Linthicum Heights, MD, Feb. 18, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Frigid temperatures caused by a polar air mass and an unprecedented series of winter storms are compromising our normal comfort conditions, as well as fire protection. The National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) realizes this impacts many homes and businesses across the country as it impacts us with our own facilities and staff’s homes. We send a reminder to use caution and practice fire safety tips with alternative heat and lighting as power outages and situations caused by the storm are beyond anyone’s control. 

Because our homes and businesses should have plumbing and fire protection systems in them for comfort and safety, they are susceptible to freezing if the heat is not maintained because of power outage, lack of fuel, etc. Knowing where your water shut off is and having access to it can help minimize damage when thawing begins. National standards identify the level of freeze protection required based on the geographical area of the country based on past historical events. This includes the amount of insulation, the temperature required from an external heat source, or antifreeze solutions in certain fire sprinkler systems. Normally, properly installed systems that comply with these standards don’t freeze, but when power supplies are lost or extraordinarily cold weather events occur, freezes can and do happen. Swelling ice in piping can lead to a rupture, and when thawing begins, leaks occur. 

It is also important to understand that just because you see water coming through the ceiling next to a fire sprinkler, it does not necessarily mean that the fire sprinkler system is the source of a leak. Gravity will cause any water leak that occurs above a ceiling to flow downward, and fire sprinklers provide a hole in the ceiling through which water can pass on its way to the floor. 

Fire sprinkler pipes are in homes to protect the occupants and in businesses to protect the property, as well as occupants and firefighters, in the case of a fire. Fire sprinkler systems designed, installed, and maintained in accordance with approved national standards are always ready and operational when a fire breaks out. However, when the insulation covering the pipes is compromised, not installed properly, or when the pipe is placed in areas it should not be located, freezing can occur. Fire sprinkler pipe, like other water pipes in the building, is subject to freezing when the heat cannot or is not maintained in the building. This winter storm has caused unprecedented power outages that has compromised heat within buildings, which causes freezing conditions. 

As an industry, we are constantly trying to educate the public on the importance of fire sprinkler systems and their difference from lawn irrigation systems, potable water systems, swimming pool pumps, etc. However, as with any water-based system inside or outside a building, those installed and regularly maintained by professionals within a licensed company are always more reliable and less prone to damage than those systems that are not properly maintained. 

We encourage building owners and homeowners to work with their local fire departments and/or appropriate local officials to ensure their buildings are safe and secure. If there is a compromise in the fire sprinkler system, reach out to a licensed fire sprinkler contractor to repair the system and ensure fire protection continues in the home or business. More information can be found at www.nfsa.org - including a list of contractors in your area.

Vickie Pritchett
National Fire Sprinkler Association
615-533-0305
pritchett@nfsa.org