Faults in automatic extinguishing systems are very rare

Over the weekend, there was some discussion about damages caused by automatic […]

May 2019
Faults in automatic extinguishing systems are very rare

Over the weekend, there was some discussion about damages caused by automatic extinguishing systems when the suspected reason of the water damages in the Kuopio theatre is a falsely triggered sprinkler nozzle. Automatic fire extinguishing systems have proven very reliable in events of fire. A sprinkler extinguishes a fire for a fraction of the amount of water that a fire brigade has to use at non-sprinkler sites. In addition, the risk of a water damage is very small. The risk of leakage caused by an equipment failure is one case per 16 million nozzles per year.

Automatic fire extinguishing systems are designed to extinguish or restrict a fire until emergency personnel make it to the scene. The equipment reacts to an elevated temperature of a space, and the nozzle is triggered by the heat. A building with a sprinkler system requires considerably less firewater in case of a fire than a site without a sprinkler system. A sprinkler system also reduces fire and smoke damages.

Faults in automatic extinguishing systems are very uncommon. According to the statistics by FM Global, an insurance company in the United States specialising in sprinkler systems, the risk of a leakage caused by an equipment fault is one case per 16 million nozzles per year.

– The fact, however, remains that sprinklers are not triggered without a reason. In addition, not all of the nozzles in the system are triggered at the same time, but only those affected by elevated temperature, says Safety and Security specialist Lauri Lehto of the Finnish National Rescue Association.

According to American studies, in 98 percent of cases where an automatic system works, it works as it should. The reasons of inoperability are for the most part caused by human actions. The reasons include switching the equipment off or neglecting its maintenance.

The sector estimates that there are approximately 12 to 13 000 automatic fire extinguishing systems in use in Finland. These include almost 20 million nozzles installed in them. According to the statistics by the Emergency Services College, erroneous cases of operation in Finland amount to approximately 300 per year.
Very rarely are these cases caused by a faulty product. The underlying reasons may include installation-technical reasons or factors that have taken place after the introduction.
These include such conditions as the risk of freezing in winter time, or other environmental factors and changes that the placement of the nozzles has failed to take into account. One of the main reasons is inadequate equipment maintenance and servicing.

To work properly, extinguishing systems need regular maintenance for which SPEK, among others, arranges courses. ja vesisumut&culture=
The essential matter is that the extinguishing equipment is properly maintained to ensure trouble-free operation when needed.

– Maintenance and servicing prevent situations such as the one in Kuopio. Neglecting maintenance may put people in a building in a danger to life situation and cause major economic losses, says Lauri Lehto.

What is the Fire Prevention Technology Development Group?

The Fire Prevention Technology Development Group is a group of experts whose shared goal is to advance safety and to develop the service and maintenance, qualityand technical prospects of fire prevention technology. The environment is constantly developing and fire prevention must stay up-to-date to meet the new challenges.

Lauri Lehto
Safety and Security Expert
The Finnish National Rescue Association SPEK
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