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Keep your fire protection system from freezing

Fire protection equipment is especially vulnerable when arctic temperatures affect a building. If pipes freeze, a business or school could be forced to close temporarily if life safety cannot be assured. Failure or disruption of these important fire protection systems can also be expensive to repair.

Certain types of buildings and occupancies are more susceptible in extreme cold, and when they do experience a freeze, the damage can be greater than in other types of buildings. Some buildings are designed to make use of heat generated by human occupants. When vacant for long periods during extreme cold, the temperature can drop below freezing.

ESPECIALLY VULNERABLE BUILDINGS

Churches, schools and multi-tenant mercantile buildings are especially at risk when they are unoccupied for several days at a time, especially during a holiday break or recess.

Fire protection equipment including water mains, extinguishers, hydrants, sprinkler systems and post indicator valves can be extremely vulnerable to drops in temperature during severe winter weather. Post indicator valves are the cast iron vertical indicator posts designed to operate the control valve of an automatic fire sprinkler system. If a fire occurs, frozen equipment could result in insufficient means to contain the fire.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

To protect your property, verify that all fire protection equipment is operating effectively, and if it is brought offline or damaged, have a qualified fire protection contractor repair the system and place it back into service.

  • Plan for maintenance personnel to manage and monitor buildings during cold snaps, making more frequent visits to buildings or areas of buildings not normally occupied.
  • Be certain that hydrants and their locations are properly marked so they may be easily located and cleared after a heavy snowstorm.
  • Inspect all areas along the perimeter of the building to ensure they are sealed and there are no drafty areas.
  • Drain wall hydrants and fire pump test connections that may be exposed to freezing.
  • Verify that underground water mains have adequate depth of cover. For water mains that do not have adequate cover, ask if they be isolated and shut off to protect from freezing.
  • Check packing on post indicator control valves for leaking, and repair as necessary.
  • If fire pump suction is from a reservoir, make certain that the in-flow pipe is below the frost level (below grade) and deep enough in the water to prevent ice clogging the intake.
  • Provide heat for dry-pipe sprinkler system enclosures. Make sure space heaters are in good operating condition.
  • Test solutions in all anti-freeze sprinkler systems and add anti-freeze as necessary.
  • Inspect and maintain all sprinkler systems in accordance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 13) and local standards.

    For more information or assistance with your fire protection system call Rapid Restoration & Construction at 303-412-9999.

Protect your building from the cold

Arctic temperatures can have a dramatic effect on your building — and your livelihood. Regular maintenance and a winter weather plan can help you avoid any negative impact.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN

Winter storms frequently cause electrical power failure, which in turn can disable your heating system. If this happens, water-filled piping (such as sprinklers, domestic water pipes and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems) may freeze and rupture. It is important to assess the potential for this hazard.

  • Inspect all safety shutoff valves and cutoff switches on combustion equipment such as rooftop units, boilers and ovens, including water main shutoffs and main electrical service disconnects.
  • Have qualified contractors or staff properly inspect heating, air-handling units and space heaters on at least an annual basis. Assure that space heaters are monitored for fire safety.
  • Review the location and storage of flammable liquids such as propane, gasoline and diesel fuel. Should your sprinkler system freeze and require that it be disabled, it is recommended to reduce this storage to a minimum to minimize the amount of fuel in a fire.

Without proper winter weather preparation, your business could experience property damage — roof collapse, pipe rupture and more.

HOW TO REDUCE YOUR RISK

There are some strategies you can implement to protect your facility and minimize the impact of severe weather on your business:

  • Maintain building temperatures above 55 degrees. Plan for maintenance personnel to properly monitor buildings during cold snaps, making more frequent visits to buildings or areas of buildings not normally occupied.
  • Inspect all areas along the inside and outside perimeters of the building to ensure they are sealed and there are no drafty areas.
  • Maintain roofs in good condition, including repairing leaks, securing flashing and clearing debris from the roof, roof drains and overflow scuppers.
  • Check that downspouts are secured to buildings and clear of leaves and debris. If they iced over during a previous winter, consider properly installing heat trace to prevent major icicles and dams.
  • Make sure all building openings are weather-tight so they do not admit cold air.
  • Consider how you’ll address removing snow accumulation on your roof. If you or a contractor use a snow blower, make sure the height of the snow blower shave plate is adjusted higher as to not damage the underlying roofing material.

Gusting winds, heavy snow and bitter temperatures can create catastrophic property losses and havoc in your life, but a little preparation can prevent losses, saving you time and money.