Sprinkler and suppression systems are important, often life-saving, fire safety methods and provide cost-effective, highly efficient protection for a host of commercial and industrial buildings, as well as residential properties, such as apartment blocks. They work by releasing water or a suppressive compound directly on to the fire and allow the fire to be controlled quickly, significantly reducing the spread of the fire and, as a result, the possible damage it may cause.
The British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA), who are responsible for a large majority of sprinkler system installations in the UK, state that in buildings fully protected by sprinklers “99% of fires were controlled by sprinklers alone”, making them an incredibly effective method of fire safety.
When installing a new sprinkler system it is crucial to speak to a professional who has a thorough and comprehensive understanding of sprinkler uses, their processes and their most appropriate applications. This is because there are various types and styles of sprinkler, all suitable for different environments and types of fire, including:
Wet pipe systems
One of the most popular kinds of sprinkler system, wet pipe systems are commonly found in buildings where pipes are unlikely to freeze. They are incredibly fast to react in emergency situations because water is always in the pipes at the sprinkler heads ready for immediate discharge. These sprinkler systems are required in high-rise and multi-storey buildings and are a key part of their life safety systems.
Dry pipe systems
Dry pipe systems utilise pipes filled with air under pressure at all times, while the water is stored back at the control valve. When a dry pipe sprinkler system is activated, the air pressure goes down the pipe, allowing the valve to open and water to be released. The sprinkler systems are used in environments where wet or alternate are not suitable methods of fire protection, or where they will not function properly.
As the name suggests, these systems are capable of alternating between dry pipe and wet pipe functions. Alternate systems have the pipes full of water during the summer months and then they are drained and filled with pressurised air over the winter. These sprinkler systems are ideal for buildings which aren’t heated as, if pipes contain water all year round, there is a high chance they may freeze.
Like dry pipe sprinkler systems, the pipes in pre-action systems are filled with air. However, water is released into the pipes when the detector operates, for example after a smoke alarm goes off. Pre-action systems are used in environments where it is not acceptable to have pipes full of water unless there is a fire, such as areas containing high value, sensitive or technological equipment.
Deluge sprinkler systems have no operating element, meaning the sprinklers and spray nozzles are open at all times. Because of this, there is no water in the pipes, only ambient air. However, when the control valve is opened, either manually by hand or remotely by a detection mechanism activated by the fire itself, water is released immediately. Deluge sprinkler systems are ideal for environments and buildings where the chance of fire is significant, such as chemical and industrial facilities, and in properties where there is a likelihood of pipes freezing and bursting.
Foam suppression systems inject a concentrated foam compound into water-based deluge or sprinkler systems and work effectively by cutting off the fire’s oxygen supply. These systems should be used to protect buildings that contain combustible liquids and other hazards a normal water-based fire system could not suppress.
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