Category Archives: Fire Sprinklers

Replacement of Semi – recessed Sprinkler Escutcheons

If the escutcheon is missing for many pendent and sidewall sprinklers it will not negatively impact the operation of the sprinkler. They are just considered an aesthetic issue and are not required to be replaced. During the recent webinar on an Update to NFPA 25, 2017 edition, it was stated that a missing escutcheon for semi-recessed sprinklers can be treated the same – did not have to be replaced. Having given it additional thought, this was an inaccurate statement.


The components that make up the family of flushed, concealed, and recessed sprinklers are listed as an assembly. When you replace one of the components, such as an escutcheon of a recessed sprinkler, it must be listed for use with that individual sprinkler. The reason being is that it can affect the time to activation and/or functional operation. That’s why Section states, “Escutcheons and cover plates for recessed, flush and concealed sprinklers shall be replaced with their listed escutcheon or cover plate if found missing during the inspection.” This also confirms that the escutcheons for other types of sprinklers do not have to be replaced.


It gets a little ambiguous for semi-recessed because the thermal link/bulb protrude beyond the wall or ceiling. As such, the escutcheon does not have a lot of impact on the activation time and merits being treated differently. Unfortunately, the definition says if any part of the sprinkler body other than the shank thread is within a recessed housing (even if it’s only 1/8 of an inch), it’s a recessed sprinkler. This will be discussed further at the next technical committee meeting but until then, a semi-recessed is still part of the recessed family and all are treated the same.


It’s also worth emphasizing that the type of deficiency varies depending upon its impact on the effectiveness of the sprinkler to control a fire. As shown in Table A.3.3.7, a missing escutcheon on a recessed sprinkler is a noncritical deficiency if the operating element is in the correct position. If it is not in the correct position, the classification jumps to an impairment. For instance, the escutcheon falls off a recessed sprinkler due to ceiling sag. If the deflector is above the plane of the ceiling, the activation time will be increased and more importantly, the water discharge will likely not control the fire. Thus, it’s classified an impairment.




Microbiologic Corrosion (MIC)

There are several types of corrosion that can form in sprinkler pipe. When a pipe is leaking you cannot automatically assume the cause is Microbiologic corrosion (commonly referred to as “MIC”). The following is a list of common corrosions:

  • Galvanic Corrosion
  • MIC Corrosion
  • Localized Corrosion
  • Erosion Corrosion
  • Environmental Corrosion
  • Crevice Corrosion

I will be focusing on the form of corrosion commonly referred to as MIC. While there are visual similarities between the aforementioned corrosions there are some key signs of MIC in fire sprinkler systems. I remember when I was an apprentice in the early 90’s working on a job in San Antonio. One morning there were several “scientific- looking” guys waiting for us to drain down a sprinkler system. My foreman asked one of them what they were doing. The “scientist” said they were taking samples of the water to see what was in it that may be causing the pinholes to appear in the sprinkler piping. My foreman instructed me to go inside and open the two inch drain slowly so they could get their sample. When I returned I could hear my foreman telling the scientist, “there’s nothing in there.” As he poured out the last bit of his coffee he filled his cup with the water coming out of the drain. Then turning it up, he chugged it. I know what you’re thinking…. and yes, he’s still alive today. But I would not suggest doing this. We have other ways of testing in the 21st century. There are test kits available where you take a sample of the water and send it to a lab for testing. This is the simplest to verify a system has MIC. Here are the key signs of MIC:

  • Pinhole Leaks
  • Obstructions (decrease in flow rate)
  • Black or red water
  • Rotten egg smell
  • Tubercles or deposits
  • Exterior rusting and condensation

MIC is used to designate the corrosion due to the presence and activities of microorganisms, including microalgae, bacteria and fungi. Simply put, there are organisms living in the pipe that are causing the corrosion. MIC has been found in 45 states throughout theU.S.Consequently, the chances of it being found in your area are great. Totally eliminating corrosion is impossible. However, the following provide ways to slow the process:

  • Eliminate the bacteria
  • Eliminate the oxygen
  • Eliminate the water

Now comes the “how to” section.

Let’s start with eliminating the bacteria. There are two main types of chemicals used in fire sprinkler systems. These include:

  • Biocides – Used to kill MIC. Normally toxic. Will kill all of the bacteria in the system. Drawbacks include: it is toxic, bacteria can become immune to it and it
    is only for wet systems.
  • Dynamic Biostatic Inhibitors – Protects the pipe walls, offers generalized corrosion protection, often non-hazardous and usually have biocidal properties.

For obvious reasons the inhibitors are the best way to go. They may not kill the bacteria but the product is not toxic. Be sure to check for back flow requirements in your area. The inhibitor is simply injected into the water supply as you fill the system. There are several different companies and units used to accomplish this. The unit I prefer is made by Potter. It comes with a pump and two 15 gallon tanks. (Potter is also a great source of information with brochures to aid in selling the system). The pump and tanks come in a self-contained cabinet with a stainless steel braided hose to connect to the sprinkler system. A qualified electrician will be required to connect the pump power supply.

Next, we need to eliminate the oxygen. This is not easy. If possible you will need to eliminate any areas of the system that trap air. These areas may be due to an offset in the piping. Where it is impossible to do this, an automatic air vent will need to be installed. As with the chemical delivery system there are several from which to choose. Their basic function is to release the air as the system is being filled and shutting off as soon as the water hits it. It is similar to the air vent on a fire pump casing.

Finally, eliminate the water. Unless you can change the wet system to a dry system this is close to impossible. Even if you could, you would have the same problems because no dry system is totally dry. If you tried this method you would then be faced with using a nitrogen generating system.

Once you install the inhibitor injection system, introduce the inhibitor into the wet system and vent the trapped air as much as possible; the only thing left to do is install a corrosion monitoring station. This is a unit in which we can make the conditions perfect for MIC and monitor it through site glasses and corrosion coupons. This is how you can tell you are making a difference in the sprinkler system. This monitoring station should be installed at the riser.

In closing, I would recommend that salesmen do a little research on this before talking to your customers. Put your presentation together, go in with confidence and make your pitch. More and more customers are becoming familiar with this and they are looking for an expert o help them.

Fire Department Connection (FDC) Caps or Plugs | What Are My Options?

Fire Department Connection (FDC) caps or plugs are used to cover the inlets on an FDC, which is the fitting that your fire department uses to connect their fire hose(s) when on-scene at a fire. They can be located both inside and outside a building, and are used to provide delivery of water to the fire via either a sprinkler or fire hose. If your building is equipped with these connections they have to be covered to prevent debris accumulated inside the inlet from impeding the delivery of the water, while still providing the easiest possible access for the fire department.
FDC without Covers
FDC without covers – Notice the crayon and other junk inside?
As demonstrated by the image above, when an FDC inlet is not covered it is prone to collecting junk. In a fire emergency, the fire department will connect hose between a pumper truck full of fire-impeding water and the FDC and actually pump water into the building, supplementing the building’s water supply and pressurizing the sprinkler or standpipe system. If debris is inside the FDC inlet and the water is pumped in, that junk ultimately moves its way through the system and can disrupt a sprinkler’s operation.
FDC Inlets Properly Protected by FDC Caps
FDC inlets properly protected by aluminum FDC caps
Are all FDC covers the same? No, they differ in size and type of material. FDC covers come in two main styles, commonly referred to as breakable caps or plug and chain. The plug style cover requires the use of a wrench to remove, while the FDC breakable caps are designed to be removed by breaking the caps, usually with the butt of a fireman’s ax. Since FDC fittings are female threaded, as called for in NFPA 13, FDC plugs are designed to fit those threads. Always check with your local fire department or inspector to be sure your FDC connections will match up with their equipment. FDC caps, in comparison, use eye-bolts to connect to the FDC inlet’s swivel as demonstrated in the image above.
The materials used in these covers include brass, aluminum and plastic. Plugs are almost always made of brass though recently aluminum alternatives have been introduced into the market. Plastic FDC caps are the most common and the least likely to be stolen by thieves looking for recyclable metals, a phenomenon that has increased due to the recent recession. Their lower cost also makes keeping a few on hand in case of damage or theft a cost-effective addition to building safety.
Plastic Breakable Caps from QRFS! Plastic FDC Caps – 2 1/2 inch

  • Most Popular Option!
  • Fire engine red for easy identification
  • Easily breakable with the butt of an ax
Aluminum FDC Break Caps from QRFS! Aluminum FDC Caps – 2 1/2 or 3 inch

  • Won’t Fade or Crack!
  • Easily breakable with the butt of an ax
  • Available in 3 inch for San Francisco and New York markets
Brass FDC Plug and Chain Brass FDC Plug and Chain – 1 1/2″ or 2 1/2″

  • Durable Rough Brass Exterior 
  • Thread types to meet your local requirements
  • Includes chain to avoid loss during emergency

Brass Sprinkler Extensions: Essential Information

Brass sprinkler head extensions are used in a fire sprinkler system to extend fixed nipples (drops) that have been cut too short to place the sprinkler head at the proper working height. They are manufactured to fit both half (1/2) inch and three-quarter (3/4) inch pipe and are available in various lengths to allow for exact placement of the sprinkler head.

Brass sprinkler head extensions are a convenient and cost effective way to reduce assembly time due to manufacturing or engineering errors, or to retrofit existing systems. They provide good thread-to-thread contact at both the male and female connection. As is true at any time the original design of the system is being altered, be sure to check with local authorities to obtain approval for the modification.

Fire Sprinkler Extensions: Half Inch Brass Sprinkler Extensions: Half Inch

  • 1/2″ x 1/2″
  • 1/2″ x 3/4″
  • 1/2″ x 1″
  • 1/2″ x 1 1/2″
  • 1/2″ x 2″
Brass Extensions: Three-Quarter Inch Brass Sprinkler Extensions: Three-Quarter Inch

  • 3/4″ x 1/2″
  • 3/4″ x 3/4″
  • 3/4″ x 1″

Fire Inspections: What You Must Do Today to Ensure Your Business is Up To Code

As we head into 2014, we thought it was important to share what building and business owner’s responsibilities are when it comes to fire safety. In this two-part series, we’ll highlight comprehensive steps you can take to ensure your building is both up-to-code and, just as important if not more, safe for you, your employees, customers, and family!

Fire Safety Inspections – What to Look For

Most insurers and government fire safety standards require an annual inspection to verify that business buildings and their equipment and occupants are protected by the existing fire control methods. Ultimately, the business and/or building owner is legally responsible for the safety of their premises.

If you don’t have a dedicated fire team, and most small businesses don’t, you could be subject to expensive fines if deficiencies are cited by the local government fire marshal. Your business could even be closed down until any problems are corrected and the repairs re-inspected. There are simple, inexpensive steps that a small business owner can perform periodically to ensure a good annual inspection.

If it has been some time since you performed an inspection or had one done by a third party, or you have recently purchased a business, here are some things to consider. Know what the codes require for your local area. Your local fire marshal and some insurers can furnish you with a checklist. While every jurisdiction may have area-specific codes, in general they tend to follow OSHA and NFPA guidelines. Keep a record of when and what you inspected, using the checklist or standard form if available, or create your own form, note any deficiencies and date and sign it. Keep the document safely stored and accessible. If you use a third-party inspector, be sure you get a copy of their report.

Common Areas for Fire Safety Deficiencies

Here are some of the more common areas that inspectors often cite as deficiencies.

1. Lack of accessibility to fire lanes, fire alarm panels and fire department connections. Make sure that standpipes, panels and valves are not blocked by things like trash containers, vehicle parking, construction debris, outside storage containers or machinery. Mark the required clearances (check with authorities for the minimum requirements) with yellow tape or painted lines inside the building, install guards and use appropriate signage to remind everyone to keep both inside and outside areas clear.

2. Combustible items should be kept out of areas that contain electrical connections or open flames. Things like cleaning rags or paper towels, lavatory supplies and flammable aerosols or solvents should be properly stored in approved storage areas.

3. Check that all portable fire extinguishers have been inspected as required (usually every 12 months) and that they are in the green or operating range. When having portable fire extinguishers serviced do not allow the vendor to remove your extinguishers from the building without leaving you replacements.

4. Check all exit and emergency signage and replace any burnt out bulbs or dead batteries.

5. Be sure emergency exits operate properly (including sounding an alarm when opened) and are accessible at all times. Never allow exits to be blocked or locked during normal business hours.

6. Depending on codes in your area, there may be restrictions on the use of small appliances, extension cords and multi-plug adapters. Find and remove any such items and caution employees about their use.

7. Keep the building in good repair. Damaged or missing doors and holes in walls or ceilings should be repaired or replaced to minimize the spread of fire from room to room.

8. If accessible, check sprinkler heads for damage and obstructions, and keep storage such as racks or boxes away from  sprinkler heads and ceilings. Know what the minimum clearance is for ceilings, panels, manifolds, standpipes and portable extinguisher stations and keep those areas clear. Make sure that there is no buildup of cobwebs, dust and other debris on the walls and ceilings.

9. Check cords and electrical connections on equipment and approved appliances for fraying and damage from cuts or traffic.

10. Make sure that your address is clearly visible from any vehicle access area. Paint or mount large letters with your address prominently displayed on the outside of the building and make sure the address is visible to emergency vehicle drivers. Remember that fire equipment is taller than the average car or pickup and mount your address accordingly, observing local codes.

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, or you are unsure whether you are knowledgeable enough to catch any potential problems, you might want to contract with an qualified third party inspection service. While there are no national governmental standards for fire safety  inspectors, the National Fire Protection Association’s section 1031 outlines recommendations usually followed and even codified by most fire safety professional organizations, including fire departments.

Flexible Sprinkler Drops: What You Need to Know

Flexible sprinkler drops are connectors between the rigid piping framework and the sprinkler head in a fire sprinkler system design. The sprinkler head supply line can be either rigidly mounted using a pipe nipple or mounted on what is essentially a relatively flexible stainless steel hose, i.e. a flexible drop, that looks and functions much like the braided metal lines used in faucet installations.

The advantages to the flexible drops are that they are much faster to install, the threaded fitting end reduces the chance of leakage, and since they are furnished in lengths ranging from 28″ to 59″, the sprinkler head can be positioned more precisely over the area to be covered by the sprinkler. They can be used in both wet and dry suppressant systems. Flexible sprinkler drops are used with a bracket that holds the sprinkler head in place. This facilitates positioning the sprinkler head accurately in the center of tiles in a drop ceiling application. Flexible sprinkler drops also provide the adaptability to movement required in earthquake-prone areas.
They must be matched to the supply pipe diameter, which governs total gallons per minute (gpm), so that they do not exceed the ability of the system to deliver equal water pressure to all sprinklers. There are guidelines for the number of bends allowed, governed by the length of the flexible line. The higher initial cost relative to a solid pipe style may be a deterrent to some, but in light of the much lower assembly time, this becomes less of a consideration when pricing out the entire fire sprinkler system. A sprinkler fitter can typically mount 50-60 flexible sprinkler drops in an hour, vs. 6 to 10 of the rigid style.

Uncommon Fire Sprinkler System Malfunctions

Earlier this week I was reading through an article about residential fire protection and noticed a commentator calling out the serious maintenance obligations and malfunctioning potential of residential or commercial fire sprinklers. His argument was that malfunctions – and the subsequent water damage – were reason enough to dismiss the growing consensus around the safety benefits of fire sprinkler systems. I’m going to take this opportunity to dismiss some of these concerns.

With the increase in popularity (or regulatory requirement) for fire sprinkler systems in homes and commercial buildings, there is a lingering suspicion that sprinkler head error or unforeseen system malfunctions will lead to substantial water damage absent of a fire emergency. This is commonly called accidental leakage or discharge.
To be clear, the rate of fire sprinkler system malfunction is extremely rare. According to the American Fire Sprinkler Association, the odds of malfunction not resulting from direct human error are around 1 in 16 million. To put that in perspective, sprinkler systems are 16x less likely to malfunction than you are of being struck by lightning. Systematic leaks are also no more likely to be found in the plumbing than from a faulty sprinkler head. Pipe malfunctions, or leaks springing from the pipes that carry water to the system, do happen though they are more commonly associated with much older structures as compared to new, modern systems.
Five common fire sprinkler malfunctions: 
• Overheating
• Freezing
• Corrosion
• Mechanical damage
• Human sabotage or error
Overheating: This is generally the result of sprinkler heads being installed in locations where ceiling temperatures exceed the sprinkler’s heat sensitivity during high heat times in the summer or in facilities with high temperature operations. While definitely a concern, most systems are engineered to take ceiling temperatures into consideration and are rated to handle even the highest summer temperatures. In this scenario, if ceiling temperatures can exceed 155 degrees, the most common sprinkler head temperature, then a 200 degree or 286 degree head is installed.
Freezing: In the exact opposite scenario, if wet systems are installed in facilities with extreme cold temperatures such as non-insulated buildings the pipe or sprinkler heads can freeze and crack. After thawing the system may then leak. This situation is as old as fire sprinklers themselves. Common remedies include anti-freeze solutions added to the pipes, adding insulation around the system, or installing dry fire sprinklers that leverage air pressure and specially designed valves to keep water out of the system until needed.
Corrosion: As with most water systems, corrosion can build up over time and impact the functionality of the system or eat through the pipe. Annual inspections and replacement of corroded components can quickly remedy this situation.
Mechanical Damage: This covers a variety of potential issues including over-tightening of fittings, improperly installed sprinkler heads (for instance, not using Teflon tape to seal the threads), and a variety of very uncommon installation or maintenance errors. Using a qualified and licensed sprinkler contractor can limit the likelihood of this type of malfunction.
Human sabotage or error: Arguably the most common malfunction is the result of human error. Ever see a sign that looks like this:
Do Not Hang on Fire Sprinkler
(via to Kiss A Mezuzah blog on blogspot)
Yup, it’s there because people are … misinformed enough to actually hang items from a fire sprinkler designed to discharge water! Other common errors include hitting sprinkler heads with fork lifts, painting over them which distorts the ability to accurately respond to temperature, or generally doing other really stupid (and preventable) things.
The chance of a sprinkler head expelling water in the absence of a fire or one of those five options is so low it’s almost nonexistent.
The fire sprinkler industry helps prevent malfunctions and manufacturer’ error by following very strict quality control regulations and ensures all their products are tested and listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Factory Mutual Research Corporation (FM). In addition, the industry as a whole (in most municipalities) requires licensed, bonded, and insured contractors install and maintain the system.
Fore more information, see:

Fire Sprinklers: Standard Response vs Quick Response

Before we begin, a brief history
In 1874, pioneer and private business owner Henry S. Parmelee installed the first fire sprinkler system. Initially his aim was to protect his piano company in New Haven, Connecticut, from factory fires. Parmelee understood that the first line of detection and defense against an impending fire would be from above the factory floor. Leveraging existing patents and historical precedence, Henry designed and installed the first automatic fire sprinkler system. As a result, he effectively prevented cataclysmic damage to his hand-built wooden pianos and protected the lives of his employees and customers. 
Well over a century from the first practical application of the sprinkler head, Parmelee’s legacy lives. But the challenge of a fire in a hotel high rise or a commercial office building differs greatly from that of a warehouse containing large quantities of plastics. Therefore, different types of sprinklers have been designed to meet the needs of varied occupancy and hazard. 
The six characteristics that define a sprinkler’s ability to control or extinguish a fire and hence define its listing are: 
  • Thermal sensitivity 
  • Temperature rating
  • Orifice size
  • Installation orientation
  • Water distribution characteristics
  • Special service conditions
We’ll go into more detail on these characteristics in a future post. 
This leaves us with two main sprinkler head response types that need to be understood when installing fire suppression systems from above which we are very proud to offer at Quick Response Fire Supply, LLC.
Standard Response versus Quick Response 

Standard Response Sprinkler Heads (SR): The most widely used type of sprinkler head. Their effectiveness is based largely on their ability to pre-wet nearby materials that the fire has not yet reached and cool adjacent areas. Fire control with the standard response sprinkler occurs as the original fuel burns out. The fire spread is gradually slowed because the fire can’t ignite surrounding areas that have been pre-wet by the sprinklers. Because the fire is confined to one area, only sprinklers above the fire operate. 

Quick Response Sprinkler Heads (QR): These are primarily used for light hazard applications and have a higher discharge pattern than the standard response heads. They’ve been developed for discharging water higher on the walls in order to keep the ceiling at a lower temperature. This helps prevent flash-over in a fire and increases the chance of human survivability which is why they are now the industry standard for installation in health care facilities, assisted living facilities, and residential occupancies.
The most common difference between a quick response sprinkler head (QR) and a standard response sprinkler head is known as thermal sensitivity. Quick response sprinkler heads activate slightly faster in a fire than a standard response head. As a result, extinguishing and suppressing the spread of fire in a more expedient fashion. Learn about a fire sprinkler’s thermal sensitivity here.
Physically, the only difference between a standard response fire sprinkler and a quick response fire sprinkler is the size of the bulb. Standard response sprinklers have a 5 mm glass bulb while quick response fire sprinklers have a 3 mm glass bulb. Can you spot the difference?
Standard Response vs Quick Response
“I can do anything you can do better…”
Both types of fire sprinkler have specific areas of coverage and control fire hazards per NFPA 13 guidelines
Cost Efficiency versus Product Practicality
Ceiling height is a key factor and you should always take into consideration the temperature of the environment during all the seasonal months of the year. The size of the spray area should be a primary concern when you installing a specific type of sprinkler head. Depending on what type of building you are outfitting, sometimes substituting several standard response sprinkler heads for a fewer amount of quick response sprinkler heads may be more of a cost effective approach depending on how large or small of an area you are working in.