Fire Sprinkler System Failure: Why It Happens & What To Do

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: December 4, 2019

No one pays much attention to them as they quietly stand guard. You make sure that they’re up to code and well-maintained, and you hope that they never have to go into action.

Suddenly, the call comes. There aren’t flames anywhere on the premises, but those overhead sentries are drenching interiors with remarkable effectiveness. Sometimes, even the best fire sprinklers go bad.

As a property manager, what do you do?

Why Your Fire Sprinkler System Failed

Because building sprinkler systems are so critical to personal safety, they must meet NFPA 13 standards. These National Fire Protection Association benchmarks define safety requirements for components and installation.

Still, good fire sprinklers fail for a variety of reasons. Aging parts are often the culprits, but building renovations can have an effect too. Incorrectly placed heating systems can activate sprinklers, and pipes exposed to cold air can freeze and burst sprinkler heads.

Whether the problem is corrosion or a sudden collision with a ladder, fire sprinkler malfunctions always mean a call to the insurance company and a water damage repair contractor.

What to Do in the Event of an Accidental Discharge

All emergencies are easier to deal with when you have an action plan. It’s hard to think clearly when your building’s fire sprinklers are flooding floors and spreading panic. We’ve put together this list based on our years of experience in the field, so stay calm, and follow these steps.

1. Safety First

Safety is your first priority. As water accumulates on floors, it poses a slipping hazard, so make sure that everyone clears the area immediately.

2. Check Electrical Equipment

Water and electricity are a very dangerous combination. Make certain that all nearby electrical equipment and appliances are off, and then shut off the main power supply.

3. Stop the Flow

Even if you manage to turn off the flow from broken heads with fire sprinkler tools (here’s a nice one!), shut down the building’s water supply at the main valve.

4. Call in the Experts

Contact a sprinkler system repair specialist right away, and ask for instructions specific to your property. We field these calls every day, and each situation is unique.

5. Document the Scene

Document the scene with high resolution pictures, talk with anyone who witnessed the sprinkler malfunction, and collect broken parts that can help establish an exact cause.

What to Expect After the Deluge

Your documentation efforts are important because they can help your insurance carrier determine responsibility for sprinkler failure. The problem may have been faulty installation or repair work that wasn’t performed up to code.

Cleaning the scene is a job for water damage restoration professionals. The fire sprinkler deluge that floods property is often a dark mess that firefighters refer to as black water. The sludge is a mixture of oil, rust and sediment that stains everything and leaves behind a strong, unpleasant smell.

Cleanup involves specialized water extraction and drying techniques as well as processes that eliminate the possibility of mold growth.

Helping You Overcome Any Challenge

As a responsible property manager, you do your best to make sure that everyone and everything in your building stays safe at all times. We salute your efforts and know that your job can be an enormous challenge.

ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba is always ready to help with actionable information. If you should ever need professional water damage restoration in Chicago or the surrounding suburbs, contact our certified professionals right away. We’re standing by and ready to answer your call 24/7.