Fire Sprinkler Inspections - Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is NFPA 25?

A. NFPA 25 is the recognized Standard for Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Sprinkler Systems. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) describes it as “the baseline for inspection, testing, and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems. Compliance helps maximize system integrity to avoid failure and ensure fast, effective response in a fire emergency.” Editions of it are adopted by States through their Fire Code. The requirements of NFPA 25 must be followed to ensure a reasonable degree of protection of Life and Property from Fire.

Q. Which Edition of NFPA 25 does your Firm follow?

A. Each State and/or Jurisdiction adopts different Editions of NFPA 25 depending on their Local Fire Code. We follow the recognized and adopted Edition for each Jurisdiction we perform Inspections in. For Example: New Jersey currently uses the 2006 Edition of the International Fire Code (IFC), which references the 2002 Edition of NFPA 25. Therefore, when we perform Inspections in New Jersey, we are following that Edition. It should be noted that Jurisdictions can change the adopted Code at any time and the Edition of NFPA 25 would also change.

Q. When does my Sprinkler System need to be Inspected?

A. NFPA 25 sets forth the requirements of periodic Inspections and related Testing of Sprinkler Systems by frequency. Per the Standard, each System has specific Items that must be either Inspected, Tested or Maintained at Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, Semi-Annually, Annually, or at a 3 Year or 5 Year interval basis. Some Jurisdictions only require that an Annual Inspection is done, while others require Quarterly or Semi-Annual Inspections. You should check with your Insurance Company and the Local Fire Official to determine what is required for your Facility.

Q. I own an Office Building with a Fire Sprinkler System. Can I perform the required Inspections on my own, or do I need to contract you?

A. NFPA 25 requires that “Inspecting, Testing, and Maintenance shall be performed by personnel who have developed competence through training and experience.” Most Jurisdictions require you to have a licensed Sprinkler Contractor perform Inspections or any other work on a Sprinkler System. For example, it is a New Jersey Law that only a Certified Fire Protection Contractor, licensed with the State, can perform work, including Inspections, on Fire Sprinkler Systems.

Q. We manage an Apartment Complex. Are we required to have a complete walkthrough of all the Buildings, including every Apartment Unit, during an Annual Fire Sprinkler Inspection?

A. Yes. NFPA 25 requires a complete walkthrough of your facility and a visual inspection of every accessible Sprinkler Head and other System Component, from floor level. Therefore, a sampling of different areas or portions of a System such as a percentage of Apartment Units is not per the Standard and cannot constitute a NFPA 25 compliant Inspection. A visual inspection of every Sprinkler Head ensures continued Life Safety. In your case, proper notice to all the Tenants, via E-Mail or a Physical Posting in a Common Area, is imperative and would minimize any inconvenience.

Q. Referring to the Inspection Report, what is the difference between a deficiency, an impairment, or a comment/ recommendation?

A. NFPA 25 defines a Deficiency as a condition of a System or System component that is damaged, inoperable, or otherwise in need of service, but does not impair the entire operation of the System. An Impairment refers to a condition where the System is out of order or damaged to the point that can result in the System not operating in a Fire event. If an Impairment is found during an Inspection, we will notify you immediately, so that it can be fixed accordingly. Deficiencies will be noted on the Report and Proposals to correct will follow. Comments are items that our Inspector noticed during the Inspection, but are not classified as deficient by the Standard, or fall outside of the Scope of the Inspection. This would include being due for a 5 Year Internal Pipe Inspection, or Sprinklers missing in certain areas.

Q. Do we have to correct the Deficiencies found during the Annual Inspection?

A. As per NFPA 25, “The property owner or designated representative shall correct or repair deficiencies or impairments that are found during the Inspection, test or maintenance required by this Standard.” In many Jurisdictions, however, the enforcement of correcting deficiencies is allowed only by the Local Fire Official. In those areas, we report the findings of the Inspection to that Office via the Inspection Report. We then will send you proposals to fix the items. It should be noted that a Sprinkler System is a Life Safety instrument and keeping it up to Code and operating properly should be of the utmost importance.

Q. Our Inspection Report stated that we have Painted Sprinklers and that they need to be replaced. Why? Where does NFPA 25 require this? Can I just clean them with paint remover?

A. Seeing that your Building is located in New Jersey, we follow the 2002 Edition of NFPA 25, which is currently adopted by the State of New Jersey. NFPA 25 2002 address this issue in Par # where it is stated that: “Any sprinkler shall be replaced that has signs of leakage, is painted, corroded, damaged, or loaded; or is in the improper orientation.”. The 2002 Edition of the NFPA 25 Handbook (a complete text of NFPA 25 with commentary and explanatory material from the author who served on the Technical Committee which wrote the Standard) offers some additional information. Under the commentary section of Par #, the Author explains that painted sprinklers must be replaced to ensure that they operate properly. He adds that they should never be cleaned and reinstalled because the paint may act as an adhesive or as a thermal insulator, delaying or preventing sprinkler operation. It should also be added that any Chemical used to clean the head could also compromise its operation.

Q. On the Comment /Recommendation Sheet of my Inspection Report, it states that there are Sprinklers missing from the Back Office, a Head in the Break Room is 11’-0” off of the wall, and Bob’s Office has 2 Sprinklers that are 3’-0” apart. Are these Deficiencies? Do they need to be corrected?

A. The Scope of a NFPA 25 Inspection is to check the performance of the Sprinkler system, and test & inspect the components as installed. NFPA 25 does not require that the Inspector, verify or evaluate the adequacy of the Design of your System for compliance with an Installation Standard, such as NFPA 13. It is assumed that the Sprinkler System was installed in accordance with all applicable codes at the time of the final acceptance test and the issuance of the certificate of occupancy of the building. If changes to the Building are planned, or if there is a change in Hazard or Occupancy, the Owner must have a separate evaluation done on the Sprinkler System, and modify it as required, if necessary. The mentioned items fall outside the Scope of the Inspection and therefore are not Deficiencies per NFPA 25. They are stated for your information and consideration. It is, however, strongly recommended that a design review on your sprinkler system in the areas of question, be performed for Code compliance, and corrected if needed.

Q. The Winter is coming and last year we had a Freeze-Up in the piping and it caused a lot of damage. What can I do this year to avoid this from happening again?

A. If your property is protected by a Wet type sprinkler system you must ensure that all areas containing sprinkler system piping are properly heated. Make sure that the thermostats are set to above 40º F. If certain areas have space heaters, make sure that they are working properly. Please also make sure that the room housing the Fire Sprinkler Valves and other equipment is properly heated. If your property is protected by a Dry type sprinkler system, please be reminded that it is your responsibility to ensure that all low point condensate drains (drum drips) are drained to avoid freezing. This procedure can be done “in-house” by your staff or by our Firm. Please be advised that it is extremely important to properly drain the system weekly in the Winter Months to avoid damage to the system and property. If water is allowed to accumulate in a dry type system, this may result in freeze-ups and accidental water discharge. If your property is protected by an Antifreeze system, the anti-freeze solution should be checked for proper concentration before the onset of the cold weather to assure that no freezing will happen to your system.