Sprinkler Services

Maintenance & Testing Guidance

Sprinklers are known to be an extremely effective way of controlling the spread of fire, but of course, like all systems they MUST be maintained. Please follow this guidance when identifying when maintenance and testing needs to be carried out on your sprinkler systems. The correct testing at the required intervals ensures you can demonstrate best practice as well as giving your client the peace of mind that they are protecting both life and property.

Sprinkler maintenance and testing guidelines

Annual inspections of the entire sprinkler system by an independent third party

With reference to BS EN 12845: 2015 + A1: 2019 Fixed firefighting systems. Automatic sprinkler systems. Design, installation and maintenance Clause 21, and technical bulletin (TB) 203.2.4 of the LPC Sprinkler Rules for Automatic Sprinkler Installations 2015 (the LPC Rules)  TB203.2.4, sprinkler systems should be inspected at least once a year. These inspections must be undertaken by a third party, for example not the system owner, building occupier, system installer or maintenance provider.

25 year inspection of sprinkler heads

It is a requirement of sprinkler systems designed in accordance with the LPC and BS EN 12845 that a sample number of sprinkler heads should be removed and tested by an independent, third party testing laboratory. This should be carried out when the system is a maximum of 25 years old,and may be sooner if the system is in poor condition or if recommended by the sprinkler head manufacturers.

Total number of sprinklers within installation or system  number of sprinklers to be removed and inspected

Total number of sprinklers within installation or System Number of sprinklers to be removed & inspected
Less than or equal to 5,000 20
Less than or equal to 10,000 40
Less than or equal to 20,000        60
Less than or equal to 30,000 80
Less than or equal to 40,000 100

Sprinklers subject to contamination, such as those in spray booths, may require more frequent attention and replacement. In addition, based on insurance requirements, the LPC Rules and TB 203 the following situations will need additional inspections.

Dry pendant pattern sprinkler heads (those with a dry drop pipe section) should be tested every five years or less unless stated otherwise by the manufacturer – 5% or 20 heads of each batch of dry pendant patterned sprinklers installed on the site (whichever is the greater) should be tested.

Multiple controls (also known as MJCs) can be subject to a build up of corrosion and environmental deposits, and so will need testing more frequently. These should be tested every five years or less unless stated otherwise by the manufacturer – 6% or three MJCs (whichever is the greater) should be tested.

Take a look at examples of sprinkler head defects

Additional maintenance requirements of your system

Weekly maintenance

The LPC Rules require that the below checks are carried out by onsite personnel once a week. These checks can be completed by onsite personnel as long as they have been trained to do so.

You must:

  • check and record all water and air pressure gauges
  • check and record all water levels
  • check and record the correct position of all stop valves
  • carry out a water flow alarm test (gong/bell) for 30 seconds and record results
  • carry out an automatic pump start test and record results
  • carry out the diesel engine ‘restart’ test and record results
  • check trace heating system/s and record results
  • check connection to the fire and rescue service and remote central station, and record results

 

Monthly maintenance

The LPC Rules recommend that sprinkler tanks and batteries should be checked at least once a month.

For monthly checks such as these, onsite maintenance staff or the responsible person for the premises can carry them out, providing these staff have had sufficient training.

Quarterly maintenance

As part of your quarterly maintenance, a hazard review is required. The LPC Rules state that a hazard review must be carried out by a competent person such as a specialist sprinkler contractor or engineer.

A hazard review is a process that is used to determine if there are potential hazards and risks involved with a procedure. It reviews changes to structure, occupancy, storage, heating, lighting, hazard class and equipment, and should be a continuous process. Areas to consider include:

Changes to the building structure – for example, have there been any new partitions added which may affect the sprinkler layout and coverage?

Changes to occupancy – for example, is the manufacturing process the same now as it was when the sprinkler system was installed, or has the process changed and increased the potential risk of fire?

Changes to storage – for example, are the goods being stored of the same type as when the system was originally installed, or are the goods being stored in a different way, such as on racks? If the goods are now shrink wrapped or stored higher than when the system was installed, this can affect the risks from fire.

A review of hazards must be carried out so that appropriate modifications can be carried out.

  • sprinkler heads, multiple controls and sprayers should be carefully cleaned
  • pipework and supports should be checked for corrosion
  • tape wrappings on pipes should be repaired
  • pipework should be checked for earthing connections
  • water supplies should be tested
  • electrical supplies should be tested, including from any generators
  • stop valves should be operated to ensure they are in working order and securely fastened in the correct mode
  • flow alarms should be checked for correct function including pressure and flow switches -
    the spares held onsite should also be checked and replenished, including sprinkler heads and sprinkler spanners, plus any other spares required for valves, flow metres and pumps

Six monthly testing, inspection and system changeover of alternate wet and dry systems

The LPC Rules state that all the weekly, monthly and quarterly tasks identified for checks are required for this period. Additional checks include:

  • alarm valves, pre action valves, exhilarators and exhausters should be exercised in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • water supplies shouldl be tested to verify the system can provide the design pressures and flows
  • electrical supplies including generators should be verified as operating correctly
  • stop valves, including zone and subsidiary valves, should be operated and securely fastened in the correct position

Changeover of alternate wet and dry pipe systems

It is also a requirement to change over your sprinkler system to either water or air, depending on the time of year. This must be done to ensure your system can activate in the event of a fire, and is mandatory as part of maintaining your sprinkler system as stated in the LPC Rules.

Switching to air in the winter months prevents the system from freezing, and means your system is more likely to activate as it should in the event of a fire. For warmer months, wet pipe systems operate quicker than dry pipe systems, meaning your system will activate more quickly in the event of a fire. This work can only be carried out by a competent engineer from a sprinkler maintenance company, such as an LPS 1048 contractor.

Two year pump service

Appendix A of TB203 provides a list of the minimum service levels for sprinkler pumps and associated equipment. There is detailed information on the minimum service levels at six months (interim), 12 months (annual) and 24 months (biennial). These checks must be adhered to, to ensure the fire pumps are maintained in good condition. The service levels are a minimum, and sprinkler manufacturers may recommend that additional maintenance is carried out and at more frequent intervals.

Three years

Three yearly checks and inspections should include all the weekly, monthly, quarterly, half-yearly and annual checks and inspections.

In addition to these checks, the LPC Rules state that every three years the sprinkler tank must be drained and overhauled. There  is an exception if the tank is a ten year tank, in which case it should be inspected and examined, and repaired if necessary. Depending upon the condition of the tank, it may be necessary to drain, clean and repair it in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Further three yearly checks include:

  • pump suction chamber/screen and strainer(s) - generally these are found where the water supply is natural, such as a pond, river or canal, and they should be inspected and cleaned as necessary
  • foot valve – these are usually found on the suction pipe where pumps are used in a suction lift arrangement - these valves should be removed and serviced
  • dry, alternate and pre action should undergo a full trip test or performance test, which will verify all the alarms -the pre action systems will require the fire detection system activation signal and the manual trip valve to be operated, as described in TB203
  • water supply stop valves, alarms and non return valves should be dismantled, examined, overhauled and replaced as necessary as required in BS EN 12845 20.3.5.3

Five years

The LPC Rules technical bulletin 203.3.6 requires that the “oldest” or those in the “worst condition” should be removed at regular intervals for function testing.

The minimum sample size is 5% or 20 heads(whichever is the greater) of each batch of dry pendent sprinkler heads installed on the site. Testing should be at the intervals specified by the manufacturer, and if none are specified testing should be undertaken at five years or less.

Ten years

Ten year tanks should be:

  • drained
  • cleaned as necessary 
  • examined internally and externally
  • have the fabric attended to as necessary, and restored in accordance with the tank manufacturer’s recommendations 

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