Bend Fire Dept. warns of sprinkler-freeze risk

BEND, Ore. - With several days of predicted below-freezing weather upon us, the Bend Fire Department would like to remind building owners, tenants, facility managers, and building maintenance personnel that have fire sprinkler systems to take measures to prevent fire sprinkler systems from freezing.

The Bend Fire Department responds to several fire sprinkler activations due to pipes breaking from freezing every year. These breaks can cause significant water damage, but can easily be prevented.

Also, frozen fire sprinkler pipes, even if they don't break, render the sprinkler system inoperative to protect buildings from fire, thus jeopardizing lives and property.   

Most fire sprinkler systems that do freeze are the result of lack of maintenance.  Ensure that all periodic maintenance has been completed.  Contact your fire sprinkler service company to schedule service if it is overdue.  Frequencies for maintenance vary depending on the type of system that is installed. 

Another common cause of sprinkler system freezing is inadequate heating in normally heated spaces. This often occurs in vacant commercial spaces when the heating system is turned off since there is no tenant.

While some sprinkler systems are designed to operate in cold temperatures, the majority of fire sprinkler pipe must be installed in areas that can maintain a minimum temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Make sure your heating and ventilation systems are in good working order.  Ensure that thermostats are not set below 40 degrees.  When using supplemental heating equipment utilize only equipment that is listed and approved for its intended use.  Always provide at least 3 feet of clearance when using portable space heaters. 

Low temperature alarms may be used to alert responsible parties, particularly in normally unoccupied areas. That way, if heating equipment fails or the area otherwise drops below 40 degrees, the cause of the failure can be corrected before pipes freeze.

If you have had any recent maintenance repairs or remodeling that may have compromised the insulation above ceilings, check those areas to ensure that the insulation has been reinstalled correctly. 

Frequently, insulation may be removed to accommodate a repair and restoring it to the original condition is often overlooked.  Properly insulated and heated areas will prevent your sprinkler system from freezing.

These simple steps can prevent the costly damage from fire sprinkler pipe breaks, not to mention time lost to restore your building back to full operation. 

Check your fire sprinkler system today.  Call your service company to schedule maintenance.  Check your heating and ventilation system.  Use safe heating practices.  Call your local fire department for any questions related to fire sprinkler systems and how to prevent a freeze.

If your fire sprinkler system does freeze or is inoperable for any reason, contact your local fire department immediately.

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