How often should you schedule your fire suppression system for maintenance?

Most fire suppression system components do not have an indefinite lifetime and need to be periodically replaced to keep the system fully functioning. NFPA guidelines state that fire suppression systems should have a semiannual inspection by a certified technician. By inspecting and replacing components when needed, you ensure that your system will work properly to detect and suppress a fire. Here are some reasons why you should schedule regular inspections of your system.

Harsh environments take a toll on components

Components may get damaged as a result of the environment where they sit. Systems and components in indoor, climate-controlled locations will need replacement less frequently than those in harsher environments. Which system will require more frequent maintenance: the system on the bus engine or the system on the CNC machine?

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System installation on a bus engine  

System installation on a CNC machine  

 

 

If you guessed the bus engine, you are correct. The bus engine is subject to frequent vibration. Vibration may cause the detection tubing or discharge hoses to rub or chafe, resulting in scratches or nicks. Depending on the cylinder mount location and where the bus operates, the components can corrode due to salted roads, experience drastic temperature swings, and/or feel stronger vibrations from unpaved roads. This is all in addition to the standard chemicals and debris found in any vehicles.

Meanwhile, the system that protects the CNC machine is in a setting where the environmental conditions are predictable and controlled. The fire suppression system’s components will likely need less frequent replacement than those of the system protecting the bus.

Risks of not replacing components

Damaged components make fire suppression systems less effective.  A faulty component can cause a system to activate when there is not a fire, leading to a false discharge. Conversely, a faulty component can also cause delayed activation when there is a fire, allowing the fire to grow larger before the suppression kicks in.

False Discharge

A passive fire suppression system operates without power and actuates when the detection tubing bursts. Chaffing, cracking, or any other damage that results in a hole in the tubing will cause the system to discharge whether a fire is present or not.

Delayed activation

If debris is covering the detection tubing, system activation may have a delay because the tubing does not reach activation temperature as quickly. This would allow the fire more time to cause damage to valuable equipment.

Discharge through the wrong port

If the tubing weakened by chafing or nicks, it has a higher risk of failure. In a direct release system, the tubing can burst at a weak point and not at the hottest point where the fire is. This would cause the agent to discharge in a less than an optimal area to suppresses the fire. With an indirect release system, the agent could discharge through a hole in a detection tubing or discharge hose instead of through the diffuser nozzle. This leads to ineffective flooding of the environment to suppress the fire.

Steps to protect components

A well-designed system will help to protect the fire suppression system and its components. Using grommets or bulkheads when routing detection tubing or discharge hoses through walls will shield it from chaffing. Minimizing loops, elevation changes, and sticking to the advised turn radius for all components will further prevent damage. The installer should always refer to the system manual for specific design and provide you with maintenance guidelines for all components.

Even in a perfectly-designed system, components need replacement. During inspections, the certified technician will pay special attention to the detection tubing, fittings, and discharge hoses. Between scheduled inspections, if you see components looking like any of the below, contact your technician to replace the parts.

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Corroded Cylinder Abrasion on Hose Abrasion on Detection Tube

 

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