The first step to learning about fire sprinkler systems is to understand the different types of sprinkler systems, and what type of facilities each is most efficient for. The type of sprinkler system needed for a facility changes based on several factors:

  • What type of equipment/inventory is stored in the facility?
  • How is the equipment/inventory being stored?
  • Would a sprinkler discharge cause expensive damage to any inventory or equipment?
  • How fast does the sprinkler system need to be activated?

Depending on the answers to the questions above, certain sprinkler system types may be rendered ineffective and unusable. Let’s take a look at the different sprinkler system types and what type of facility for which they are best:

Wet Pipe Sprinkler System

The wet pipe sprinkler system is the most common type of fire sprinkler system

The wet pipe sprinkler system is the most common type of fire sprinkler system. The pipes in the facility constantly have pressurized water stored, ready to discharge upon activation. The sprinkler heads are activated by heat, and additional heads may be activated by heat and discharge, as well.

Wet pipe sprinkler systems are ideal for most industrial, commercial, retail, or residential facilities that do not store expensive electronics, documents, or art that could be destroyed by a sprinkler discharge. Wet pipe systems also must be installed in buildings that are not susceptible to freezing.

Dry Pipe Sprinkler System

So, a dry pipe system sounds obvious, right?  Unlike a wet pipe system, dry pipe systems do not have water constantly stored. Instead, the system utilizes compressed air, held in a remote valve, which remains closed to prevent water from entering the pipe. Once the sprinkler heads detect heat, the compressed air in the pipe is released and the water is free to enter the pipe and discharge through the sprinkler heads.

Dry pipe systems are very useful in facilities that are susceptible to freezing, since the water in a wet pipe system would freeze in the pipe. This makes dry systems ideal for commercial freezers. Additionally, they are ideal systems for parking garages, industrial warehouses, and loading docks.

In-Rack Sprinkler System

Warehouses are usually large spaces and require more substantial sprinkler equipment to provide sufficient coverage. In addition to sprinkler systems connected to the ceiling, heads can be installed inside a warehouse storage rack.

These in-rack systems are designed to quickly extinguish a fire on a specific rack and contain the fire to the single rack

These in-rack systems are designed to quickly extinguish a fire on a specific rack and contain the fire to the single rack. One can imagine the headache of one rack catching fire and having sprinkler discharge over multiple, nearby racks. In-rack sprinklers systems are ideal for facilities that have large industrial racks or that store highly hazardous items like flammable liquids that could spread a fire quickly.

Pre-Action Sprinkler System

Pre-action sprinkler systems work very much like a dry pipe system in that water is not stored within the pipes. Pre-action systems have a similar valve that restrains the water from entering the pipe before activation.

The pre-action system discharges in a two-step process:

  • First, the system identifies heat or smoke. Once the fire is confirmed, the pre-action valve is activated, allowing water to flow into the pipes and to the sprinkler heads.
  • The second step provides an extra level of protection against inadvertent discharges, which makes pre-action systems perfect for water-sensitive environments.

Pre-action systems are ideal for fine art storage, libraries, museums, or archival vaults. If it’s invaluable and water would destroy it, a pre-action system is the best bet to make sure that water is never inadvertently discharged.

Quell Sprinkler System

Quell sprinkler systems were created by Tyco Products, a globally renowned company in sprinkler technology. This system is known for using the ‘surround and drown’ method. And it works a lot like it sounds. The goal is to get as much water discharged as quickly as possible to saturate the area on fire.

Quell systems also do not rely on in-rack components or anti-freeze. This allows the facility to stock more classifications of inventory, attain higher roof heights, and allow for more flexible facility stocking configurations. Best of all, all Quell systems are backed by a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty. Quell systems are common in a variety of industrial and commercial facilities, including outdoor storage facilities, frozen storage facilities, and unheated warehouses.

Early Suppression, Fast Response Sprinkler System

ESFR sprinkler systems focus more on finding the origin of the fire rather than just controlling the spread of a fire

Early Suppression, Fast Response (ESFR) sprinkler systems focus more on finding the origin of the fire rather than just controlling the spread of a fire. The sprinkler heads for an ESFR system release larger droplets of water with greater momentum, when compared to conventional sprinkler heads.

Thus, in ESFR sprinkler systems, the sprinkler heads release twice as much of water being discharged on a fire than conventional sprinkler heads in the same amount of time. The ESFR sprinkler heads also begin discharging in half the time of conventional heads.

Used to protect high-piled inventory 

Early Suppression, Fast Response sprinkler systems are traditionally used in warehouses to protect high-piled inventory or palletized inventory. ESFR systems are a good alternative to in-rack systems if there is a need to move storage racks around more freely.

No matter what type of sprinkler system is installed for a facility, the common goal is clear, which is to protect life and property and minimize the water damage after discharge. Understanding how these systems work will benefit users, who are working with Life Safety providers to install the preferred sprinkler system type in the facilities.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

In case you missed it

DroneResponders: Promoting Use Of Drones For Public Safety, Including Fire
DroneResponders: Promoting Use Of Drones For Public Safety, Including Fire

Drone usage by public safety agencies is at its highest level to date, with nearly 4,000 agencies now having drones or drone programs. Leading the implementation of drones in law enforcement with 42%, followed by fire service at 37%, emergency management with 12%, and the remainder by other categories such as search-and-rescue and EMS. Some of the primary fire missions for drones are structural fires, wildfires, hazmat responses, fire forensic investigations, swift water rescues, floods, tornadoes, search for lost persons, and hurricane damage assessment. Using Thermal imaging A thermal image camera is a key payload for drones in the fire service as it supplies heat signatures that provide valuable information as to fire spread, structural integrity, and location of firefighters while operating around the fire. Thermal images see through smoke to direct elevated streams effectively onto the fire and identify hotspots Thermal images see through smoke to direct elevated streams effectively onto the fire and identify hotspots from a lightning strike, hotspots during overhaul, hotspots from wildfires, and liquid levels in hazmat tanks. Applications of drones Drones in hazmat can be deployed to do remote monitoring, substance identification, pre-entry evaluation, overwatch during the hazmat operation, and drop needed tools nearby. They can also identify spills and direction of flow, pollutants on or in waterways, and more. For wildfires, drones can quickly identify the direction of fire spread, the distance between the fire and firefighters, hotspots remaining, and can drop incendiary devices to start backfire operations. Drones are also used before and after the fire to determine the fuel load present. Pre-fire analysis of the fuel load can be used to mitigate and/or minimize hazardous situations before the fire. fire-service training The fire service is also using drones for training. Roof operations and other training can be observed and captured to review later. Also, drones can capture facility pre-fire plans as well as complex building projects. Every fire department will deploy a drone to enhance safety, operational effectiveness, and real-time awareness “As fire service (and public safety) leadership fully understand the potential of what drones offer, every department will be deploying a drone (or two) for significant incidents as a part of the initial response to enhance safety, increase operational effectiveness, and real-time situational awareness,” says Chief Charles L. Werner (Emeritus-RET), Director, DroneResponders Public Safety Alliance.  Non-profit Program The DroneResponders Alliance is the largest and an award-winning non-profit program to advance the use of drones in public safety (for all disciplines). While focused on the United States, DroneResponders has more than 3,800 members and representation from 47 countries. On its website, DroneResponders hosts the largest Online Resource Center (more than 600 documents – standard operating procedures, policy manuals, Certificate of Authorization/Waiver Guidance, etc.) and has a discussion forum with many topic threads. Increasing drone programs Drone programs (free flight and/or tethered) will continue to increase exponentially for the fire service. There were over 17 public safety use cases identified on the DroneResponders Spring 2020 Research Study, and even these case studies can be broken down even more. “One thing that we have found is that if a single agency has a drone program, they usually fly other missions as well as their primary mission set,” says Werner. “So if a fire department is the only agency flying, they will usually cover fire missions, police missions, and emergency management missions. The same is true if it were a single police agency flying.” Having real-time awareness “Real-time 360 situational awareness is a game-changer with visual optics, thermal imaging, and streaming video on structure fires, wildfires, hazmat incidents, lost person searches, floods/swift-water rescues, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and more,” says Werner.  “I ask agency leaders if they would ever make command decisions with their eyes closed because, without that aerial view, many hazards or critical information are not known,” adds Werner. “I do believe as the numbers of drones increase, prices will fall and there will be a more competitive marketplace.” Limitations of drones One of the main obstacles of the drone is the current length of flight is limited by battery life The main obstacles that remain are regulatory limits on Beyond Visual Line of Sight (which are changing) and one remote pilot operating multiple drones. Other obstacles include a need for competitively priced drones with comparable payloads, and the current length of flights is limited by battery life. In France during the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, a drone was used to identify the best position to attack the fire to prevent further spread to the remainder of the cathedral. Initiatives taken by DroneResponders Other DroneResponders initiatives include: Monthly Public Safety UAS Webinars in partnership with the FAA; Monthly Podcasts that highlight Public Safety UAS programs, successes, emerging technologies; A Major Cities Working Group (cities over 500K) headed up by Capt. Michael Leo (Fire Department of New York); A Drone as a First Responder Working Group headed up by Capt. Don Redmond (Chula Vista [Calif.] Police Department); Legal/Policy Working Group led by Dawn Zoldi, Founder and CEO of P3 Tech Consulting; Public Safety/Media Working Group led by Mickey Osterreicher (National Press Photographers Association); Training Curriculum Standard Working Group facilitated by Katie Thielmeyer (Woodlawn [Ohio} Fire Department); National Public Safety UAS Database Project headed up by Charles Werner in partnership with NASA Ames Research Center; and National Public Safety UAS Database Mapping Project headed up by Brandon Karr (Pearland Police Department) in partnership with Esri [mapping and software provider].

What Impact Has COVID-19 Had On The Fire Industry?
What Impact Has COVID-19 Had On The Fire Industry?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had ramifications for almost every industry, some more than others. With the pandemic stretching well into a second year, the non-medical consequences continue, and many are wondering about which of the required changes might become permanent. As regards the fire sector, we asked our Expert Panel Roundtable: What impact has COVID-19 had on the fire industry?

Keeping The Fires Out And The Lights On
Keeping The Fires Out And The Lights On

The UK’s demand for sustainable heat and power sources is increasing rapidly. This is seeing a growing dependence on renewable energy sources for electricity, and, as we’re facing a landscape of constrained power generation, consistency of this power source is becoming a key concern. Fire is an evolving risk for power stations. It can cause prolonged outages, which are damaging to sites’ personnel, equipment, and fuels. However, these fires are very common. James Mountain, Sales, and Marketing Director, Fire Shield Systems, looks at the current system underlying fire safety for power stations, exploring why a new approach is needed.   Traditional Fire Safety guidance  Over the past ten years, The National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 850 Recommended practice for electric generating plants and high voltage direct current converter stations has been seen as the exemplar internationally for fire safety at power generation sites. These recommendations sit alongside a complex mix of regulations managing the fire protection across sites that create power from combustible feedstocks. Those feedstocks can either be derived from organic sources, including wood and agriculture or refuse sources, including household waste. The exploration of alternative systems is limited, but different fuels and processes need different suppression, detection, and monitoring systems to remain effective. However, chapter nine of the guidance dedicates only four of its 70 pages to the fire risks specifically pertaining to the handling and storage of alternative fuels, a rising concern for the power generation industry. Practical experience of advising on the fire safety for sites handling these fuels has revealed a conflicting array of approaches to risk mitigation, many of which are guided by the owner, led by the insurance industry. For the insurance industry, the main concern is protecting fuels, assets, and equipment. However, insurers often rely on more traditional methods to offer that protection, such as sprinkler systems, despite these not always being suitable in protecting certain types of feedstocks. The exploration of alternative systems is limited, but different fuels and processes need different suppression, detection, and monitoring systems to remain effective. To better address, the growing challenges faced, best practice legislation and guidance for power generation sites needs to reflect real work scenarios, including the myriad incidents which have occurred throughout the past decade.   What are the risks When Dealing with alternative fuel?  When it comes to dealing with alternative fuels, storage, movement, processing, and transportation all present significant fire risks. These risks become more complex with alternative fuels compared with others as, to protect the site effectively, there’s a need to understand their unique properties, consistencies, ingress of hazardous materials, and their reactions on contact with water and foams. When it comes to dealing with alternative fuels, storage, movement, processing, and transportation all present significant fire risks The myriad risks, from carbon monoxide (CO) emissions to large explosions, are guided by an equally complicated set of fire safety guidance. Research into the safe handling and storage of these fuels, and the most suitable mitigation measures to offset the risks, is ongoing. Detecting and monitoring heat within alternative fuels when stored is also challenging, as the material is also an insulator. This means fire and heat are often difficult to identify in their early stages, prior to a blaze taking hold. Some types of alternative fuels are also prone to self-combustion if not monitored carefully. The risk of fires burning slowly within these materials is the topic of a major study from Emerging Risks from Smouldering Fires (EMRIS) between 2015 and 2020. The need for new best practice guidance in fire safety As methods for generating renewable power mature, and new technologies and research emerge, fire safety guidance needs to be updated to reflect this. This is not only a UK-wide challenge, but it’s also recognized across global and European standards. Regulations need to take into account a range of factors to ensure protection systems are effective in practice. The development of renewable power sources requires revision of fire safety guidance. Now, a decade on from when the NFPA 850 was first published, it’s time to revisit its guidance and focus on building a more resilient, fire-safe future for all of the UK’s 78 biomass and 48 waste to energy sites. This involves greater clarity pertaining to the specific risks associated with alternative fuels, such as waste and biomass-derived fuels. The approach needs to be comprehensive, looking at every aspect of designing, installing, and maintaining systems.While the power generation industry remains reliant on outdated and complex guidance, with conflicting approaches to best practice protection, the potential for systems to fail is clear. That robust approach relies on multiple stakeholders working together – including the regulators, government, academics, technology partners, and fire safety professionals. Collaboration is key to build long-term confidence in the safety of sustainable fuels in powering our homes, transport, and industries in the future.