So you survived the first Polar Vortex in January 2014 and you made it through round two in the last week of the same month without so much as a drip from your wet sprinkler system. You are either lucky or well prepared. Here are a few tips to ensure you’re the latter and to not go from “Lucky” to “Scrambling”.
• Schedule preventive walk-throughs in your building in late December or prior to a predicted cold snap. Visit remote areas, particularly rooms accessible only from outside service doors, including
fire sprinkler riser rooms, medical gas storage rooms, janitor’s closets and other rooms people are not regularly working in. Check for heat sources such as electric baseboard heaters and verify they are
• Advise your tenants and customers who smoke – especially in strip malls or facilities with designated smoking areas on the premises outside of the building – not to keep doors propped open and to pull them
tightly shut behind them.
• This one takes a little more work, but the time it takes will be much less costly than a cracked sprinkler pipe. Remove dropped ceiling tiles and check plenums (concealed spaces) above ceilings around the
perimeter of your building, in smaller rooms on single-story buildings, or the highest floor in a multi-story building. Make sure temperatures are greater than 45 degrees above the ceiling and that proper
insulation exists between the plenum and outside walls or the roof, especially if the other walls go all the way to the deck. While it is unattractive, removing a ceiling tile or two to allow tempered air
into the plenum on the coldest day of the year could save you tens of thousands of dollars.
• Have an agreement in place with your HVAC or fire protection contractor to check glycol (antifreeze) in sprinkler systems and boiler or chiller loops, and to flush out any chilled water coils that are not
being used during the winter.
• If you have vacant buildings or unfinished spaces you are responsible for, visit them and perform these same measures. Oftentimes broken glass, failed outside air dampers or other problems that an
occupant is not there to complain about may be waiting to ruin your day.
• Check all backflow(s) for proper freeze protection (i.e. insulation). If you find you do not have proper insulation, cover your backflow with any insulating material on cold nights.
• Open the backflow test cock to allow water to trickle during freezing weather. Close test cock in warmer weather.
B & C Fire Safety, Inc. has responded to many emergency service calls related to frozen sprinkler pipes – either identifying a required heat source, replacing broken sprinkler heads or re-plumbing frozen fire sprinkler pipes. Most of these calls could have been prevented by following the suggestions above.
Don’t Freeze Up! Winterize your Sprinkler System