Fire protection systems are critical for protecting your employees, visitors, and valuable assets at your facility. Here’s what you need to know about how those systems work, so you can make the right decision for protecting your facility from the threat of fire damage.
Fire protection systems are all around us. From offices and government buildings to grocery stores and retail spaces, there’s a good chance that you’re protected by a fire sprinkler system in most places you go on a daily basis. But have you ever stopped to think about how exactly they work and what they do to protect you in the event of a fire?
The name alone seems reasonably self-explanatory—a fire protection system protects the building and the people in it when a fire breaks out. But there’s more to it than you may think. For example, have you considered what it takes to trigger the fire sprinkler system at your facility? Furthermore, have you ever wondered about fires that can’t be put out by water alone like chemical or grease fires?
If you want to keep your building protected, these are the questions you need to be asking. In this post, we’ll answer these questions and explore the different types of fire sprinkler systems so you can select the right system for your organization’s specific risks.
A common misconception is that smoke alone is enough to trigger most fire sprinkler systems. If that were the case, sprinklers would be triggered far too often, leading to false alarms and unnecessary water damage. That’s why most systems rely on direct heat as a trigger. When flames break out at your facility, the heat rapidly rises to sprinkler heads, and when they get hot enough, the sprinkler head automatically activates, dousing the fire below. To accomplish this, most sprinkler heads house a glass bulb filled with liquid. When the liquid heats to 135 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the bulb bursts, and the sprinkler releases pressurized water.
Another misconception is that when one sprinkler activates, every other sprinkler head in the building is triggered. If that were the case, one minor fire would potentially lead to more water damage than fire damage. In reality, most sprinkler systems operate independently of each other, so water is only delivered where there’s a fire, and water damage is minimized.
But what about for facilities where water can’t be used to extinguish fires? That’s where special hazards fire protection systems come in. These systems use extinguishing agents such as gas and foam to virtually eliminate the risk of water damage while effectively extinguishing fires.
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To better understand how fire sprinkler systems work, here’s a brief overview of how each type functions:
Wet Pipe Systems
The most common type of fire sprinkler system due to its simplicity, reliability, and affordability, wet pipe systems maintain pressurized water in the pipes overhead at all times. That way, it’s always ready for immediate deployment as soon as a fire breaks out.
Dry Pipe Systems
Unlike wet pipe systems, the pipes of dry systems contain gas instead of water. These systems are most commonly used for applications where pipes may freeze, such as in unheated buildings. When the sprinkler head releases in the event of a fire, the pressure from the gas equalizes, allowing water to enter the pipes and put out the fire.
Pre-action fire sprinkler systems are designed to mitigate the risk of unintentional activation. However, they’re more expensive, so they’re generally reserved for high-priority facilities where accidental discharge would be devastating (like at a museum or data center). To accomplish this, the pipes of a pre-action system do not fill with water until the system has been triggered.
From there, the system does not release any water until individual sprinklers are activated, as described above. As a result, two separate devices have to be triggered for a pre-action system to release water, thereby reducing the chance of accidental activation.
Deluge systems are primarily used at facilities where the risk of a fire rapidly spreading is high. All sprinklers are connected to a central water supply. As soon as the system is triggered, all attached sprinklers release water at once to cover a large area and put out the fire.
Foam systems work by mixing water with a foam concentrate before releasing the mixture from sprinklers. These systems are generally reserved for high-risk environments where water alone won’t be enough to put out most fires. Facilities that can benefit from foam systems include industrial warehouses, chemical factories, aircraft hangars, and other buildings at risk of chemical fires.
Since Cannistraro specializes in engineering, fabricating, and installing all types of fire sprinkler systems, we’re uniquely equipped to handle all of your facility’s fire protection service needs. That includes engineering, installing, and testing more advanced infrastructure like foam systems. If you already have a foam system at your facility, contact us today to schedule a system test.
If you’re thinking about deploying a foam system at your facility, get in touch with our team to start planning your next project. We partner with FireDos, the leader in foam valves, to deliver foam fire protection infrastructure that outperforms anything else on the market today.