time, budget dollars or reputation when a building has to be shut down for unanticipated repairs? If you run multiple facilities, these issues are often amplified.

If your fire sprinkler system has been the cause of unexpected building repairs, have you considered what you could be doing to expect the unexpected? What would it mean to you to avoid a middle-of-the-night weekend emergency due a frozen pipe that has led to a leak? What would it mean to the efficiency of your facility to be able to plan for fire sprinkler system repairs while avoiding the much deeper costs of a system failure?

There are a few strategies you should consider to help keep your system healthy and maximize the time your facilities are operational.

3 Strategies to Maximize Building Up Time

First, make sure you’re keeping up with your quarterly fire sprinkler system inspections. These inspections are your first line of defense and are required per the NFPA 25 “Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems.” NFPA 25 sets the baseline for maintaining the integrity of your system.

Second, consider ways to reduce your risk of corrosion damage. Corrosion in fire sprinkler systems leads to plugging problems, diminished fire sprinkler performance, water leak damage, and reduced service life. All this can translate into significant risks to life safety, structural integrity, and business continuity.

If you have a dry-pipe or preaction sprinkler system with no water in the pipes, you can use nitrogen as the system air rather than oxygen to reduce corrosion. For your wet-pipe systems, you can consider a venting solution that removes trapped oxygen in the piping to reduce corrosion or you can displace the oxygen with nitrogen to further fight corrosion and extend the life of the system.

Finally, consider a solution that truly helps you expect the unexpected by predicting and preventing issues with your fire sprinkler system. Adding connectivity to your fire sprinkler system and making it part of the IoT (Internet of Things) can help you better understand your system’s health and address issues before they turn into freeze ups, leaks, or other issues.

A connected solution can keep you informed — in real time — of your fire sprinkler system’s health. Sensors placed at strategic points on the system can measure temperature, pressure, and water presence continuously. The data is sent to the Cloud and can then notify the right people to act at the right time.

Some solutions utilize LoRa ( Long Range) wireless technology, which is a common wireless protocol ideal for campuses. It allows wireless signals to travel over long distances and through construction materials on a quiet frequency band that minimizes wireless interference.

Why Preventing Fire Sprinkler System Failure Is So Important

Preventing fire sprinkler system failures address shared pain points across different campus types, whether it be a hospital, senior living facility, or a university campus.

Common benefits include:

  1. The ability to be where you’re needed: With a connected solution you can respond where and when you’re needed most and know how to prioritize what needs to be done.
  2. Have a full campus view of system health (or even a view across many campuses): Know where to focus time and budget dollars when prioritizing repairs and ongoing maintenance work.
  3. Partner with your insurance company to reduce insurance premiums: If you can reduce the risk profile of your campus by avoiding fire sprinkler system failures, what would that be worth to your insurance company and to your company?

A connected solution can also bring benefits that help to support your campus mission. Here are a few examples of what proactive fire sprinkler system maintenance can mean to different campus types:

Hospitals

A continuously functioning sprinkler system means minimized patient disruptions and logistical challenges, since the system can be installed and set up while the sprinkler systems are active and buildings are occupied. Once the system is collecting data, you’re equipped with the capabilities to predict and prevent fire sprinkler system repairs or failures, which reduces occurrences when patients need to be moved.

Proactive maintenance also helps keep focus on a hospital’s mission, which is helping patients. A freeze up or leak in your fire sprinkler system could destroy sensitive equipment such as MRI and x-ray machines, delaying patient care and incurring replacement costs.

A connected system can also help keep support facilities available – for example, parking spaces for patients, staff, and visitors can sometimes be at a premium; keeping these operational helps increase your operational efficiency and is one less thing for patients and their families to worry about.

Finally, a common pain point can be canopies over emergency room and surgery center entrances. These areas can be prone to fire sprinkler system issues that can shut down critical entry points, causing disruption and confusion for patients and staff. A connected solution is designed to alert of a potential issue to help keep the sprinkler system operational, so these critical entry points remain available.

Assisted Living

Assisted living facilities are also spaces where minimizing disruption is important. For example, facilities that offer memory care can give families peace of mind by actively working to reduce instances when residents need to be relocated. Knowing a facility is taking precautions to minimize unnecessary disruptions, like reactive sprinkler system maintenance, can help assure families that their loved ones are receiving the best possible care.

With the tools needed to get ahead of potential water damage, you can also help prevent damage to sensitive equipment, as well as resident possessions, which often have personal, immeasurable value to them and their families.

Bethesda Senior Living Communities (BSLC) deployed a connected solution in 2017 in partnership with Johnson Controls. Prior to installation they’d seen two to four incidents per year from small air leaks, freezes, or compressor shutdowns. The system was implemented in fire sprinkler systems across 18 locations, and BSLC significantly reduced incidents. They experienced only two freeze breaks over the next four years.

Higher Education

As part of a college or university facility management team, you can support the campus master plan and help keep long-term projects and plans on-track by understanding the health of the existing fire sprinkler system infrastructure. To protect world-class learning environments and technologies as your school refines, improves, and even reinvents the learning experience, the proper support structure is needed to help keep operations running smoothly behind the scenes. This includes minimizing disruption to spaces that are often the public face of your campus.

fire sprinklers

Quarterly fire sprinkler system inspections are your first line of defense and are required per the NFPA 25 “Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems.” Photo courtesy JCI

Quick retrofits into your existing sprinkler system can happen while classes are in session or during breaks when fewer students are in residence. By being able to predict and prevent sprinkler system issues, you can get ahead of issues before they become disruptive – helping keep classes in session, students in housing, and much more.

Finally, connected fire sprinkler technology can help protect and support one of your school’s revenue sources: stadiums. Stadiums aren’t just home to sports games, they can be home to major revenue generation for your school. A fire sprinkler system mishap can mean a game or major event is cancelled. This can be avoided by having a proactive, connected solution in place.

Is a Connected Solution Right for Your Campus?

If you’ve had a significant incident with your fire sprinkler system in the past, you can likely recognize the advantages of avoiding the issue altogether.

Consider a connected solution for helping supervise your sprinkler system if:

  • You live in an area that can see frequent or unexpected cold weather – even in the southern U.S., temperatures can suddenly reach freezing, leaving people unprepared and causing significant damage
  • Your properties include aging systems, where corrosion is more likely
  • You manage multiple campuses and therefore, have a higher risk of an issue at any given one
  • You’ve had multiple system failures in the past and are seeing increasing insurance premiums and/or are at risk of losing coverage

Aaron Jerabek is Global Product Manager, Connected Devices and Services for Johnson Controls. For more information, visit www.johnsoncontrols.com/CFSS.

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